North Dakota State suffers one of its rare losses and now is in jeopardy of it becoming two in a row. The Citadel beats a top-5 opponent and comes right back with just as tough an assignment.
Whoa, Nellie! The FCS season has moved into the heart of conference play and the action is sizzling.
And we’re not just talking about the big boys in the Missouri Valley, Big Sky, CAA and SoCon, the Ivy League and Northeast Conference both have one of their bigger games of the season on tap this weekend as well.
Here are the FCS games of the week:
Note: All times ET
Friday, Oct. 21
Duquesne (4-2, 1-0 Northeast) at Saint Francis (4-3, 2-0), 7 p.m.
Who’s the more focused team might have slipped out last week when defending NEC champ Duquesne had to rally past Robert Morris and Saint Francis blasted Bryant. The short list of candidates for the year’s best FCS player should include Red Flash safety/kick returner/do-everything Lorenzo Jerome.
Pick: Saint Francis
Saturday, Oct. 22
No. 18 Stony Brook (4-2, 3-0 CAA) at Delaware (2-4, 0-3), 1 p.m.
Dennis Dottin-Carter makes his debut as Delaware’s interim head coach after Dave Brock was fired in his fourth season. Dottin-Carter knows defense, so he’ll be impressed by Stony Brook rover Tyrice Beverette and safety Jaheem Woods, who are enjoying big seasons.
Pick: Stony Brook
Harvard (4-1, 2-0 Ivy) at Princeton (4-1, 2-0), 1 p.m.
Suddenly, Harvard doesn’t seem so invincible and the Tigers believe their two quarterbacks (passer Chad Kanoff and runner John Lovett) are better than anyone else’s one. Penn also is unbeaten in Ivy games.
No. 8 The Citadel (6-0, 4-0 Southern) at Wofford (4-2, 2-1), 1:30 p.m.
vAfter the Bulldogs took down three-time defending SoCon champ Chattanooga, they have to go on the road against a Wofford squad that’s had an extra week of preparation. Can two triple-option offenses finish a game in under two hours?
No. 3 Jacksonville State (5-1, 2-0 OVC) at Eastern Kentucky (2-4, 1-2), 3 p.m.
In an oddity, Jacksonville State is opening its Ohio Valley Conference schedule against the three new head coaches in the conference – this time EKU’s Mark Elder. Eli Jenkins has 3,420 career rushing yards, just 57 shy of the top 10 among quarterbacks in FCS history.
Pick: Jacksonville State
No. 13 Youngstown State (5-1, 3-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 7 South Dakota State (4-2, 3-0), 3 p.m.
This year’s Youngstown rushing defense has been ridiculously good. Too bad the Penguins don’t have last year’s FCS-leading passing defense to slow the roll of SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion, wide receiver Jake Wieneke and tight end Dallas Goedert.
Pick: South Dakota State
No. 4 Sam Houston State (6-0, 5-0 Southland) at Nicholls (3-3, 3-1), 3:30 p.m.
The Bearkats were No. 2 in the Athlon FCS Preseason Top 25 and a pick to get to the national championship game. But they’ve played a 1-6 Division II team and five Southland opponents that are a combined 9-23. After losing 25 of 26 games, Nicholls is 5-4 since last November.
Pick: Sam Houston State
Albany (4-2, 1-2 CAA) at No. 19 Villanova (5-2, 3-1), 3:30 p.m.
One of these teams is going to clear out the cobwebs, but which one? Albany has lost close CAA games in back-to-back weeks and Villanova was knocked from first place with its first shutout loss since 2004. Wildcats QB Zach Bednarczyk suffered a concussion in that game.
Lamar (3-3, 3-1 Southland) at No. 20 Central Arkansas (5-1, 4-0), 7 p.m.
Lamar arrives on a three-game winning streak, but the loss of All-America running back Kade Harrington to a broken foot is emotionally draining. Plus, UCA is coming off its most impressive performance – a 35-0 win at McNeese – which is saying a lot considering the Bears own an FBS win this season.
Pick: Central Arkansas
No. 10 Montana (5-1, 2-1 Big Sky) at Northern Arizona (3-4, 2-2), 7 p.m.
Griz fans are frustrated they have outscored their last two opponents 135-14 and not moved up in the national polls. But these next two road games (NAU and Eastern Washington) would provide many more style points than the last two home games (Mississippi Valley State and Sacramento State).
No. 1 North Dakota State (5-1, 2-1 Missouri Valley) at No. 12 Western Illinois (5-1, 2-1), 7 p.m.
The Bison have rebounded from their last 12 losses with a win and are 4-0 in Macomb, with two of the wins coming after home losses. WIU sophomore Sean McGuire has passed for more than 300 yards in four of his last five games.
Pick: North Dakota State
— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
(Top photo by University of Montana Athletics)