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. 23 Nicholls @ No. 21 Southeastern Louisiana
Brian: SE Louisiana 35-24
SE Louisiana is at home, has won four games in a row and was within five points with an SEC team (Ole Miss) in the 4th quarter earlier this year. I just think they've shown they're the stronger team. Nicholls has had some bright spots but also had its ups and downs. Granted the Colonels do enter this game on a three-game win streak. I see this as a play-in game … the winner gets the Southland at-large berth. The loser sees its 2019 season come to an end.
Sam: Nicholls 27-24
This is going to be quite the clash on Thursday night. Both teams have seven FCS wins. Southeastern Louisiana is on a four-game winning streak and Nicholls is on a three-game winning streak. To me, the winner is firmly in the playoffs. The loser is probably left on the bubble. It's a high-pressure game and to me, I'll take the veteran leadership of Nicholls who have made it to back-to-back playoffs. I think that experience, along with an offense that has hit its stride down the stretch, helps the Colonels get a road win.
No. 3 Montana @ No. 8 Montana State
Brian: Montana 30-24
Want a prediction here? This one is going to be a Brawl. Bad? Dad joke? (sorry Sam Herder). I'm sorry, but I just like how Montana is playing at this point in the season — road game or not. Dalton Sneed is back rocking and rolling after missing some time due to an injury. The Griz have had one helluva season and I think they capture this game and will host two playoff games (2nd round and quarterfinals) because it should wrap up the No. 3 seed behind NDSU and JMU, as Montana will be the automatic bid holder from the Big Sky, a 10-win team, and the highest-rated Big Sky team in the computer standings. This one will be a battle, and Montana State may be the best FCS team playing in the first round … but Griz win in a nail-biter.
Sam: Montana State 21-20
I can't wait to get to Bozeman for this one!
While this game looks to be another coin flip, the safer pick here is probably Montana. The Griz looked like undoubtedly the third-best team in the country with their dominating win against Weber State. Meanwhile, the Bobcats looked solid in a road win against UC Davis, but we're still unsure of if this team is pretty good, good or very good. They just haven't had that marquee win yet. Well, I think they get it on Saturday. The non-football analysis part of me that has covered a lot of FCS football for several years just has my gut telling me MSU is going to win. Life, in the world of trying to predict the FCS playoff field Saturday night, would be a lot easier if Montana wins. And really, Montana is rightfully favored entering this game. But this seems like the kind of final-week-of-the-regular-season curveball the FCS always throws us.
Now, for the actual football side of things … It's no secret that to beat this team, you sell out to stop the run complemented by a disciplined secondary. Yet the Bobcats are still finding a ton of success rushing the football even when teams know it's coming and rank eighth in the FCS with 259.9 rushing yards per game. Montana's defense is on a higher level than MSU's previous opponents, holding teams to 112.6 rushing yards per game (13th in the FCS). But with MSU being able to get chunks of yards on the ground in so many different ways and with so many different players, I think the Bobcats are going to find just enough success with their rushing attack to win this game. That means it'll take a spirited effort from the defense to slow down one of the best offenses in the FCS. I like MSU's defensive line matchup versus Montana's improved, but still "gettable" offensive line. While it's going to be hard to rattle Dalton Sneed, I think the Bobcats can make him uncomfortable. If the d-line can force him to get the ball out of his hands even quicker than normal and MSU's DBs and LBs can fly to the ball, be fundamentally sound in their tackling and not allow Montana's skilled guys to bust a big play, I see the Bobcats grinding out a win.
Harvard @ No. 24 Yale
Brian: Yale 28-21
All of a sudden, Yale is playing for a share (or outright?) of the Ivy League championship. The Bulldogs looked good in the preseason on paper, and really, for the most part, haven't disappointed. Harvard hasn't exactly been an easy out for top Ivys like Dartmouth and Princeton, so this monster rivalry game should be interesting.
Sam: Yale 35-24
Nothing sums up this rivalry better than its "The Game" nickname. So simple. So powerful. This is the 136th meeting between the two, and I think Yale notches another win in the series that it currently leads 67-60-8. The Bulldogs looked very impressive in a 51-14 win against Princeton. This is the type of team we expected to see in the preseason and not the 42-10 loss to Dartmouth a month ago.
No. 14 Wofford @ The Citadel
Brian: Wofford 21-17
Both teams have major playoff-related issues at stake here. If Wofford wants to be considered for one of those last two or so seeds (and a first-round bye) it must win this. If the Terriers lose at The Citadel, they'll be playing in the first round, possibly even on the road depending on how the bid process all plays out. Can you imagine going from potential first-round bye and a home game to potentially playing Thanksgiving week on the road somewhere? Now, The Citadel needs this win to stay in the bubble discussion. The Bulldogs lose this one and they're out of the postseason. So there's a ton riding on this one, folks. I just think Wofford has been playing more consistently.
