Philadelphia, PA – Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Eastern Illinois coach Dino Babers was Baylor's wide receivers coach when Robert Griffin III started at quarterback for the Bears. After joining Baylor in 2009 to his 2011 hiring at Eastern Illinois, Babers developed some spectacular playmakers.
Upon his arrival at the Charleston, Ill., campus, Babers began instituting an offense similar to the one he and others ran at Baylor. Like Griffin III at Baylor, Babers needed a quarterback to run his system.
Luckily for Babers, a freshman had taken over the starting duties in the final eight games of the 2010 season, and started all 11 games in 2011 just before Babers was hired that December. Jimmy Garoppolo ranked second in the Ohio Valley Conference in passing offense (240.4 yards per game) and total offense (234.8 yards per game) in 2011.
Now nearly two years later, Babers and Garoppolo have helped lift Eastern Illinois to its highest national ranking in program history, coming in at the No. 2 spot for the second consecutive week. Eastern Illinois' lone blemish was a four-point loss to unbeaten FBS opponent Northern Illinois on Sept. 21.
The Panthers are led by Garoppolo and are known across the nation as simply one of the best offenses in the FCS. The team ranks second in the nation (and was first until last weekend's matchup with Tennessee State) in scoring offense, averaging 46.3 points per game. The number dropped after the Panthers "only" managed 34 points - their lowest single-game total of the season - against one of the country's best scoring defenses.
To say Garoppolo has been sensational would be a massive understatement. The senior, a candidate for the Walter Payton Award as the FCS' outstanding player, is moving up every leaderboard in nearly every OVC passing category, and is at the top of quite a few already.
The suburban Chicago native has 100 career touchdown passes, which is 15 more than previous record holder, former EIU quarterback Tony Romo, and there's still four games left in the regular season, not to mention the FCS playoffs. Garoppolo also has passed former EIU great and current Saints head coach Sean Payton for the most completions in program history.
Garoppolo leads the nation in passing yards (3,145), passing touchdowns (35, which also tops all quarterbacks on the FBS level), total points responsible for (218) and points responsible for per game (27.5), and passing yards per game (393.1). He can be found in the top five of several other FCS statistical categories, but that would just be piling on the accolades.
He was recently named as the No. 40 player on a list of the top 100 seniors by NFL draft analyst Gil Brandt, while some NFL scouts believe Garoppolo will be selected anywhere from the late second round to the third round in April's draft, depending on quarterback availability and team needs.
But with roughly a third of the 2013 season remaining, there's still a lot left to be accomplished.
Babers, Garoppolo and the Panthers (4-0 in OVC play) next face Tennessee Tech, a team that is winless in the conference and on a four-game losing streak, on Saturday.
Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown is very aware of what test lies in front of him and his team.
"We're going to Eastern Illinois to play the best team I've seen in the FCS since I've been here," Brown, the eighth-year Golden Eagles' coach, said.
Brown also noted the difference in handling opponents. Earlier this season, the Panthers led Ohio Valley foe Eastern Kentucky, 35-0, at halftime, and ended up beating the Colonels, 42-7. Brown's Golden Eagles only managed 10 points in a loss to EKU two weeks ago.
However, Brown has an insight into Babers's offense that no other coach in the FCS can claim.
Brown's brother, Mack Brown, coaches the Texas Longhorns football team, and has faced in-state rival Baylor several times in the past. Whether the brothers have exchanged information about ways to control Babers's offensive system is between them. Whether Brown's Tennessee Tech team has the playmakers to stop the Panthers is another story.
"His brother is Mack Brown at Texas," Babers said. "They probably have more knowledge about Baylor's offense than anyone outside the Big 12."
But Brown said his team's confidence is down right now, due to injuries, a series of targeting calls against his players, and the ultimate four-game skid his team is experiencing.
The opposite is true for Garoppolo and the Panthers. As they look to seal up the OVC in the next few weeks, it will be a difficult run with opponents like Jacksonville State and UT Martin remaining. But Babers and staff will take things one game at a time and focus on Tennessee Tech this weekend.
Like the Baylor team he helped coach to a 9-3 regular-season record, Babers just needed the right players at Eastern Illinois to fit his system that could lead them this far.
