(STATS) - Win and you're in.
At least a spot in the STATS FCS Top 25 would seem to be the payoff for the winner of Saturday night's CAA Football matchup between Stony Brook and William & Mary in Virginia. Stony Brook is the first team sitting outside the rankings and William & Mary is the second.
There's no guarantee, of course, considering the lower half of the Top 25 has had some steadiness in this wide-open season. Only three teams have broken into the Top 25 since the start of the regular season. There's been as many different No. 1 teams - three with North Dakota State, Sam Houston State and Jacksonville State.
But with seven ranked teams and four of the first 10 outside the rankings on byes this week, there may be no better time to command the spotlight.
Stony Brook and William & Mary mirror each other with smash-mouth running attacks and even harder-hitting defenses. If anything, both teams are underrated considering Stony Brook (2-0) pounded defending CAA champion New Hampshire 31-6 last Saturday night just hours after William & Mary (1-0) lost 35-29 at Virginia.
"We trusted our preparation and kept playing," William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said. "We weren't going up there just to play a good first half, we were going up there to play the whole full game, and that's what we did."
But, Laycock concedes about Stony Brook, "They're for real. They certainly completely controlled the game against New Hampshire. That was not even much of an issue there."
Stony Brook and William & Mary aren't the only ones just outside the Top 25 with a good chance to impress Saturday. Northern Arizona (2-1) was one of the three Big Sky teams that have moved into the Top 25 since the preseason, but the Lumberjacks fell back out after a decisive loss at Arizona. They return to an even more important assignment within the Big Sky as they travel to No. 14 Montana (1-2). The Lumberjacks have won the most recent meetings in 2012 and '13.
Samford (2-1) probably had its best shot to get into the rankings a week ago, but it lost to defending Southern Conference champion Chattanooga. The Bulldogs hope to boost their resume again with some takeout at Papa John's Stadium against Louisville.
While Bryant (2-0) would have to jump 12 spots to get into the next Top 25 poll on Monday, a visit to No. 2 Coastal Carolina is the kind of matchup that could make it happen.
FCS GAME OF THE WEEK
The Matchup: Bryant (2-0) at No. 2 Coastal Carolina (3-0)
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET at Brooks Stadium in Conway, South Carolina
Series: First meeting
The Skinny: This is a meeting of preseason favorites in conferences that have been improving in recent years, Bryant from the Northeast and national power Coastal Carolina from the Big South.
Bryant needed five Brown turnovers - four in the red zone - to avoid an upset last Saturday, winning 20-16. Linebacker was supposed to be the defense's strength, but the surprise is new starter Ryan Ferguson leading the way in tackles (16) and tackles for loss (three). The secondary will be hard-pressed to guard Coastal's wide receivers. On offense, the Bulldogs will want to control the clock with their run game, but All-NEC wide receiver Chad Ward is coming off a career day (eight receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns).
On a night Coastal honors the most decorated defensive player in Big South history, the Chanticleers will want to impress former teammate Quinn Backus. That means their defense will have to shake off a sluggish start to the season, especially in stopping the pass and limiting third-down conversions. Opponents have attempted 118 passes, yet only cornerback Dontay Hears has registered a sack. Running back De'Angelo Henderson has been red hot (203 all-purpose yards per game) and can tie the Big South record with a touchdown in his 18th straight game. The Chanticleers have defeated their last 16 non-conference FCS opponents in the regular season.
Prediction: With a milestone win fast approaching, Coastal makes it to No. 99 in its 13th season. Coastal Carolina, 35-21.
ALL THE PICKS
Last Week's Record: 57-13 (.814)
Overall Record: 195-36 (.844)
(All Times ET; X-Predicted Winner)
THURSDAY, SEPT. 24
Penn (0-1) at X-No. 5 Villanova (2-1), 7 p.m. - New Wildcats quarterback Zach Bednarczyk's heroics were eerily similar to a certain other signal caller in the win over Delaware last Saturday.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 26
X-Stephen F. Austin (0-3, 0-1 Southland) at Abilene Christian (1-1, 1-0), noon
Campbell (2-1, 0-0 Pioneer) at X-Butler (2-1, 0-0), noon
Southern (2-1) at X-Georgia (3-0), noon
X-Jacksonville (2-0, 0-0 Pioneer) at Marist (1-2, 0-0), noon
X-Colgate (0-3, 0-0 Patriot) at Holy Cross (1-1, 0-0), 12:05 p.m.
