Welcome to another episode of “Who’s Needs the Victory More?”
At this point in the college football season, teams with a little more desperation can spring some surprising upsets to make conference races a little crazier.
So, yes, the best team doesn’t always win on any given FCS Saturday.
Here are the Week 8 games of the week:
Note: All times ET
Saturday, Oct. 21
Saint Francis (4-2, 2-0 Northeast) at Duquesne (5-1, 2-0), noon
As the preseason favorite in the Northeast Conference, the program that attracts the most talent and being at home, Duquesne faces a ton of pressure in this matchup. It helps to have Boise State grad transfer Tommy Stuart, who’s thrown 20 touchdown passes.
Columbia (5-0, 2-0 Ivy) at Dartmouth (5-0, 2-0), 12:30 p.m.
Both co-leaders in the Ivy League, who combined for a mere three league wins last season, are playing with house money, although neither plans to let up. They’re fairly close statistically and should be on the scoreboard. The Big Green are particularly adept at winning tight games.
No. 19 Samford (4-2, 2-1 Southern) at No. 9 Wofford (6-0, 4-0), 1:30 p.m.
Samford needs the win more for its playoff resume, so last week’s bye should go a long way against the Southern Conference leader. A rested Devlin Hodges is an especially dangerous Devlin Hodges.
Bethune-Cookman (3-3, 2-1 MEAC) at No. 15 North Carolina A&T (7-0, 4-0), 1:30 p.m.
While Hampton is a half-game off the MEAC pace at 3-0, it still feels like a two-team race between A&T and rival North Carolina Central. Bethune definitely needs this game more, but the Aggies are chasing perfection under head coach Rod Broadway.
Pick: North Carolina A&T
No. 10 Youngstown State (3-3, 1-2 Missouri Valley) at No. 22 Northern Iowa (3-3, 2-1), 2 p.m.
Considering the losing team will slip below .500, with even more difficult games ahead in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, this is a must-win game for both teams. After losing the past two weeks on field goals to the unbeaten conference co-leaders, South Dakota and North Dakota State, head coach Bo Pelini better hope his Penguins aren’t emotionally drained.
Pick: Youngstown State
No. 4 Jacksonville State (5-1, 3-0 Ohio Valley) at Eastern Illinois (5-2, 4-0), 3 p.m.
No FCS team has had a season quite like Eastern Illinois, which has won five games by a combined 12 points. The problem is, those opponents have a combined 8-25 record. The Gamecocks, who’ve won a record 27 straight Ohio Valley Conference games, win this one with defense.
Pick: Jacksonville State
Alcorn State (5-2, 3-0 SWAC) at No. 25 Grambling State (5-1, 2-0), 3 p.m.
These two programs have split the last two SWAC championship games and are favored to be back in Houston in December. Each is coming off a win over Prairie View A&M by the same score (34-21). But Grambling had last weekend off and that’s given the Tigers more preparation for this big game.
Pick: Grambling State
No. 3 South Dakota (6-0, 3-0 Missouri Valley) at Illinois State (4-2, 2-1), 3 p.m.
The Redbirds have gone from the unbeaten ranks to a reeling team, having lost by 21 and 35 points the last two weeks. With their final five games against top-15 teams, more of the latter may be ahead.
Pick: South Dakota
No. 11 Richmond (4-2, 2-1 CAA) at No. 21 Delaware (4-2, 2-1), 3:30 p.m.
It’s the Danny Rocco Bowl. OK, not really because Delaware is happy to having him reviving the program and the Spiders he left last December landed a pretty terrific replacement in Russ Huesman. The Blue Hens’ defense is a difficult assignment for FCS passing leader Kyle Lauletta.
No. 8 Western Illinois (5-1, 2-1 Missouri Valley) at No. 2 North Dakota State (6-0, 3-0), 3:30 p.m.
With quality wins over Northern Arizona, Coastal Carolina and Northern Iowa contributing to a 4-0 road record, the Leathernecks are primed to play well inside the Fargodome. The unbeaten Bison want to keep winning to remain at home throughout the FCS playoffs.
Pick: North Dakota State
No. 5 Eastern Washington (5-2, 4-0 Big Sky) at No. 20 Southern Utah (4-2, 2-1), 7 p.m.
Gage Gubrud and the Eagles aren’t playing Northern Arizona, the other unbeaten Big Sky team, in the conference’s unbalanced schedule, so they need to hold serve in a difficult road game. SUU is coming off a surprisingly lopsided win at Weber State and is 11-1 at home since the start of the 2015 season.
Pick: Eastern Washington
Last Week’s Record: 8-3 (.727)
Season Record: 60-24 (.714)
— 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.
(Photo courtesy Alcorn State Athletics)