Jimmy magic isn't over yet.
The following is a game-by-game breakdown for The Sports Network FCS Top 25 and other select games (all times ET):
Saturday, Nov. 1
No. 13 Bethune-Cookman (7-1, 4-0 MEAC) at North Carolina Central (4-4, 2-2)
Kickoff: noon (ESPNews)
What to know: On paper, Bethune-Cookman a downhill schedule after last weekend's win over South Carolina State. The Wildcats have won 17 consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference games, and looks to make it 18 against North Carolina Central.
But NCCU isn't ready to hand that win over to the Wildcats just yet.
The Eagles have the fifth-leading tackler in the FCS in Tazmon Foster, who enters this game with 92 total stops on the season. Against a run-heavy offense like Bethune-Cookman's, Foster is sure to have a busy day.
It's the reverse that creates problems for NCCU. The Wildcats have the second- best total defense in the country, giving up an average of 263.4 yards per game, and the third-best scoring defense. And the Eagles offense has had problems striking first.
NCCU has been outscored 62-19 in the first quarter this season, while Bethune- Cookman has outscored its opponents 72-17 in the same time frame. With a defense as strong as B-CU's, early points may be the deciding factor.
Prediction: Bethune-Cookman 29, North Carolina Central 18
Penn (4-2, 3-0 Ivy) at Brown (4-2, 1-2)
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.
What to know: If we're talking overall records here, the battle for the Ivy League title would be between half of the conference's eight teams. One could even argue that 3-3 squads Dartmouth and Yale wouldn't even be out of the race.
With four weeks left, it's still an up-in-the-air fight. And since we're focusing on conference records and a shortened season, it's still absolutely anyone's league. Penn is one of two unbeaten teams in the Ivy League (Princeton being the other), and gets to travel to Rhode Island to face Brown this weekend.
Brown, at 1-2 in conference play, had trouble handling a struggling Cornell team on Saturday, but hung on for its first league win of the season. The Bears have only lost games to Harvard and Princeton this year - both teams ahead of them in the standings.
Penn is also one of the league leaders, and could give Brown's defense fits with its all-around effective offense. The Quakers defense forced Yale to turn the ball over four times last weekend, while Brown turned the ball over five times combined in its two losses this season. Ball security can be an issue for the Bears, who have only played one game this season without giving the ball away.
Prediction: Penn 27, Brown 21
Stony Brook (3-4, 1-3 CAA) at No. 10 Maine (7-1, 4-0)
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.
What to know: With every win, Maine keeps making a better claim for itself as the team transitions into the last four weeks of the regular season (only four weeks left?).
The Black Bears handed Villanova its second straight loss last Saturday behind the once-again consistent play of Marcus Wasilewski at quarterback. Although 'Nova quarterback John Robertson had another huge day running the football (214 yards, four touchdowns), the Bears didn't let go of the lead.
On the other end of the spectrum, Stony Brook is coming off a loss - the first in three games for the bounce-back Seawolves - to New Hampshire, 31-13. But with a 1-3 record in the Colonial Athletic Association, there doesn't appear to be a ton of hope of salvaging the Seawolves' first season in the conference.
With an upset win, Stony Brook would make a dent in the CAA standings against the last remaining unbeaten conference team. But having to travel to Orono, where the Black Bears haven't lost yet this season, to face one of the more consistently good quarterbacks in the CAA is a tall order.
Prediction: Maine 35, Stony Brook 24
Holy Cross (3-6) at No. 9 Fordham (8-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
What to know: The Crusaders have lost two straight games in Patriot League play, including one last Saturday in which freshman quarterback Peter Pujals wasn't his usual productive self.
Pujals threw two interceptions in the loss, but the Holy Cross defense wasn't exactly up to the task of handling Lafayette quarterback Drew Reed, who passed for 283 yards and five touchdowns. And Fordham's Michael Nebrich won't prove to be any easier to contain.
The Rams are coming off a bye week and will look to improve upon their already perfect record. Holy Cross has actually been the dominant force in this series in recent years, having won five of the past seven games and owning the series lead, 27-21-2. But Fordham holds a slim 12-11 advantage since they joined the Patriot League in 1990.
