(STATS) - With title races hitting the stretch run and the postseason on the horizon, coach of the year candidates are becoming clearer across all of the 13 FCS conferences.
There will be conference honors, state honors and regional honors - maybe even city honors will be necessary in Charleston, South Carolina.
But only one can be the national coach of the year.
It won't be easy to narrow down the choices in a few weeks, but the following candidates should be near the top of any list:
Bruce Barnum (Portland State) - #BarnyBall is alive and well at Portland State because its one-year interim coach is now holding a five-year contract extension. A 7-1 start with wins over two FBS teams and three FCS ranked opponents will do that for a coach. Barnum may occasionally play some bad old music in his office, but he's easy going and authentic. No coach-speak, he tells it like he sees it. And his 10th-ranked Big Sky team has rallied around the coach it wanted to stick around for a while.
Jamey Chadwell (Charleston Southern) - Chadwell has made each week a championship game, revealing a theme each Monday. Last week was "cage the chickens," and Charleston Southern went on to hand the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers their first loss. The win has put the No. 15 Buccaneers (7-1) on the verge of securing the Big South title and their first-ever FCS playoff bid. He has themes for the days of the week as well, including Bloody Tuesday, Mean Wednesday and Atta-Boy Thursday.
Rick Chamberlin (Dayton) - Dayton diehards may think of Chamberlin the player before the head coach, being the first Flyers defensive player to be named to the Football Coaches Association Small College All-America team in 1978. A member of the program for 41 years, the 59-year-old has been a part of 357 of UD's 657 wins - 26 as a player, 268 as an assistant coach and 63 as a head coach, including 8-0 this season. He's been a part of every championship the Flyers have won, and this season he hopes to add the Pioneer Football League title and their first-ever FCS playoff appearance.
Mike Houston (The Citadel) - The FCS is known as a small-school level, although the description can be off-base. With Houston, the Bulldogs don't have a problem - they are nationally ranked and tied for the Southern Conference lead - and their second-year skipper has been drawing off his small-school background since arriving in Charleston. The Mars Hill graduate was a high school coach in North Carolina for 12 years and a Division II coach for eight years, leading Lenoir-Rhyne to the 2013 Division II championship game and three straight South Atlantic Conference titles.
Tim Murphy (Harvard) - An avid fisherman, Murphy has reeled in 21 straight wins since 2013 - the current high in the FCS - and at 7-0 the Crimson stand three wins away from posting back-to-back perfect seasons. They're also trying to become the first Ivy League program to capture three straight titles since the 1990-92 Dartmouth squads. Murphy had triple bypass surgery in February 2014 and has come back with renewed excitement over what he had already been doing well for a long time. His program is the winningest in the FCS in the 2000s.
Danny Rocco (Richmond) - The Spiders had the fewest returning starters in CAA Football this season, but they are unbeaten in conference play and hold down a No. 5 ranking with a 7-1 record - the only loss to Maryland. Rocco has had two head coaching jobs and turned both programs around immediately. He got Liberty to improve by five wins in his first season in 2006 and Richmond by five wins and to a share of the conference title in 2012. The Spiders snapped a four-year absence from the playoffs a year ago and appear headed back this season.
Matt Viator (McNeese State) - There are times when someone will find Viator mopping floors in the locker room or shampooing the carpet in the meeting room hallways. He sets up tables and chairs in McNeese's end zone club on Fridays before home games and hands out the post-game meals. He's not too proud to take on any job and the Cowboys are glad he takes on the job of head coach. All 10 of his teams have finished with winning records, this year's guaranteed by an 8-0 start. Last week, Viator became the Southland Conference's all-time leader for conference wins (52), and with another one this week, the No. 9 'Boys would clinch the title and automatic playoff bid.
FCS GAME OF THE WEEK=
The Matchup: No. 7 Sam Houston State (6-2, 5-1 Southland) at No. 9 McNeese State (8-0, 7-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET at Cowboy Stadium in Lake Charles, Louisiana
Series: McNeese State leads 25-10-1 (most recent meeting: Sam Houston State won 38-22 at home Oct. 11, 2014)
The Skinny: With a victory, McNeese State will clinch at least a share of the Southland title as well as the conference's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. Sam Houston State can secure both with wins in its final three games.
