A couple of FCS playoff questions may have been answered, you can go ahead and lock in THE No. 1 playoff seed if today was any indication, and a lot of very strong FCS programs — up to this point — looked shaky today. Welcome to the drama … again.
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HERDER: EWU's Gage Gubrud Is Done For The Year[divider]
EDITOR'S NOTE: Will update story throughout Saturday evening[divider]
Today was textbook North Dakota State. If you're playing the Bison, you know what to try to avoid. For instance, don't let them own the clock for 37 minutes to your paltry 23 — you know, like they did today. No, don't let them rush for 384 yards, utilizing 11 different ball carriers. And don't turn the ball over a couple times, because it's brutally tough to recover.
Everybody knows the above facts when they face NDSU, but that doesn't mean it's easy to derail the Bison. They did all of this to a South Dakota team that is actually not too shabby, just ask Kansas State — who they scared back in September. But today the Bison were textbook and made the loudest statement all year that they deserve the No. 1 seed in the FCS Playoffs and an undefeated regular season looks more and more possible. Their 59 points scored were the most they've scored since 72 against Mississippi Valley State in the opener last year, and the last time before that was in 2015.
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NDSU's Valley mate South Dakota State also reasserted itself into the national seeding discussion, looking more like the team that went toe-to-toe with the Bison several weeks ago and not like the team that scored 9 points against UNI last week (to SDSU's defense, they were missing some starters due to injury). SDSU was on the road at Illinois State and still handled the Redbirds 38-28. Illinois State still looks like a playoff caliber team, but will have to be careful in November now.
For the rest of the Missouri Valley? Western Illinois certainly made a statement today and might be able to hit the 7 hard-earned wins mark if it can handle SIU, South Dakota and Indiana State in the next three weeks. That would be the comeback story of the Valley because the Leathernecks were 2-4 at one point. Northern Iowa is another to keep an eye on, but it likely also needs a 3-0 finish. Missouri State and Indiana State are actually still in the hunt but have brutal slates ahead.[divider]
SATURDAY'S TOP UPSETS
1. Delaware State 28, N.C. Central 13
2. Southern Illinois 49, Missouri State 35
3. Columbia 17, Yale 10
4. Western Illinois 37, UNI 17[divider]
UC Davis scored 46 points in the second half — unanswered — to prove it is a big-time FCS playoff threat, knocking off Montana in Missoula in front of one of the biggest on-campus crowds in the FCS this year.
I don't know what else to say — 46 points in the second half, unanswered. Everybody will just say I'm stealing from Charles Dickens if I call it the Tale of Two Halves, so I won't make a joke about it being that because it would be corny. But I already typed it and UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins is no lemming when it comes to coaching. He does things his own unique way, and it works … so maybe I can get away with an eccentric description of what just happened. Or maybe I should stop typing before this gets cornier.
OK, enough of that. To see UC Davis down at the half to Montana and to see the Aggies respond like that? My goodness. This team has some serious potential.
Not to be outdone? All the way across the country in Delaware, the Blue Hens posted their best win of the season in a comeback victory of their own — handing Towson its first CAA loss of 2018. Delaware outscored a very potent Towson offense 26-8 in the last 20 minutes of the game to stun the Tigers, who'd pinned the Blue Hens against a wall in the first half. Delaware now hasn't lost since September (at NDSU) and could potentially wrap the season 9-2 if it wins the three remaining games against Albany, Stony Brook and Villanova — two of which (Albany and 'Nova) are winless in the CAA.
Delaware is eyeing a seed and a first-round bye, and that would likely require a 9-2 record. This could be one of the hottest teams in the country coming into the playoffs.
ETSU also had a nice comeback to keep its playoff hopes alive. Down 15 points with six-plus minutes left, it rallied to force overtime with Western Carolina and came back to win.[divider]
12 TEAMS CLINCH WINNING RECORDS
Today, we welcomed 12 new teams to the FCS winning-record club. Though they don't get a green jacket or any of the fancy stuff, we can assure you they all like being in this exclusive group of only 27 of 125 FCS schools so far.
In week seven, Colgate, ETSU, Kennesaw State and NDSU all clinched their sixth wins, assuring winning regular-season records. Last week, seven more teams joined the ranks when Dartmouth, Princeton did it — setting up next week's likely Ivy League title settling game in Princeton, N.J. Towson, Alcorn State, North Carolina A&T, Stony Brook and UC Davis also nailed down winning seasons.
