It's Friday, so that means FCS games are right around the corner.
As they'll do every week, Brian McLaughlin and Sam Herder predict some scores.
[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
Kennesaw State @ Kent State
Brian: Kennesaw 23, Kent State 21
This game is critical for Kennesaw State to prove it belongs in the upper echelon discussion of the FCS this year. Originally, a few years ago, recent playoff participants Furman and Duquesne were on the KSU schedule for 2019, and those would have been big litmus tests for the Owls this year. Those games ended up not happening for various reasons and were replaced by lower-division opponents. Now Kent State is the signature non-conference game. Kent State is one of the lowest-ranked FBS teams and could provide the win KSU needs. This is a biggie for the Owls.
Sam: Kent State 20, Kennesaw State 17
As Brian said, this game is monstrous for the Owls. If Kennesaw loses this game and then has an unexpected loss in the Big South and doesn't win the auto-bid, I truly don't know if a 10-2 record is a good-enough playoff resume. And before Kennesaw fans fill my mentions, just look at the 9-2 McNeese State team in 2017 that didn't make the playoffs because of zero quality wins. I thought the Owls were going to beat last year's FBS opponent Georgia State with a senior-laden team. That didn't happen. With some inexperience on offense, I'm leaning toward Kent State by a small margin.
The Citadel @ Elon
Brian: The Citadel 21, Elon 20
Both programs played strong teams last week and fell in heartbreakers, and now both of these teams really need to pick up a non-conference victory. You don't want to be 0-2 in non-conference play while playing in these two conferences. The Citadel looked pretty tough against Towson, though it fell. But the Bulldogs are on the road. This is a really good matchup.
Sam: Elon 27, The Citadel 24
This is a 50/50 game for me. Neither squad (obviously) wants to start 0-2 after losing to ranked teams last week. This is lazy analysis, but I think this is so evenly-matched that I'll go with the home team for the close win.
Maine @ Georgia Southern
Brian: Maine 21, GSU 17
Maine learned some heartbreaking news this week when it found out one of its heart-and-soul players and returning leading tackler Deshawn Stevens went down for the season due to injury. This defense is a strong, collective unit though and I think they'll rally around Stevens and play lights out this week. This should be a good one if the Maine defense sticks to its assignments. Also, consider this Georgia Southern team was down 42-3 at the half at LSU last week. Last year … Maine beat an FBS team, and it's about to happen again, just like when New Hampshire beat GSU two years ago down south.
Sam: GSU 21, Maine 20
I absolutely think Maine is going to get an FBS win in 2019. I just don't think it'll be this week. GSU is coming off a 10-3 season with 76 percent of its offensive production and 74 percent of its defensive production coming back. I believe Maine falls short this week but knocks off Liberty on Oct. 19.
Chattanooga @ Jacksonville State
Brian: JSU 35, Chattanooga 28
These two programs are diehard rivals, even in different leagues. Who are we kidding? 'Nooga's good, folks, and JSU is too … despite what we saw last week. But here's the thing … JSU's back is against the wall, reputation-wise, and even "playoff consideration" wise after that loss last week to SE Louisiana. JSU is at home and the program is ticked off. Folks, this is must-win for JSU. I think that talent takes over in this one and the Gamecocks edge the Mocs … and that's saying something because the Mocs are good and will be a SoCon factor and will make the playoffs.
Sam: JSU 38, Chattanooga 27
JSU is too talented to fall 0-2 when people expected them in the preseason to start 2-0. And if last week's loss isn't enough of a wake-up call for this team to play a clean game and get a home win, tough calls need to be made to change how that program operates. Chattanooga is a good team and a playoff-potential team. The Mocs need this win as well with Tennessee next week and No. 2 James Madison the Saturday after that. I'll put my trust in the Gamecocks once again because when they are focused, this team can be a Top 10 squad in the FCS.
Delaware @ Rhode Island
Brian: Delaware 17, Rhode Island 10
I think we're more curious here about Delaware than Rhody. Rhody may go through some growing pains this year. The question is … Delaware is popping up in the polls thanks to reputation, not necessarily as much because of what is returning, especially on offense — are they good? On the flip side, this is a program that is coached well, recruits well and has the fan base and facilities to be a factor. If UD wins this, we begin to pivot and wonder about the Blue Hens nationally, I think. It's an early conference matchup.
Sam: Delaware 24, Rhode Island 20
Both of these teams have something to prove, in my opinion, as key players are gone off of last year's teams. Even though the opponent wasn't all too great, I liked how Delaware's offense looked last week when it settled in. QB Pat Kehoe should come into this game with confidence after throwing for 186 yards and two touchdowns. And even though there are a lot of new faces, the Blue Hens are always tough on defense.
SEMO @ Montana State
Brian: SEMO 28, MSU 21
Two of the biggest "head-scratcher" teams in my estimation coming off of FCS Playoff berths were SEMO and Montana State. Both return key contributors from last year, but both had question marks in other ways. How will Montana State's QB situation go this year? SEMO returns a nice contingent on defense, but who will step up with many weapons gone on offense? Well … SEMO looked pretty darned good this past weekend. MSU ran into a good P5 in Texas Tech (hard to calculate). Tough one to pick, honestly, but I do think it'll be defensive in nature.
