So FCS fans, today was a special day. This level earned the eyeballs of millions of viewers thanks to the Dakota Marker rivalry up in the Dakotas, and South Dakota State brought it's "top shelf" game to the show. Coach Stig (SDSU's John Stiegelmeier) was his usual humble self, even with Tom Rinaldi, Pollack and the rest of them in his craw. He's a guy who never could have imagined this in the 1990s when he took over at SDSU … how could he ever have known that this crazy traveling CFB circus that usually spotlights SEC, Big Ten, Pac 12 would make its way to Brookings, South Dakota?
That wasn't his plan. But it did happen. Why? Probably because Stig's SDSU team scared the living hell out of a currently 8-0 and nationally ranked Minnesota team in Week One. Certainly, Maryland didn't do that this weekend (not even close). Oh, and SDSU also handed NDSU its last loss — back in the regular season of 2017 — something no FBS team has been able to do since 2009, by the way. It also nearly handled NDSU another loss today, with 2nd and 3rd string QBs playing. Hey … it was an outstanding matchup with a sellout crowd and thousands of fans attending the Gameday festivities. As usual? The FCS represented itself really well … much better than some of the complacent Power Five fan bases who've become accustomed to it.
[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
Today was an interesting day. The SoCon went "to plan" (if there is one) and the stronger programs all did what they were supposed to do and came out with wins. This is important, not only for the SoCon but really for all the conferences, because at-large playoff berths are at stake and some conferences may lose them if everybody chops each other up. The SoCon needs a team to emerge other than its champion/automatic berth team … today was an example of how that can happen. The strong need to ascend, not slip up. Furman and Wofford won games, and The Citadel notched another victory. November will be interesting.
The Southland and the OVC did have some cream rise to the top, namely Central Arkansas and SEMO. For the time being, these two are ruling the roost. If these two leagues want multiple teams to get in, somebody needs to go on a November run.
In the Missouri Valley Conference … Youngstown State, Illinois State and Northern Iowa looked hungry. All won convincingly, and outlier Southern Illinois may not be on the "outside" anymore. The Salukis have been an interesting study all year. Their loss to SEMO in the opener may end up being a loss to the OVC champion, time will tell. Then the blowout win in Amhert, Mass. at FBS UMass? That may be the golden ticket if SIU can finish 7-5 (with the FBS Arkansas State game tossed out of consideration). The Salukis also have a decisive win over the OVC's UT Martin, who came into today leading the OVC. At any rate, thumping Youngstown State last week and traveling to South Dakota and doing the same to the 'Yotes this weekend? SIU is riding some serious momentum and shouldn't be ignored.
The CAA is eating its own, and that may benefit many of the leagues above (and maybe even the Big South? paging Monmouth). Villanova dropped a biggie today to Stony Brook, and while the Wildcats are still nearly a playoff lock, they aren't at full strength (thank you evil injury gods for three years straight now). What's interesting about the CAA? Teams like Albany and New Hampshire and Richmond have become discussion topics, while Towson and Maine have been hit by the injury bug (see what I mean about injuries at this level? Brutal).
WEEK NINE PICKS: See which ones B-Mac messed up
The Big Sky is setting up nicely next week for the next monster matchup. If ESPN Gameday did an FCS show every week? It would have been at NDSU-SDSU this week and Weber State at Sacramento State next weekend. Both of these programs play sound, "Top 20" scoring defense, and they both move the ball — Weber State on the ground and Sac. State through the air. Regardless, we're talking about teams that could host multiple playoff games this year. These two programs are tough. Both Montana programs were challenged this weekend, majorly. It would appear this matchup is the one for all the Big Sky gems.[divider]
OTHER GAME BALLS
No. 1) SDSU – I can hear the NDSU fans churning, grinding their teeth collectively … but the truth is? SDSU was playing with one hand tied behind its back when Gibbs went down at QB. He's kind of a big reason they've gotten to this point, and I'm telling the truth folks. SDSU brought in its 2nd and eventually its 3rd string QBs and still, this was a ballgame. How many programs could do that from the 1st Quarter onwards without its starting QB … and still give a team like NDSU fits? Folks, there's going to be a postseason rematch, and if both these teams keep the slate clean? It's going to be in either Fargo or Fargo South (Frisco, TX). If Gibbs is full strength? Oh my.
No. 2) Austin Peay – The Govs remind me of a person who went down to buy a new pair of sneakers, and they kinda like them … but they're still settling in. You all know what I mean. The Govs are legit, who are we kidding? The losses to TSU and ETSU don't fit the narrative and that loss to a full-strength Central Arkansas team by a touchdown? It may turn out to be a loss to the Southland Conference champion if UCA keeps it up. APSU seems like it has the potential to finish 9-3 overall and if things shake out correctly? Make the playoffs as the OVC champion — something this school has never done going back to its entrance to the level in 1978. Coach Will Healy built this to the point where it could win eight games in 2017. Coach Hudspeth might take it all another step forward. But the truth is? APSU wasn't a positive story at all in 2016 … think of how things have been from 2017-19. Wow.
No. 3) Youngstown St. – Folks, only 2.5 years ago, this program was in the national title game in Frisco, Texas. It has that kind of potential. YSU took it on the chin last week at SIU, but as it turns out? The Salukis are pretty good. The 'Guins kicked off the season 4-0 and as Sam Herder said it, perfectly: If YSU goes 4-0 in non-conference and then goes 4-4 in MVFC play? That's a pretty damned good YSU team. Well, the 'Guins have slipped up a bit, but the potential is there in the next month. But today? YSU looked ticked off and primed to be a topic of discussion.
No. 4) San Diego, CCSU, Lehigh – As we head into November, we begin to wonder about the three conferences that generally get one spot on the bracket — the automatic bid awarded to the league champ. We're a month away from FCS Selection Sunday (Nov. 24) … but these three programs have weathered the storm so far, but nothing is in stone. USD hasn't lost to a Pioneer League team since 2015 (Dayton), CCSU has looked remarkable but still has to hurdle last year's champ (Duquesne) and Lehigh and the Patriot League are a true cauldron this year. But? So far so good.
No. 5) Alcorn St. vs. NC A&T – Sadly for Florida A&M, the present-day contingent of Rattlers in Tallahassee can't participate in the postseason. It seems wrong considering head coach Willie Simmons and his current players weren't a part of the past mess, but hey … welcome to the logic of college football. So, even though FAMU knocked off NC A&T last week … the Aggies are cruising toward another MEAC title (especially after BCU fell to S.C. State today). The truth is, the Aggies are brutally tough, and Alcorn State's win over Southern U. proves the same in the SWAC. Here we go again, folks … at least that's how it looks as of late October.(again).
SWING AND A B-MAC WHIFF
WEEK 9 PICKS: See which ones B-Mac messed up
Man … I messed up, NDSU, North Dakota (the UND version) and SEMO. I swung and missed on three picks this week.
The Bison, Fighting Hawks (both had to be from ND this week, eh?) and to the Redhawks of Missouri … I messed up. It wasn't as much a "doubt" in the abilities of your programs as much as it was a "impressed" cue from the teams you were playing, but I swung and missed. Nice job this weekend. You all proved yourselves in massive matchups.
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