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In the FCS Huddle: Week 6 Preview

11:41 AM, Oct 4, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's not exactly do-or-die time just yet for Towson and James Madison, but both teams enter Saturday's matchup well aware of the high-risk, high-reward opportunity they have when it comes to important early season CAA Football games.

JMU has really lived up to its preseason hype through the first four games, only falling to FBS West Virginia, 42-12, in Week 3 - the same WVU team that scored 70 points last week versus Baylor. The Dukes have had two weeks to prepare for Towson after defeating Rhode Island, 32-7, the previous week, picking up its first CAA win of the season and its third overall.

Although coach Mickey Matthews knows there's cause for concern because his team took a lot of licks versus WVU - including losing starting running back Dae'Quan Scott, who is doubtful this week - he spent the team's bye week a little differently.

"We really needed a week off and that was a positive for us," Matthews said. "Regardless of what happens the rest of the year, strategically it was good to have it (bye week) last week, because in terms of how beat up we were ... I took my grandkids for a picnic, it was really exciting, and they didn't ask me one time, 'How come we don't throw the ball more?' so it was a really good Saturday.

"I did the picnic deal, then I watched the Ryder Cup," he added. " ... If you sit there and watch football games all day, you'll be divorced. What I did was try to be a good guy. It was an enjoyable day actually, I enjoyed it."

Towson's Saturday was just a tad different as it went to Death Valley. All Towson did against LSU, then the FBS' No. 2-ranked squad, was rush for the most yards (188) that the Tigers have given up over last two seasons. While LSU probably didn't expect Towson to actually put up a fight, it still came away with the win.

For coach Rob Ambrose, the effort itself is something that his team could use moving forward.

"Well, certainly, we came away with a loss," he said. "You know, moral victories don't get you a playoff berth, but I'm extremely pleased with our kids' effort. How hard they fought, how they wouldn't back down, and how they truly did play for 60 minutes ... this is just like adding another really big bear to our schedule. We are fighting our way through that one (the LSU game) and setting our eyes forward on the conference schedule. It was a difficult test; I'm hoping it pays off for us in the future."

On paper, this battle should be between two of the CAA's top rushing teams and top defenses.

JMU utilizes quarterback Justin Thorpe with his legs first, then his arm. Running backs Jordan Anderson and Hykeem Brodie are capable of picking up the slack in the backfield for the injured Scott. Towson attacks the line of scrimmage with Terrance West, who has scored seven rushing touchdowns, while signal-caller Grant Enders, like Thorpe, has the ability to beat teams running and throwing the ball.

"It will be interesting," Matthews said. "We feel like we're playing North Dakota State when you break 'em down ... they're between 70-80 percent running the ball and what tells how much they run the ball, they have very few 3rd- and-longs. I think their quarterback, the best thing Enders does, he really competes hard. He is a competitive youngster, you know, he's an excellent runner, he could play running back for most people. He makes a lot of people miss and he's very deceptive."

Both teams defenses rank in the top 10 of the FCS in total defense, with Towson at No. 6 (288 yards per game) and James Madison No. 7 (291 yards per game). Eventually, something has to give.

"From our perspective, we've just jumped out of the frying pan and right back into the fire," Ambrose said. "This is playing either the best, or the top two teams in the CAA. They're the biggest, strongest, most physical team that exists. And they have also had a week of rest. So, I consider this probably to be the biggest challenge, I would have said biggest challenge of the season - we did kind of play LSU - so, it's right up there. We take challenges and decide to make them A-plus-plus challenges, and obviously this is right up there."

With a 2-2 overall record (both loses have come versus FBS schools), Towson essentially needs to win at least five of its last seven games to have any chance at making the FCS playoffs. On the other hand, the Dukes stand comfortably at 3-1 overall, but they haven't exactly played the toughest competition, with the exception of West Virginia.

Either way, with all the storylines, analogies, statistics and angles one could look at entering this game, both coaches know, it's just another week in the CAA.

"It's laughable how hard it is, you can only smile and laugh," Ambrose said. "You go through seven days and you work your butt off against quality competition and quality coaches. You win you, you lose, you don't have time to enjoy any of it because the next punch is coming right afterwards. It's a testimony to everyone in this league. How well we represent ourselves, and how hard we work, how hard we play and the games we put on the field on Saturday."

The following is a game-by-game breakdown for The Sports Network FCS Top 25 and other select games (all times ET):

Friday, Oct. 5

No. 20 Cal Poly Mustangs (4-0, 2-0 Big Sky) at Weber State Wildcats (0-5, 0-2), 8 p.m.

Series record: Weber State leads, 5-3

Last meeting: Weber State 47, Cal Poly 17 (Nov. 21, 2009)

What to know: It has been a rough start for Weber State coach Jody Sears in his first season in Ogden, Utah. The Wildcats have played a respectable schedule, but their offense and defense has struggled mightily. WSU has been outscored 41-0 in the first quarter and 111-12 in the first half, all of which have resulted in losses.

