The Halloween week FCS schedule? It's scary good
(STATS) - If you're anticipating the big matchup in your favorite FCS conference this week, look around, you've got plenty of company around the country.
The national schedule on Halloween weekend is the most influential to date in conference championship races this season.
Four games feature two teams with perfect conference records. There also are a season-high seven matchups between teams ranked in the STATS FCS Top 25.
Super Saturday? Pretty much, but the excitement actually kicks off Friday night in the Ivy League as two of the five unbeatens in the FCS square off with No. 22 Dartmouth (6-0, 4-0) visiting No. 15 Harvard (6-0, 4-0), whose 20-game win streak since 2013 is the longest in the subdivision.
In fact, nobody's completely safe on Halloween, not even the No. 1 and 2 teams in the nation. Both might have an easier time going up against Michael Myers than top-ranked Jacksonville State (6-1, 4-0) having to host No. 13 Eastern Kentucky (5-2, 4-0) in the Ohio Valley Conference and second-ranked Coastal Carolina (7-0, 2-0) heading to No. 24 Charleston Southern (6-1, 3-0) in the Big South.
"Big game this week with EKU," Jacksonville State coach John Grass said. "They've got a great football team. Coach (Dean) Hood and them do a great job. To me, they're a Top 10, Top 8 team in the country, I think they can play with anybody. I think if you go from the Top 15 down, there's not a lot of difference in the teams. Anybody can beat anybody on a given Saturday. They've had a great year … we've got our work cut out for us. It's going to be a great football game."
Said Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia: "Up to now, without a doubt, the best that we are facing is Charleston Southern. They've gotten off to a great start this year."
The Pioneer Football League was a week away from having a battle of undefeateds, but front-running Dayton (7-0, 4-0) still faces a difficult assignment in Jacksonville (6-1, 3-1), which slipped up at Drake last week. The visiting Dolphins are ineligible for the title, but their games count in the league standings.
Other matchups between ranked teams are: Big Sky, No. 17 Montana State (4-3, 3-1) at No. 12 Portland State (6-1, 3-1); CAA, No. 9 James Madison (7-1, 4-1), which lost All-America quarterback Vad Lee to a season-ending foot injury last weekend, at No. 16 William & Mary (5-2, 3-1); and Missouri Valley, No. 21 Indiana State (4-3, 2-2) at No. 3 Illinois State (6-1, 4-0), and No. 25 Youngstown State (3-4, 1-3) at No. 23 Western Illinois (4-3, 2-2).
Also, No. 4 Chattanooga (6-1, 4-0) hosts Western Carolina (5-2, 3-1) in a key Southern Conference matchup, and last year's SWAC championship game finalists will get together again when East Division-leading Alcorn State (4-2, 3-1) visits Southern (4-3, 4-1).
That type of schedule is scary good.
FCS GAME OF THE WEEK=
The Matchup: No. 22 Dartmouth (6-0, 3-0 Ivy) at No. 15 Harvard (6-0, 3-0)
The Kickoff: Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network)
The Site: Harvard Stadium, Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Series: Harvard leads 68-45-5 (last meeting: Nov. 1, 2014 - Harvard won 23-12 at Dartmouth)
The Skinny: This is the biggest step for Harvard as it seeks to win a third straight Ivy League title, something that hasn't happened in the league since the 1990-92 Dartmouth squads. Dartmouth has the most all-time Ivy titles (17), but the Crimson have closed within one. Dartmouth is 6-0 for the first time since its most recent Ivy championship season in 1996. The Big Green start 17 seniors, including 10 on defense, and the Will McNamara-led unit must focus on stopping Harvard's Paul Stanton Jr., the league's leading rusher who had 180 yards in last year's game. But that was last year; this year, the Big Green are surrendering only 63 rushing yards per game on 2.0 yards per carry. Quarterback Dalyn Williams has been outstanding, throwing for 14 touchdowns against only one interception and averaging a league-high 318.2 yards of offense per game. The Big Green must be more disciplined after committing 17 penalties against Columbia last Saturday (yeah, frightful). No Harvard game has been close this season as the Crimson have outscored opponents 263-47. In a season of terrific Ivy quarterbacks, Scott Hosch is challenging for all-league honors with 16 total touchdowns (12 passing) against only turnover, and he's coming off a career-high 437 passing yards against Princeton. The offensive line, led by NFL bound-tackle Cole Toner, has been too skilled for opponents. Its big men have allowed Stanton to rush for 102.8 yards per game and nine touchdowns. On defense, the Crimson use a 4-3 alignment, and linebackers Jacob Lindsey, Matt Koran and Eric Medes are 1-2-3 on the team in tackles.
Prediction: If the Crimson are ever going to lose a night game at Harvard Stadium - they are 11-0 - Mischief Night seems like the appropriate time. But Dartmouth some has some demons - only one win over the Crimson in the last 18 years. Harvard, 28-24.---=
ALL THE PICKS=
Last Week's Record: 40-18 (.690)
Overall Record: 418-102 (.804)
(All Times ET; X-Predicted Winner)
FRIDAY, OCT. 30=
No. 22 Dartmouth (6-0, 3-0 Ivy) at X-No. 15 Harvard (6-0, 3-0), 7:30 p.m. - The FCS Game of the Week.
SATURDAY, OCT. 31=
X-Sacred Heart (4-3, 1-1 NEC) at Saint Francis (3-3, 1-1), noon
X-No. 11 Fordham (7-1, 3-0 Patriot) at Colgate (3-4, 2-0), 1 p.m. - It's a good thing for Colgate that it's the Patriot League leader in time of possession. Somehow that probably won't be enough to stop Rams sophomore Chase Edmonds, who is averaging - get this - 105 rushing yards MORE than the league's No. 2 runner.
