I typically predict 7-8 FCS games in this weekly article. I’m going to nearly double that this week with a handful of games that will impact AQs, at-large bids, and seeds. This will also result in shorter breakdowns of each game.
Let’s predict some scores.
2019-2021 record: 244-115
2022 record: 50-23
RELATED: Week 9 Viewing Guide
Saint Francis at Sacred Heart
Merrimack and Saint Francis are tied atop the NEC standings at 4-0. Sacred Heart, the two-time defending champs, is 2-1 in league play, losing to Merrimack. Merrimack is not eligible for the playoff auto-bid as it transition from D2. I think Sacred Heart takes back control of the AQ by beating Saint Francis.
Saint Francis has won five straight and has done it with great defense. But Sacred Heart will ride the hand of All-American RB Malik Grant, who has four 100-yard games, to a win.
Prediction: Sacred Heart 21-17
No. 18 Rhode Island at No. 10 William & Mary
Yet another ranked matchup in the CAA. W&M is in the driver’s seat to earn a playoff seed at 6-1 overall with an FBS win over Charlotte plus a high-ranked win against Delaware. The one loss is to Elon, who Rhody has beaten as part of its three-game winning streak.
This is a back-to-back road trip for Rhody after last week’s exhausting 48-46 win at Monmouth in seven overtimes. I think W&M’s offense that is averaging 253.7 rushing yards per game and is able to spread the carries around for capable runners will wear down the Rams in the second half.
Prediction: William & Mary 28-21
No. 22 Fordham at No. 5 Holy Cross
The last time the Patriot League got two bids into the playoffs was in 2015. Colgate was the auto-bid (advancing to the quarterfinals as an unseeded team by beating JMU in the second round), and Fordham was the at-large bid (losing 50-20 in the first round to Chattanooga). The Patriot looks to be in a position for two bids this season. No. 22 Fordham is 6-1 with a 59-52 FBS loss to Ohio and is 3-0 vs. the CAA (Monmouth, UAlbany, Stony Brook). No. 5 Holy Cross is 7-0 with a 37-31 win at FBS Buffalo.
Buffalo, by the way, is 5-3 overall and 4-0 in the MAC.
Tim DeMorat (3,023 yards, 33 TDs, 4 INT.) has deservedly taken a lot of QB spotlight in the conference. But Holy Cross’ Matthew Sluka has been excellent as well (1,439 yards, 15 TDs, 2 INT., plus leading the team with 449 yards rushing and six TDs. The Crusaders have gotten more explosive on offense this season (36.0 PPG) compared to last year’s playoff squad. The defense remains great, despite missing All-American LB Jacob Dobbs the last few games, allowing 16.3 PPG (No. 7 in the FCS).
Fordham is scoring 49.1 PPG (No. 2 in the FCS) but is allowing 37.7 PPG (No. 108 in the FCS). The overall team balance of Holy Cross will be the difference here on top of the home-field advantage.
Prediction: Holy Cross 45-35
Campbell at North Carolina A&T
These two are 2-0 in the Big South standings alongside Gardner-Webb. Interestingly, Campbell and NC A&T have accepted invites to the CAA and will head there next season while the Big South and OVC combine for one football auto-bid.
NC A&T is rolling after an 0-3 start, winning four games in a row. Campbell is 4-3 overall, including an impressive 48-18 win over NC Central (a team A&T lost to in the season-opener). Campbell battled Top 10-ranked Jackson State to a 22-14 loss last week.
Campbell will have to contain Bhayshul Tuten, who is already up to 776 rushing yards and six TDs in seven games. It will also have to knock off an NC A&T team playing in front of a Homecoming crowd. I’m having second thoughts on my pick earlier this week when we recorded the FCS ALL-IN show (Fridays on ESPN+), but I’ll stick with it and pick Campbell. I think the Camels can control the game in the trenches.
Prediction: Campbell 28-24
No. 7 Chattanooga at No. 24 Furman
Chattanooga looked phenomenal last week, beating up on Mercer 41-21. This is a tough road game against a 6-2 Furman team looking for a playoff resume-boosting win. The Paladins have been great on offense in the last two games, scoring 47 and 41 points. This is not a WCU or VMI defense on Saturday, though.
