The FCS spring season has been an entertaining one, to say the least. Eleven of the 13 conferences and 70 percent of the teams are playing with a reduced 16-team playoff bracket to cap off what will be an unorthodox season.
Every week, Senior FCS Analyst Sam Herder will predict the scores of the week’s top games.
Here are his picks for Week 8:
2021 Spring Predictions Record: 28-12
2019 Record: 100-42
No. 16 Villanova at Maine
Nova hasn’t played a game since March 13, a 40-37 overtime loss to Rhode Island that dropped the Wildcats far down in the national rankings. Viewed as the preseason favorite in the CAA North, the Wildcats aren’t out of the playoff mix just yet at 1-1, especially with a game looming against undefeated Delaware. But with a long time between games and the last one resulting in a loss, Nova has fallen off of the national radar.
Maine is 2-1 in the CAA North with good wins against Albany and Stony Brook. Wide receiver Andre Miller is going off, catching a combined 16 passes for 277 yards and six touchdowns in the last two games. Villanova allowed 260 yards passing in its loss to Rhode Island, something Maine will look to exploit again. Maine has played a more consistent schedule with three straight games and then a bye last week. I expect the Black Bears to execute at a higher level than Nova.
Prediction: Maine 35-28
Robert Morris at No. 7 Kennesaw State
The last time we saw RMU in action was Feb. 27 when the Colonials gave now-No. 1 JMU a scare. This led us to believe they could be a serious threat as a new member in the Big South. After a couple of postponements, there’s no better opening test than taking on Kennesaw.
KSU’s starting quarterback Tommy Bryant suffered a season-ending injury a couple of weeks ago, but the team has had time to adjust and prepare. The Owls have had competitive games against Charleston Southern (24-19) and Dixie State (37-27). They also have a win against a non-D1 opponent (Shorter). KSU was left out of the playoff committee’s Top 10. If they want even a remote shot at one of the four seeds, they will need to start dominating opponents.
I believe RMU will give the Owls a good test, but I don’t expect KSU to lose a regular-season game this spring.
Prediction: KSU 24-21
ETSU at No. 10 VMI
With a win, VMI can clinch the SoCon championship and auto-bid, reaching the FCS playoffs for the first time in school history. It’s truly been a remarkable season for a program that went a combined 1-21 in 2017 and 2018. Even with standout QB Reece Udinski out with an injury, redshirt freshman QB Seth Morgan stepped in last week and threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns as VMI defeated Wofford 36-31 in comeback fashion.
ETSU has had a sneaky good season. The Buccaneers are 3-1 in the SoCon with those three wins all coming by seven points. They’ve been able to grind out games and are allowing just 18.0 points per contest. It’ll be good offense versus good defense in this one. But as I wrote, VMI seems like a team of destiny, and the Keydets will move to 6-0.
Prediction: VMI 31-17
No. 14 Murray State at Austin Peay
Austin Peay did Murray State a big favor last week by handing Jacksonville State its first OVC loss. Now, Murray Stay sits atop the standings at 5-0, another remarkable start for a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2011.
Austin Peay has had an up-and-down spring season, losing to Tennessee Tech to open things up. The Govs responded with two straight wins, then lost to UT Martin. The team that beat JSU last week was the APSU team we expected to see this season. It is ready to play spoiler again on Saturday.
Prediction: APSU 21-17
Davidson at San Diego
Davidson opened some eyes to start the spring season with a near win at then-No. 21 Elon. Since then, the Wildcats have gone 3-0 and are 2-0 in the Pioneer Football League. That sets up a great showdown with 3-0 (2-0 PFL) San Diego, who has 39 straight wins against conference opponents.
It’ll be a clash of styles as USD averages 269.6 passing yards and 96.0 rushing yards per game. Davidson rushes for 307.8 yards a game and passes for 93.2. Perhaps we’ll get another classic like this one. If there was a team to end USD’s streak, it would be Davidson. But it’s tough to pick against the Toreros, who have pulled out numerous close games during their run of PFL dominance.
Prediction: USD 28-24
No. 9 Eastern Washington at No. 11 UC Davis
The loser of this game is out of playoff contention. With Weber State 3-0, EWU and UC Davis 3-1, and Idaho 2-1, suffering a second loss puts you on the wrong side of the bubble. The Big Sky should get one of the five at-large bids, but not two.
This will be a high-octane offensive shootout. UC Davis is averaging 36.0 points per game with QB Hunter Rodrigues averaging 203.8 passing yards per game with seven TDs and four interceptions. EWU is scoring 43.5 points per game. Eric Barriere is throwing for 372.8 yards a game and has a 13:5 TD-to-INT ratio.
This is the last game on the schedule for UC Davis, who is No. 9 on the playoff committee’s Top 10 rankings. A win and the Aggies should be in the field. I think they get it done with a slightly better defense than EWU and home-field advantage.
Prediction: UC Davis 38-31