Delaware (1-2) at X-North Carolina (2-1), 12:30 p.m.
Georgetown (1-2) at X-Columbia (0-1), 1 p.m.
Monmouth (1-2) at X-No. 16 Fordham (2-1), 1 p.m. Not to be overlooked in quarterback Kevin Anderson's excellent start to the season is Fordham allowing too many sacks against him. That was a problem for the Rams last season as well.
Davidson (0-2, 0-0 Pioneer) at X-Morehead State (1-2, 0-0), 1 p.m.
University of Faith at X-Saint Francis (1-2), 1 p.m.
Cornell (0-1, 0-0 Ivy) at X-Yale (1-0, 0-0), 1 p.m.
Emory and Henry (1-1) at X-East Tennessee State (0-3), 1:30 p.m.
X-San Diego (1-1, 0-0 Pioneer) at Valparaiso (0-2, 0-0), 1:30 p.m.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-2, 0-1 SWAC) at X-Alabama A&M (0-2, 0-1), 2 p.m.
Stetson (1-1, 0-0 Pioneer) at X-Drake (1-2, 0-0), 2 p.m.
UC Davis (0-3, 0-0 Big Sky) at X-North Dakota (2-1, 0-0), 2 p.m.
Shorter (0-2) at X-South Missouri State (1-2), 2 p.m.
Duquesne (2-1) at X-Albany (1-2), 3 p.m.
Concordia College (0-4) at X-Alcorn State (2-1), 3 p.m.
X-Towson (2-1, 0-0 CAA) at Elon (1-2, 0-0), 3 p.m.
VMI (1-2, 0-0 Southern) at X-Furman (1-2, 0-0), 3 p.m.
X-No. 1 Jacksonville State (2-1, 1-0 OVC) at UT Martin (1-1, 0-0), 3 p.m. - The Gamecocks easily passed their first assignment at No. 1. Now comes their first road test, and the Skyhawks will have 16 days of preparation.
Rhode Island (0-3, 0-1 CAA) at X-Maine (0-2, 0-0), 3:30 p.m.
X-No. 20 Cal Poly (1-2, 0-0 Big Sky) at No. 15 Montana State (1-1, 0-0), 3:35 p.m. - Is it legal if both quarterbacks, Chris Brown and Dakota Prukop, rush for 200 yards? Sure, it's the Big Sky, anything goes.
X-Weber State (1-2, 0-0 Big Sky) at Northern Colorado (2-1, 0-1), 3:35 p.m.
Savannah State (0-2, 0-0 MEAC) at X-Bethune-Cookman (2-1, 0-0), 4 p.m.
Northern Arizona (2-1, 0-0 Big Sky) at X-No. 14 Montana (1-2, 0-0), 4 p.m. - As injuries mount, the Griz hope they don't leave new QB Chad Chalich hanging.
Hampton (2-1, 1-0 MEAC) at X-Norfolk State (0-3, 0-0), 4 p.m.
Howard (0-3, 0-1 MEAC) vs. X-Morgan State (0-2, 0-0) in Chicago, 4:30 p.m.
X-Grambling State (1-2, 1-0 SWAC) vs. Prairie View A&M (2-1, 2-0) in Dallas, 5 p.m.
Lehigh (2-1) at X-Princeton (1-0), 5 p.m.
Western Oregon (1-2) at X-No. 17 Portland State (2-0), 5:05 p.m. - At least the Big Sky coaches saw #BarnyBall coming to PSU. The Vikings, under interim coach Bruce Barnum, were picked ninth (in a tie) in the conference's preseason coaches poll compared to 12th by the media.
X-Charleston Southern (2-1) at The Citadel (2-1), 6 p.m.