Chattanooga has yet to allow more than 21 points against FCS opponents. And the Mocs have also put up a lot of points recently, scoring 41 against both VMI and Mercer. The Mercer defense ranked No. 12 in points allowed per game (16.4) before last week’s contest. This will be a battle, but Chattanooga looks built to win the SoCon and earn a playoff seed. The Mocs look to control the lines of scrimmage again here.
Prediction: Chattanooga 28-21
Eastern Kentucky at No. 15 SEMO
This is an intriguing matchup and a big one. Not only for the teams but for the perception of the ASUN-WAC and the OVC. Are either going to be deemed good enough by the playoff committee to get two bids? This game could help determine this.
The OVC auto-bid may come down to a coinflip if SEMO and UT Martin both go undefeated in conference play. EKU (receiving votes in the media poll) is 4-3 overall with a close FBS loss (Eastern Michigan) and a 7OT FBS win (Bowling Green). The ASUN-WAC is determining its AQ through a computerized ranking since the two leagues didn’t announce their 2022 merger until schedules were already set. If EKU knocks off SEMO, it could give the committee a reason not to give the OVC an at-large bid and give the No. 2 team in the ASUN-WAC an at-large bid. Perceived conference strength is important when it comes to the bubble.
However, I don’t see that result happening. SEMO is rolling right now and has yet to lose to an FCS team. This could turn into a shootout with SEMO QB Paxton Delaurent and EKU Parker McKinney. The SEMO passing defense is gettable, but the defensive unit overall is allowing 25.7 PPG compared to the EKU defense allowing 36.1 PPG.
Prediction: SEMO 45-35
No. 11 Montana at No. 5 Weber State
Both teams are coming off emotional losses, making this a pivotal week in their playoff positioning. The Griz have lost two straight to sit at 5-2. With games remaining vs. Cal Poly, vs. EWU, and at No. 3 Montana State, they can go anywhere from a Top 5 seed at 9-2 to potentially getting left out of the playoffs at 7-4.
Weber is 6-1 including an FBS win and a non-counter win. The Wildcats get No. 2 Sac State at home next week. Assuming it beats Idaho State and NAU in the final two weeks, Weber can earn a Top 4 seed in these next two games or find itself playing on Thanksgiving weekend.
The status of Montana QB Lucas Johnson is unknown as of this writing. He missed most of last week at Sac State after taking a scary hit to his head. Montana’s offense is different without him, which is not good news against a Weber defense that, until last week at Montana State, has looked really good. The Wildcats are great at home, and I think they figure things out that cost them last week’s game, like dropped passes and bad punt snaps.
Prediction: Weber State 27-21
Northern Iowa at No. 20 Southern Illinois
Don’t sleep on UNI just yet. After a 2-4 start, the Panthers have won two straight in dominating fashion (Utah Tech, Missouri State). A 6-5 team likely isn’t making the bracket this season, so UNI will have to win out at SIU, vs. No. 1 SDSU, and at South Dakota to have a shot at the postseason. Not an easy task, especially going to an SIU team that is probably pissed off.
SIU started 0-2, then won five straight to become one of the hottest FCS teams. But last week’s 27-24 loss at USD was a head-scratcher. The Salukis still have to face No. 4 NDSU, so a win this week is huge to help reach seven D1 wins. If UNI wins, that SDSU game next week gets very interesting. But I think the Salukis halt UNI’s momentum. SIU’s defense has made tremendous strides since the start of the season, while the array of offensive weapons leads to a balanced attack. SIU gets its season back on track with a W.
Prediction: SIU 28-24
Illinois State at No. 4 North Dakota State
The Redbirds (receiving votes) have almost quietly built themselves into playoff contention this year at 5-2 (5-1 vs. the FCS) and games at NDSU, vs. YSU, at SDSU, and vs. WIU to come. Hitting 7-4 looks favorable to at least get on the radar of the playoff committee. While four of the wins so far have come by one score against unranked opponents, Illinois State keeps winning.
This will be a good test for an NDSU team coming off of a bye after losing to SDSU. ISU is allowing under 20 points per game and always plays a hard-nosed style of ball. With it being at the Fargodome, not many will point to this as an upset alert. But it will be interesting to see if the Bison have to grind out a win again.