The task becomes even more difficult this week versus a Cal Poly team which has a lot of confidence and momentum. The Mustangs are 4-0 for the first time since 2004 and are ranked third in the FCS in rushing yards with 326 per game. Slot back Deonte Williams leads the Big Sky in rushing at 152 yards per contest and has scored seven touchdowns.

Cal Poly is not going to mess around when you consider the remaining games on its schedule. The Mustangs have a legitimate chance to win the conference in its inaugural season in the Big Sky. Weber gives up 220 rushing yards per game and has given up 16 rushing touchdowns already. That spells trouble for the Wildcats, even at home. Cal Poly ranks first in the conference in scoring defense at 18 points per contest and WSU is last in scoring offense with 16 points per game.

Prediction: Cal Poly 42, Weber State 21

Saturday, Oct. 6

Columbia Lions (1-2) at No. 11 Lehigh Mountain Hawks (5-0), 12:30 p.m.

Series record: Lehigh leads, 10-5-1

Last meeting: Lehigh 63, Columbia 13 (1999)

What to know: Lehigh looks to extend the FCS' longest regular-season win streak (dating back to last year) to 15 games versus its second Ivy League foe. The Mountain Hawks have chance to finish perfect in non-league play for the first time since 2001. The teams haven't met since 1999, but Lehigh is 7-0-1 in the last eight meetings in the series dating back to 1987.

Last week at home versus Fordham, Lehigh needed a 22-yard field goal as time expired to give it a 34-31 win. Quarterback Mike Colvin completed a career- high 24-of-40 passes for 341 yards, another career high, and one touchdown. He also rushed for 61 yards and a score. The senior ranks No. 6 in the FCS in total offense, averaging 308 yards per contest.

The Mountain Hawks have been finding different ways to win each week. Remarkably, despite averaging 139 yards per game on the ground, the Mountain Hawks have scored a combined 13 touchdowns. The passing game has thrown just four touchdowns all season, while All-America wide receiver Ryan Spadola has yet to find the end zone.

Columbia has dropped two games in a row, falling to Princeton, 33-6 last week. The Lions are scoring just nine points per game, which ranks third-from-last in the FCS, and they have scored one rushing touchdown and one passing touchdown through three contests - the fewest in the FCS.

Expect coach Andy Coen to try to run the ball early and often with Zach Barket and Keith Sherman. Moving forward, Lehigh must improve its run game if it wants to return to the postseason.

Prediction: Lehigh 38, Columbia 9

Cornell Big Red (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) at No. 25 Harvard Crimson (3-0, 1-0), 1 p.m.

Series record: Harvard leads, 42-32-2

Last meeting: Harvard 41, Cornell 31 (Oct. 8, 2011)

What to know: In Harvard's 52-3 dismantling of Holy Cross, it was clear the game was over by halftime. The Crimson avenged their only loss of 2011 in impressive fashion, setting a new record of 49 points scored in one half, on way to its third win of the season and 12th straight victory dating back to last year.

Quarterback Colten Chapple has thrown seven touchdowns and is completing 67 percent of his passes. As if the passing game wasn't scary enough, Cornell must account for running back Treavor Scales, who accounts for 130 yards per game on the ground, good for eighth in the FCS. The offense alone is averaging 486 yards of offense per game, including 41 points.

Cornell certainly has its own Ivy League title aspirations and the Big Red know this game could ultimately determine the league's champion. Cornell hasn't won at Harvard Stadium since 2000, while the Crimson have won 10 of the last 11 meetings in the series, with the last Big Red win coming in 2005.

Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathews has put up eerily similar numbers compared to Chapple; he is completing 66 percent of his passes and has thrown seven touchdowns, versus just one interception. Cornell's weakness is its run game (77 yards per contest) as its leading rusher, Luke Hagy, has carried the ball 31 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns, and that's over three games.

Last year's game was a shootout, with Harvard coming away with a 41-31 win in Ithaca, N.Y. The two teams combined for 926 yards of offense and both Chapple and Mathews accounted for seven total touchdowns through the air.

The Big Red won't have a great shot running the ball, due to Harvard's front line, which allows a stingy 59 yards per game. It could be another high- scoring affair in Cambridge, Mass., and the outcome will affect most teams in the league.

Prediction: Harvard 42, Cornell 35

No. 12 Towson Tigers (2-2, 1-0 CAA) at No. 5 James Madison Dukes (3-1, 1-0), 1 p.m. (NBCSN)

Series record: James Madison leads, 17-5-1

Last meeting: James Madison 17, Towson 13 (Oct. 9, 2010)

What to know: James Madison is the only CAA school which Towson has never defeated. The teams didn't meet last season when Towson went on to win the conference title.