Sam Houston, in its 100th season of football, has run off six straight wins, but its high-octane offense (46.4 ppg) will get its toughest test against a stout McNeese defense and is missing two key players. Leading rusher Jalen Overstreet (586 yards) and top receiver LaDarius Brown (33 catches, 510 yards) were suspended after reportedly being arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana on Tuesday. That leaves more pressure on quarterback Jared Johnson (18 total touchdowns) and speedy Kansas transfer Cory Avery (568 rushing yards, 10 total TDs). Defensive end P.J. Hall is back to playing at an All-American level after an early season slump.
McNeese games have been tighter in recent weeks than earlier this season, but the Cowboys have remained unbeaten. They feature a run game led by QB Daniel Sams and RB Ryan Ross, who have combined for 1,278 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground, as well as a defense that has allowed only 10.9 points per game. Despite the offense having 15 turnovers, the balanced defense has allowed only nine points off the miscues. The Cowboys have played well on special teams, especially punter Jean Breaux.
Prediction: Both teams have veterans across their offensive lines. Sam Houston might have more on the defensive front to win a thriller. Sam Houston State, 28-24.
ALL THE PICKS=
Last Week's Record: 49-11 (.817)
Overall Record: 467-113 (.805)
(All Times ET; X-Predicted Winner)
FRIDAY, NOV. 6
Cornell (0-7, 0-4 Ivy) at X-No. 24 Dartmouth (6-1, 3-1), 8 p.m. - Big Green QB Dalyn Williams wound up without a touchdown pass against Harvard in an unlucky 13 career quarters of action. He hopes to add to the seven he's had in three wins against Cornell.
SATURDAY, NOV. 7
X-Saint Francis (4-3, 2-1 NEC) at Central Connecticut State (4-5, 3-1), noon
Albany (2-6, 1-4 CAA) at X-Delaware (3-5, 2-3), noon
X-No. 12 William & Mary (6-2, 4-1 CAA) at Elon (3-5, 2-3), noon - Tribe fans are wondering if star safety DeAndre Houston-Carson will find a new way to put points on the board. Did anyone say drop kick?
Princeton (5-2, 2-2 Ivy) at X-Penn (4-3, 3-1), noon
East Tennessee State (1-7) at X-Robert Morris (2-6), noon
X-Duquesne (6-3, 3-1 NEC) at Sacred Heart (4-4, 1-2), noon
X-Bryant (4-4, 2-1 NEC) at Wagner (0-8, 0-3), noon
Holy Cross (4-4, 1-2 Patriot) at X-Lehigh (4-5, 2-1), 12:30 p.m.
X-Villanova (4-4, 3-2 CAA) at Rhode Island (1-7, 1-4), 12:30 p.m.
X-Brown (4-3, 2-2 Ivy) at Yale (4-3, 1-3), 12:30 p.m.
Valparaiso (1-6, 1-4 Pioneer) at X-Butler (4-4, 2-3), 1 p.m.
X-No. 13 Harvard (7-0, 4-0 Ivy) at Columbia (2-5, 1-3), 1 p.m. - Superstitious? The 13th-ranked Crimson have won 13 straight road games and senior QB Scott Hosch is 13-0 as a starter.
X-UT Martin (5-3, 4-1 OVC) at No. 18 Eastern Kentucky (5-3, 4-1), 1 p.m. - UT Martin is a mere 2-23 all-time against EKU, but the Skyhawks won at Roy Kidd Stadium in their most recent visit (16-7 in 2013). EKU punter Keith Wrzuszczak might have been the most productive player on the field in the Colonels' 34-0 loss to top-ranked Jacksonville State last week, averaging 50.2 yards on 11 punts.
Bucknell (4-4, 1-2 Patriot) at X-No. 16 Fordham (7-2, 3-1), 1 p.m. - Fordham QB Kevin Anderson will be on the move again. The Rams are tied for the most sacks allowed (33) in the Patriot League and Bucknell has produced the most sacks (24). The Rams allowed a not-so-great eight sacks in their loss to Colgate a week ago.
