Every week, Senior FCS Analyst Sam Herder will predict the scores of the week’s top games.
Here are his picks for Week 4:
2021 Spring Predictions Record: 9-6
2019 Record: 100-42
No. 20 South Dakota at No. 4 North Dakota
Just as we all predicted, UND, SDSU, and Missouri State are atop the MVFC standings with zero conference losses. The Fighting Hawks defeated No. 3 SDSU last week while USD beat No. 7 Illinois State. The Coyotes look much better on defense, forcing seven turnovers against ISU. USD started true freshman Caron Camp at QB, while UND has a redshirt freshman starter in Tommy Schuster.
With SDSU and especially NDSU hogging the national spotlight, USD and UND are stepping out of the shadows. The Coyotes have recruited well and are investing in their football program. The results of that may be starting to show. And the Fighting Hawks have the two best FCS wins in the country, look like one of the two most complete teams in the FCS, and play extremely well at home. That will continue in Thursday’s matchup.
Prediction: UND 28-20
No. 13 Albany at No. 14 New Hampshire
Our Daniel Steenkamer wrote about how the opening week of CAA play has huge playoff implications. This is the big one right here. The CAA is likely to get two teams into the playoffs this year — the winners of the North and South divisions. It’s possible the second-place team in the North gets the CAA a second at-large bid, but it’s far from a guarantee.
So every loss is massive.
UNH appears ready to be back in the playoff picture. But I really like what Albany has coming back with All-American standouts like QB Jeff Undercuffler, RB Karl Mofor, and LB Levi Metheny. A lot of FCS teams had question marks at QB entering this spring. Albany does not.
Prediction: Albany 24-21
No. 5 Villanova at Stony Brook
While the start of the spring season has wreaked havoc on the Top 25 rankings, Villanova has been sitting pretty in the Top 10 with an 0-0 record. Now we get to see the extremely talented Wildcats in action and if they can live up to the hype (and stay healthy).
Stony Brook is always a tough, competitive team in the CAA. The Seawolves are 14-5 at home since 2017. But Daniel Smith and Justin Covington will be too much. Villanova has a loaded roster, even with key guys transferring to the FBS this last fall, and is ready to finally make some national noise.
Prediction: Villanova 27-14
No. 6 North Dakota State at Missouri State
This will be a fascinating game. Not necessarily because NDSU is on upset alert, but because we all are curious how the Bison respond after their worst loss in years — 38-14 last week to SIU.
Do the Bison come out pissed off and steamroll the Bears? Do they have a controlling yet uninspirational win like they did in the 25-7 victory against YSU? Or do things start to unravel even more with issues at QB, OL, and the secondary, and Mo State gives NDSU hell?
I lean somewhere in between options 1 and 2.
Prediction: NDSU 31-14
UC Davis at No. 19 Idaho
Available: Pluto TV
Idaho is in the driver’s seat for a playoff bid after a huge win against then-No. 12 EWU. But playing a talented UC Davis team is going to present some challenges. The Aggies are well-coached, have recruited well, and still have dudes who were a part of the 2018 run to the quarterfinals.
Idaho has had the talent in its first couple of seasons in the FCS. It now appears the Vandals have fixed the QB problem with UConn transfer Mike Beaudry, who looked solid after settling into his first game as the starter and throwing for nearly 300 yards.
Idaho notches another win here at the Kibbie Dome, which has its home-field advantages for several different reasons. UC Davis may want to punch it in when in the red zone instead of settling for field goals.
Prediction: Idaho 24-21
No. 15 Illinois State at No. 3 Northern Iowa
Not to be dramatic, but this is most likely a playoff-elimination game. Both teams already have one loss. Two losses and you’re on the playoff bubble. ISU still has NDSU, SDSU, SIU, and UND on the schedule. UNI still has SIU, USD, and NDSU on its schedule.
So this game is massively important. The Redbirds lost an ugly 27-20 game to USD last week that saw Bryce Jefferson throw four interceptions. While a No. 3 ranking is a bit too high for UNI, the Panthers nearly beat SDSU if not for a game-winning drive. And UNI handled YSU 21-0 last week.
The Panthers have looked like the better team.
Prediction: UNI 24-14
Sacred Heart at Duquesne
Sacred Heart is my preseason favorite this spring, but Duquesne is always a team to keep an eye on in the NEC race, winning it in 2018 and getting a first-round playoff win.
Sacred Heart’s Julius Chestnut is one of the best running backs in the FCS and a player fans will want to pay attention to. The NEC is wide open this year with top teams like CCSU and Saint Francis opting out. We’ll see what these two squads have in the first week of conference play.
Prediction: Sacred Heart 24-17
Dixie State at New Mexico State
New Mexico State, an FBS independent, decided to play some games this spring. Its reasoning was solid — get a couple of games in to develop players and get ready for the fall. Maybe get some confidence going with some wins as well, so let’s schedule two opponents who were Division 2 in 2019 and are transitioning to the FCS level now.
Well, the Aggies lost 43-17 to Tarleton State on Feb. 21. And it won’t get easier considering Dixie State, this week’s opponent, beat Tarleton 26-14 on Feb. 27.
Quarterback Kody Wilstead, who redshirted at BYU in 2017 before playing a year at the JuCO level and then arrived at Dixie State in 2019 to win the starting job, threw for 350 yards last week. Four different receivers had 60 receiving yards or more. Expect an offensive explosion on Sunday.
Prediction: Dixie State 42-21
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