Gauging FCS teams during the non-conference is a challenge due to opponent strength and deceiving records. Thankfully, more conference games are arriving for teams to separate themselves.
After a 9-0 record last week, the picks are a bit more challenging in Week 4.
Let’s make some quick-hitting predictions.
2023 Record: 22-4
2019-2022 Record: 337-158
No. 21 Mercer at No. 8 Furman
Furman offers a bit more team balance as Mercer’s offense hasn’t quite hit the same gear as last year. Furman is perhaps the least talked about Top 10 team so far this season, mostly because of opponents faced while others in the top 10 either had an FBS win or own a ranked FCS win. I’ll take Furman at home as it looks to start building out a seedable playoff resume with a win over a solid Mercer team. I like Mercer’s front seven, so it’ll be a fun matchup watching them defend Dominic Roberto.
Prediction: Furman 28-17
No. 17 Rhode Island at No. 25 Villanova
Kasim Hill has balled out, taking his play and an already explosive Rhody offense to another level. I expect Nova to be a stronger team than last year’s 6-5 squad. And Rhody should be in the playoff mix come November, so this has big early implications. CAA games rarely go chalk in terms of ranking. So many teams are equal down the standings. Nova gets on more radars with a ranked win over Rhody, forcing timely turnovers in a wild fourth-quarter win.
Prediction: Nova 42-38
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Chattanooga at No. 20 Samford
Both teams have had somewhat disappointing starts based on their FCS losses. UTC lost to North Alabama, and Samford lost big to SoCon foe Western Carolina. Samford’s defense has some questions, and it won’t be easy containing Mocs RB Ailym Ford. But Michael Hiers is still playing like a top FCS QB, and he leads Samford to a home W. And it’ll be needed, as the Bulldogs still don’t have a D1 win for its playoff resume.
Prediction: Samford 38-27
No. 4 Sac State at No. 7 Idaho
A battle of two of the hottest-playing QBs in the FCS. Gevani McCoy is playing lights out against a tougher schedule featuring two FBS opponents. And Kaiden Bennett is playing so well that Sac State has gone away from the 2-QB system compared to early in Game 1 when Carson Camp started. Surprisingly, this is the first home game of the season for Idaho. The football team is buzzing in Moscow, and an engaged fan base will be quite rowdy come kickoff. That home-field advantage will be key in this battle of Top 10 teams.
Prediction: Idaho 35-31
No. 16 SEMO at Eastern Kentucky
There are a couple of 0-3 teams you should still keep an eye on, and EKU is one of them. It has two FBS losses, one a competitive one at Kentucky. And last week, the Colonels went down to the wire against WCU, one of the hottest FCS teams. SEMO is also coming off of an emotional, down-to-the-wire loss against rival SIU, one of the hotter FCS teams as well. It’s hard to imagine EKU at 0-4, but I’ve been high on SEMO all preseason. And it was oh-so-close to knocking off SIU last week. I think the Redhawks rebound with a big road victory.
Prediction: SEMO 34-31
No. 11 New Hampshire at No. 19 Delaware
Both offenses have looked phenomenal to start. UNH has been a bit more tested with its schedule so far. That, coupled with veteran stalwarts like Dylan Laube and Max Brosmer lead to a win. I want to see more from UNH’s defense. But the Wildcats have plenty of impact players on defense as well, which will be needed to earn a difficult road win at Delaware.
Prediction: UNH 31-28
Abilene Christian at Central Arkansas
UCA is a rankable team and a playoff-worthy team. But it currently has zero D1 wins on its resume. Meanwhile, ACU was a sleeper team for me this preseason and nearly knocked off Top 10 UIW last week. Another fabulous matchup this weekend that could pay dividends down the road for the winner. I keep going back to the individual talent on UCA’s roster. Bears DE David Walker will need a big day to help slow down an explosive passing attack led by ACU QB Maverick McIvor. UCA wins a close one on the stripes.
Prediction: Central Arkansas 38-31
No. 3 Montana State at No. 10 Weber State
The third meeting between these two in less than a year. MSU beat Weber twice last season, both times in Bozeman with the second coming in the playoffs. MSU also beat Weber two years ago in Ogden, not an easy feat to win on Weber’s home turf. Tommy Mellott won’t play this week, but I think the Bobcats still have the better QB in this matchup with Sean Chambers. Weber remains a run-first team, and Damon Bankston has been fantastic at RB. But I like what I’ve seen from MSU’s front seven this year to hold Weber’s ground game in check while controlling the TOP with its own rushing attack.
Prediction: Montana State 28-21
Eastern Washington at No. 15 UC Davis
We thought there was a clear divide in the Big Sky this preseason. A top 6 and a bottom six. UCD was in that top six. And EWU in the bottom six. But the Eagles have impressed in back-to-back games, taking FBS Fresno State to 2OT and then beating ranked SLU last weekend. UC Davis didn’t win as decisively as maybe expected a week ago against SUU. But I still like the offensive and defensive makeup of this team, and being at home makes me feel even more comfortable picking UC Davis to win.
Prediction: UC Davis 42-41