Sam: Montana State 21, SEMO 17
It'll be a raucous environment for Montana State's "Gold Rush" game. I think that is the difference in this even matchup. I don't expect a lot of points as SEMO has a lot of new faces on offense. And MSU's redshirt freshman QB Casey Bauman may have a hard time finding a lot of windows in SEMO's tough defense, led by last year's Buck Buchanan Award winner in linebacker Zach Hall.
RELATED: MSU-SEMO Is Big For The Playoff Picture
North Alabama @ Montana
Brian: Montana 35, UNA 17
Both of these clubs looked pretty damned good in week one. But going up to Missoula is a tough task for a team from the south. I even wonder about the "taking a breath" part of being at that elevation (3,500+ feet) plus playing a good team might be a major factor this weekend. Make no mistake, UNA is going to be a part of future FCS "good teams" discussion, but the Griz seem like they're "back" to me.
Sam: Montana 31, UNA 14
Montana has been known to have hangover games over these last handful of years. A lot of people nationally are talking about how big the Grizzlies' win at South Dakota was. And now North Alabama comes to town in its second season transitioning from D2. Montana shouldn't overlook this game as the Lions beat the MVFC's Western Illinois last week, although I think WIU is way down this year. It's the home opener for the Griz and I think that and the talent will be too much to handle for UNA.
North Dakota @ North Dakota State
Brian: NDSU 47, UND 7
Tons of emotion here, and it's nice to know this game is going to be played consistently from here on out. It should be. But NDSU is NDSU and UND is trying to build up to that level. I think this may get out of hand, honestly, and of the 44 states in the union I've stepped foot in? North Dakota isn't one of them. In other words? I have no dawgs in the hunt here.
Sam: NDSU 31, UND 10
Nationally, this game isn't on a lot of people's radars. UND isn't a ranked team and didn't make the playoffs last year. Plus, the Bison are favored by 30ish points. But for me, UND is an intriguing team that I'm looking forward to following this season. I believe the Fighting Hawks are a stronger team than last year, where they went 6-5 with two disappointing losses at the end of the season against inferior opponents. They should've made the playoffs. But this year's schedule is the toughest in the FCS, so we'll see if UND's record indicates that it's a stronger team in 2019. I also want to know how much the Fighting Hawks have closed the talent gap on NDSU since playing for the first time in the D1 era in 2015. The final score was 34-9, but the game was uglier than that with the Bison out-gaining UND 377-61 in yards of total offense. I'm also curious to see what Bison QB Trey Lance can do against a solid defense. The Fighting Hawks were No. 26 last year in scoring defense and have a lot of returning starters back. In the end, though, UND is starting its backup quarterback in the Fargodome and there are uncertainties on the interior defensive line. UND just isn't there yet as a program.
Central Arkansas @ Austin Peay
Brian: UCA 27, Austin Peay 20
I had a chance to talk to UCA coach Nathan Brown this week as well as Austin Peay radio guru Justin Swallows. Folks, people may not realize this, but this is a biggie down in Fortera Stadium. APSU looks pretty stout behind QB Jeremiah Oatsvall and UCA is coming off a nice FBS win over Western Kentucky behind QB Breylin Smith. This is a big one for the FCS this week, and it'll be a barn-burner down to the wire.
Sam: UCA 35, Austin Peay 24
Austin Peay is one of those programs that Brian and I see as a potential OVC contender down the road. And we were both big on UCA even before the Bears got their FBS win last week. Right now, I think UCA is stronger overall than the Governors and we'll see that as the second half wears on.
RELATED: UCA's Head Coach Has "Purple Blood"
Furman @ Georgia State
Brian: GSU 28, Furman 27
Georgia State beat Rocky Top this past weekend, probably the biggest win in Georgia State history I'd guess. But I think this spells an emotional pitfall for GSU, and this Furman team is legit, folks. This one ends up mega competitive to the end and it further proves that maybe Furman is the SoCon favorite at this point.
Sam: GSU 28, Furman 17
Furman looked solid last week and I was impressed with the tenacity of its offensive line. That bodes well when facing an FBS opponent where usually the deciding factor is in the trenches. With Georgia State's win over Tennessee last week, that makes me believe the team is more talented than I anticipated. I expect a little bit of a hangover in the first half, but like we've already seen in plenty of FCS vs. FBS games this year, GSU is going to have a big second half.
Eastern Kentucky @ Louisville
Brian: Louisville 28, EKU 27
So Louisville isn't Lamar Jackson's Louisville these days. In those days we wouldn't even be featuring this matchup. But … things change, Mox. Last year, Louisville barely survived a Western Kentucky team that Maine beat by the same margin, and who Central Arkansas beat last week. Louisville is vulnerable and has beaten two teams in its last 13 games. I just have the feeling that if EKU wants to make a statement? As loaded as the Colonels are? This is your chance. Maybe it's not a win, but can you hang with a P5? Can you make a statement? This is EKU's chance, just like in 2017 when it was down by one point in the 4th quarter to a much better Kentucky program (than Louisville's currently).
Sam: Louisville 31, EKU 24
Louisville has been a bit of a mess lately and EKU is loaded with talent and experience. Is it enough for a Power 5 upset? I don't think so, but I do think the Colonels are going to show something and be very competitive heading into the final quarter.
NEXT: Top 15 Favorites To Win The National Title
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