By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This just in ...
There are big games in the FCS this week besides the Super Saturday showdowns of No. 1 Georgia Southern at No. 5 Appalachian State in the Southern Conference and No. 2 Northern Iowa at No. 3 North Dakota State in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
In fact, there are plenty of treats - and maybe some trick plays - this Halloween weekend.
The two Top 5 games stand tallest considering the implications for conference titles and playoff seeds. But, wow, is the schedule loaded with games featuring either a conference's top two teams or the teams sitting right behind the leader.
The reason Alabama State is so close to a second straight title game appearance is because Jackson State (6-1, 4-1) in ineligible to be the East representative because of Academic Progress Rate penalties. But the Tigers and star quarterback Casey Therriault can put a crimp in the championship plans of West Division leader Prairie View A&M (4-3, 4-2) when they meet at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La. Prairie View doesn't hold the tiebreaker over second-place Arkansas-Pine Bluff (4-3, 3-2).
The other FCS conference for Historically Black Colleges and Universities has a meeting of top squads, too. MEAC leader Norfolk State (6-2, 4-1) still owns first place after last week wild's scenario of three of the top four teams, including the Pirates, losing to conference opponents. Coach Pete Adrian's squad is home against North Carolina A&T (4-3, 3-1), which is tied for second place with Morgan State (4-3, 3-1).
The Ohio Valley Conference will have its biggest game to date with first-place Jacksonville State (5-2, 4-0) hosting Tennessee Tech (4-2, 3-1), which shares second place with Eastern Kentucky. Tennessee Tech is coming off its second bye in three weekends, with a loss in between, so it hasn't tasted victory since Oct. 1.
Eastern Kentucky (4-3, 3-1), with an upcoming game at Jacksonville State on Nov. 5, clings to title hopes, too. The Colonels visit Murray State (4-3, 2-2), which still has realistic playoff aspirations, in another big OVC game.
The Great West Conference may have only five teams, but the two which are 2-0 in conference play - South Dakota (5-3) and Cal Poly (4-3) - meet in San Luis Obispo, Calif. The winner clinches at least a share of the title in the conference's final season for football. Cal Poly has won more titles than any member school with three, while South Dakota is seeking its first one.
Cal Poly will head to the Big Sky Conference next year, and that's where the pivotal match-up of third-place Weber State (3-4, 3-1) at second-place Montana (6-2, 5-1) takes place on Saturday. The winner will still have a realistic chance of catching first-place Montana State (7-1, 5-0).
Back east, there are other big games, and we're not even talking about CAA Football.
Two-time defending Ivy League champion Penn (4-2, 3-0) is making its move toward another title, but the race will open up more if the Quakers don't win at Brown (5-1, 2-1). The host Bears' only loss is to Harvard (5-1, 3-0), which shares first place with Penn.
In the Northeast Conference, second-place Duquesne (6-2, 4-1) travels to third-place Monmouth (4-3, 3-1). They're the only teams that realistically can catch first-place Albany (5-2, 4-0). Monmouth has a home game against Albany on Nov. 12, but Duquesne doesn't have the tie-breaker with the Great Danes because of a head-to-head loss.
CAA? Nah, we'll call you ordinary this week.
OK, GSU-ASU, TOO
While Appalachian State gets to concentrate on stopping Georgia Southern's triple option, which leads the FCS in rushing yards per game (369.7) and points per game (44.6), the Mountaineers can rely on the experience of playing the similar offenses of Wofford and The Citadel.
What's changed in the last two weeks is that Georgia Southern's defense is now preparing for redshirt sophomore Jamal Jackson at the controls of ASU's multiple spread offense. Jackson has been so good in two starts - 40-for-67 for 524 yards and five touchdowns, with 80 yards and a touchdowns on 15 carries - that senior DeAndre Presley, who was third in the 2010 Walter Payton Award (sponsored by Fathead.com) balloting, has switched from starting quarterback to playing cornerback.
"I think you have to prepare for a system the best you can," GSU head coach Jeff Monken said. "They certainly recruit the quarterbacks to that offense to play in that system. So we're going to prepare for that. What we don't have is the luxury of seeing Jamal play multiple football games. With him having only played the last couple of games, we've got film of him doing those things and try to anticipate what they may do differently with him.