Florida A&M (1-7, 1-4 MEAC) at X-Hampton (4-5, 3-3), 1 p.m.
Davidson (1-7, 0-5 Pioneer) at X-Jacksonville (6-2, 3-2), 1 p.m.
X-No. 15 Charleston Southern (7-1, 4-0 Big South) at Kennesaw State (6-2, 2-1), 1 p.m. - Granted, the non-conference schedule was a feast of cupcakes, but credit Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon for going on record and predicting a winning season before the Owls kicked off their inaugural campaign. Having locked it down, the Owls will try to prevent CSU from clinching at least a share of the Big South title as well as what would be their first-ever FCS playoff bid.
X-Colgate (4-4, 3-0 Patriot) at Lafayette (1-8, 0-4), 1 p.m.
Stetson (2-6, 1-5 Pioneer) at X-Marist (4-4, 3-2), 1 p.m.
Dayton (8-0, 5-0 Pioneer) at X-Morehead State (5-3, 4-1), 1 p.m.
Howard (1-7) at X-Stony Brook (2-5), 1 p.m.
X-No. 19 North Carolina A&T (7-1, 5-0 MEAC) at South Carolina State (5-3, 4-1), 1:30 p.m. - They played last year's matchup in Atlanta, and this year's showdown will go a long way in determining who heads back there for the inaugural Celebration Bowl. A&T, which lost 13-0 a year ago, will have a hard time scoring against a Bulldogs defense that leads the FCS in sacks (36) and has a linebacker (Reggie Owens) ranked No. 1 nationally in tackles for loss and a defensive tackle (Javon Hargrave) tied for No. 2.
Mississippi Valley State (0-9, 0-7 SWAC) at X-Alabama A&M (2-5, 2-3), 2 p.m.
VMI (2-7, 1-4 Southern) at X-No. 25 The Citadel (6-2, 5-0), 2 p.m. - After entering the Top 25 for the first time since 2012, the Bulldogs go for a ninth straight win over VMI in the "Military Classic of the South." Their triple option is tied for the FCS high with 32 rushing touchdowns and sophomore Dominique Allen leads all FCS quarterbacks with 11 on the ground.
X-No. 1 Jacksonville State (7-1, 5-0 OVC) at Eastern Illinois (5-3, 5-0), 2 p.m. - This has upset written all over it. Except QB Eli Jenkins and the Gamecocks have been playing at an extremely high level no matter who is on the schedule.
Savannah State (1-6, 1-4 MEAC) at X-Norfolk State (2-6, 2-3), 2 p.m.
Delaware State (0-8, 0-5 MEAC) at X-North Carolina Central (5-3, 4-1), 2 p.m.
X-No. 10 Portland State (7-1, 4-1 Big Sky) at Northern Colorado (4-4, 2-4), 2 p.m. - Nearly three-quarters of Portland State's plays have been rushes (74.1 percent), and there's little reason not to keep giving the ball to senior David Jones when he's averaging 7.5 yards per carry.
X-Southern Illinois (3-5, 2-3 Missouri Valley) at South Dakota (4-4, 2-3), 2 p.m.
UC Davis (1-7, 1-4 Big Sky) at X-Weber State (4-5, 3-3), 2 p.m.
Missouri State (1-7, 0-5 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 21 Youngstown State (4-4, 2-3), 2 p.m. - Penguins freshman Zak Kennedy is tied for the FCS high with 15 field goals. He kicked three versus Western Illinois last weekend when they ended a three-game slide.
Prairie View A&M (5-2, 5-1 SWAC) at X-Alcorn State (5-2, 4-1), 3 p.m.
Texas Southern (3-4, 2-4 SWAC) at X-Grambling State (6-2, 6-0), 3 p.m.
No. 5 Richmond (7-1, 5-0 CAA) at X-New Hampshire (4-4, 2-3), 3 p.m. - The host Wildcats feel like an underdog even though they have won 10 consecutive CAA home games and 16 in a row in the regular season at "The Dungeon." Richmond senior Jacobi Green has rushed for 422 yards and seven touchdowns in the last two games.
Clark Atlanta (1-7) at X-Samford (3-5), 3 p.m.
Campbell (5-4, 3-3 Pioneer) at X-San Diego (6-2, 4-1), 3 p.m.
