We're at the end of the workweek, so that means FCS games are right around the corner.
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Overall W/L Records:
No. 11 Illinois State @ No. 4 South Dakota State
Brian: SDSU 27-17
If Illinois State wants to get to the postseason, it needs to win 2 of its final 3 games and folks … this is clearly the toughest one of the three. On the flip side, the Jacks will be playing without their starting quarterback, also. But SDSU proved against NDSU that it could move the ball (paging Pierre Strong) … and it could play staunch defense, even with the emotional letdown of losing its QB. The Redbirds would then have to look at their road trip to Youngstown State in the season finale to get that eighth win and make the playoffs.
Sam: SDSU 24-14
The seeding implications are huge here. Illinois State is 6-2 versus the FCS but doesn't have a quality win. A victory in Brookings gets the Redbirds into a seeded spot if they win out. SDSU is already in seeding position, but the Jacks also lack that solid win on their resume. They're going to want to start building that resume up to slip into the No. 3 seed instead of the No. 4/5 range. Everyone in the Dakotas wants NDSU and SDSU on opposite sides of the bracket. But if SDSU is only worthy of a No. 4 seed, that's where the committee will put the Jacks. I like SDSU in this game. Its run defense is stout to hold James Robinson in check. And the offense began to roll in the second half last week at Missouri State. The Redbirds are pretty good on defense themselves. But SDSU has the weapons around Keaton Heide, who had a solid starting debut a week ago, to get the win.
No. 10 Princeton vs. No. 13 Dartmouth
Brian: Dartmouth 17-14
The Yankee Stadium Extravaganza is taking place this weekend, folks, and it couldn't be a better matchup out of the Ivy League. Last year, this game settled the Ivy League Championship and also made FCS fans nationwide wonder what these two teams could do if they played in the FCS Playoffs. We'll have to keep wondering about that question, but before that, we get a matchup of a team that hasn't lost since 2017 (Princeton) and a team whose only loss since 2017 was to Princeton (that would be Dartmouth). This year, I think the role's reverse.
Sam: Dartmouth 20-17
What a scene this will be at Yankee Stadium. Two strong FCS teams going at it for what likely will determine the Ivy League champion. Last year, Princeton went undefeated and handed Dartmouth its only loss of the season with a 14-9 win. While both offenses have shown great explosion this year, averaging more than 37 points per game, I think we're in line for another defensive battle. The Tigers allow 13.7 points per game while Dartmouth's defense allows 10.1. What really opened my eyes on this Dartmouth team is when the Big Green blew out Yale a month ago, 42-10. I thought Yale was the favorite in the conference this year and the preseason poll had the Bulldogs No. 1 as well. Impressive, indeed. I'll take Dartmouth in this one.
Duquesne @ Robert Morris
Brian: Duquesne 24-10
To me, Duquesne just has a stronger resume coming into this game. The Dukes challenged themselves against Youngstown State and New Hampshire, two teams that could end up being in the FCS Playoffs with at-large berths. Robert Morris challenged itself too, but Duquesne just looks stronger to me — and should set up a true NEC battle for supremacy on Nov. 23 at home against Central Connecticut State, a team that was one FBS play away from being 9-0 right now.
Sam: Duquesne 27-24
These are two teams that are 4-0 in the NEC standings along with CCSU. Robert Morris has done a helluva job turning around its program. This team is 5-4 overall this season after going 2-9 and 0-6 in the conference last year. But I really like how the Dukes are playing right now., especially on defense as they have forced 11 turnovers in its four NEC games. While some of the scores are a bit closer than I anticipated, Duquesne is finding ways to win tight ball games. I think they do it again.
Richmond @ No. 18 Villanova
Brian: Villanova 20-17
This game means a ton to both teams for different reasons. Villanova seems like a lock to get to at least eight wins and make the playoffs, but could also hit the nine-win mark and maybe be in the outside discussion for a late seed. Richmond has come out of nowhere to put itself in potential bubble playoff discussion. If the Spiders win this game, they could realistically go 7-5 with six wins in their last eight games and also would have their Boston College loss thrown out. If Richmond loses this game, they're out of the discussion (unless of course they can go to James Madison and upset the Dukes next week, which isn't likely).This should be a good one folks.
Sam: Villanova 28-24
The CAA has taken us on a wild ride this year. Richmond has blown past expectations and is tied for second in the standings at 4-1. Villanova has lost three straight since beginning the season 6-0 and sits at 3-3 in the conference. I had both teams in the playoffs if the season ended today. The loser of this game won't 100 percent be eliminated from playoff contention, but it would obviously hurt their chances. I'll take Nova here. The Wildcats were right there with JMU until the Dukes rolled in the fourth quarter, then they lost by one point to Stony Brook and eight points to UNH. They get over that hump Saturday.
No. 21 Towson @ Stony Brook
Brian: Stony Brook 24-21
Another CAA slobber-knocker where home-field advantage plays a big part in things. This is another league game that has massive playoff implications. Both teams are 5-4 with the potential to hit the eight-win mark IF it can win this game. Eight wins means you're in the FCS Playoffs this year, folks. Seven wins is no guarantee. That should tell you all you need to know about this one.