With Fordham weapons Nebrich, Carlton Koonce and Sam Ajala rested, the Crusaders may be in for an uphill battle.
Prediction: Fordham 42, Holy Cross 20
No. 23 Tennessee State (7-2, 4-1 OVC) at Eastern Kentucky (5-3, 3-1)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (ESPN3.com)
What to know: Just because the Tigers lost last weekend to conference favorite Eastern Illinois doesn't mean the season, or a chance at an Ohio Valley Conference championship, is over.
Even if Eastern Illinois wins out, there's a real chance Tennessee State could get looks for an at-large bid to the postseason. But the Tigers can't get tripped up with the remaining teams on their schedule, starting with Eastern Kentucky.
The Colonels have held their last three opponents to 10 points or less over a four-week span (which included a bye week). That could certainly hint at a defensive battle this weekend, because the Tigers sport the OVC's best scoring defense, limiting opponents to 15.8 points per game.
History says this game favors the Colonels, who lead the all-time series 20-5. But considering what's at stake for Tennessee State, the Tigers should have the edge.
Prediction: Tennessee State 27, Eastern Kentucky 17
Tennessee Tech (3-6, 0-5 OVC) at No. 2 Eastern Illinois (7-1, 4-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
What to know: Eastern Illinois scored the fewest points in a game all season against Tennessee State last weekend. The Panthers only managed 34 points against one of the best scoring defenses in the nation.
Cue the violins.
In all seriousness, 34 points against easily the toughest defensive backfield the Panthers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo have faced this season is very good. It's coincidentally the same point total Tennessee Tech surrendered to Jacksonville State a week ago.
The Golden Eagles are on a four-game losing streak and are 0-5 in the OVC this season, welcoming in the nation's best offense (though now second-best in scoring offense behind Coastal Carolina). Garoppolo is the Division I (FBS included) leader in passing touchdowns with 35, which certainly doesn't bode well for the Golden Eagles, who rank 86th in the nation in scoring defense.
The Panthers own the FCS' third-longest active home winning streak at eight games. That should increase after this weekend's matchup.
Prediction: Eastern Illinois 48, Tennessee Tech 21
No. 16 New Hampshire (4-3, 3-1 CAA) at William & Mary (5-3, 2-2)
Kickoff: 1:30 p.m.
What to know: Last season, for the first time in his then-14-year career as head coach of New Hampshire, Sean McDonnell and his squad beat William & Mary. Up until last year, Jimmye Laycock had the Wildcats' number. But it was a down year for the Tribe, as the team posted a 2-9 record and a winless season in CAA play.
The Tribe is off to a much better start in 2013, currently sitting on a 5-3 record with a 2-2 mark in the conference. With tough matchups on the horizon like New Hampshire, Delaware and Towson, expectations of a CAA title are slim. But that doesn't mean their season is over.
New Hampshire has really had trouble this season against teams with explosive offenses; the team's three losses have come to FBS Central Michigan, Lehigh behind a top-notch Mountain Hawks passing attack, and to Towson behind the legs of Terrance West. William & Mary's offense isn't anything of the sort. In fact, the greatest offensive total this season for the Tribe was 388 total yards against Penn.
New Hampshire is ranked third in the CAA in total offense (460 yards per game), rushing offense (228.4 yards per game) and second in scoring offense (35.4 points per game), while William & Mary's scoring defense tops the CAA and is second in the FCS allowing 14 points per game. It makes for one heck of a CAA battle. In this case, give the slight edge to the home team.
Prediction: William & Mary 30, New Hampshire 28
No. 15 Samford (6-2, 4-0 Southern) at The Citadel (2-6, 2-4)
Kickoff: 2 p.m. (ESPN3.com)
What to know: It's been a rough season for The Citadel, once thought to be a team that could easily compete for a Southern Conference title with Appalachian State and Georgia Southern out of the conference picture.
The opposite is true for Samford, which leads the conference with a 4-0 record and a recent win over Wofford. The Bulldogs have simply been able to outlast their previous four opponents.
It didn't matter that Samford turned the ball over four times last weekend against Wofford because the Bulldogs defense stopped the Terriers' offense and forced four punts in the contest. Andy Summerlin paced the offense with 259 yards and two touchdowns.