JMU is coming off a much needed bye week after finishing September with a 3-1 record. The Dukes' lone loss came against FBS West Virginia in a game which they got physically beat up, so much so that running back Dae'Quan Scott's status this week is still unknown.

Dukes coach Mickey Matthews is in his 14th season and is just one win away from 100 in his coaching career. He is also 9-4 all-time after bye weeks.

Towson fell last week at LSU in a game which made all of the FCS proud. Yes, the Tigers lost, 38-22, but it was in Death Valley and it's impressive when you consider that Towson's 291 total yards (188 on the ground) is the most given up by LSU this season.

It was a terrific effort, but coach Rob Ambrose knows his team must move on. Essentially, Towson must win at least five of its remaining seven contests in order to have a chance of making the FCS playoffs.

Towson gives up 288 yards per game compared to JMU's 291. The key to success in this game will be the effectiveness of each team's passing game. The Tigers have Grant Enders, who doesn't have a huge arm, but is efficient and has the ability to make defenses respect his arm and his legs.

The Dukes' quarterback, Justin Thorpe, found out this week that the NCAA granted him another year of eligibility. He is a terrific athlete who is essentially a running back in a quarterback's body. However, the Tigers defense won't be scared by JMU's passing attack.

Coach Matthews is 7-0 all-time against Towson and the Dukes are 10-1 in the series at Bridgeforth Stadium. However, Towson's passing game is more effective and should be able to keep the Dukes guessing all game long. Matthews might have to wait another week to get win No. 100.

Prediction: Towson 27, James Madison 24 (OT)

Florida A&M Rattlers (2-3, 2-0 MEAC) at Howard Bison (3-1, 2-0), 1 p.m.

What to know: Florida A&M enters this game with three loses, but it has won where it counts, a 2-0 start in the MEAC. Howard has been an interesting surprise, with its only lose coming at Rutgers, 26-0.

Howard picked up a convincing win over Savannah State last week when sophomore running back Aquanius Freeman had a career day, rushing for 212 yards on 13 carries - an average of 16 yards per carry.

The Bison rank last in the MEAC in passing offense, but are second in rushing offense with 217 yards per game.

FAMU is led on offense by its young sophomore signal caller, Damien Fleming. He has thrown for 10 touchdowns, seven of which have gone to wide receiver Travis Harvey (36 receptions, 462 yards). Linebacker Brandon Hepburn has lived up to his All-MEAC status, leading the Rattlers in tackles (40), tackles for loss (5), sacks (3) and passes broken up (5).

This important early season MEAC contest will feature some of the conference's top passing and rushing offenses, but it will come down to turnovers.

Prediction: Florida A&M 23, Howard 17

Furman Paladins (2-3, 1-1 SoCon) at No. 6 Wofford Terriers (4-0, 2-0), 1:30 p.m.

Series record: Furman leads, 51-27-1

Last meeting: Furman 26, Wofford 21 (Oct. 22, 2011)

What to know: In the oldest football rivalry in South Carolina, which dates back to 1889, Furman travels to Spartanburg to face Wofford for the 86th time in the series.

After three straight losses to start the season, Furman looks like a different team in the last two weeks. True freshman Reese Hannon has taken over the starting position under center and played very well. Hannon has thrown for 937 yards and six touchdowns and only been intercepted once.

Last week, the Paladins crushed Western Carolina, 45-24, totaling 619 yards of offense. Running back Jerodis Williams ran for 239 yards and two touchdowns and added a 100-yard kickoff return.

Wofford improved to 4-0 with a 49-24 win at Elon. As if fullback Eric Breitenstein needed to one-up his performances, the senior had a career day, setting a new Southern Conference single-game record with 321 rushing yards as the Terriers ran for 500 yards.

Even more impressive than the No. 1-ranked rushing offense in the FCS at 485 yards per game? The Terriers defense gives up 49 rushing yards and 12 points per game, No. 1 and No. 3 in the FCS, respectively.

This is the toughest opponent Wofford has faced to date and a win would be huge before facing road games at Georgia Southern and Appalachian State. Furman needs to stop Breitenstein before it can focus on anything else. A Paladins win could turn around the season.

Prediction: Wofford 40, Furman 28

San Diego Toreros (2-2, 1-0 PFL) at Drake Bulldogs (3-2, 2-0), 1:30 p.m.

Series record: San Diego leads, 10-9

Last meeting: San Diego 31, Drake 24 (Oct. 15, 2011)

What to know: San Diego bounced back after a 1-2 start to pick up its first Pioneer Football League victory versus Valparaiso in Week 4. The Toreros have had two weeks to prepare for a solid Drake program which has competed well through five games and already won two league contests.

When you look at USD's schedule, it now seems both loses aren't too bad. Its defeats have come to teams currently ranked in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 - No. 20 Cal Poly (4-0) and No. 25 Harvard (3-0).

