Week 5 of the 2022 FCS season may not pack the same punch as last week, but we’ll still see a fun slate of games.
Let’s predict some scores.
2019-2021 record: 244-115
2022 record: 29-13
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No. 17 Richmond at No. 23 Elon
The only ranked vs. ranked matchup of the weekend. Transfer QBs Reece Udinski and Matthew McKay are leading their teams to great starts to the season, but the defenses should get some love too. Take out the FBS losses by both teams, and they are a combined 6-0. Richmond is allowing 11.3 PPG to those three FCS opponents, and Elon is allowing 18.3 PPG.
Elon is coming off of a wild 35-31 win at No. 14 William & Mary. Richmond’s performance was just as impressive, beating Stony Brook 51-7. The defenses are on par with each other, but Richmond’s offense offers a bit more explosive playmaking ability. The Spiders look legit, and they prove it Saturday.
Prediction: Richmond 28-24
No. 7 Missouri State at North Dakota (received votes)
This is an important win for one of these teams. Missouri State got handled most of last week’s home game vs. South Dakota State, losing 28-14 after having an argument to be a Top 2-ranked team by nearly beating FBS No. 10 Arkansas. And just after getting into the Top 25, UND lost an uninspiring 34-17 game at SIU. If Mo State (2-2, 2-1 FCS) wants a seed a lot of us expect the Bears to get, a win here is key. If UND (2-2, 2-1 FCS) wants to make the playoffs, a win is critical with games against SDSU and NDSU remaining.
Despite the same records, the Bears look like the better team, beating ranked UT Martin and a decent UCA team. UND had back-to-back wins that were impressive at the time, beating ranked UNI and winning at NAU. But those two teams are now a combined 2-6. The Fighting Hawks are allowing too many big plays through the air, ranking 104th in the FCS with 290.2 passing yards allowed per game. While winning in Grand Forks isn’t easy, the Mo State offense should hit on several explosive plays to get a W.
Prediction: Missouri State 38-31
Youngstown State (received votes) at No. 1 North Dakota State
Sloppy tackling and a rushing defense ranked 49th (138.5 YPG) has the Bison defense not looking like the high standard we’re used to seeing. The unit will face a top-tier running back in Jaleel McLaughlin, who already has 368 yards and four TDs in three games for the 2-1 Penguins (2-0 vs. the FCS).
This wasn’t a close game last year as NDSU won in Youngstown 49-17. YSU won just three games, but all three came against ranked opponents. Improvements were expected this season as YSU is currently receiving some votes in the media poll. But it has yet to play a full-scholarship FCS team (Duquesne, Dayton). We’ll see what kind of strides the Penguins have made this year as they look to build back into national relevance. Winning in the Fargodome will be too much of a tall order, even if the run game gets going for a little bit before NDSU adjusts.
Prediction: NDSU 31-14
No. 16 Samford at Furman (received votes)
I think the SoCon is good enough to get three teams into the playoffs this year. With Chattanooga and Mercer looking like the two best teams so far, this matchup is huge for these two squads I have ranked in my Top 25 ballot.
Furman’s defense is looking fantastic, holding its two FCS opponents (ETSU and Charleston Southern) to 14 and 19 points. The offense did enough to get the win, scoring 27 and 24 points. Samford’s offense is on another level, though, scoring 68 points in the last two games vs. Tennessee Tech and Western Carolina. Chandler Smith has been a star (six TDs in four games), developing a nice connection with transfer QB Michael Hiers (12 TDs, 1 INT). We know Samford can score. That’s been its trademark. What’s been more impressive this season is its defense, shutting down WCU’s offense to 12 points and opening the season by stonewalling Kennesaw’s option offense.
This can be a good “prove it” game for Furman, who looks good but is also tough to gauge with a blowout non-counter win, playing Clemson tough despite losing by 23 points, beating then-ranked ETSU 27-14, but then winning at Charleston Southern 24-19. CSU is 0-4.
Expect a close game, but I have a little more faith in Samford’s offense to get a late fourth-quarter score and the win.
Prediction: Samford 28-24
No. 12 Chattanooga at ETSU (received votes)
Chattanooga has almost quietly taken ETSU’s place as a Top 10 FCS team out of the SoCon — No. 12 in the media poll, but No. 10 for me and other ballots. The Mocs will rinse themselves of last week’s 31-0 loss at Illinois, knowing they have outscored its three FCS opponents (Wofford, EIU, North Alabama) 110-34.
