We hit the midway point of the 2022 FCS season. Week 6 features three ranked vs. ranked games, plus a few more intriguing matchups.
Let’s predict some scores.
2019-2021 record: 244-115
2022 record: 35-15
RELATED: Week 6 Viewing Guide
South Dakota at No. 2 South Dakota State
This could have been a look-ahead game for SDSU as a Top 2 national showdown in Fargo looms next week. But focus shouldn’t be a problem for the Jackrabbits as they look to avenge last year’s Hail Mary loss to their in-state rival. That loss ultimately cost SDSU a seed, and potentially a trip to Frisco as the Jacks had to crisscross the country for three straight playoff games. With games remaining at NDSU, at UND, and at UNI, the Jacks can’t have a letdown here if they want to position themselves better for a postseason run.
USD may be 1-3, but those three losses are to P5 K-State, No. 3 Montana, and No. 1 NDSU. The Coyotes lost by a combined 58-24 in the losses to Montana and NDSU, so this is a game No. 2 SDSU should win. SDSU’s defense, which ranks No. 8 in the FCS with 14.0 points allowed per game, shows out again tomorrow as the Jacks move to 5-0 vs. the FCS.
Prediction: SDSU 28-14
No. 17 Southern Illinois at No. 20 Missouri State
I’m already prepared for three lead changes in the final three minutes in this one.
Expect a lot of points and a lot of explosive plays. These two teams are trending in opposite directions. Missouri State started 2-0 with Top 10 rankings but has since lost three straight. SIU started 0-2 to fall out of Top 10 rankings but has since won three straight featuring a P5 win at Northwestern. Missouri State’s second-half effort in the 48-31 loss at UND was concerning, giving up 28 points to relinquish a 21-10 second-quarter lead. SIU nearly had a letdown loss as well, beating struggling Illinois State 19-14.
Mo State, thought to be a title contender in the preseason, has its back against the wall at 2-3. A fourth loss puts its playoff hopes in jeopardy. If the Bears treat this game like it treated the game at FBS No. 10 Arkansas, a game where they held a fourth-quarter lead, then they should get a win in front of the home crowd. Jason Shelley has been overtaken by some QBs in the Walter Payton Award discussion. He’ll have a chance to put up big numbers against an SIU defense that allows 294.4 passing yards per game, 109th in the FCS.
Prediction: Missouri State 45-42
No. 6 Delaware at No. 16 William & Mary
RELATED: Game Preview
A great matchup for two playoff contenders out of the CAA. Delaware is 5-0 with an FBS win vs. Navy. William & Mary is 4-1 with an FBS win vs. Charlotte and an FCS loss vs. Elon. The Blue Hens look to continue positioning for a playoff seed. This will be their toughest FCS opponent to date, and it’s on the road. But it did play extremely well in a dominant road win at Rhody earlier this season. The passing attack averaging nearly 300 yards a game will be tested by a talented secondary led by Ryan Poole and Jalen Jones
W&M’s offense features a strong rushing attack, plus QB Darius Willson looks better throwing the ball. The Tribe averages 241.0 yards on the ground a game. While Delaware’s high-flying offense gets a lot of love, its rushing defense has been stout by allowing 122.8 YPG. I think the Blue Hens offer a bit more explosiveness offensively and have the QB advantage in Nolan Henderson. And if the UD defense can force Wilson to beat them with his arm, that should lead to a road win.
Prediction: Delaware 27-24
Western Carolina at No. 12 Mercer
This is the type of SoCon “gotcha” game that costs top teams in the playoff picture. Mercer is looking damned good at 4-1 overall and 4-0 vs. the FCS. If the Bears want to continue climbing into the seeding discussion, suffering a loss to middle-of-the-SoCon-pack WCU can’t happen.
And I don’t think it will.
WCU is 70th in passing defense (233.2 YPG). That doesn’t bode well vs. a Mercer offense that has really improved through the air to complement an already-solid rushing attack and defense. Last year, Fred Payton completed 57% of his passes for 1,661 yards, 12 TDs, and 10 INT. This year, he is 66% passing for 1,186 yards, 13 TDs, and 0 INT. After being one of the first three teams left out of the 2021 bracket, Mercer knows it can’t suffer letdown losses. The Bears continue to roll.