The Toreros are ranked No. 13 in the FCS with 277 passing yards per game and will have the edge in special teams. Junior wide receiver Sam Hoekstra is a threat any time he returns punts and place-kicker Ernie Collins has been extremely reliable.

Drake's only losses have come versus quality opponents in Montana State and Indiana State. Senior quarterback Mike Piatkowski has thrown for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns and he has plenty of capable targets at the receiver position.

The key to the game will be how Drake's pass defense - allowing 158 yards per game, good for No. 18 in the FCS - handles USD quarterback Mason Mills. The Toreros' run game has been surprisingly quiet, with Kenny James leading the team with just 182 yards.

Prediction: Drake 31, San Diego 24

No. 3 Youngstown State Penguins (4-0, 1-0 MVC) at No. 1 North Dakota State Bison (4-0, 1-0), 2 p.m. (ESPN3.com)

Series record: Youngstown State leads, 4-2

Last meeting: Youngstown State 27, North Dakota State 24

What to know: The only blemish that stood in the way of North Dakota State and a perfect 2011 national championship season was a loss versus Youngstown State in the Fargodome last Nov. 12. In this series, which doesn't have a lot of history, the road team has won the last three contests and every game has been decided by eight points or less.

The Penguins might have a slight advantage coming off a bye week, but in a contest that has so many important implications for both schools, you can throw many aspects out the window.

NDSU remained undefeated last week, thanks to three forced turnovers and four field goals by place-kicker Adam Keller, in a 33-21 victory over Northern Iowa. Quarterback Brock Jensen threw for a career-high 243 yards and sophomore running back John Crockett rushed for a career-high 122 yards and scored two touchdowns.

Youngstown State junior signal caller Kurt Hess leads the FCS in passing efficiency with a rating of 175 and has completed 55-of-83 passes for 765 yards. Like Jensen, Hess has yet to throw an interception.

This game features two of the best rush defenses in NDSU (61 yards per game) and YSU (102 yards per game). Statistically speaking, this should be an absolute battle between two teams which like to establish the run game first and pass if needed.

Very rarely does a team have to play a road contest in back-to-back years versus a conference foe. However, every time the Penguins have made the trip to the Fargodome, they have won. Even more interesting, in each road win, YSU has rallied from an 11-point deficit for the victory.

The tendency of the series says Youngstown should win this game, but ultimately, the Bison defense could prove to be too much for Hess and crew.

Prediction: North Dakota State 26, Youngstown State 23

No. 17 Eastern Kentucky Colonels (4-1, 2-0 OVC) at Tennessee State Tigers (5-0, 1-0), 2 p.m.

Series record: Eastern Kentucky leads, 20-4

Last meeting: Eastern Kentucky 33, Tennessee State 22 (Oct. 22, 2011)

What to know: Tennessee State is 5-0 for the first time since 2001, while Eastern Kentucky is off to its first 4-1 start since 1999. TSU is one of 11 teams in the FCS which are unbeaten and just one of six at 5-0.

Similarly, both teams fell behind last week, but managed to come back and win. After trailing 10-0 to Arkansas-Pine Bluff through the first quarter, TSU's defense stepped up and the offense flipped a switch as the Tigers rolled to a 40-13 victory. Meanwhile, EKU trailed UT Martin 16-7 in the third quarter, but reeled off three touchdowns in the final 17:31 to win, 28-16.

Senior wide receiver Tyrone Goard tied a program single-game record with four receiving touchdowns last week, and has caught at least one touchdown catch in eight of his last 10 games. His quarterback, T.J. Pryor, became EKU's all-time leading passer with 6,085 yards and needs just two touchdown passes and 18 more completions to set even more school records.

TSU might not have the offense like the Colonels - even though it has rushed for at least 200 yards in three of its five contests - but its defense has been stout through its first five games. The Tigers rank No. 25 in total defense, allowing 317 yards per game and are fourth in scoring defense with an impressive 13 points per contest.

In last year's game, EKU running back Matt Denham rushed for a personal-high 226 rushing yards in a pivotal win and he could put up big numbers again. Tennessee State's defense should rise up to the challenge, but the key will be forcing turnovers. The Colonels have turned the ball over just once in the last four games, while Pryor has thrown nine touchdown passes without an interception this year.

Prediction: Eastern Kentucky 27, Tennessee State 21

Southern Illinois Salukis (2-3, 1-1 MVC) at No. 9 Illinois State Redbirds (5-0, 2-0), 2 p.m. (ESPN3.com)

Series record: Southern Illinois leads, 38-33-3

Last meeting: Illinois State 38, Southern Illinois 30 (Oct. 29, 2011)

What to know: Illinois State and Southern Illinois meet for the 75th time in a series which dates back to 1929. SIU has won six of the last nine meetings, but it seems the Redbirds are one of the surprise teams to beat in the Missouri Valley through their first five games.