It’s been a different story for ETSU, falling while UTC rises. After a non-counter win, the Bucs lost two straight SoCon games to The Citadel and Furman before beating up on Robert Morris 45-3. Last week the offense was clicking. It looked all out of sorts in the two losses, dropping the squad from some Top 10 preseason rankings to out of the Top 25.
Chattanooga is just playing like the better team right now, owning a tough defense and a balanced offense with QB Preston Hutchinson and RB Ailym Ford. The Mocs look like the most talented team in the SoCon, while ETSU may still be trying to find its identity and some leadership. I’m not sure last week’s blowout win against RMU fixes its offensive issues, especially trying to establish the run against a stout UTC front seven.
Prediction: Chattanooga 28-17
UC Davis (received votes) at No. 4 Montana State
A night game on ESPNU should result in a great atmosphere in Bozeman. This is a huge matchup for both and what they want to accomplish this year.
MSU is undefeated against FCS opponents, including getting a ranked win at EWU in a tough place to play. The Bobcats seem to be hanging onto their No. 4 ranking by a thread, with many ballots out there dropping them down some spots. MSU lost a lot from last year’s national runner-up team, has a suspect defense, and the offense is down multiple top RBs plus starting QB Tommy Mellott, who got knocked out early of last week’s game at EWU. He will not play this week. Yet MSU is still 3-0 vs. the FCS (3-1 overall) and has the FCS’ No. 3 rushing offense (289.2 YPG) behind a new-look OL.
UC Davis needs a win to keep its playoff hopes alive. The Aggies are 1-3 overall and 1-2 against the FCS, featuring single-digit losses to two Top 10 teams (SDSU and Weber State). Dropping to 1-4 means they would need to win out to have a shot at an at-large bid.
MSU has been picked on through the air against EWU and Oregon State. The front seven remains talented, though, with Sebastian Valdez (6.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) a rising star sophomore defensive tackle. UC Davis wants to get standout RB Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. going and isn’t as comfortable throwing it a ton. Last week against Weber, Miles Hastings threw 57 passes, completing 39 of them while the offense scored just 12 points. MSU should be able to slow down UC Davis’ offense while riding its own offensive line and home crowd to a win.
Prediction: Montana State 24-14
Kennesaw State (received votes) at Jacksonville State
The new blocking rules have resulted in an adjustment period for Kennesaw’s option offense. The Owls lost by 10 points to Samford, lost by 53 points to FBS Cincinnatti, and then beat a struggling Wofford program 24-22. KSU made the QB switch from preseason First Team All-American Xavier Shepherd to Jonathan Murphy last week. Murphy ran for 138 yards and two TDs and threw for 107 yards in the win.
The Owls take on a JSU squad above the 63-scholarship limit as it transitions to the FBS. JSU is 4-0 against FCS opponents, scoring 34 points or more in all of those games. The Gamecocks already prepped for an option offense once this year, beating Davidson 35-17 on Sept. 3. That was also JSU’s last home game, so expect a great crowd Saturday and a home victory for JSU as Kennesaw still tries to figure out its offensive attack.
Prediction: Jacksonville State 35-17
No. 10 Holy Cross at Harvard
We knew Holy Cross’ defense was going to be legit this year. Its offense has now taken the team to a new level nationally, scoring 31, 37, 38, and 35 points en route to a Top 10 ranking. The Crusaders are 4-0 featuring an FBS win at Buffalo. As part of its 10-3 record last season, one surprising result was a 38-13 loss vs. Harvard. That was a part of an up-and-down start to the year for the team. It beat an FBS team, then lost to Merrimack. It beat No. 20 Monmouth by 30 points, then it lost big to Harvard.
The veteran team has shown more signs of maturity this season, beating a good Yale team a week after its FBS win. Matthew Sluka has taken his play to new heights, throwing for nine TDs to one interception while still keeping his dangerous legs going with a team-high 289 yards rushing and four TDs.
Harvard is 2-0, but with two underwhelming seven-point wins against Merrimack and Brown. Holy Cross is starting to position itself for a playoff seed, so a loss here would halt that momentum. The Crusaders should take care of business.
Prediction: Holy Cross 31-17