Week 9 of the 2021 FCS season is here.
All year, Senior FCS Analyst Sam Herder will give his thoughts and score predictions on the week’s biggest games. This week may not feature a lot of ranked versus ranked games, but there are still plenty of great matchups.
Let’s predict some scores.
Spring 2021: 53-25
William & Mary at No. 4 Villanova
William & Mary has put together a solid year and is looking for its first winning season since 2015. The Tribe is 5-2 overall, 5-1 against the FCS, and 3-1 in the CAA. The problem with putting them in the playoff picture yet, though, is their strength of schedule is 48th and they have two Top 10 opponents coming up — No. 4 Villanova and No. 5 JMU.
A 7-4 CAA team may not make the bracket this year, so W&M will have to pull off an upset against either Nova or JMU and also beat both Delaware and Richmond to hit eight wins.
An upset at Nova seems unlikely. The Wildcats are rolling, beating ranked Rhode Island 44-0 last week. They are in the driver’s seat for a Top 4 playoff seed if they win out. Nova has too much firepower offensively and defensively to lose this one.
Prediction: Nova 38-17
Monmouth at North Carolina A&T
The stakes in this game are a bit lower than they were expected to be back in August. NC A&T has had a disappointing debut season in the Big South. The Aggies are 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the conference, losing two straight to Kennesaw State and Hampton.
Monmouth maybe hasn’t played to the level of its preseason rankings, but the Hawks are still 4-3 overall and 3-0 in the conference. Kennesaw is also 3-0 in the conference. KSU is getting a lot of Top 25 love. Monmouth is not despite being the two-time defending champs.
In my opinion, Monmouth needs to win the Big South’s auto-bid to make the playoffs. The Hawks won’t have a good enough resume to be an at-large bid if its finishes second with a loss to KSU. Kennesaw, who is currently undefeated against FCS opponents, has a better at-large argument if it finished second in the standings.
Monmouth had a convincing win last week at Campbell, winning 34-17. NC A&T had an opposite performance in its 30-9 loss at Hampton. Juwon Farri (689 yards rushing and eight TDs) continues his big season.
Prediction: Monmouth 31-20
Central Arkansas at Jacksonville State
The AQ7 looked like it could be a three-bid league in August with SHSU, UCA, and JSU. Now, it may be just a one-bid league. UCA (preseason No. 14) and JSU (preseason No. 10) have not met expectations as both have 3-4 overall records. Their playoff hopes are mostly gone, but not 100 percent. If either wins out to finish 7-4 (especially JSU with a P5 win), they would at least be on the bubble. Suffering a fifth loss puts the final nail in your coffin. UCA has a non-counter game coming up, though, so the best the Bears can do is hit six D1 wins.
UCA is one of the better below .500 teams. The Bears had a close loss at ranked Missouri State, came back and made it a reasonable 10-point loss to No. 1 SHSU, and had a second-half collapse to lose 38-35 versus EKU. JSU has suffered a 31-6 loss to Kennesaw and a 42-7 loss to SHSU in the last three games.
It isn’t a lost season for JSU just yet, though. With that P5 win in their back pocket, you never know what the committee would do with the Gamecocks if they finish 7-4. But after what SHSU did to JSU last week, I think UCA will have an opportunity for big plays through the air
Prediction: Central Arkansas 45-35
Davidson at Morehead State
The winner Saturday stands at the top of the Pioneer Football League standings. Davidson and Morehead State are 4-0 in the league, San Diego is 4-1, and Marist and newcomer St. Thomas are 3-1.
Morehead State had a winning record in the spring season (4-3 overall and 4-2 in the PFL), its first winning season since 2015. Davidson was the 2021 spring conference champ.
Davidson’s option offense is tough to slow down as it’s averaging 309.2 rushing yards per game (No. 1 in the FCS by more than 30 yards a game). Morehead State is allowing 33.7 PPG, although its rushing defense is stronger than its passing defense. I have the Wildcats as my projected PFL auto-bid, and I won’t abandon that thought.
Prediction: Davidson 35-24
No. 23 Weber State at Idaho State
Weber State got an absolute must-win last week at then-No. 2-EWU. The Wildcats are 3-4 overall and 3-3 against the FCS. With a favorable schedule ahead, they can finish 7-4 with a key win against EWU and four “quality losses” to have an argument for a playoff bid. Idaho State isn’t afraid to play spoiler, though. The Bengals beat UC Davis early this season right when the Aggies were being talked about as a potential high playoff seed.