Prediction: NDSU 27-17
No. 12 Delaware at Elon
The status of QB Nolan Henderson is a big storyline in the FCS. Delaware had made big strides this year at 6-1 overall with an FBS win over Navy. But last year saw the season basically deflate after Henderson suffered an injury. If he doesn’t play, that’s a problem. And if he does play, what percentage is he with a non-throwing arm injury?
Elon was one of the hottest teams in the CAA, beating ranked W&M and Richmond. But it has lost two games in a row at ranked Rhody and at ranked UNH. Now back at home, where the Phoenix are 3-0 this year, I think they pull out a win against a limited Delaware offense. The CAA race continues to get jumbled.
Prediction: Elon 24-21
Abilene Christian at No. 23 North Dakota
UND is coming off a game where they had two weeks to prepare for and think about hosting the No. 2/No. 1 team in the country SDSU. After the decisive loss, the Fighting Hawks are still in a position to make the playoffs. But it can’t sleep on this late-October non-conference opponent.
ACU brought in nearly 20 FBS transfers this offseason. The Wildcats are out to a 5-2 record after finishing 5-6 last season. QB Maverick McIvor (Texas Tech) transfer has thrown for 1,270 yards, eight TDs, and five interceptions. This squad is playing better defense than offense, though, allowing 19.6 PPG while scoring 26.4 PPG. The run defense is strong, but the passing defense is allowing 221.0 YPG. UND has been explosive through the air (246.3 YPG) behind QB Tommy Schuster and WRs Bo Belquist and Garett Maag. Expect a big day through the air for the home team.
Prediction: North Dakota 35-21
No. 8 UIW at Texas A&M-Commerce
Texas A&M-Commerce is have a fantastic debut season in the FCS and the Southland. The Lions are 5-2 overall. While two of those wins are against non-D1 teams, they are 3-0 in conference play, including winning at ranked SLU 31-28. UIW’s lone loss this season is against SLU.
This should be a fascinating bout. But UIW is rolling with too much firepower right now for Texas A&M-Commerce to go toe-to-toe for all four quarters. The Cardinals are scoring an FCS-high 51 PPG. Lindsey Scott Jr. has thrown 37 TDs to just two INT.
Prediction: UIW 38-24
No. 14 Idaho at No. 2 Sacramento State
The fact that Idaho is still ranked outside of the Top 10 is bonkers to me. At 5-0 vs. the FCS and a more decisive win over Montana (on the road) than Sac State has over the Griz (at home), I’m not sure what voters are looking at to still have the Vandals ranked behind Montana. And if they’re staring at the two losses, even those are impressive competitive Ls to P5 teams.
Sac State is also rolling right now at 7-0, featuring an FBS win (Colorado State) and last week’s OT win against Montana.
I’ll take the Vandals here. Not because I’m “sleeping” on Sac State, I just think it’s a favorable matchup and a time on the schedule for Idaho to get a big road win. The Big Sky is the best 2022 FCS conference. Running the table will be difficult this year, especially with Sac State’s schedule and this game sandwiched between two Top 10-ranked opponents (at Weber next week).
The Hornets had an emotionally-charged victory last Saturday. Idaho, meanwhile, had a wake-up call at halftime before coasting to a dominant win over Portland State. Establishing the run is what Sac State wants to do. But Idaho has one of the most talented front sevens in the FCS, led by LB Fa’Avae Fa’Avae, that is ranked No. 17 in rushing defense (109.6 YPG). Although that is one spot behind Sac State, I thought Sac State’s DL looked gettable last week when Montana went into “we’re going to pound the ball” mode, which the Griz interestingly got out of at times.
I think Idaho can force Sac State to throw it. And while Jake Dunniway is a good QB, he has thrown five interceptions in the last two games.
Head coach Jason Eck can really scheme up defenses. I believe the Vandals will find ways to attack Sac State’s rushing defense while delivering on some big throws from breakout star QB Gevani McCoy (1,607 yards, 16 TDs, 3 INT.) to Jermaine Jackson (21.2 yards per catch) or the highlight-reel Hayden Hatten. Just remember to not call this an upset if it happens.
Prediction: Idaho 31-28