The Samford defense will need to be as sharp this weekend against a high- scoring Citadel offense that likes to run the ball. Against Chattanooga, The Citadel running backs gained a total of 334 yards on a stout Mocs defense. This contest could turn into an offensive explosion.
Prediction: Samford 37, The Citadel 29
No. 24 Charleston Southern (8-1, 1-0 Big South) at Presbyterian (3-4, 1-0)
Kickoff: 2 p.m. (ESPN3.com)
What to know: Two weeks ago, Charleston Southern eliminated the only week of rest the team was scheduled to receive in favor of playing FBS Colorado after a Buffaloes game with Fresno State was canceled earlier this season.
That extra game the Buccaneers played resulted in their only loss of the season. But the Big South team bounced back last weekend with a win over FCS independent Charlotte, and now the Bucs find themselves in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 for the first time since the 2006 season - their only other time in the poll in program history.
This weekend, they take on fellow Big South member Presbyterian in both teams' second conference matchup of the year. The Bucs used a run-heavy offense last weekend against Charlotte, gaining 375 yards on the ground with three touchdowns. Three players for CSU recorded at least 10 carries.
The Blue Hose have had an up-and-down year, but are on a two-game win streak. But with the 96th-ranked run defense in the FCS, the matchup doesn't figure to be a good one for Presbyterian. The Blue Hose lost to Charlotte, 45-21, back in September - the same team Charleston Southern just defeated, 36-14.
Prediction: Charleston Southern 38, Presbyterian 18
Murray State (5-3, 3-1 OVC) at UT Martin (5-3, 3-2)
Kickoff: 2 p.m.
What to know: When these two OVC teams met in 2012, they combined for 125 points and 1,440 yards of total offense. No, those aren't typos.
Ten touchdowns were scored before halftime in the last meeting of these two squads - one in which UT Martin won, 66-59. It would absolutely be entertaining for spectators to see something along those offensive lines again, but for sanity's sake, neither coach should have to endure that sort of onslaught.
The Racers average 35 points a game this season, while UT Martin, which made a three-week appearance in the Top 25 poll several weeks ago, averages 24.2. It's been a relatively inconsistent season for the Skyhawks, who began the year 3-1 with a loss to FBS Boise State.
Despite the intense level of offense displayed last season, this battle could feature more defensive highlights. The Skyhawks lead the OVC in third-down conversion percentage, and have given up the fewest number of first downs to opponents. But Ole Miss transfer Maikhail Miller has the Racers offense flowing, and when he and wideout Walter Powell are clicking, they're a duo that's very difficult to stop.
Prediction: Murray State 28, UT Martin 21
No. 11 Youngstown State (7-1, 4-0 Missouri Valley) at South Dakota (4-4, 3-2)
Kickoff: 2 p.m. (ESPN3.com)
What to know: Prior to last weekend's loss to Illinois State, the Coyotes were enjoying a three-game win streak which included a victory over previously ranked Northern Iowa in double overtime.
The setback to the Redbirds brought South Dakota back to Earth, as sophomore quarterback Kevin Earl, who had been sensational for the Coyotes in weeks past, tossed two interceptions and completed less than 50 percent of his pass attempts in the loss.
This week's test is far more difficult for South Dakota as the team welcomes in Youngstown State, with a perfect 4-0 mark in Missouri Valley Conference play. The Penguins sit just a half-game back of North Dakota State in the conference standings, while the Bison are idle this weekend. So the Penguins, led by senior quarterback Kurt Hess (13th in FCS in passing efficiency) and freshman running back Martin Ruiz (12 rushing touchdowns, 119.6 all-purpose yards per game), will be looking to knot the standings up with the top-ranked Bison.
In two weeks, if the Penguins can withstand South Dakota and Northern Iowa, they'll square off against North Dakota State on the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, and the contest is in Youngstown. That matchup could potentially be the basis for the MVFC winner.
Prediction: Youngstown State 32, South Dakota 22
No. 20 Villanova (4-4, 3-2 CAA) at James Madison (5-3, 2-2)
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. (NBCSports Regional)
What to know: This two-game skid Villanova is currently experiencing is all too familiar for the Wildcats, who opened their season with back-to-back losses to Boston College and Fordham. After righting the ship, it's starting to tip back over on Villanova.