Even without star running back Josh Davis, Weber was able to establish the run against EWU with a stable of rushers going for 264 yards on 53 carries. Bronson Barron was also sharp throwing for 226 yards on 21-of-34 passing. Idaho State is playing better defensively than in past years, but the offense has scored a combined 19 points in the last two games. Weber rolls and avoids an emotional letdown loss.
Prediction: Weber State 28-7
North Dakota at No. 17 Missouri State
There is a lot on the line here for an unranked matchup. Missouri State looked good last week and nearly knocked off NDSU in the Fargodome. The Bears seem like they can do some damage in the playoffs, but they are just 4-3 overall and 4-2 against the FCS. With games remaining against UND, No. 3 SIU, No. 16 UNI, and Dixie State, Mo State isn’t a lock just yet to get a bid.
And while UND is 3-4 overall and 3-3 against the FCS, the Fighting Hawks aren’t out of the playoff picture just yet. They need to win out and will have to do so against No. 17 Mo State, YSU, Illinois State, and No. 10 SDSU.
This is a must-win for the Fighting Hawks, and I think they get it done. It’s the ultimate trap game for Mo State. Jason Shelley is a fantastic QB, but UND will see an exploitable offense line and be aggressive in its blitzes. And with All-American RB Otis Weah back in the lineup, UND’s offense has gotten a needed boost.
Prediction: UND 28-27
Saint Francis U at Duquesne
There’s a logjam at the top of the NEC right now with Bryant and Sacred Heart at 3-1 and Duquesne and Saint Francis at 2-1. Bryant has wins against Sacred Heart and Saint Francis with a loss to Duquesne. Duquesne’s lone conference loss is to Sacred Heart.
Saint Francis’ loss to Bryant was its last game before a bye, followed by Saturday’s game at Duquense, and then a home game versus Sacred Heart. It’s a tough stretch for SFU, who is 3-4 overall. Duquesne’s 31-13 loss last week at Sacred Heart was a surprise considering the Dukes were 4-1 with an FBS win and receiving some Top 25 votes. I like Duquesne’s talent in this matchup. and it getting tested a little more in conference play up to this point.
Prediction: Duquesne 24-20
No. 3 Southern Illinois at No. 16 Northern Iowa
The only ranked versus ranked matchup this week and it’s a big one. SIU is undefeated against the FCS and still has to play No. 16 UNI this week and No. 17 Missouri State next week before two favorable games against Indiana State and YSU. If SIU wins out, the Salukis are likely a Top 4 seed.
UNI had a needed win at then-No. 6 SDSU last week to improve to 4-3 overall and 4-2 against the FCS. The Panthers can afford one more loss down the stretch and still probably make the playoffs with wins against Sac State, SDSU, and either SIU or Missouri State.
The Panthers are a dangerous team. They have standout players all over the starting lineup and are especially talented on defense. They’ll face an SIU offense with playmakers in the backfield and on the outside. My biggest question mark in this matchup is SIU’s defense, which has allowed 30, 41, and 28 points in the last three games that SIU has won by one, one, and three points.
I don’t see SIU making it through the MVFC slate unbeaten. It’s so tough to do, although avoiding NDSU certainly helps. But coming off of a bye, along with UNI being in a physical and emotional game last week, I don’t think that loss for SIU happens this week.
Prediction: SIU 31-28
McNeese at No. 8 SLU
McNeese played spoiler last week, knocking off then-No. 16 UIW 28-20 to give the Cardinals their first Southland loss and hurt their chances at an at-large bid. SLU, meanwhile, remains undefeated against FCS opponents and is looking to show it’s not only the top team in the Southland but deserving of a playoff seed.
In the conference’s scheduling this season, some teams play each other twice.
McNeese lost at UIW 31-0 in September and won the rematch last week. SLU beat McNeese 38-35 on the road in early October. What’s in store for the rematch?
McNeese is known to have one of the better defenses in the Southland. It has played well the last two games, allowing 17 points to Northwestern State and 20 to UIW. But this SLU offense is on another level, led by star QB Cole Kelley. I don’t see the Lions losing a game during the regular season.
Prediction: SLU 41-28
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