Sam: Wofford 31-24
Wofford has won seven straight games against FCS opponents. And if the Terriers win their eighth, which I think they will, we could see them as the No. 8 seed. Especially when you consider their 24-7 win against Furman last week, a team that was previously in the seeding discussion. The Citadel could spoil that thought with a win, which could also spoil Furman's chance at a playoff bid with the Paladins only having 7 D1 wins. The Citadel would have seven D1 wins, including an FBS win, with a victory against Wofford. But Wofford is rolling right now.
Maine @ New Hampshire
Brian: Maine 30-21
Could Maine finish on a 5-game winning streak to close out the regular season and potentially nab a bubble berth into the postseason, making it two playoff trips in a row for the Black Bears? That's absolutely possible, yes. New Hampshire, on the other hand, is now just playing for pride. This is a massive rivalry game for these two next-door neighbor schools. I just feel like Maine has been much more consistent in the past month. This one will be close, but the Black Bears will make their case for a playoff berth.
Sam: Maine 21-17
UNH has gone from No. 10 in the playoff committee's ranking to now eliminated from the playoffs. Even with a win against Maine, the Wildcats would be 6-5 and that won't cut it this season. Meanwhile, Maine needs to win this game to finish 7-5 overall and have a shot at the field. And I think the Black Bears do get this win, but the playoff chances will be 50/50. This team still has a high number of players from last year's semifinal team. They have won four games in a row, including Albany, another fringe playoff team. Expect a lot of physicality in this game and not many points.
Albany @ Stony Brook
Brian: Stony Brook 20-14
If Albany can pull this one off, the Great Danes are in the FCS playoffs with their 8th win of the season. But the problem is, Stony Brook is way better than its 5-6 record indicates and this is an intrastate battle that can get kind of nasty sometimes — and it's on Long Island, not in Albany. Don't forget that the Seawolves dropped three CAA matchups by a total of 20 points, and this is one of the three teams that knocked off Villanova and pushed James Madison to overtime on Long Island. Albany has had a great season, but I think they get knocked out of the playoff picture against a deceptively strong Stony Brook team.
Sam: Albany 24-21
I think Albany seals the deal on this great turnaround of a season and gets its eighth wins and a playoff bid. The Great Danes have gotten two must-wins in a row against Delaware and New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Stony Brook is trending down with a three-game losing streak and just a 2-5 record in the CAA.
Bethune-Cookman vs. No. 12 Florida A&M
Brian: FAMU 35-21
FAMU's Rattler machine hasn't tasted a loss since week one against FBS UCF. Bethune-Cookman is suddenly on a three-game losing streak trying to avoid a fourth straight. This one is for all the marbles, the Florida Classic. Odd things can and will happen in matchups like this, but I just can't see the Rattlers going down. FAMU will go down as the MEAC regular-season champions this year, but thanks to self-imposed sanctions it won't play in the Celebration Bowl. So, my guess is the Rattlers will consider this their Bowl Game.
Sam: FAMU 42-24
FAMU is just on another level this season and it's too bad it won't be able to play in the Celebration Bowl. This team is undefeated against the FCS. And while it had some close calls in October, FAMU has won its last three games by double-digit points. The last two games saw a combined 91 points. That offensive success continues Saturday.
UC Davis @ No. 4 Sacramento State
Brian: Sac State 35-24
If this game was in Davis, I might feel a bit differently about this. But it's not, it's going to be in Sacramento and I'll bet the crowd will be a nice-sized one to see the Hornets wrap the regular season and nab an FCS playoff seed — after going 2-8 last year and firing their coach. The job Troy Taylor and his staff have done at Sac State make him a prime candidate for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award winner.
Sam: UC Davis 28-21
UC Davis' playoff hopes went away with a tough home loss to Montana State last week. But I don't see the Aggies mailing it in. It'll be Jake Maier's last hurrah as he'll finish his career as one of the top QBs in Big Sky history. And I think he and his fellow seniors end on a high note. Sac State is playing for a seed, but has kind of limped by since its 36-17 loss to Weber State at the start of November. The Hornets survived a scare with two late TDs to beat NAU 38-34 without star QB Kevin Thomson. Last week saw a 31-7 win against Idaho with the return of Thomson, but it wasn't always pretty. He went just 17-36 passing for 187 yards and one interception. Whether it was rust or he's still hurting, he didn't look like his normal standout self. I'm putting Sac State on upset alert this week.
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