The FCS conference picture — at least in some leagues — got a tad bit clearer this weekend. In the topsy turvy CAA and Big Sky, we got some answers, and in the SoCon we got more confused. And in the biggest FCS matchup of the season so far? We received a pure gem of a game.
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In the CAA, it seemed as though Stony Brook, Rhode Island, Elon and Towson were just ready to make statements this week. All four had impressive wins and took a step forward strengthening their resumes in October, when some serious battles lie ahead. James Madison made mincemeat of its biggest rival, Richmond, hanging 60+ on the Spiders — who are rebuilding. The CAA needed some teams to assert themselves this week and several did. The league will still be a gauntlet but these programs continue to impress — and frankly, in the preseason? We didn't give Rhody or Towson much of a chance.
We were wrong.
In the Big Sky? Pencil in some new blood here, too. Idaho State is the team to be talking about now at 3-1 overall. The Bengals haven't been much of a Big Sky factor in years, but they may have just ended Northern Arizona's hopes of making the FCS Playoffs, especially with NAU QB Case Cookus having missed time. And Montana (4-1) continues to build its resume for a return to the FCS Playoffs for the first time since 2015. The Grizzlies' momentum continues to build. And Eastern Washington continues to look like the toughest team to beat, traveling to Bozeman to dominate a strong Montana State side. Several key teams were off today, but we learned more.
HERDER: A Look At The NDSU-SDSU Game
North Dakota State-South Dakota State was the top-ranked matchup of the FCS season so far and didn't disappoint. The truth is? This game was more of a "push" than a win for NDSU. These two seemed destined for long playoff runs and the Jackrabbits hardly seemed intimidated by playing in the FargoDome — again.
And the Southern Conference — oh the SoCon. Today, we had 0-3 teams beat 3-0 teams, a VMI team that hasn't won in two years scare a conference opponent for the third straight week, Samford continue to struggle after nearly beating Florida State and looking like one of the top teams in the FCS in the preseason, and a team with its first senior class (ETSU) knock off a previously undefeated team (Chattanooga). The SoCon has been fascinatingly entertaining from an outsiders' perspective, but this has to be grinding on the coaches and fans. The truth is, anybody can win — anytime. Parity, baby.
- Colgate shut out its second straight opponent — the first time the program has done that since 1966. The Raiders are undefeated and 2-0 against CAA programs this year. Trust me, this program is going to be a big-time FCS playoff factor, just like it was in 2015. Can the Raiders finish 10-0 (Furman game was cancelled, Hurricane)?
- Prairie View A&M continues to show it will be a force in the SWAC. Its win over Grambling today shows the Panthers could be a legitimate threat for the Celebration Bowl.
- South Dakota head coach Bob Nielson became the 91st college football coach to win his 200th career game, and the Coyotes survived a tough road trip to SIU and continue to prove they could be a playoff threat. And Western Illinois also posted an impressive MVFC win against Youngstown. Are we seeing possibly the next two tough programs in the MVFC emerge?
- Campbell doesn't seem to care that it was a non-scholarship program last year. The Camels pummeled FCS neophyte North Alabama 30-7 and seem to get stronger and stronger in the Big South Conference. Kennesaw State better watch out. I think Campbell-Kennesaw-North Alabama-CSU games in the future are going to be a ton of fun to watch.
- Nicholls, McNeese and Sam Houston State all survived the weekend, albeit it wasn't pretty for any of the three. One has to wonder if the Southland Conference is heading for a two-bid or three-bid season, playoffs wise. These three programs need to be consistent the rest of the way to determine that.
- In the Ohio Valley Conference, Jacksonville State dispatched a feisty Austin Peay program that had hoped to make it's mark in this OVC showdown. It was close for awhile but it once again appears JSU is the team to beat … as it has been since 2014. Tennessee State made the OVC look pretty darned good today in nearly giving the FCS its 6th all-time win over an FCS team — in this case Vanderbilt.
- In the Pioneer League, San Diego proved that it may have lost a previous game or two by playing a tough schedule, but the Toreros are a force to be reckoned with and are clearly the team to beat — as they have been for three seasons. USD knocked around 3-0 Stetson at home.
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