The good thing for the Wildcats as they once again try to get back on course is that James Madison is 2-2 in its last four games and looking for a way to rebound from a loss last Saturday.
Earlier this season, 'Nova quarterback John Robertson confronted coach Andy Talley and said he needs to run the ball to feel more comfortable in the offense. Talley granted Robertson's wish, and the sophomore has responded with 10 rushing touchdowns in the last three weeks. In two of those three games, Robertson rushed for over 200 yards. But the Wildcats have lost both games in which Robertson has taken on the primary rushing duties.
So what to do? There's no doubt he's producing in terms of stats, but in the end, the game plan isn't getting wins, which could be more a result of defensive faults than anything. But it's hard to argue with the numbers.
James Madison's offensive struggles were apparent in last weekend's loss to William & Mary. If the lack of offense continues against the Wildcats, it'll be lights out for the Dukes.
Prediction: Villanova 35, James Madison 24
Charlotte (4-4) at No. 6 Coastal Carolina (8-0)
Kickoff: 3 p.m.
What to know: Since Eastern Illinois "only" scored 34 points last weekend against Tennessee State, and Coastal Carolina rattled off 66 against VMI, the Chanticleers are officially the nation's highest scoring offense.
The Chants have sort of cruised through the 2013 season, and are on the fast track to win the Big South title and its automatic bid into the FCS postseason pending a disastrous fallout. Nearly two weeks ago, Coastal defeated conference rival Liberty, 55-52, in double overtime, which served as the toughest test this season for the team. The Chants travel to face Charleston Southern in two weeks and face FBS South Carolina in the final week of the regular season. But a loss to South Carolina won't hurt Coastal's chances at the postseason much, if at all.
This week, the Chanticleers face Charlotte - an enigma among the FCS independents this season. The 49ers are a startup program with key wins against Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian, and losses to North Carolina Central and Division II UNC Pembroke. Quarterback Matt Johnson is enjoying a strong freshman campaign and finds himself on the Jerry Rice Award Watch List.
Against a Charlotte team that has given up 81 combined points in its last two games, Coastal Carolina's offense should be itching to hit the field this weekend.
Prediction: Coastal Carolina 49, Charlotte 21
Chattanooga (6-2, 4-1 Southern) at Appalachian State (2-6, 2-3)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.
What to know: It seems a healthy majority of attention has been on Samford and Wofford lately in the Southern Conference, and for pretty good reason, too. The two previously unbeaten-in-conference teams met last weekend, with Samford coming out on top. But Chattanooga, a team ranked in the Top 25 preseason poll but not since then, has quietly made an impact in the Southern Conference this season, and sits just a half game back of Samford at 4-1 in conference play.
On Saturday, the Mocs, who are on a four-game winning streak, battle Appalachian State, a team that snapped its four-game losing streak last weekend with a triumph over Georgia Southern.
The Mountaineers have had a disappointing season to say the least, but played well against the Eagles and got a heavy contribution from quarterback Kameron Bryant (381 passing yards, two touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns). Defense is the pride of the Chattanooga team, and, prior to ASU's win over Georgia Southern, the Mountaineers had been held to 10 points in back-to-back games. The Mocs will be looking to tack on yet another loss to Appalachian State's final FCS season.
Prediction: Chattanooga 32, Appalachian State 25
No. 5 Montana State (6-2, 4-0 Big Sky) at Northern Colorado (1-7, 0-4)
Kickoff: 3:40 p.m. (ROOT-NW, RM)
What to know: This may be a contest in which senior defensive end Brad Daly is busier than usual for Montana State.
Northern Colorado has underachieved this season, currently sitting on a 1-7 overall record and a goose egg in the conference wins column. But quarterback Seth Lobato is third in the Big Sky Conference in passing, averaging 287.5 yards per game.
Daly, who has a tackle for loss in 16 consecutive games dating back to the 2012 season, will be looking to limit Lobato's effectiveness against the Bobcats. Northern Colorado is tied for 76th in the country, allowing an average of 2.4 sacks per game to opponents.
Meanwhile on the Bobcats offense, senior running back Cody Kirk has scored a touchdown in five straight games, and needs six more rushing scores to break Don Hass' Big Sky single-season record.