ISU came away with its fifth win of the season last week at South Dakota, 34-31. Senior quarterback Matt Brown has been phenomenal and is on the way to becoming the program's all-time leader in career passing yards (he has 8,587) and attempts (1,186). He tied the school record with his 62nd career touchdown pass - a 79-yard strike - to break a 24-24 tie in the fourth quarter last week.

If the pass game isn't working for the Redbirds, it can always utilize running back Darrelynn Dunn, who has gained 533 yards and scored nine touchdowns.

SIU was outplayed by Indiana State last week, falling, 24-3. The Salukis need to generate more offense. Right now, they average 18.8 points and 349.6 yards per game, which both rank eighth in the conference.

On the other side of the ball, the secondary has made some adjustments and limited its opponents to under 75 passing yards in two of the last three games. The Salukis have moved up to fifth in the MVFC in pass defense, allowing 204 yards per game.

Senior Eze Obiora is averaging one sack per game and as a defense SIU has already totaled 14 sacks. But the Redbirds have only allowed three sacks in five games.

It's homecoming at Hancock Stadium which should help the Redbirds. The last time Illinois State had a 6-0 record was 1967. Expect the home team to keep rolling.

Prediction: Illinois State 35, Southern Illinois 21

No. 19 The Citadel Bulldogs (3-2, 2-1 SoCon) at Samford Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1), 3 p.m.

Series record: The Citadel leads, 3-2

Last meeting: Samford 19, The Citadel 14 (Nov. 12, 2011)

What to know: The Southern Conference race is now wide open with both The Citadel and Samford losing last week. You could argue this is the most important game of the season for The Citadel because after the hot start with wins over Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, the Bulldogs have dropped two straight games.

Bare in mind, one of those losses came against FBS opponent North Carolina State in Week 4, but in the last two games, coach Kevin Higgins' squad has scored only 24 points and defenses have made the triple option attack stagnant.

The good news? The passing game which had been almost nonexistent in the first two years of the new offense has been vastly improved. Aaron Miller, who gets snaps under center but is not the primary starter, has passed for 323 yards and is only 30 yards shy of the most by a Bulldogs quarterback since the program went to the triple option in 2010. The bad news? Moving forward, the team will be without its leading tackler in Carl Robinson, who suffered a torn ACL last week in a loss versus Chattanooga.

Samford fell on the road last week against Georgia Southern and probably needs a win just as bad as The Citadel, especially when you look at its tough second half of the schedule.

Of course, one of the positives Samford can take out of the defeat last week is the fact that it faces another triple option offense. The Bulldogs defense will be tested yet again against the run, but it gives up 161 yards per game versus 183 through the air. Running back Fabian Truss was held in check last week at GSU, rushing for 50 yards on 19 carries. Expect Samford to get him more involved this week.

After a hot start, The Citadel quarterback Ben Dupree has been limited to just 27 rushing yards on 22 carries in the last two games. If defense can continue to snuff out the Bulldogs' game plan, they could be in trouble.

Prediction: The Citadel 24, Samford 21

Eastern Illinois Panthers (3-2, 2-0 OVC) at UT Martin Skyhawks (3-2, 1-1), 3 p.m.

Series record: Eastern Illinois leads, 12-5

Last meeting: UT Martin 24, Eastern Illinois 23 (Oct. 22, 2011)

What to know: First-year Eastern Illinois coach Dino Babers has ignited the program's offense through its first five games. His Ohio Valley Conference squad has already surpassed the two-win totals of each of the past two seasons.

EIU is third in the FCS in total offense with 522 yards per game and second in passing offense, with 400 yards per contest. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has had a breakout junior season, having already passed for 1,827 yards and thrown 18 touchdowns versus five interceptions.

Last week, in 65-15 blowout of Austin Peay, Garoppolo threw for a career-high 453 yards and five touchdowns - all of which were at least 50 yards - and rushed for another score.

Erik Lora is putting up David Ballesque numbers with 55 receptions for 786 yards and eight touchdowns. Fellow receiver Chris Watkins is feeling the love as well, hauling in 26 catches for 447 yards and five touchdowns.

UT Martin fell for the first time against an FCS opponent, 28-16 to Eastern Kentucky. The Skyhawks led 16-7 in the third quarter, but Colonels receiver Tyrone Goard exploded for three touchdowns in the final 17:3l, essentially winning the game. Quarterback and local product Derek Carr became UTM's all- time leading passer with 6,300 yards, but he has thrown five touchdowns against six interceptions this season.

EIU is third in scoring in the FCS with 47 points per game, while UTM ranks No. 19 in scoring defense, giving up 18 points per game. The OVC is much improved and it appears a handful of teams have the chance to separate itself from the field.

Whoever's defense bends and doesn't brake will come away with the victory.

