All year, Senior FCS Analyst Sam Herder will give his thoughts and score predictions on the week’s biggest games. This weekend features a couple of ranked vs. ranked FCS games and more potential FCS over FBS wins.
Let’s predict some scores.
PredictionsRecord: 2021: 19-7 Spring 2021: 53-25 2019: 100-42
After cracking the Top 25 with a Week 1 win against FBS UConn, Holy Cross lost to new-ish FCS and NEC member Merrimack in the ultimate trap game last week. I still think the Crusaders are the favorite in the Patriot League, and this week’s opponent is a good test and perhaps the best opponent on their schedule to date.
Yale last played a game on Nov. 23, 2019, a classic 50-43 win against Harvard. The Bulldogs finished 9-1 that season, winning their second Ivy League title in three seasons.
Yale returns six of its top seven tacklers from 2019 along with standout running back Zane Dudek. But 3,000-yard passer Kurt Rawlings and his top two targets are gone. Couple that with Holy Cross playing six games in the past seven months and Yale going nearly two years without game action has me picking Holy Cross in this one. Game speed, game shape, and execution will be a factor.
Prediction: Holy Cross 21-20
No. 21 Richmond at No. 12 Villanova
JMU is a lock to get a high playoff seed, in my opinion. Delaware also has the potential to get a seed. But after that? There is a handful of CAA teams who are all good enough to be playoff teams, but who actually gets at-large bids will be fun to watch shake out. Richmond and Villanova are definitely in that playoff mix, making this a great early matchup. The common opponent is Lehigh, who Villanova beat 47-3 and Richmond beat 31-3.
Nova’s offense has looked electric to start, scoring 47 points against Lehigh and 55 against Bucknell. But those aren’t exactly the toughest defenses to put up big points on. Richmond’s defense is strong, led by All-American caliber players like DL Kobie Turner, LB Tyler Dressler, and LB Tristan Wheeler. Both defenses are on par with each other, but I give the edge to Nova’s offense.
Prediction: Nova 31-24
No. 20 Monmouth at Charleston Southern
After I talked up Monmouth as a potential sleeper team that could threaten the top tier of the FCS, the Hawks haven’t shown it yet through two games. I thought the No. 1 most likely FCS over FBS win would be Monmouth beating Middle Tennessee. The Hawks lost 50-15. Last week, they narrowly beat a Fordham team (26-23) that did not have a winning record from 2017-2019.
This should be a good test for Monmouth on the road. CSU has routinely had a winning record in the Big South standings in recent memory. The Buccaneers have a solid defense led by DL Shaundre Mims and DB Cody Cline. Monmouth’s offense has big-time explosiveness that hasn’t played to its potential yet. It should be a great matchup. As still my favorite to win the Big South, I can’t go against the Hawks this early.
Prediction: Monmouth 27-24
No. 24 Kennesaw State at Wofford
This is a massive game for KSU, a team battling injuries already, to keep its playoff hopes alive. The Owls have no D1 wins yet, beating Reinhardt 35-25 in Week 1 and losing to FBS Georgia Tech 45-17 last week. With Jacksonville State the next opponent on Oct. 2 and games against NC A&T and Monmouth still to come, getting a win against Wofford is very important.
After some uncharacteristic struggles in the spring, Wofford looked good in Week 1, beating the CAA’s Elon 24-22. The Terriers continue to get more balanced on offense instead of relying heavily on the option attack. The passing game still isn’t where it needs to be, though, if Wofford wants to be a team capable of winning multiple games in the playoffs.
Beating KSU, who looks to be a Top 3 team in the Big South, would be big for Wofford and the SoCon, a conference hoping for more than one at-large playoff bid. Right now, I think Wofford is the better team overall. A good September for the SoCon continues with the Terriers earning a ranked win.
Prediction: Wofford 24-17
No. 3 James Madison at No. 9 Weber State
The playoff seeding implications are big in this one, as discussed in the story link below.
JMU’s offense has looked fantastic through two games. The true gauge will come at Weber, who has one of the better defenses in the FCS. How does the new-look offensive line do against a physical defensive line? How does QB Cole Johnson look against an experienced and talented secondary? And on the flip side, what kind of offensive progression has Weber made? The teams in the past didn’t have the explosiveness to threaten a team deep in the playoffs, like the 30-14 loss at JMU in the 2019 semifinals.
Weber plays great at home. But this JMU team looks to be on another level with serious national championship potential. The Dukes are too good defensively for Weber’s offense to get going. And JMU has so many ways to move the ball offensively. The Dukes win by two scores.
Prediction: JMU 27-14
Jackson State at Louisiana-Monroe
With the most recent standout recruiting class already making an impact and some FBS transfers across the two-deep, JSU is a more talented team than ULM and probably has better depth, too. The Warhawks are on a 12-game losing streak dating back to Nov. 30, 2019.
JSU is on the fringe of my Top 25 ballot. I was very impressed with the 7-6 win against FAMU in Week 1. The offense came alive last week in a 38-16 win against Tennessee State, but that isn’t a strong program right now to move the needle enough for me. A 3-0 start with an FBS win gets JSU more love in the polls.
Prediction: JSU 31-21
South Carolina State at New Mexico State
New Mexico State did not take part in the 2020 season but did play two games in the spring. The Aggies scheduled games against the two newest FCS teams that are transitioning up from D2, probably hoping for easy wins to prep for this fall. Instead, they lost 43-17 to Tarleton State, then battled and defeated Dixie State 36-29. This comes after a 2-10 season in 2019.
SC State was picked to finish first in the MEAC the summer. The conference suspended its spring season, but the Bulldogs played and went 3-1 after an 8-3 year in 2019. SC State is looking strong so far in 2021, throwing last week’s 49-3 loss to Clemson out the window. The Bulldogs lost an epic game 42-41 to the defending spring SWAC champs Alabama A&M.
New Mexico State is off to an 0-3 start this season and is planning to start walk-on Dino Maldonado at quarterback after starter Jonah Johnson injured his wrist last week. Here’s another great shot for an FCS over FBS win.
Prediction: SC State 35-28
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Sam’s coverage of the FCS began in 2012 as the sports editor and eventual editor-in-chief of NDSU’s The Spectrum. After graduating in 2015, he spent three years in the newspaper and magazine industry while starting his work for HERO Sports in the fall of 2016 as a freelancer. In May 2018, he joined the website full time as the Senior FCS Analyst.