Prediction: Montana State 42, Northern Colorado 20.
Stephen F. Austin (3-5, 1-2 Southland) at No. 8 Sam Houston State (6-2, 2-1)
Kickoff: 4 p.m. at Reliant Stadium in Houston (Southland TV, ESPN3.com)
What to know: This year's matchup between Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State is the 88th renewal of the "Battle of the Piney Woods," college football's third-oldest rivalry in Texas. The series began back in 1923, with Sam Houston State holding a 50-35-2 lead.
The Bearkats sport the nation's fifth-best scoring offense, averaging 42.4 points per game, though Stephen F. Austin isn't too far behind with a 37.9- points-per-game average.
Ultimately these are two senior-led offenses - Timothy Flanders and Brian Bell are the nucleus of Sam Houston's offense, while quarterback Brady Attaway accounts for the largest portion of Stephen F. Austin's playmaking. With both teams trailing in the Southland Conference standings, you can bet the seniors will be counted on in this contest.
The winner will be decided on the defensive side of the football - whichever team forces the other to make a mistake or two offensively should do it. With Bell and Flanders, the Bearkats offense may be too dynamic for the Lumberjacks defense.
Prediction: Sam Houston State 45, Stephen F. Austin 28
No. 12 Montana (6-2, 3-2 Big Sky) at Sacramento State (4-4, 3-1)
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. (Max Media)
What to know: After starting the season 1-3, the Sacramento State football team has won three of its last four games - all in the Big Sky Conference - and looks to make it a fourth league win over Montana this weekend. The Grizzlies are coming off a loss at home to Eastern Washington, and will try to climb back up toward the top of the conference standings.
Each team in this contest features a dangerous receiver - Montana's Ellis Henderson and Sacramento State's DeAndre Carter each have 11 touchdown receptions this season. But while the Grizzlies add a dimension to their offense with the running ability of Jordan Canada and Travon Van (who's slowed by an ankle injury), the Hornets lack a strong ground game.
Ezekiel Graham leads Sacramento State in rushing with 322 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Garrett Safron is the team leader in rushing touchdowns with three. If the Hornets present a one-dimensional offense in the game against a talented Montana defensive backfield, it could be a long game for Safron and Carter.
Prediction: Montana 34, Sacramento State 21
No. 3 Eastern Washington (6-2, 4-0 Big Sky) at Idaho State (3-5, 1-4)
Kickoff: 5:05 p.m.
What to know: After beating Montana at Washington-Grizzly Stadium last Saturday, the Eagles travel to Idaho for a matchup with the Bengals which is sandwiched between two games with Montana-based teams.
Eastern Washington faces Montana State in another week in a battle of two (current) Big Sky Conference leaders. Should both squads win their contests this weekend, they will both be undefeated for their Nov. 9 meeting. But that's jumping the gun.
Idaho State has no intentions of rolling over and surrendering to the Eagles. The Bengals are second in the Big Sky and 10th nationally in passing offense, averaging 325 yards per game. And if we've learned anything from last weekend's game against Montana, it's that the Eagles defense is a little too complacent with a large lead and time left on the clock.
Eastern Washington leads the all-time series, 25-9, including six straight over Idaho State. The last time ISU beat the Eagles was on Sept. 24, 2005, which was also the last time the Bengals beat a ranked FCS opponent. Despite the matchup looming next weekend for the Eagles, they should be able to take care of business in Pocatello.
Prediction: Eastern Washington 42, Idaho State 19
No. 21 Delaware (6-2, 3-1 CAA) at No. 7 Towson (8-1, 4-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
What to know: With just three games remaining on its schedule, Towson faces Delaware and then has a bye week before finishing out the final two games of the 2013 season. At 8-1 overall, the Tigers are in good position to at least receive an at-large bid from the NCAA selection committee, although they have had some trouble limiting teams with sharp offenses, which is certainly one of Delaware's best features.
Towson's lone loss came a little over two weeks ago to Villanova, when the Tigers allowed the Wildcats to score 45 points on their home turf. New Hampshire scored 28 in its loss to Towson, while Richmond racked up 32 points just last weekend. And Delaware is a team that has scored less than 30 points in a game only three times this season.