"They're just so super talented. Jamal's an outstanding quarterback, a terrific athlete. I'm very impressed with how well he throws the football. And it says a lot for that system just for a guy like that who hasn't started a football game, hasn't played a whole lot, has the (2010) players of the league (Presley) in front of him, to be able to step in and have the confidence to run the offense and lead the team and score as many points as they have, says a lot for that kid, for the football program."
ASU has a 13-12-1 series lead, although it was upset by GSU as the No. 1- ranked team last year. In the last five meetings, two have gone to at least one overtime, another game was decided in regulation by one point and yet another by three points.
AND, YES, UNI-NDSU, TOO
If Missouri State head coach Terry Allen didn't have a more pressing concern - Saturday's Homecoming game against South Dakota State - he wouldn't mind taking in the Northern Iowa-North Dakota State showdown.
"I'd love to see it," said the former UNI head coach. "I think it will be a great football game. I think both of them do the things that you need to do - they play good defense, they both protect the football. Obviously, it's in the Fargodome. I would think it will a swing game either way."
North Dakota State ranks first (11.6 ppg) and UNI (13.3 ppg) second in the FCS in scoring defense. UNI is plus-13 in turnovers, ranking fourth nationally with a 1.86 margin per game, while North Dakota State is plus-11, tied for sixth with a 1.57 margin per game. They also are among the nation's best in offensive and defensive red zone efficiency.
UNI holds a 25-18 series lead, including wins in each of the last three years. Last season's game was defensive-oriented with Panthers defensive tackle Ben Boothby collecting four sacks in a 16-9 victory in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Watch lists for some of the FCS national awards were updated each of the last two weeks. The awards page can be found here.
FCS PLAYOFF PROJECTION...
Once again this season, In the FCS Huddle is projecting the potential FCS playoff field. The projections are a long-range look at the season - not based off current records or rankings - and can be found at FCS Bracket
Thirteen teams that were in our preseason bracket remain in the current version.
AROUND THE NATION
Monken had the top line of week when asked about the best way to defend NFL- bound wide receiver Brian Quick of Appalachian State. "Food poisoning probably," the Georgia Southern coach said ... Half of the 10 Great West games have been played in this final season for the conference and the margin of victories are six, five, four, four and three points. Said Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh: "I was in the Big Sky for about 11 years and when you were good, you could point to the bottom teams and say you were going to beat those teams. There are no 'wins' in this league. Top to bottom, this is the most balanced league I have ever been part of." ... Perennial Pioneer Football League power Dayton will play its 1,000th game Saturday at struggling Valparaiso. The Flyers are 627-345-27 all-time for the 10th-most wins in FCS history ... The biggest CAA game this week pits No. 9 James Madison (5-2, 3-1) at No. 15 Old Dominion (6-2, 3-2). It's more than a match-up of the CAA's No. 1 scoring offense (ODU, 36.8 ppg) against its No. 1 scoring defense (JMU, 18.7 ppg). ODU's third-year program, under coach Bobby Wilder, has punt a dent into the recruiting of James Madison and coach Mickey Matthews ... William & Mary senior Michael Paulus or sophomore Brent Caprio likely will be back as the starting quarterback Nov. 5 at Rhode Island (the Tribe have a bye this week) after Michael Graham had surgery Monday to repair a broken finger on his throwing hand ... How's this for moving up the ladder: Tim Flanders's 162 rushing yards for Sam Houston State against McNeese State last weekend jumped him from 24th to 14th on the Bearkats' career rushing chart. The sixth-ranked Bearkats (7-0, 4-0 Southland Conference), off to their best start since 