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FCS Football: Predictions for the Best 10 Games in Week 11

Trent Tompkins, UC Davis Aggies Football

UC Davis quarterback Trent Tompkins and the Aggies host Eastern Washington on Saturday in a game rife with both Big Sky and FCS playoff ramifications

Two weekends remain before FCS Selection Sunday on Nov. 21.

What will happen? Is this weekend the most pivotal (maybe)? Which team will be eliminated from the postseason discussion by the end of Saturday?

We shall see.

Related: FCS Top 25 Power Poll Following Week 10

Here’s a countdown of the 10 best games of week 11:

Note: All times ET. Rank in front of team refers to the Athlon Sports FCS Top 25 Power Poll.

10. No. 24 VMI (6-3, 4-2 in SoCon) at Furman (4-5, 2-4)
2 p.m., Saturday (ESPN+)

In 1977, Jimmy Carter was president of the United States, the internet was something you wore on your cranium when you dealt with food preparation ... and your gray-haired author was a toddler.

A tad bit has happened since then – when it comes to history and VMI football.

VMI's 1977 7-4 campaign – which came one year before the FCS/I-AA existed – could be equaled this weekend if the Keydets can head down to Greenville, South Carolina, and beat a capable Furman team.

When it comes to setting the bar higher than it has ever been set at the school, consider this: in 100-plus years of gridiron history, VMI has hit the eight-win mark only five times, and the last instance was the late 1950s – when General Eisenhower was president.

Enough with the presidential references – but if you’re a history buff and dig such things, you realize how big a deal it is with VMI. The Keydets have that opportunity in front of them the next two weeks.

What head coach Scott Wachenheim, his staff, and his program are doing is incredible. This program controls its own – both to win eight regular-season games and make the FCS playoffs.

This is a big weekend for a program that has competed non-stop since 1891 (Benjamin Harrison was president, by the way).

Pick: VMI by 3.

9. Portland State (5-4, 4-2 in Big Sky) at No. 10 Sacramento State (7-2, 6-0)
9 p.m., Saturday (ESPN+)

Speaking of programs that control their destinies – take a look at Portland State. The Vikings are 4-2 against the FCS. They’ve dropped two to FBS teams and beat a lower division school. So toss those games out.

But they have the opportunity to move into a playoff spot at 7-4 overall if – and this is a massive if – they can travel down to Sacramento this weekend and somehow come away with a win. And then they take care of business at home against one of their primary rivals in the season finale – Eastern Washington.

Portland State is the same program under Bruce Barnum that has ruined Washington State’s day, and also went to Missoula and beat Montana a couple of years back on a monster field goal. While PSU isn’t an FCS blue-blood, they’ve done big things in the past when they’ve had to travel for big games.

Keep an eye on this one. Logic would lean toward Sac. State, as they’ve looked for nearly two months. But PSU shouldn’t be ignored.

Pick: Sacramento State by 7.

8. No. 19 Chattanooga (6-3, 5-1 in SoCon) at Mercer (6-2, 5-1)
3 p.m., Saturday (ESPN+)

One of the hottest teams in the FCS is Chattanooga. The red-hot Mocs have won four straight games and don’t seem like the team that lost to Austin Peay early in the season.

The Mocs and Mercer share in-common losses to VMI (a testament to the Keydets), but aside from that, they’ve both played well in 2021. This weekend, Mercer controls its destiny with a home game with ‘Nooga and a road trip to co-leader ETSU in the season finale.

The Bears can nail down their own best season in 80 years if they win this home game. They did win 10 games in their inaugural re-start season (2013), but that was against lower-division teams. Mercer hopes to set the ceiling higher with its most significant season since World War II when it dropped football for decades.

Mercer wants to make the playoffs out of the SoCon. Can it deal with one of the hottest teams in the country? Common opponents would make one think this is a total 50/50 affair. I’d tend to agree with that.

Pick: Chattanooga by 3

7. Yale (5-3, 4-1 in Ivy) at Princeton (7-1, 4-1)
1 p.m., Saturday (ESPN+)

Princeton had not lost in two years (granted, it didn’t compete in 2020 due to the pandemic). The Tigers are coming off a blowout loss at Dartmouth.

Yale has played a more demanding schedule so far and played Dartmouth tougher a few weeks ago. But then again, the game is in New Jersey.

Dizzy yet? I am.

Pick: Princeton by 1

6. Prairie View A&M (7-1, 6-0 in SWAC) at Alcorn State (5-4, 4-2)
3 p.m., Saturday (TV TBA)

Prairie View hasn’t lost since early September (to Southland front-runner Incarnate Word). While its winning margins haven’t been mind-boggling, they’re winning. Remember when the Panthers lost games by the bushel? That hasn’t happened in a while.

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On the other hand, Alcorn State is a SWAC blue-blood and can train wreck any fairy-tale endings PVA&M wants. Folks, the Braves are the Braves. They dropped a close one to N.C. Central in the season opener, nearly knocked off FBS South Alabama, and have lost by a combined seven points to Southern U and Bethune-Cookman.