Prediction: Eastern Illinois 38, UT Martin 37 (OT)

No. 8 Georgia Southern Eagles (3-1, 2-1 SoCon) at Western Carolina Catamounts (1-4, 0-3), 3:30 p.m.

Series record: Georgia Southern leads, 20-2

Last meeting: Georgia Southern 52, Western Carolina 20 (Sept. 24, 2011)

What to know: Georgia Southern has not lost in the series since October 1994. During that span, the Eagles have won 17 straight contests over WCU.

The Catamounts won its season-opener versus Mars Hill, but have since dropped their last four games and are 0-3 in the Southern Conference. It's a tough hole to climb out of, especially when you look at the numbers the defense is giving up.

Opponents are averaging 501 yards per game - fifth-from-last in the FCS - but the biggest concern this week in facing a run-oriented GSU team is the 309 yards per game the Catamounts give up on the ground.

After an early, and somewhat surprising, conference loss at The Citadel in Week 2, Georgia Southern regained its place in the national rankings and the offense has been clicking better. It's a little unsure as to who is the go-to- guy under center, with both Jerick McKinnon and Ezayi Youyoute splitting time. Last week, in a 35-16 win versus Samford, McKinnon, who can also play A-back, took over in the second quarter for the struggling Youyoute and it paid off.

The Eagles don't need to pass because they average 392 yards on the ground per contest, but eventually they will need to go to the air more. Both quarterbacks are a combined 10-of-24 for 157 yards and just one touchdown.

Coach Jeff Monken may have one of the best defenses he has had since taking over prior to the start of the 2010 season, which will be crucial in the coming weeks against tougher competition.

Prediction: Georgia Southern 48, Western Carolina 17

Elon Phoenix (2-3, 0-2 SoCon) at No. 15 Appalachian State Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1), 3:30 p.m.

Series record: Appalachian State leads, 30-9-1

Last meeting: Appalachian State 28, Elon 24 (Nov. 19, 2011)

What to know: Last week, versus a Coastal Carolina squad which looked pretty good entering its contest in Boone, N.C., Appalachian State humbled its visitors, winning in a laugher, 55-14.

The Mountaineers amassed 684 yards of offense and only gave up 114 rushing yards compared to its own 399 yards on the ground. It seems they have found a premiere running back in Steven Miller. The senior rushed for a career-high 202 yards, scoring two touchdowns and averaging 11 yards per carry. In 2011, he only totaled 380 yards, yet through ASU's first five games of this season, he has run for 601 yards and seven touchdowns.

Quarterback Jamal Jackson has settled down a bit and is proving to be more dangerous each week with his feet, averaging 46 yards per game (second on the team). Likewise, it's clear that offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield is understanding his playmakers' abilities more and more. Even redshirt freshman Sean Price has been doing his best Brian Quick impression, catching 26 passes for 361 yards and five touchdowns in three games.

Elon travels to the Rock after a pretty brutal defensive performance against a solid Wofford run attack. Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein rushed for over 300 yards, while Elon as a team managed just 49 rushing yards.

Aaron Mellette snagged 13 passes for 177 yards and signal caller Thomas Wilson threw for over 300 yards, but it didn't matter. Elon's run game is its biggest weakness, allowing 237 rushing yards. Opponents have scored a combined 14 touchdowns on the ground.

Also understand this is the last of a harsh three-game stretch versus the meat of the SoCon for Elon. Mellete and Wilson should get their numbers, but once again, the opposing team's offense is too explosive.

Prediction: Appalachian State 38, Elon 24

Maine Black Bears (1-3, 0-1 CAA) at No. 16 Delaware Blue Hens (4-1, 1-1), 3:30 p.m. (Comcast Sports Net)

Series record: Delaware leads, 23-8

Last meeting: Maine 31, Delaware 17 (Oct. 1, 2011)

What to know: Both teams are searching for answers after disappointing losses last week.

Delaware held New Hampshire scoreless in the first half - the first time a team has accomplished that since 2000 - but after halftime, the Blue Hens couldn't get anything going on both sides of the ball. In the second half, UNH scored on its first six possessions to come away with a 34-14 win. The Blue Hens' loss snapped a seven-game win streak dating back to last year.

Despite passing for 409 yards against Villanova, courtesy of quarterback Marcus Wasilewski, Maine rushed for a total of 11 yards on way to dropping its second straight contest. The Black Bears could not stop the run, as 'Nova totaled 314 yards on the ground, with running back Kevin Monangai going for 192 of those yards.

UD is 13-4 all-time in the series when playing at Delaware Stadium, and overall the Blue Hens have won five of the last eight matchups. Running back Andrew Peirce hasn't found the success that Delaware expected from its stud junior. He enters the contest with 3,410 career rushing yards, and this season, he has totaled 476 yards, but scored just two touchdowns.

