FCS Top 25 preview - Week 3

(STATS) - It's a positive that Charleston Southern (1-2), Colgate (0-1) and Northern Arizona (0-2) remain in the STATS FCS Top 25 despite being under .500.

It reflects how the national voting panel rewards a team which challenges itself to a tougher non-conference schedule.

Charleston Southern and Eastern Washington didn't move down the week after they suffered overtime losses to North Dakota State because a close game with the five-time reigning FCS champion is hardly a negative. Illinois State and Montana cut their rankings in half this week to No. 5 and 7, respectively, following high-quality wins this past week.

Polls are fun and meaningful to many even when a national playoff will shake it all out in the end. The preseason is when voters should evaluate teams and rank them in the way they envision at the end. But once the games start happening, then voters have to apply the results. Strength of schedule factors in heavily.

A case can be made that No. 8 Eastern Washington and No. 10 Northern Iowa, which are among the seven teams to beat FBS programs this season, are underrated in the poll. Maybe the same is true of No. 16 Western Illinois, which has defeated Eastern Illinois (which went on to beat Miami of Ohio) and Northern Arizona.

That leads to top-ranked North Dakota State. What happens to the Bison if they lose at Iowa this week? It's a likely scenario no matter how good the Bison have been this decade. They're playing one of the tougher non-conference schedules in the FCS and that would be a factor.

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FCS CO-GAME OF THE WEEK

The Matchup: No. 17 Coastal Carolina (2-0) at No. 4 Jacksonville State (1-1)

Kickoff: 2 p.m. ET at Burgess-Snow Field (24,000) in Jacksonville, Alabama

Television: OVC Digital Network

Series: First meeting

The Skinny: Coastal (50-18, .735) and Jacksonville State (48-18, .727) are in the top four FCS programs in winning percentage over the last five years.

Coastal RB De'Angelo Henderson, only 5-foot-8, has scored a touchdown in a Division I-record 28 straight games (five over the first two wins), but Jacksonville State also has to game plan for versatile Osharmar Abercrombie working behind the Chanticleers' veteran offensive line. New QB Josh Stilley is still gaining command of the offense, but he has a big-time WR in Bruce Mapp. LB Alex Scearce is usually all over the field and S Richie Sampson will push up in run support. The host Gamecocks have only lost to FBS programs in the regular season since 2014 and haven't lost a regular-season game at home to a non-conference opponent since 2005. QB Eli Jenkins is off to a solid start, but the Gamecocks need another breakaway threat to take pressure off him. Defensively, they're led by DE Darius Jackson and LB Joel McCandless. The Gamecocks have committed 19 penalties in two games.

Prediction: The Chants have played with more discipline than JSU. Coastal Carolina, 31-28.

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FCS CO-GAME OF THE WEEK

The Matchup: No. 10 Northern Iowa (1-1) at No. 8 Eastern Washington (1-1)

Kickoff: 7:05 p.m. ET at Roos Field (8,600) in Cheney, Washington

Television: WatchBigSky.com

Series: Northern Iowa leads, 6-0 (most recent meeting: UNI won 38-35 on Sept. 12, 2015 in Cedar Falls, Iowa)

The Skinny: Not only has Eastern Washington yet to win in the series - four of the six losses are by three points - this is the first time the Eagles are hosting UNI.

Fast-starting UNI DE Karter Schult ranks first in the FCS with 8.5 tackles for loss and is tied for second with four sacks. The defense has adjusted well, allowing only one touchdown in the second half of two games. On offense, the Panthers will seek to overpower Eastern Washington with QB Aaron Bailey and RB Tyvis Smith, who each has had a 100-yard rushing game. Sophomore PK Austin Errthum is only 1 of 4 on field goals, making just a 22-yarder. EWU QBs Jordan West and Reilly Hennessey combined for 526 passing yards in last year's game at UNI, but now they are backing up sophomore sensation Gage Gubrud (60 of 80, 924 yards, 9 TDs, 4 INTs). Lost in Gubrud's dominance is the running backs having combined for only 19 carries and 56 yards. All-America WR Cooper Kupp is questionable with a shoulder injury. Injuries also have ravaged the starting lineup on defense, but a pair of seniors, S Zach Bruce (21 tackles) and DE Samson Ebukam (10 tackles, three tackles for loss), have led with their play.

Prediction: Gubrud continues with his roll. Eastern Washington, 35-34.