Prediction: Mercer 38-21
Abilene Christian at Stephen F. Austin
Two interesting teams here.
SFA was the preseason darling who now sits at 2-3. Abilene Christian brought in nearly 20 FBS transfers, which can result in immediate success or a trainwreck. So far, the record is looking good at 4-1. But the wins don’t get me there just yet on ranking ACU — Beating Lamar by two TDs, beating Prairie View A&M by eight, losing to FBS Missouri by 17, beating non-D1 Western New Mexico 34-7, and beating transitioning Utah Tech by 16.
ACU’s defense has been impressive, allowing 15.6 PPG to rank No. 10 in the FCS. SFA’s offense just hasn’t gotten going this year. Throw out the 98-0 win against non-D1 Warner that was honestly more sad than impressive, the Lumberjacks are averaging just 20 points per game. How they respond after an emotional 17-16 loss to rival Sam Houston is something to monitor, but I think SFA rallies the troops and moves to 2-0 at home.
Prediction: SFA 21-17
No. 24 Eastern Washington at No. 7 Weber State
RELATED: FCS Bracketology 3.0
In a literal sense, this isn’t a must-win for EWU, who is 1-3 overall with two P5 losses. But losing Saturday means EWU would then have to win out to have a good shot at the playoff bracket at 7-4, meaning having to beat No. 5 Sac State and No. 3 Montana. So it’s essentially a must-win without literally being a must-win. If that even makes sense.
On the other sideline, Weber can continue to add to its strong playoff resume and improve to 5-0 with an FBS win.
EWU QB Gunner Talkington has been strong, throwing for 886 yards, 11 TDs, and three interceptions. This is not a good matchup, though, against one of the more talented secondaries in the FCS. The Wildcats lead the subdivision with 10 interceptions. With All-American cornerback Eddie Heckard locking down one side, teams have not been able to pick on Maxwell Anderson, who has four interceptions already. Weber plays too good of defense and too well at home to drop this one, even against a talented EWU team with its backs against the playoff wall.
Prediction: Weber State 35-24
Davidson at St. Thomas
St. Thomas’ transition from D3 to D1 went rather smooth last season, finishing 7-3 overall and 6-2 in the Pioneer Football League. One of those losses was a 42-15 L handed by Davidson. I actually picked the Tommies to win the Pioneer this fall despite them not being eligible for the playoffs yet. A strong defense returns the likes of standouts Luke Glenna and Luke Herzog. This season, St. Thomas is allowing just 90.3 rushing yards per game as it’s out to a 3-1 start. Two of those wins are against non-D1s, though.
That rushing defense will be put to the test against the No. 1 FCS rushing offense. Davidson’s option attack led by Dylan Sparks and Coy Williams averages 389.4 YPG, which is almost 100 yards more than No. 2 Dartmouth and No. 3 Montana State. This is a great gauge to see how much progress St. Thomas has made in a year to get acclimated athletically and physically to D1 football, even in the non-scholarship Pioneer.
But I’m going to have to walk back on my preseason prediction and go with Davidson to win this game and go on to win its third straight PFL title. The competitive gap between the two will narrow from last year, though.
Prediction: Davidson 21-14
Dartmouth at Yale
Dartmouth has already doubled its losses from last year, sitting at 1-2 with losses to Sacred Heart (OT) and Penn (2OT). The Big Green finished 9-1 last season. Yale, who brings back the most All-Ivy League players with eight, is out to a 2-1 start by beating Cornell and Howard.
Dartmouth’s Nick Howard was utilized as a running QB last year, leading the team in rushing (787 yards, 15 TDS), while Derek Kyler handled the starting and more conventional duties (1,972 yards passing, 17 TDs, 1 INT). Howard is now the starter, and while he leads the team in rushing again with 351 yards and six scores, he does not look comfortable throwing (58.3%, 283 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT).
I think Yale’s defense, which already has 25 TFLs and 13 sacks in three games, can limit Dartmouth, and the Bulldogs can do enough offensively for the home win.
Prediction: Yale 24-17