The lack of FCS schools playing this fall — 17 of 127 total — has led to some rare, but fun home-and-home series.
Central Arkansas is involved in a pair, starting with a visit from Missouri State on Saturday followed by the return matchup on Oct. 17. UCA will go home-and-home with Eastern Kentucky later this season.
FCS teams are 0-15 against FBS opponents, so Central Arkansas begins the weekend as the only subdivision team with a victory, beating Austin Peay, 24-17, before suffering a 45-35 loss at UAB. Missouri State was drubbed by Oklahoma, 48-0, in its only game.
Saturday's game on The Stripes at UCA is Bears vs. Bears. The series is tied, 4-4.
Missouri State at Central Arkansas
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Central Arkansas -10.5
When Missouri State Has the Ball
The Oklahoma game didn't provide a true sense of the Bears' development under first-year head coach Bobby Petrino, but the Missouri Valley Football Conference team probably isn't quite ready for a team of Central Arkansas' caliber. Quarterback Jaden Johnson, a Southern Miss transfer, is the present and future of the rebuild, and he has a nice receiving corps with 6-foot-5 Lorenzo Thomas, Jordan Murray and Armand Baker (a tight end, both stand 6-4) and Damoriea Vick (6-3).
The offensive line has to raise its play to help get the Bears moving, After ranking among the worst rushing attacks in the FCS last season, they managed only 54 yards on 24 carries against the Sooners, and that included wide receiver Tarrell Roberts going 26 yards on a reverse.
When Central Arkansas Has the Ball
UCA's passing attack isn't fully clicking yet, but quarterback Breylin Smith has still thrown for 476 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions in two games. He works the ball around to an experienced wide receivers unit that boasts Lujuan Winningham and Tyler Hudson. The Bears are 6-1 against FCS opponents when Winningham catches a touchdown.
The Bears' Southland Conference co-title last year came despite a poor running game, so head coach Nathan Brown has to be pleased with the early season work of his offensive line (which had to replace its starting tackles) and running backs Kierre Crossley and Cameron Myers, who have combined for 50 more yards per game than the team's average output last season.
At 10 games, preseason No. 11 Central Arkansas has the largest fall schedule in the FCS programs. With a 23-day layoff since the UAB game, it's important for UCA to get in a groove because it has a trip to three-time reigning FCS champion North Dakota State coming up on Oct. 3.
UCA has too much firepower for Missouri State.
Prediction: Central Arkansas 31, Missouri State 16
— 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 Central Arkansas Athletics)