1964, host Lamar on Saturday ... Yes, we remember you. Army hosts Fordham on Saturday in their first meeting since 1949. The two schools also met in 1891 and 1899, and Army holds a 3-0 series lead ... Patriot League quarterbacks Chris Lum of Lehigh (382.4 ypg) and Ryan Taggart of Holy Cross (341.3) rank 1-2 in the FCS in total offense ... Three of the FCS' four 1,000-yard rushers through Week 8 are from the Northeast Conference. Besides Missouri Valley leader Shakir Bell (1,248), there's the NEC trio of Bryant's Jordan Brown (1,308), St. Francis' Kyle Harbridge (1,041) and Duquesne's Larry McCoy (1,016) ... Missouri State wide receiver Jermaine Saffold is two yards shy of tying Steve Newbold's school career receiving yardage mark of 1,990, set from 1977-80 ... Murray State senior kicker Kienan Cullen, with 50 career field goals, is two field goals away from tying the OVC record, which Kelly Potter set for Middle Tennessee State from 1981-84 ... Austin Peay will start freshman quarterback Landon Curtis against Eastern Illinois because junior starter Jake Ryan has a sprained MCL, suffered last weekend against Southeast Missouri State ... In its 13 straight home wins against Big South opponents, 23rd-ranked Liberty has averaged 47.5 points per game, including more than 30 each time, and surrendered 17.2 ppg. This week's victim: Presbyterian ... Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet needs 67 rushing yards against Coastal Carolina to reach 2,000 in his career ... Former Montana State head coach Mike Kramer returns to Bozeman with his Idaho State squad. The Bengals have lost 31 straight road games dating back to 2006 ... Speaking of Idaho State, senior wide receiver Kelvin Krosch has decided to end his career due to injuries and illness ... It's probably not surprising The Citadel, a military school, leads the FCS in fewest penalties (2.9) and fewest penalty yards (20.9) per game ... Two weeks after their Oct. 15 post-game brawl, Southern gets back to action with its Homecoming game against Alcorn State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff hosts Grambling State. The SWAC will stagger the suspensions of 40 Southern and UAPB players over the next three Saturdays ... Three of the 16 members of the 2011 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Class are from FCS schools: Northwestern State linebacker Yaser Elqutub (3.85 GPA in scientific inquiry); South Dakota running back Chris Ganious (3.81, psychology); and Yale quarterback Patrick Witt (3.89, history).
JUST THE PICKS
Last Week's Record: 37-19 (.661)
Season Record: 411-123 (.770)
All Times EST
Saturday, Oct. 29
X-Albany (5-2, 4-0 NEC) at Wagner (1-6, 1-3), noon
Rhode Island (2-5, 1-3 CAA) at X-No. 10 New Hampshire (5-2, 3-1), noon
X-No. 9 James Madison (5-2, 3-1 CAA) at No. 15 Old Dominion (6-2, 3-2), noon
X-Central Connecticut State (2-6, 1-4 NEC) at St. Francis, Pa. (1-7, 0-5), noon
Sacred Heart (4-3, 2-2 NEC) at X-Robert Morris (2-5, 2-2), noon
X-Drake (6-2, 4-1 PFL) at Marist (3-5, 2-3), noon
X-No. 7 Lehigh (6-1, 1-0 Patriot) at Colgate (4-4, 0-2), noon
X-Yale (3-3, 2-1 Ivy) at Columbia (0-6, 0-3), noon
Penn (4-2, 3-0 Ivy) at X-Brown (5-1, 2-1), 12:30 p.m.
Cornell (2-4, 0-3 Ivy) at X-Princeton (1-5, 1-2), 1 p.m.
Georgetown (6-2, 2-1 Patriot) at X-Holy Cross (4-3, 2-0), 1 p.m.
X-Morgan State (4-3, 3-1 MEAC) at Delaware State (2-5, 0-4), 1 p.m.
X-South Carolina State (4-4, 3-2 MEAC) at Howard (4-4, 3-2), 1 p.m.
VMI (1-6) at X-The Citadel (3-4), 1 p.m.
Massachusetts (4-3) at X-Richmond (3-4), 1 p.m.
X-Campbell (4-3, 3-2 PFL) at Davidson (2-5, 0-4), 1 p.m.
Duquesne (6-2, 4-1 NEC) at X-Monmouth (4-3, 3-1), 1 p.m.
Western Illinois (2-5, 1-3 MVFC) at X-Youngstown State (4-3, 2-2), 1 p.m.
Charleston Southern (0-7, 0-2 Big South) at X-Gardner-Webb (2-5, 1-2), 1:30 p.m.
Elon (4-4, 2-3 SoCon) at X-No. 12 Wofford (5-2, 3-1), 1:30 p.m.
X-Georgia State (2-5) at UTSA (2-5), 1:30 p.m.
North Carolina A&T (4-3, 3-1 MEAC) at X-Norfolk State (6-2, 4-1), 2 p.m.
Furman (4-3, 3-2 SoCon) at X-Chattanooga (4-4, 2-3), 2 p.m.
X-Dayton (5-3, 3-2 PFL) at Valparaiso (0-7, 0-4), 2 p.m.