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STATS FCS TOP 25 SCHEDULE

X-Predicted Winner

Saturday, Sept. 17

All Times ET

No. 1 North Dakota State (2-0) at X-Iowa (2-0), noon - The Bison's 8-3 record with a five-game winning streak against FBS programs is phenomenal, but this isn't Kansas. Oh yes, never doubt the Bison.

X-No. 2 Richmond (2-0, 0-0 CAA) at Stony Brook (1-1, 0-0), noon - Bad week for the Spiders to not have No. 1 running back Gordon Collins, who needs season-ending hip surgery. The Seawolves know defense.

X-No. 23 Colgate (0-1) at Yale (0-0), 1:30 p.m. - The host Bulldogs are the only Ivy League team beginning their season against an opponent which hasn't played twice. But they're facing the defending Patriot League champions, who will have had 15 days to regroup from their opening loss.

No. 18 North Carolina A&T (2-0) at X-Tulsa (1-1), 2 p.m. - A&T, coming off an FBS win at Kent State, has two wins this season, while the other 10 MEAC schools have combined for one.

Eastern Illinois (1-1) at X-No. 5 Illinois State (2-0), 3 p.m. - Is Northwestern hosting Miami of Ohio in the third-place game? These Illinois rivals, both coming off FBS wins, meet for the 105th time, with Illinois State winning 34-31 in overtime last year.

No. 11 James Madison (2-0) at X-North Carolina (1-1), 3:30 p.m. - Andrew Ankrah and the JMU defense haven't posted a sack. The Dukes need to force mistakes to pull the upset.

Towson (1-1, 0-0 CAA) at X-No. 21 Villanova (1-1, 0-0), 3:30 p.m. - If there is one thing 'Nova never seems to fix, it's the place-kicking. It stands out in an otherwise even matchup.

Robert Morris (0-2) at X-No. 20 Youngstown State (1-1), 4 p.m. - Second-year coach Bo Pelini has seen the error in the Penguins' ways - they need to improve future non-conference schedules. They are about to play the Missouri Valley Conference schedule.

X-No. 15 The Citadel (2-0) at Gardner-Webb (1-1), 6 p.m. - Most impressive about the Bulldogs' 2-0 start: they have allowed only 53 offensive yards and no points in the fourth quarter.

Norfolk State (1-1) at X-No. 13 William & Mary (1-1), 6 p.m. - W&M takes on a MEAC program that is 0-10 all-time versus the CAA, including last week's 34-0 loss at Richmond. The Tribe will emphasize the run game, which has managed only 107 yards per game.

X-Holy Cross (1-1) at No. 25 Albany (2-0), 7 p.m. - It's the third straight road game for Holy Cross and second in a row against a ranked CAA opponent. Albany is best-served to run the ball with fast-starting Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks to keep the ball away from Crusaders QB Peter Pujals.

X-No. 22 New Hampshire (1-1) at Dartmouth (0-0), 7 p.m. - Of course, these instate rivals missed playing each other last year when Dartmouth went 9-1 and won a share of the Ivy League title. With the Big Green replacing 17 starters, UNH shouldn't have any problem making it 14 straight wins in the series.

X-No. 6 Chattanooga (2-0, 0-0 Southern) at Furman (0-2, 0-1), 7 p.m. - Sure, it was against Shorter and Presbyterian, but it's pretty impressive that the Mocs have outscored their opponents 100-0. But Furman is dangerous coming off games against Michigan State and The Citadel.

Stephen F. Austin (1-1, 0-0 Southland) at X-No. 14 McNeese (1-1, 0-0), 7 p.m. - With quarterback James Tabary catching a deflected pass last week, the Cowboys have 17 different players with a reception in two games. Their average time of possession of 40 minutes, 9 seconds leads the FCS.

New Mexico Highlands (0-2) at X-No. 24 Northern Arizona (0-2), 7 p.m. - If Case Cookus played the entire game, he might throw for 10 touchdowns.

Cal Poly (1-1) at X-No. 9 South Dakota State (1-1), 7 p.m. - The Jackrabbits will be doing the chasing when Cal Poly's triple option visits new Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. But QB Taryn Christion has been scolding hot in teaming with wide receiver Jake Wieneke.

X-No. 3 Sam Houston State (1-0, 0-0 Southland) at Lamar (0-2, 0-0), 8 p.m. - A win over Lamar and running back Kade Harrington would be the 500th in Sam Houston history.

No. 19 Portland State (1-1) at X-Washington (2-0), 8 p.m. - Having been plus-15 in turnovers last season, the Vikings are minus-7 this season. They need to get a rhythm going heading into their Big Sky schedule.

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