The FCS playoffs are a month away. Hard to believe, but that’s where we are. To give you a status report on where things stand in the Football Championship Subdivision and lead in to the playoffs, each Friday we’ll produce an FCS Weekend Primer from here to Frisco in early January.
The Sports Network FCS Top 10
1. North Dakota State (7-0) – at Indiana State
2. Eastern Illinois (6-1) – at Tennessee State
3. Eastern Washington (5-2) – at Montana
4. McNeese State (6-1) – at Nicholls State
5. Montana State (5-2) – vs. UC Davis
6. Coastal Carolina (7-0) – vs. VMI
7. Sam Houston State (5-2) – vs. Northwestern State
8. Towson (7-1) – at Richmond
9. Fordham (8-0) – Off
10. Montana (6-1) – vs. Eastern Washington
This week’s games to watch:
Eastern Illinois at Tennessee State – The classic irresistible force versus immovable object game. Eastern Illinois, a 21-point winner over San Diego State and gave Northern Illinois a run for their money, leads the nation in scoring (48 points per game, 118 in their last two), total offense (595.6 yards per game) and passing offense (407.6 yards per game). Tennessee State leads FCS in making life hell for the opposing passer (FCS-best 86.77 opposing passer rating), and ranks second in scoring defense (13.5 points per game, 16 or fewer allowed in seven of their eight games) and total defense (264 yards per game). In a clash like this, he who wins the turnover battle wins the game.
Samford at Wofford – The two teams undefeated in SoCon play meet to determine the league favorite heading into the regular season’s finishing kick. Samford has never started 3-0 in SoCon play, and it’s been even longer since they’ve moved the ball like this, scoring 140 points in their last three wins. If this game goes anything like Wofford’s first seven contests, they’ll either option Samford to death (317 rushing yards, 31.6 points per game in their five wins) or they won’t go anywhere at all (317 rushing yards, three points total in their two losses).
Eastern Washington at Montana – The only team able to best Oregon State thus far this year, Eastern Washington has been money on the red turf and but suffered their two losses on the green stuff. The Eagles have the most efficient passing attack in FCS, but the recent improvement of their defense – 43 points allowed in three straight wins over Weber State, North Dakota and Southern Utah – gives this team a chance to play into December. If you want to beat a team like Eastern Washington, you’ll need to keep up with their passing game (Montana ranks fifth nationally in passing efficiency), play sound defense (Montana allows 17 points per game, No. 6 in FCS), limit your penalties (Montana is the fourth-least penalized team in the country), build a fence around the goal line (Montana leads FCS in red zone defense) and, when all else fails, force a turnover or three (Montana is tied for sixth in FCS in turnover margin).
Montana State at UC Davis – The Big Sky has 13 teams competing in football, seven of them are clumped at the top with zero or one losses in conference play to date. We’ve already touched on one game, and the league’s other undefeated visits 3-1 and fringe conference contender UC Davis. I say fringe because the Aggies are 3-5 overall, and those three victories are against a trio of team that are a combined 3-9 in the Big Sky. Want to jump from the fringe to the forefront? Beat the defending conference champs and fifth-ranked team in the country.