(Stats Perform) – FCS college football rarely comes up short with supplying great games each week, but as a safeguard, a preview of this week’s menu includes a baker’s dozen of the best conference matchups.
There are six games between teams ranked in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 – the season high entering the sixth full week of action. Adding six more games won’t be enough, so, yes, it’s a baker’s dozen.
You’ll never guess which is the extra one because there are so many terrific conference games on Saturday’s schedule (all times ET):
AQ7: No. 23 Stephen F. Austin (3-2, 0-1) at No. 24 Jacksonville State (2-3, 0-0), 4 p.m. (ESPN+)
SFA posted one of the more impressive performances in the FCS last week, pushing defending national champion Sam Houston to the brink of its first loss since 2019, but the Lumberjacks’ 21-20 defeat also means they have an uphill climb in the one-year AQ7. Surprise, though, the ‘Jacks are 6-1 all-time against Jacksonville State, with all meetings occurring in the Southland from 1996 to 2002.
CAA: No. 9 Delaware (3-1, 2-0) at No. 18 Rhode Island (4-0, 2-0), 1 p.m. (FloFootball) 1/4n
No. 11 Villanova (3-1, 1-0) at No. 3 James Madison (4-0, 2-0), 2 p.m. (NBC SW/FloFootball)
In a scheduling quirk, Delaware is playing in Kingston for the third straight season. It’s a favorite destination for running back/kick returner Dejoun Lee, who has a combined 466 all-purpose yards (275 rushing/44 receiving/147 returns) in the last two meetings.
Building off wins at Weber State and New Hampshire, James Madison goes for a third straight against a ranked opponent with a Wildcats nickname. Villanova is one yard shy this season of the CAA statistics being JMU ranked first and the Wildcats second in total offense (‘Nova is third slightly), total defense, scoring offense and scoring defense.
Ivy: Yale (2-1, 1-0) at Dartmouth (3-0, 1-0), 1:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
The 2019 Ivy co-champs square off, with Dartmouth having won three straight and seven of the last eight meetings. Quarterback Griffin O’Connor, running Zane Dudek and the Yale offense will have something to say about this, but Dartmouth ranks fourth in the FCS in scoring defense despite returning only one defensive starter from the 2019 squad that finished second in that statistic. The 9.3 points per game allowed includes only two offensive touchdowns by the Big Green’s first three opponents.
Missouri Valley: No. 16 Northern Iowa (3-1, 1-0) at No. 5 North Dakota State (4-0, 1-0), 2 p.m. (ABC ND/ESPN+)
No. 8 Southern Illinois (4-1, 2-0) at No. 2 South Dakota State (4-0, 1-0), 3 p.m. (MidCo SN2/ESPN+)
The only three FCS teams that average fewer than North Dakota State’s 12 pass attempts per game operate option-style offenses. There’s good reason for the lack of Quincy Patterson passes: The Bison are ranked No. 1 nationally in rushing yards per game (317) and per carry (7.1). UNI linebacker Spencer Cuvelier (11.8 tackles for game) will be in the middle of the action.
Southern Illinois outgained South Dakota State in their quarterfinal-round playoff showdown in the spring season, but turned the ball over three times, and the Jackrabbits converted twice for touchdowns in their 31-26 triumph. SDSU has scored on all 20 trips into an opponent’s red zone (16 TDs, four field goals), and Chris Oladokun is the only FCS quarterback to have more than six TD passes (he has 11) without an interception.
Northeast: Bryant (3-2, 1-0) at Duquesne (3-1, 1-0), noon (NEC Front Row)
The reigning NEC offensive and defensive players of the week are new to their respective program this season: Bryant true freshman quarterback Zevi Eckhaus, who passed for 335 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in a win over Brown, and Duquesne transfer safety Jeremiah Josephs, who had two interceptions and two pass breakups in an NEC win at Merrimack.
Ohio Valley: Murray State (2-2, 0-0) at No. 21 UT Martin (3-1, 0-0), 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
It’s a matchup of the OVC’s No. 2-ranked offense (UT Martin) and top-ranked defense (Murray State). After solving some past interception woes during the past spring, Murray’s Preston Rice has eight this season without throwing a touchdown pass. UTM counterpart Keon Howard ranks second in the conference in total offensive yards per game (260).
Southern: Chattanooga (2-2, 1-0) at VMI (3-2, 1-1), 1:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
The Citadel (2-2, 1-0) at ETSU (5-0, 2-0), 4:30 p.m. (Nexstar/ESPN+)
Before former “American Idol” and Grammy Award winner Ruben Studdard performs the National Anthem at Chattanooga’s Oct. 16 home game, there’s a lot to shout (or sing) about with this meeting of the SoCon’s preseason favorite and VMI’s defending conference championship squad. The Mocs have 13 sacks and nine interceptions in four games, including Brandon Dowdell with an FCS co-leading four picks. VMI bulldozer Korey Bridy has rushed for 353 yards and five TDs in their last five games.
The Citadel’s rivalry win over VMI last Saturday benefited ETSU, the SoCon co-leader with Mercer. In the last 25 years, only two Citadel quarterbacks had more rushing yards in a game than Jaylan Adams’ 188 against VMI. Quay Holmes’ 617 rushing yards are the most in the FCS (see FCS Stats Zone) and he ranks second with teammate Jacob Saylors third nationally in all-purpose yards per game.
Southland: No. 14 Southeastern Louisiana (3-1, 1-0) at No. 25 Nicholls (2-2, 1-0), 1 p.m. (CST/ESPN+)
Expect offensive fireworks in the first of two meetings between these squads this season (the Nov. 18 game in Hammond will serve as the River Bell Classic). Southeastern’s Cole Kelley ranks second in the FCS in passing yards per game (398.3) and total offensive yards per game (435.3), while Nicholls QB Lindsey Scott is eighth in total offense (334.5 ypg) and wide receiver Dai’Jean Dixon fourth in receiving yards per game (114).
SWAC: Grambling State (2-3, 1-1) at Alcorn State (2-2, 1-0), 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
Jackson State (3-1, 1-0) at Alabama A&M (3-1, 1-1), 3 p.m. (Bounce/YouTube)
Before Alabama A&M claimed the SWAC title this past spring, Alcorn and Grambling had combined for the previous six championships. Grambling greeted A&M in Louisiana with a loss last Saturday, earning national team of the week honors. Alcorn has won 13 of its last 14 games against conference opponents, but the loss was against Grambling in 2019.
A&M and quarterback Aqeel Glass (SWAC-high 377.8 passing yards per game and 14 TDs) seek to get back on track against Coach Prime (Deion Sanders) and his team’s No. 1-ranked defense in the SWAC. Linebacker Aubrey Miller’s 13.5 tackles per game aren’t just No. 1 in the conference, but second-best in the FCS.