Bryant (2-0) at X-No. 2 Coastal Carolina (3-0), 6 p.m. - The FCS Game of the Week.
Kennesaw State (3-0) at X-Dayton (2-0), 6 p.m.
Austin Peay (0-3, 0-0 OVC) at X-No. 18 Eastern Kentucky (1-1, 0-0), 6 p.m. Nothing like EKU owning a 42-5 series advantage. Junior Devin Borders is up to 11 blocked kicks in his career, already fifth in FCS history and on pace to surpass the all-time record of 17.
X-Tennessee State (2-1) at Florida A&M (0-3), 6 p.m.
Samford (2-1) at X-Louisville (0-3), 6 p.m.
Central Connecticut State (1-2) at X-No. 21 New Hampshire (1-2), 6 p.m. The road-weary Wildcats, in the Top 25 for a 159th straight week, are making subpar Septembers too much of a habit. They open their final Cowell Stadium home schedule with quarterback Adam Riese starting for the injured Sean Goldrich (ankle).
Robert Morris (1-2) at X-No. 6 South Dakota State (2-0), 6 p.m. Where's the beef? In Brookings, where SDSU hosts the 49th annual Beef Bowl, which recognizes the state's beef industry and benefits the school's animal science department. The Jackrabbits appear aptly named with six TD drives of three plays or less.
X-Lafayette (0-3) at Wagner (0-2), 6 p.m.
Sacred Heart (2-1) at X-Dartmouth (1-0), 7 p.m.
Brown (0-1, 0-0 Ivy) at X-No. 24 Harvard (1-0, 0-0), 7 p.m. The Crimson open defense of the Ivy League crown with a chance to tie their program record for the most consecutive league wins (12 over the 2001-02 seasons).
Texas Southern (2-1, 1-1 SWAC) at X-Jackson State (0-3, 0-1), 7 p.m.
Mississippi College (2-1) at X-No. 25 McNeese State (2-0), 7 p.m. - Too bad Ole Miss couldn't come to Lake Charles.
X-Alabama State (0-3, 0-1 SWAC) at Mississippi Valley State (0-3, 0-2), 7 p.m.
Tennessee Tech (1-2, 0-0 OVC) at X-Murray State (1-2, 0-0), 7 p.m.
X-Central Arkansas (0-2, 0-0 Southland) at Northwestern State (0-3, 0-1), 7 p.m.
X-No. 8 Chattanooga (2-1) at Presbyterian (1-2), 7 p.m. Prof. Russ Huesman handed out grades at his weekly news conference. Scoring highest with A's in the big win over Samford were quarterback Jacob Huesman and the defensive line. Sorry, running backs, your C to C-plus was the low grade.
X-No. 9 James Madison (3-0) at SMU (1-2), 7 p.m. - JMU coach Everett Withers says he's looking into a mirror when watching film of the SMU offense. Withers' unit leads the FCS in scoring offense and total offense, albeit against a weak schedule.
No. 10 Liberty (2-1) at X-Southern Illinois (0-2), 7 p.m. The reward for beating Montana a week ago? Liberty gets four straight road games.
Gardner-Webb (1-2) at X-Wofford (1-2), 7 p.m.
Houston Baptist (1-2, 0-1 Southland) at X-No. 12 Sam Houston State (0-2, 0-1), 7:30 p.m. Relax, Bearkats fans. With an easy win here, your favorite team will actually be ahead of last year's 1-3 record by mid-September.
Stony Brook (2-0, 1-0 CAA) at X-William & Mary (1-1, 0-0), 7:30 p.m.
Brevard (0-3) at X-Southern Utah (1-2), 8 p.m.
Incarnate Word (2-1) at X-UTEP (1-2), 8 p.m.
Idaho State (1-2) at X-UNLV (0-3), 9 p.m.
X-No. 11 Eastern Washington (1-2, 0-0 Big Sky) at Sacramento State (1-2), 9:05 p.m. - Eagles wide receiver Cooper Kupp has 45 career TD catches, one shy of the Big Sky record. Maybe the Hornets should have linebacker Darnell Sankey cover Kupp after he totaled 27 tackles a week ago.