Alcorn State is ticked off, talented, and ready to throw a wrench in things. They’re at home, and that’s the advantage.

Pick: Alcorn State by 7

5. Holy Cross (7-2, 4-0 in Patriot) at Fordham (6-3, 4-0)
1 p.m., Saturday (ESPN+)

Folks, this is the best Fordham team since Chase Edmonds (paging, NFL) and stellar QB Kevin Anderson left the Bronx school. The Rams have gone from a “slow start" (which translated means: lost at Nebraska and Florida Atlantic and nearly knocked off Monmouth) to a team that could end up in the playoffs (again) with a Big South title (we will see next weekend).

But since then? Fordham dominated a CAA team (Stony Brook) and won two non-conference games before mowing down its Patriot League schedule.

Now, on the flip side? Holy Cross has an FBS win over Connecticut (by 10), beat a very, very good Ivy League team (Yale), hammered Monmouth (by 30) – but also dropped an absolute head-scratcher by 14 to a 5-4 NEC team – Merrimack.

Holy Cross can beat the hell out of you when the Crusaders are on their game – and usually, they are. Fordham hasn’t stopped improving since facing big-time competition. Somewhere, Chase and Kevin are smiling.

This is a monster game and could quickly go either way.

Pick: Holy Cross by 1

4. No. 20 Northern Iowa (5-4, 3-3 in MVFC) at No. 13 Missouri State (6-3, 5-2)
3 p.m., Friday (ESPN+)

Talk about a tale of two MVFCs.

If Northern Iowa loses this one, it’s in a really, really tough spot after looking like one of the most dangerous week one playoff teams (after eating some turkey). If UNI can’t even get to the playoffs, it’s kind of hard to be a landmine. That’s what a Week 10 loss to Illinois State will do.

On the flip side? Missouri State hasn’t won eight games in a season since its 9-3 year in 1990. The Bears did go to the playoffs in this spring’s abbreviated run at things, but if it knocks off UNI and handles winless Dixie State next week? MSU is in a territory it hasn’t been in for 30 years. And head coach Bobby Petrino clearly would love that.

They both have a ton at stake, but only one program is playing at home.

Pick: Missouri State by 2.

3. No. 2 James Madison (8-1, 5-1 in CAA) at William & Mary (6-3, 4-2)
3:30 p.m., Saturday (FloFootball)

James Madison aims for a 10-1 season and a very high seed before moving on to the FBS ranks.

William & Mary is coming off its second head-scratching CAA loss (by 21 to Delaware and sub-.500 Maine by 11). The thing is, W&M knocked off Villanova by 13, while JMU lost at home to the Wildcats by 1.

The potential is there for William & Mary, but will it be enough?

Pick: JMU by 13.

2. No. 4 South Dakota State (7-2, 4-2 in MVFC) at No. 18 South Dakota (6-3, 4-2)
2 p.m., Saturday (ESPN+)

The final two weekends are so critical for South Dakota. The Coyotes have played well this year but get their most significant challenges in the MVFC this week and next – against SDSU and NDSU.

If USD picks up one win in this stretch run? It is locked into the playoffs at no worse than 7-4. But if it drops both – it may not have enough juice on the resume.

SDSU is coming off an impressive performance at home against NDSU.

Pick: SDSU by 10

1. No. 8 Eastern Washington (7-2, 4-2 in Big Sky) at No. 6 UC Davis (8-1, 5-1)
8 p.m., Saturday (ESPN+)

Both of these programs look playoff-bound – with UC Davis’ eight wins in one of the best two conferences and with EWU’s wins over Montana, and an FBS win (UNLV).

Both shouldn’t be afraid of missing the postseason.

But do either one of them want to play two days after turkey day? No.

This game will be a massive determinant. Eastern Washington has faltered of late. Albeit it hasn’t been by much, falling to a solid Montana State team by three and a slip up against a wounded by still legit Weber State team by one.

On the flip side? UC Davis hasn’t faced as brutal a Big Sky schedule but has beaten a better FBS team than EWU (Tulsa) and has two monster matchups ahead of it. The Aggies could play themselves into seeding talk if they knock off Eastern Washington and Sacramento State on successive weekends at home. It’s possible.

One of these two teams seems like a seed. Who will it end up being?

Pick: UC Davis by 1

BMac’s Record Last Week: 6-4
BMac’s Season Record: 49-31 (.613)

— Written by Brian McLaughlin, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McLaughlin has covered the FCS level since 2015 and is the former HERO Sports FCS National Coordinator. Before HERO Sports, he covered national college football recruiting for The Sporting News -- and compiled the PARADE All-America teams from 2010-17. He is a co-host on BMac and The Nach’s FCS Podcast each week, currently hosted on several well-known platforms like Spotify, Stitcher, etc. Follow him on Twitter @BrianMacWriter or Facebook at www.facebook.com/brianmacwriter.