Sam: Towson 31-28
Both teams need a win here to stay alive in the playoff discussion. Stony Brook and the Tigers are currently 2-3 in the CAA and 5-4 overall with FBS losses. Suffering that fifth loss would not be good. A 7-5 CAA can still make the playoffs, but there looks to be a few teams that could end the season with seven wins in the conference. These two teams are too up-and-down for me to have any confidence in this pick. Towson got a key 31-24 win over Delaware last week while the Seawolves lost 30-10 at Richmond. Who knows if that means anything for Saturday. But that's how I'll decide this 50/50 game.
No. 23 New Hampshire @ No. 2 James Madison
Brian: JMU 28-14
New Hampshire would benefit greatly from a win here against JMU (like it did last year) but I don't think this one is going to be all that close. James Madison is playing solid ball now and also knows it needs to keep the slate clean down the November stretch to hold on to that No. 2 playoff seed, as Weber State has the Jaws theme song playing in the background.
Sam: JMU 28-14
It's going to be a fascinating finish for UNH. The Wildcats were ranked No. 10 by the playoff committee earlier this week. I don't love that, but I don't hate it. There aren't a lot of good resumes out there and UNH has won five of its last six games. But here's the thing … the Wildcats are far from a playoff lock to be ranked that high. I think the Dukes are too talented to lose this game at home and I don't see events like last year's game repeating. So the Wildcats drop to 5-4 in this case. They only play 11 games this year, making the last two against quality opponents Albany and Maine must win. If UNH loses either of those two final games, it's not in the playoffs. Saturday's game is massive for the Wildcats to have some breathing room. But the Dukes are rolling right now and I expect that to continue coming off of a bye week.
SE Louisiana @ No. 7 Central Arkansas
Brian: UCA 38-35
This is an intriguing Southland Conference game. Will UCA continue its run and go 10-2 this year? Will SE Louisiana finish the year with five straight wins and make the playoffs at 8-3? These two need this win, and the Southland has been wacky this year. Two great quarterbacks will be in this one — SE Louisiana's Chason Virgil and Central Arkansas' Breylin Smith. Look for this one to be a battle that ultimately will settle the Southland crown and playoff spots — and a potential seed for UCA.
Sam: UCA 35-24
UCA controls its seeding destiny, and it starts with this crucial game against a solid SE Louisiana team. The Lions are certainly in playoff contention, sitting at 5-2 against FCS opponents and 4-2 in the Southland standings. The quality wins column is lacking, so this game is a perfect opportunity. UCA is solid at home with a 3-0 record. And I like how sharp the Bears looked on offense last week, scoring 45 points (and allowing 17) at Lamar with Breylin Smith throwing for 434 yards and 4 TDs. To compare scores, SE Louisiana defeated Lamar 45-34 in late September. Comparisons like that are always dangerous, especially in this conference. But the Bears most likely know what's in front of them for playoff positioning and will avoid a letdown loss.
UT Martin @ Austin Peay
Brian: APSU 27-24
Do you like history? Because we're right on the verge of it with these two winning programs. UT Martin hasn't won nine games in a season since coach Jason Simpson's first season at the helm in 2006, which is also the Skyhawks' only FCS Playoff berth. Austin Peay has never won nine games in school history and has never been to the FCS Playoffs nor won the Ohio Valley Conference since before the I-AA/FCS ranks existed. Both could reach these lofty heights IF they win this game. It's going to be a tough one, it's going to help settle the Sgt. York Trophy (the four Tennessee teams in the OVC battle for this) and somebody is going to go the playoffs because of this game. And likely, somebody is going to be left home.
Sam: APSU 27-21
UT Martin is 5-1 in the OVC while the Govs are 4-1. Both are 6-3 overall. They both have good shots at making the playoffs, although UT Martin playing two FBS opponents could come back to bite them if they drop this game. Clinching the OVC auto-bid certainly takes the edge off on Selection Sunday, though. All three losses for UT Martin have come on the road, one at Florida and the others to Southern Illinois and SEMO. APSU is 3-1 at home with the loss coming against ranked Central Arkansas back in early September. The defenses in this game are pretty solid, allowing 21-23 points per game. I give the edge in this matchup to Austin Peay because of its offense, though. APSU is averaging 34.3 points per game while the Skyhawks are averaging 27.6.
No. 22 North Dakota @ No. 3 Weber State
Brian: Weber State 28-14
I'm not real sure this one is even going to be close, and that says more about Weber State than North Dakota, who has played some tough games this year (albeit mostly at home). Weber State just seems to be rolling and is so complete as a program.
Sam: Weber State 24-14
So much is at stake in this game. Weber has an argument to be the No. 2 playoff seed if it wins out, but can't be looking ahead to next week's game at No. 6 Montana with No. 22 UND coming to town. The Fighting Hawks are 5-3 overall and a win firmly gets them into the playoffs with favorable home games remaining against Northern Colorado and Southern Utah. A loss at Weber has UND looking at a 7-4 record and watching the selection show nervously. I'd lean toward UND getting into the bracket with that record, but you just don't know how the bubble shakes out and how the committee views UND's independent status. The Fighting Hawks haven't played well on the road with a 1-3 record. They've had a bye week to prepare for this massive showdown. But I just think the Wildcats are too talented and play too well at home to drop this one. I don't see UND's offense having a whole lot of success Saturday. And Weber's offense continues to get better and better every week and will do just enough against a solid UND defense.
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