X-No. 2 Illinois State (7-1, 5-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 11 South Dakota State (6-2, 3-2), 3 p.m. - The visiting Redbirds have the nation's best record (4-0) against FCS Top 25 opponents. But there's little letup playing in the Missouri Valley.
X-Southern (4-4, 4-2 SWAC) at Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-7, 0-6), 3:30 p.m.
Stephen F. Austin (3-5, 3-3 Southland) at X-Central Arkansas (5-3, 5-1), 3:30 p.m.
Gardner-Webb (3-5, 2-2 Big South) at X-No. 8 Coastal Carolina (7-1, 2-1), 3:30 p.m. - Having gone over 10,000 career yards of total offense last weekend, Chanticleers QB Alex Ross stands 365 shy of the Big South's all-time record.
Presbyterian (1-7, 0-3 Big South) at X-Liberty (4-4, 1-2), 3:30 p.m.
Western Illinois (4-4, 3-2 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 6 North Dakota State (6-2, 4-1), 3:30 p.m. - There's some truth to the Bison being vulnerable this season, but the four-time defending FCS champions stand just two last-second losses away from being unbeaten. Their running game has revved up with 640 yards over the last two games.
Murray State (2-6, 1-4 OVC) at X-Tennessee State (4-4, 1-4), 3:30 p.m.
Furman (4-4, 2-2 Southern) at X-Western Carolina (5-3, 3-2), 3:30 p.m.
X-No. 20 Southern Utah (6-2, 5-0 Big Sky) at Montana State (4-4, 2-3), 3:40 p.m. - At least the Bobcats, whose run of national poll appearances just ended at 82 weeks in a row, can say they're playing in a Top 25 game. They also can say they're 4-0 at home this season, so they're ready to give surging SUU a fight.
Morgan State (3-4, 3-2 MEAC) at X-Bethune-Cookman (7-2, 5-1), 4 p.m.
X-No. 3 Chattanooga (7-1, 5-0 Southern) at Mercer (3-5, 0-4), 4 p.m. - The talented Mocs secondary hopes to be the first to pick off Mercer QB John Russ, who has thrown for 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
X-No. 22 Montana (4-4, 3-2 Big Sky) at Idaho State (2-6, 1-4), 4:35 p.m. - When Idaho State says "giveth," the Grizzlies say, "taketh away." The host Bengals have an FCS-worst minus-17 turnover margin.
X-Southeast Missouri State (3-5, 2-2 OVC) at Austin Peay (0-9, 0-6), 5 p.m.
No. 23 Indiana State (4-4, 2-3 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 17 Northern Iowa (4-4, 2-3), 5 p.m. - Quarterback Aaron Bailey and the defense are peaking at the same time, so Northern Iowa thinks it can come all the way back from a 2-4 start to make the playoffs again. Indiana State is going the other way after a 4-2 start.
Northern Arizona (5-3, 3-2 Big Sky) at X-No. 4 Eastern Washington (6-2, 5-0), 6:05 p.m. - The visiting Lumberjacks will take on EWU's triple threat on offense (QB Jordan West, RB Jabari Wilson - who has an ankle injury - and WR Cooper Kupp) and try to match it with QB Case Cookus, RB Casey Jahn and WR Emmanuel Butler.
X-Alabama State (4-4, 4-3 SWAC) at Jackson State (3-5, 3-3), 7 p.m.
Nicholls (1-7, 1-5 Southland) at X-Lamar (4-4, 3-3), 7 p.m.
X-Towson (5-3, 3-2 CAA) at Maine (3-5, 3-2), 7 p.m.
X-No. 7 Sam Houston State (6-2, 5-1 Southland) at No. 9 McNeese State (8-0, 7-0), 7 p.m. - The FCS Game of the Week.
X-Abilene Christian (2-6, 2-5 Southland) at Northwestern State (2-6, 2-4), 7 p.m.
Incarnate Word (4-4, 3-3 Southland) at X-Southeastern Louisiana (4-4, 3-3), 7 p.m.
Sacramento State (2-6, 1-4 Big Sky) at X-Cal Poly (2-6, 1-4), 9:05 p.m.