Rivalry matchups make many regular-season finales even better
We interrupt the best games of the week predictions to bring you coverage of some of the best rivalries across FCS college football.
Hey wait a minute, many of the best rivalries also are the best games in the final full week of the regular season.
Oh, the fun. Let the trash-talking begin (OK, let it continue because it's long begun).
Here’s a countdown of the 10 best FCS games in Week 13:
Note: All times ET. Rank in front of team refers to the FCS Power Poll.
10. Maine (6-5, 4-3 CAA) at New Hampshire (5-5, 4-3)
1 p.m., Saturday
Two weeks ago, everybody had UNH, which made 14 straight playoff appearances from 2004-17, getting back in after a one-year absence. That's not going to happen after two straight losses, but Maine may make the difficult climb from 2-5 (with two FBS losses) to 7-5 and into the field. Plus, the Brice-Cowell Musket will be on the line.
The Pick: New Hampshire
9. North Carolina Central (4-7, 3-4 MEAC) at North Carolina A&T (7-3, 5-2)
1 p.m., Saturday
The Aggie-Eagle Classic matches two rivals which are located about 55 miles apart and the visiting Eagles would love to ruin North Carolina A&T's opportunity to win and advance to the Celebration Bowl for the fourth time in its first five years. They also remember the Aggies won 45-0 last year in the most lopsided meeting since 1991.
The Pick: North Carolina A&T
8. Lafayette (3-8, 3-2 Patriot) at Lehigh (4-6, 3-2)
The distance between these two rivals is a mere 18 miles, so it's been easy for them to play more times than any other series in college football. Lafayette leads 78-71-5 as "The Rivalry" turns 155. Lehigh has won the last four meetings, but, unlike Lafayette, it can't overtake first-place Holy Cross for the Patriot League's automatic playoff bid.
The Pick: Lafayette
7. Georgetown (5-5, 1-4 Patriot) at Holy Cross (6-5, 4-1)
Holy Cross grabbed sole possession of first place in the Patriot League last Saturday with 35 straight points in the fourth quarter at Fordham in a comeback win. We've seen that before under second-year coach Bob Chesney. In last year's finale, the Crusaders outscored Georgetown by 20 points in the fourth quarter as part of a 26-point comeback victory which is the largest in program history. A win puts the Crusaders in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, but Georgetown is seeking its first winning season since 2011 and for just the second time since 1999.
The Pick: Holy Cross
6. UC Davis (5-6, 3-4 Big Sky) at No. 6 Sacramento State (8-3, 6-1)
5 p.m., Saturday
The Causeway Classic has been dominated by UC Davis, but Sacramento State is playing for at least a share of its first Big Sky title. In a Big Sky with outstanding quarterbacks, Hornets junior Kevin Thomson is in the mix for offensive player of the year, which last year went to UC Davis' Jake Maier, who is playing in his final game.
The Pick: Sacramento State
5. No. 18 Florida A&M (9-1, 7-0 MEAC) vs. Bethune-Cookman (6-4, 4-3) in Orlando, Fla.
3:30 p.m., Saturday
FAMU has a 50-23-1 series lead and that's with an eight-game losing streak in the Florida Classic at Camping World Stadium. The Rattlers are probably thinking eight is enough as head coach Willie Simmons' squad seeks to finish a perfect run against MEAC competition, which they haven't done since 1996. Of course, they would have wrapped up a conference title already if they weren't ineligible for it due to NCAA APR penalties.
The Pick: Florida A&M
4. No. 1 North Dakota State (11-0, 7-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 24 Southern Illinois (7-4, 5-2)
3 p.m., Saturday
The host Salukis own one of the three FCS wins over the FBS (OK, it was UMass, so the weight of it is debatable) and it's on a five-game winning streak in the Missouri Valley Conference, so they're probably worthy of a playoff bid already. It's a good thing because they're facing a Bison squad that seeks a perfect regular season and is one win shy of matching its FCS-record 33-game winning streak from 2012-14.
The Pick: North Dakota State
3. Harvard (4-5, 2-4 Ivy) at Yale (8-2, 5-1)
Those pesky Ivy League presidents would rather see a rivalry like "The Game" draw 50,000 and be a lasting image than have one of its teams go off and play a first-round playoff game before a sparse crowd Thanksgiving weekend. Well, it's usually a great lasting image as Yale takes a 67-60-8 series lead into the 136th meeting. Yale seeks to clinch at least a share of the league title behind quarterback Kurt Rawlings, who has thrown 11 touchdown passes over the last two games.
The Pick: Yale.
2. No. 17 Nicholls (7-4, 6-2 Southland) at No. 16 Southeastern Louisiana (7-3, 6-2)
7 p.m., Thursday
This Thursday night game is more than just an appetizer for the weekend, it's nearly the main dish. The winner of the River Bell Classic (the series is tied 14-14) will earn at least a share of the Southland title and the automatic bid to the playoffs (both have beaten the other co-leader, Central Arkansas). Southeastern believes two quarterbacks (Chason Virgil and Cole Kelley, who have accounted for a combined 35 touchdowns) are better than one (Chase Fourcade, the 2018 Southland player of the year).
The Pick: Southeastern Louisiana
1. No. 3 Montana (9-2, 6-1 Big Sky) at No. 7 Montana State (8-3, 5-2)
2 p.m., Saturday
Through the years, ESPN's iconic "College GameDay" has been to nine FCS games. Cat-Griz, aka The Brawl of the Wild, should be the game to make it a perfect 10 — with emphasis on "perfect." The intensity level — some say bitterness — is hard to match. The 17 combined wins going into the 119th meeting are the most since 2011, and though Montana holds a 73-40-5 series lead, the Bobcats have won the last three meetings by a combined 19 points, including with a rally from 22-0 down last year.
The Pick: Montana
Last Week’s Record: 9-1 (.900)
Season Record: 83-37 (.692)
— 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 of Montana State Athletics)