X-Bethune-Cookman (4-3, 2-2 MEAC) at North Carolina Central (1-6, 0-4), 2 p.m.
X-Hampton (4-3, 2-2 MEAC) at Savannah State (1-6, 1-3), 2 p.m.
Eastern Kentucky (4-3, 3-1 OVC) at X-Murray State (4-3, 2-2), 2 p.m.
Idaho State (2-6, 1-4 Big Sky) at X-No. 4 Montana State (7-1, 5-0), 2:05 p.m.
X-No. 1 Georgia Southern (7-0, 5-0 SoCon) at No. 5 Appalachian State (5-2, 3-1), 3 p.m.
UC Davis (2-5, 0-1 Great West) at X-Southern Utah (4-4, 0-3), 3 p.m.
Lamar (3-4, 1-2 Southland) at X-No. 6 Sam Houston State (7-0, 4-0), 3 p.m.
X-Texas Southern (3-4, 1-4 SWAC) at Mississippi Valley State (0-8, 0-7), 3 p.m.
Western Carolina (1-6, 0-5 SoCon) at X-Samford (4-3, 2-3), 3 p.m.
South Dakota State (2-6, 1-4 MVFC) at X-Missouri State (1-7, 1-4), 3 p.m.
Weber State (3-4, 3-1 Big Sky) at X-No. 11 Montana (6-2, 5-1), 3:05 p.m.
X-No. 8 Maine (6-1, 4-0) at Villanova (1-7, 0-5), 3:30 p.m.
Fordham (1-6) at X-Army (2-5), 3:30 p.m.
Presbyterian (2-5, 1-1 Big South) at X-No. 23 Liberty (5-3, 3-0), 3:30 p.m.
X-No. 16 Alabama State (6-1, 6-0 SWAC) vs. Alabama A&M (5-2, 4-1) at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., 3:30 p.m.
Grambling State (3-4, 2-3 SWAC) at X-Arkansas-Pine Bluff (4-3, 3-2), 3:30 p.m.
No. 22 Illinois State (5-3, 3-2 MVFC) at X-Southern Illinois (2-5, 1-4), 3:30 p.m.
North Dakota (4-3) at X-Northern Colorado (0-8), 3:35 p.m.
No. 25 Tennessee Tech (4-2, 3-1 OVC) at X-No. 14 Jacksonville State (5-2, 4-0), 4 p.m.
Coastal Carolina (4-3, 1-2 Big South) at X-Stony Brook (4-3, 2-0), 4 p.m.
X-Northwestern State (4-3) at Texas State (5-3), 4 p.m.
McNeese State (3-4, 2-2 Southland) at X-Stephen F. Austin (2-5, 1-2), 4 p.m.
X-No. 2 Northern Iowa (6-1, 5-0 MVFC) at No. 3 North Dakota State (7-0, 4-0), 4 p.m.
Portland State (4-3, 2-2 Big Sky) at X-Eastern Washington (4-4, 4-2), 4:05 p.m.
Henderson State (4-3) at X-South Alabama (4-3), 5 p.m.
Eastern Illinois (1-7, 0-6 OVC) at X-Austin Peay (2-5, 2-3), 5 p.m.
X-No. 19 Jackson State (6-1, 4-1 SWAC) vs. Prairie View A&M (4-3, 4-2) at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La., 5 p.m.
Dartmouth (2-4, 1-2 Ivy) at X-No. 24 Harvard (5-1, 3-0), 6 p.m.
No. 21 Delaware (4-4, 2-3 CAA) at X-No. 13 Towson (6-1, 4-0), 6 p.m.
Bucknell (4-4, 1-2 Patriot) at X-Lafayette (2-4, 0-1), 6 p.m.
Alcorn State (2-4, 1-4 SWAC) at X-Southern (2-5, 2-3), 6:30 p.m.
Southeastern Louisiana (2-5, 0-3 Southland) at X-Central Arkansas (5-3, 4-1), 7 p.m.
Southeast Missouri State (2-5, 2-3 OVC) at X-UT Martin (4-3, 3-2), 7:30 p.m.
No. 17 South Dakota (5-3, 2-0 Great West) at X-Cal Poly (4-3, 2-0), 9:05 p.m.
Northern Arizona (2-5, 1-4 Big Sky) at X-Sacramento State (3-4, 2-3), 9:05 p.m.