Standout schedule includes three games that match two ranked teams
It seems as though the FCS season has best been described as the subdivision losing to FBS opponents (a 2-66 record) and beating sub-Division I teams (or not — seven losses to date).
Finally, the juicy FCS head-to-head matchups are taking center stage. The three best games in Week 3 feature two ranked teams squaring off, and they could be arranged in any order and it would still feel right.
Here's a countdown of the 10 best games of Week 3:
Note: All times ET. Rank in front of team refers to the FCS Power Poll.
10. Jackson State (0-2) vs. Tennessee State (1-1) in Memphis, Tenn.
7 p.m., Saturday
The Southern Heritage Classic is back after getting canceled by inclement weather last season. The 2017 game drew over 47,000 to the Liberty Bowl and another banner crowd is expected to see which of the rivals can jump-start its season. TSU wide receiver Chris Rowland doesn't need a spark — he's off to a sizzling start with 22 receptions for an FCS-high 374 receiving yards.
The Pick: Tennessee State
9. Abilene Christian (1-1, 0-0 Southland) at No. 14 Central Arkansas (2-0, 0-0)
7 p.m., Saturday
In the crowded Southland, there will be many pivotal games this season, but the first has Central Arkansas playing its home opener on the stripes after fourth-quarter rallies at Western Kentucky and Austin Peay. Abilene quarterback Luke Anthony leads an attack that is No. 1 in the FCS in total offense (579.5 ypg) and No. 4 in scoring offense (48.5 ppg).
The Pick: Abilene Christian
8. Samford (0-2, 0-0 SoCon) at No. 25 Wofford (0-1, 0-0)
6 p.m., Saturday
Samford has a four-game winning streak over Wofford, but its Walter Payton Award-winning quarterback Devlin Hodges is no longer around to beat the Terriers. Well, the two-time reigning Southern Conference champ may have just as much trouble defending Chris Oladokun, the South Florida transfer who's been ridiculously good for the Bulldogs.
The Pick: Wofford
7. No. 15 Montana (2-0) at Oregon (1-1)
10:45 p.m., Saturday
Justin Herbert will be the best-dressed quarterback in Eugene (thank you, Phil Knight), but imagine if the potential No. 1 2020 NFL Draft pick isn't the best signal-caller on the field. Dalton Snead will try to keep the Griz in the track meet. They last beat an FBS opponent in 2003 (Idaho).
The Pick: Oregon
6. Alcorn State (1-1) at McNeese (1-1)
7 p.m., Saturday
McNeese opened the season with a 34-28 win over Southern, the 2018 SWAC runner-up. Now the Cowboys are saddling up for a visit by the defending SWAC champ. It's Military Appreciation Night at McNeese, but the flag of choice may be yellow: McNeese has racked up the most penalty yards in the FCS and Alcorn was one of the worst last season.
The Pick: Alcorn State
5. No. 24 Sam Houston State (1-1) at North Dakota (1-1)
5 p.m., Saturday
UND won a 24-23 thriller down in Texas last year and the Bearkats have been smarting about it ever since. Without a road win, they won't have any Division I non-conference wins for their playoff resume, so, yes, this matchup has a November feel to it.
The Pick: Sam Houston State
4. Duquesne (1-0) at Youngstown State (2-0)
2 p.m., Saturday
There was enough preseason talk about Youngstown State possibly being 4-0 heading into conference play that it surely caught Duquesne's attention. When you think running game in this one, you go first to Dukes All-American A.J. Hines, but the Penguins have a national-high five players with at least 120 rushing yards each.
The Pick: Youngstown State
3. No. 1 North Dakota State (2-0) at No. 22 Delaware (2-0)
1 p.m., Saturday
The top-ranked Bison are east of Ohio for the first time since 2006, and the sixth time overall. This one will be closer than last year’s 38-10 win over Delaware which actually felt worse, but the Bison don’t beat themselves and the Blue Hens do sometimes.
The Pick: North Dakota State
2. No. 8 Towson (2-0, 0-0 CAA) at No. 5 Maine (1-1, 0-0)
7 p.m., Saturday
Incredibly, Maine’s "Black Hole" defense — one of the best in the FCS last season — has zero sacks and only three tackles for a loss through two games. The defending CAA champ has to get a little more aggressive because Towson quarterback Tom Flacco has picked up where he left off as the conference's offensive player of the year.
The Pick: Maine
1. No. 4 Eastern Washington (1-1) at No. 21 Jacksonville State (1-1)
4 p.m., Saturday
Eastern (91) and Jacksonville State (86) trail only North Dakota State and Sam Houston State in wins this decade. Their first regular-season matchup (EWU won the only meeting in the 2013 playoff quarterfinals) features one of the season's more entertaining quarterback showdowns: Eric Barriere versus Zerrick Cooper.
The Pick: Eastern Washington
Last Week’s Record: 7-3 (.700)
Season Record: 15-5 (.750)
— 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 Brian Blalock/Sam Houston State Athletics)