Well today, Weber State, Eastern Washington, Monmouth, Delaware, James Madison, Florida A&M, Jacksonville State, SEMO, San Diego, Stetson, Wofford and Chattanooga joined the ranks.[divider]
- We already mentioned UC Davis' exploits above, and our Sam Herder reported on Eastern Washington QB Gage Gubrud's season-ending injury. But what else is shaping up in the Big Sky Conference? It would appear that Idaho State and certainly Weber State took their "case" forward another step with their key wins today, with ISU disposing of bubble-team Montana State, and Weber State knocking off independent North Dakota on the road. Both were critical to their arguments. UC Davis is the only undefeated team in the league and will travel to EWU in a couple of weeks to effectively settle the Big Sky title and auto bid (and likely a high seed). Right now, those are the four Big Sky teams that look playoff worthy.
- In the CAA, we already touched on Delaware's big comeback win over Towson — but both teams still look like they could secure playoff bids, though Towson's path is much tougher than the Blue Hens'. The Tigers face three upper-tier CAA teams — Maine at home, at Elon and James Madison at home — and probably needs to win two to be a playoff lock, and one of those three to be in the discussion. James Madison nearly stumbled at home against a feisty Stony Brook team, but the Dukes managed to rally for the win in the fourth quarter in a game that was always close. Maine, Elon, Stony Brook and Rhode Island will all be interesting to watch, because they all can reach 8 wins but the paths are riddled with landmines.
- In the OVC, it's the SEMO and Jacksonville State show. It's very simple: If SEMO wins out, Jacksonville State could very well end up with an at-large berth if it also wins out and finishes 9-2. Both need to be perfect from this point on. If SEMO loses a league game and JSU takes control of the OVC lead and finishes 9-2, there's a chance the OVC could be a one-bid league. Murray State could be the spoiler, as it hosts SEMO in two weeks.
- In the SoCon, just flip a coin. I'm kidding, of course (maybe not). Wofford actually looked like it was ready to take control of this league with its showing today. Meanwhile, Samford (with the JAWS them song continuing to play in the background) was idle today and undoubtedly was watching everything that unfolded. ETSU survived Western Carolina in overtime, which has become a signature way for the Bucs to win (I.E. – clutch). Chattanooga also is still in the picture and Furman continues to look more and more like the comeback kids the Paladins were last year. I don't know what's going to happen in this group, but I do have my great-grandpa's Morgan Silver Dollar coin polished and ready for Selection Sunday on Nov. 18.
- In Southland? McNeese withstood a serious charge by Central Arkansas to take sole possession of first place in the Southland Conference, and Nicholls, UCA, Incarnate Word, Sam Houston State all need to plan on pristine Novembers if they want to play the week of Thanksgiving. McNeese has three very winnable league games left to finish 8-1 in the Southland.
- Central Connecticut State running back Aaron Dawson did something no Division I football player had ever done — he rushed for 308 yards in one half vs. Wagner. The Blue Devils continue to inch closer to an NEC championship and an automatic FCS Playoff berth.
- Kennesaw State QB Chandler Burks became the first Big South Conference player to ever have 30 career rushing TDs and 30 career passing TDs. He is at 30 and 46, respectively, and the Owls are cruising in the Big South, beating Charleston Southern handily on Saturday.
- Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan won his 150th ballgame today when his team knocked off Presbyterian in a Big South Conference matchup.
- Dartmouth. Princeton. Both 7-0. Nov. 3. In New Jersey. Be there, because there is an Ivy League title on the line. That is all. Good night.
- Florida A&M has won five games in a row and travels to what seems like a wounded Howard team next week, then hosts S.C. State and plays Bethune-Cookman in the Florida Classic in the season finale. The Rattlers seem like they're back, folks, and 9-2 with one FBS loss sure looks possible. And in the SWAC? Alcorn State went to 6-1 in the SWAC East today. The Braves look tough, but they'll have to beat the West winner in the SWAC title game, so hold your horses.
- Colgate (7-0) has now shutout four of its last five opponents and the Raiders have only given up 23 points this year in 7 games. Now we really wish we'd been able to see that Hurricane-cancelled Furman game — it may have been the Raiders' toughest challenge of the year, at least until they played Army on Nov. 17. The Raiders hate giving up points, what can we say?
MORE: Top FCS Recruiting Commitments[divider]