Coach K.C. Keeler had concerns last week with his young team because of its inability to make adjustments after such a solid first half. However, Maine looks like a team which has yet to find its identity.

Since taking over in 2002, Keeler has an impressive 17-5 record playing at home following a road loss. That number should grow to 18 and the Blue Hens could be back in good shape entering their bye week.

Prediction: Delaware 34, Maine 17

No. 14 New Hampshire Wildcats (3-2, 1-1 CAA) at Georgia State Panthers (0-5, 0-2), 3:30 p.m.

Series record: First meeting

Last meeting: None

What to know: With Montana dropping out of The Sports Network FCS Top 25 for the first time in 195 consecutive weeks, New Hampshire now holds the FCS' longest streak of weeks ranked in the Top 25. It's fitting for a program which in 2004 made its first-ever trip to the state of Georgia and took down Georgia Southern in the FCS playoffs. It was the first playoff win in UNH history, and that season sparked the current ranking streak.

If you watched the first half last week against Delaware - in which the Wildcats only had 63 total yards - few would have believed they would end up winning comfortably, 34-14. The Wildcats defense held the Blue Hens to 234 yards and a mere 92 yards in the second half and its adjustments proved vital for a team which faced a second straight Top 10 opponent.

Georgia State is still searching for its first win of the season after falling on the road versus William & Mary last week, 35-3. The game was close in the first half, but W&M capitalized off four interceptions and three lost fumbles and, as a result, scored 28 points off the GSU turnovers.

The only consistency the Panthers have had on offense has been senior running back Donald Russell. He ranks second in the CAA in rushing with 98 yards per game and is fourth in all-purpose yards with 122 per contest.

Ronnie Bell made his first start under center last week, marking the fifth different starter over the last two seasons. He threw four interceptions, but it looks like coach Bill Curry will stick with the redshirt freshman.

Sophomore quarterback Andy Vailas really wasn't considered to be in the mix for the starting role earlier this summer. He has been solid filling in for the injured Sean Goldrich and has forced the Wildcats to remain with him moving forward. If Valais can keep limiting turnovers, UNH could set itself up nicely in the coming weeks.

Like fellow CAA head coach Mickey Matthews, UNH coach Sean McDonnell needs one win to reach No. 100 in his coaching career.

Prediction: New Hampshire 40, Georgia State 21

Montana Grizzlies (2-3, 0-2 Big Sky) at Northern Colorado Bears (1-3, 0-1), 3:35 p.m.

Series record: Montana leads, 11-1

Last meeting: Montana 55, Northern Colorado 28 (Oct. 1, 2011)

What to know: Everyone in the Big Sky Conference, and fans across the FCS, wants to know how Montana will respond after dropping to 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 1992. The Grizzlies lost a 32-26 heartbreaker at Eastern Washington, blowing a 26-17 lead with less than three minutes remaining.

The biggest news all week in Missoula has been the fact the Griz dropped out of The Sports Network FCS Top 25 for the first time since 1998, ending a streak of 195 consecutive weeks in the Top 25.

It was a pretty remarkable feat that may never be replicated again, yet coach Mick Delaney must have his squad move one, because by no means are the Griz out of the conference title race.

UM's passing game has to improve, not only in terms of signal-caller Trent McKinney limiting turnovers (six touchdowns versus seven interceptions), but also the receivers need to become more of a factor. Through the first five games, the team's leading pass catcher, Sam Gratton, is averaging only 48 yards per game.

Northern Colorado is coming off a bye week, which should help a little bit, but the Bears only have one win versus a non-FCS school. UNC's weakness is its run offense, which is gaining only 75 yards per game.

The only positive about the loss at EWU last week for Montana is the fact the Griz can realize they don't necessarily have to be perfect, but just have to become better week by week.

Prediction: Montana 38, Northern Colorado 17

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (2-3, 1-0 Southland) at No. 9 Sam Houston State Bearkats (2-2, 0-1), 4 p.m. (Southland TV) - Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas

Series record: Sam Houston State leads, 49-35-2

Last meeting: Sam Houston State 45, Stephen F. Austin 10 (Oct. 8, 2011)

What to know: In the 87th meeting of the Battle of the Piney Woods, Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin face off at Reliant Stadium in Houston. It couldn't be a more important contest for both teams because a win could keep postseason hopes alive and a loss would cause a must-win situation for the rest of the season.

Stephen F. Austin might have an overall record of 2-3, but it is perfect where it matters most, at least for now, in Southland Conference play. The Lumberjacks won in the rain last week versus Central Arkansas, 42-37, snapping a tough three-game road losing streak.

You can never really count out quarterback Brady Attaway and his talented corps of receivers. Amazingly, SFA averages 99 rushing yards per game, but running back Gus Johnson has scored nine touchdowns on the ground and rushed for 480 yards. Of the 482 yards of offense per contest, 383 yards come through the air.