X-Jacksonville (6-1, 3-1 Pioneer) at Dayton (7-0, 4-0), 1 p.m.
No. 21 Indiana State (4-3, 2-2 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 3 Illinois State (6-1, 4-0), 1 p.m. - If we say an ISU win is the lock of the week, we couldn't go wrong.
Drake (4-4, 3-2 Pioneer) at X-Morehead State (4-3, 3-1), 1 p.m.
Columbia (1-5, 0-3 Ivy) at X-Yale (4-2, 1-2), 1 p.m.
Western Carolina (5-2, 3-1 Southern) at X-No. 4 Chattanooga (6-1, 4-0), 2 p.m. - Placekicker/punter Henrique Ribeiro has won three straight SoCon special teams player of the week awards, and four this season, but the Mocs would prefer their 11-game conference winning streak not come down to one of his kicks. They are playing for the 100th time at Finley Stadium, where they are 48-51.
No. 13 Eastern Kentucky (5-2, 4-0 OVC) at X-No. 1 Jacksonville State (6-1, 4-0), 2 p.m. - The Ohio Valley Conference is top-heavy: JSU, EKU, Eastern Illinois and UT Martin are a combined 16-1 while the bottom five teams are 3-18.
X-Eastern Illinois (4-3, 4-0 OVC) at Murray State (2-5, 1-3), 2 p.m.
X-No. 19 Montana State (4-3, 2-2 Big Sky) at North Dakota (4-4, 2-3), 2 p.m. - Let Dakota Prukop loose because this is a must-win for the Bobcats' playoff hopes. UND doesn't have a nickname yet, but it's glad to have freshman John Santiago, who has averaged over 250 all-purpose yards in five Big Sky games.
College of Faith at X-Texas Southern (3-4), 2 p.m.
South Dakota (4-3, 2-2 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 18 Northern Iowa (3-4, 1-3), 2 p.m. - For a team that had lost 14 straight conference games before they upset North Dakota State, a two-game win streak looks good on the Coyotes. If they win at the UNI-Dome - as they did in 2013 - there will be talk in Vermillon about playoffs. Playoffs?
No. 25 Youngstown State (3-4, 1-3 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 23 Western Illinois (4-3, 3-1), 2 p.m. - A 25th-ranked opponent is actually considered a breather on WIU's schedule, which is rated by the NCAA as the nation's toughest. The losing team can basically kiss the playoffs goodbye.
X-No. 7 North Dakota State (5-2, 3-1 Missouri Valley) at Southern Illinois (3-4, 2-2), 3 p.m. - Who knew at the beginning of the season NDSU's first 100-yard rusher in a game would be redshirt freshman QB Easton Stick. There may not be a more exciting team in the FCS than SIU, which has had four games decided by three or fewer points and another go to overtime.
Austin Peay (0-8, 0-5 OVC) at X-Tennessee State (3-4, 0-4), 3 p.m.
X-No. 14 South Dakota State (5-2, 2-2 Missouri Valley) at Missouri State (1-6, 0-4), 3:04 p.m. - The Jackrabbits, still hoping for quarterback Zach Lujan's return from an ankle injury, haven't committed a turnover in six of their seven games. With two overall (two interceptions against Robert Morris), they have the fewest in the FCS.
Weber State (4-4, 3-2 Big Sky) at X-No. 5 Eastern Washington (5-2, 4-0), 3:05 p.m. - Not too bad for EWU's "other" junior wide receiver: While working in Cooper Kupp's shadow, Kendrick Bourne has 50 receptions for 676 yards and seven touchdowns in seven games.
X-No. 10 McNeese State (7-0, 6-0 Southland) at Abilene Christian (2-5, 2-4), 3:30 p.m. - McNeese coach Matt Viator's next win will give him sole ownership of the Southland Conference's all-time record. He and former Sam Houston State coach Ron Randleman are tied with 51 Southland wins each.
Cornell (0-6, 0-3 Ivy) at X-Princeton (4-2, 1-2), 3:30 p.m.
Albany (2-5, 1-3 CAA) at X-No. 6 Richmond (6-1, 4-0), 3:30 p.m. - Spiders sophomore Kyle Lauletta may wind up being the CAA first-team quarterback. No doubt his first choice is winning the conference championship.
No. 9 James Madison (7-1, 4-1 CAA) at X-No. 16 William & Mary (5-2, 3-1), 4 p.m. - Don't blame the injury to Vad Lee for the Dukes' loss to Richmond. Blame the 720 yards they gave up.
UT Martin (5-2) at X-Arkansas (3-4), 4 p.m.
X-No. 20 North Carolina A&T (6-1, 4-0 MEAC) at Florida A&M (1-6, 1-3), 5 p.m. - No A&T player has reached 35 tackles through seven games, but eight players have at least 25 in a balanced group. Coach Rod Broadway will want to make sure the Aggies aren't looking ahead to South Carolina State.
X-Alcorn State (4-2, 3-1 SWAC) at Southern (4-3, 4-1), 5 p.m.
X-No. 17 Montana (4-3, 3-1 Big Sky) at No. 12 Portland State (6-1, 3-1), 5:05 p.m. - It will be hard for Montana sophomore Makena Simis to top the six touchdown passes of his first career start last week. His PSU counterpart, Alex Kuresa, may be a running quarterback, but he ranks second in the FCS in passing yards per completion (17).
No. 2 Coastal Carolina (7-0, 2-0 Big South) at X-No. 24 Charleston Southern (6-1, 3-0), 7 p.m. - De'Angelo Henderson's FCS-record touchdown streak might be in jeopardy against a CSU squad that hasn't allowed more than 142 yards in any of its last three games and leads the nation in total defense (218 ypg).