Although Richmond had one of the better run defenses in the FCS prior to its meeting with Towson last Saturday, the Spiders were still victimized by Terrance West, who rushed for a career-best 272 yards and accounted for five Tiger touchdowns. At home against a team giving up an average of 166 yards per game to opponents, West will likely continue to have success.
But Delaware should provide more of a challenge than any other team the Tigers have faced this season. The duo of quarterback Trent Hurley and receiver Michael Johnson will keep Towson defenders Jordan Love and Donnell Lewis on their toes.
Prediction: Towson 42, Delaware 35
North Dakota (2-6, 1-4 Big Sky) at No. 14 Northern Arizona (6-2, 4-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (FSN-AZ+)
What to know: Since making a quarterback switch midway through the Lumberjacks' game with Sacramento State three weeks ago, Northern Arizona is 3-0 with junior signal caller Chase Cartwright exclusively under center.
But production from the quarterback spot is only about a third of the Lumberjacks' team scoring makeup this season. Northern Arizona has relied heavily on senior running back Zach Bauman for offense, which has been inconsistent this season depending on the opponents' game plan. The Lumberjacks also have a defense and special teams unit that has a nose for the end zone.
The Lumberjacks are 3-0 at home this season, while Bauman is just 25 yards shy of becoming the ninth player in FCS history to record four consecutive 1,000- yard rushing seasons. He'll be able to accomplish that and thensome against a defense giving up an average of 145.4 rushing yards per game.
Prediction: Northern Arizona 28, North Dakota 20
No. 18 Central Arkansas (5-3, 2-1 Southland) at Northwestern State (3-5, 0-3)
Kickoff: 8 p.m. (ESPN3.com)
What to know: It's odd, but it seems the Bears are starting to rally around junior replacement quarterback Ryan Howard and are playing better than before senior signal caller Wynrich Smothers went down with a season-ending injury.
The Bears handled Stephen F. Austin last weekend by putting up 66 points against the Lumberjacks, complemented by four Howard touchdown passes. Both the Lumberjacks and Bears recorded 681 yards of total offense.
Northwestern State is up next for the surprising Bears. The Demons dropped to 0-3 in Southland Conference play after a loss to Sam Houston State last Saturday. But it was a positive showing in many ways, as the Demons kept pace with the Bearkats' 233 rushing yards, posting 200 of their own. In the end, Sam Houston State only outgained Northwestern State by 10 total yards.
The Demons, having faced Southeastern Louisiana and Sam Houston State in back- to-back games and now needing to fend off Central Arkansas, have to be somewhat overwhelmed. The Bears, with new offensive leadership, should be able to outpace Northwestern State.
Prediction: Central Arkansas 34, Northwestern State 17
No. 25 Southeastern Louisiana (6-2, 3-0 Southland) at No. 4 McNeese State (7-1, 3-0)
Kickoff: 8 p.m.
What to know: Southeastern Louisiana has enjoyed a strong season, led by quarterback Bryan Bennett, who is about as good a dual-threat quarterback as any in the FCS (John Robertson comes to mind, though Bennett's passing stats have been more impressive, as has his team as a whole).
If someone had said at the beginning of the season that McNeese State and SELA would be meeting with four weeks remaining in the regular season as the co- leaders of the Southland Conference, you'd have thought they were crazy. But it's indeed the case as the teams prepare for this weekend.
McNeese State has maintained one of the better offenses in the country under the leadership of quarterback Cody Stroud, who has the Cowboys' offense ranked fourth in scoring (43.6 points per game). SELA isn't too far behind at 14 in the FCS.
After losses to TCU on the FBS level and South Dakota State, the Lions have rattled off five straight wins, while McNeese has rebounded from a loss to Northern Iowa at the end of September.
This game will feature plenty of offense, but McNeese State has been known to get significant contributions from its return game and, in some cases, its defense.
Prediction: McNeese State 35, Southeastern Louisiana 27
No. 1 North Dakota State (8-0)
No. 17 Wofford (5-3)
No. 19 South Dakota State (5-4)
No. 22 Lehigh (6-2)
Last Week's Record: 13-9 (.590)
Season Record: 152-57 (.727)