Sam Houston State got back its confidence with an impressive, 50-6 victory over Texas Southern last week. Running back Timothy Flanders is on the verge of becoming only the 11th player in Southland history to gain 3,000 rushing yards in a career, having rushed for 2,967 yards over the past two-plus years. There's no question SHSU can defend the run, but can it defend the high- powered, pass-heavy attack of SFA?

The Bearkats really can't afford another blemish on the season and their secondary has the skills to make it hard for Attaway to find open receivers.

Prediction: Sam Houston State 42, Stephen F. Austin 35

Charleston Southern Buccaneers (1-3, 0-0 Big South) at No. 13 Stony Brook Seawolves (4-1, 0-0), 6 p.m.

Series record: Stony Brook leads, 3-1

Last meeting: Stony Brook 50, Charleston Southern 31 (Nov. 5, 2011)

What to know: Charleston Southern can look at its matchup at Stony Brook in two ways. First, it's good news that Stony Brook handily defeated Army for the program's first-ever FBS win, because the Seawolves will overlook a Buccaneers team which is coming off a much needed victory and a bye week. Or second, it's really bad news because the Seawolves proved how good its run attack is this season.

SBU enters Big South play after finishing its non-conference slate with a 4-1 record, which is impressive when you consider the opponents. The Seawolves are 19-4 in their Big South history, and it looks like they could have very little trouble once again this season.

The Seawolves offense really doesn't have to pass the ball very often because the ground game has had a lot of success. Miguel Maysonet has already hit the 800-yard mark and scored nine total touchdowns, including 220 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in last week's win. His backup, Marcus Coker, hasn't been as effective as expected, but that's because Maysonet has had wide-open lanes to run through all year.

Quarterback Kyle Essington has attempted just 75 passes and his primary target is almost always wide receiver Kevin Norrell (19 receptions, 470 yards, three touchdowns). Likewise, SBU has gotten off to fast starts in every game, outscoring opponents 76-7 in the first quarter.

Charleston Southern ended a 15-game losing streak by defeating Division II Shorter, 23-20, in Week 4. The Bucs are pretty overmatched this week on both sides of the ball. CSU allows 252 rush yards per game and its offense is gaining just 244 yards per game, which ranks in the bottom 10 of the FCS.

That being said, the Bucs have nothing to lose and won't simply roll over, but SBU is too big up front and should have no problem attacking the line of scrimmage.

Prediction: Stony Brook 48, Charleston Southern 21

Nicholls Colonels (1-2, 0-0 Southland) at No. 24 Central Arkansas Bears (3-2, 1-1), 7 p.m.

Series record: Central Arkansas leads, 4-2

Last meeting: Central Arkansas 37, Nicholls 31 (Oct. 8, 2011)

What to know: After picking up an impressive win over Sam Houston State in Week 4, Central Arkansas had the hangover bug one week later versus a very underrated Stephen F. Austin team. In a rainy and sloppy contest, in which both teams combined for 13 fumbles (eight lost) and three interceptions, UCA managed just 217 yards, losing, 42-37.

Quarterback Wynrick Smothers was added to The Sports Network's Walter Payton Award Watch List this week and clearly he has the ability to perform better than last week's debacle of a game. The Bears are still averaging 40 points per game and 394 yards per contest, but the Lumberjacks found some weaknesses in their defense, which is now giving up an alarming 429 yards per game.

On the other hand, Nicholls is coming off a bye week after ending its 12-game losing streak with a convincing, 73-17 victory versus Evangel in Week 4. The Colonels offense was outstanding, setting both conference and program records with 751 yards of total offense, and it passed for over 300 yards for just the second time since 1998. No disrespect to Evangel, but it's not even close in comparison to the talent on UCA.

Nicholls will have its hands full on the road at Estes Stadium - where the Bears has yet to lose a contest on their purple and gray turf - against a Central Arkansas team that wants to prove it can get back on track in Southland play.

Prediction: Central Arkansas 42, Nicholls 20

No. 2 Montana State Bobcats (5-0, 2-0 Big Sky) at UC Davis Aggies (2-3, 1-1), 7:15 p.m. (Root NW)

Series record: Tied, 1-1

Last meeting: Montana State 38, UC Davis 14

What to know: Montana State racked up its fifth win of the season last week at Southern Utah, but the Bobcats had to earn it. SUU tied the game with 8:29 to play and after one of four MSU turnovers, the Thunderbirds missed a field goal to go ahead for the first time. Then quarterback DeNarius McGhee led a 12- play, 67-yard game winning drive to give the Bobcats the 24-17 win.

For the second straight week, Montana State heads to another stadium which it has never played in. Coach Rob Ash has to be pleased with the way his team has battled at SUU, considering it won without the team's leading rusher, leading receiver and two starting offensive linemen.

UC Davis took down a deflated Weber State team last week, winning, 37-13. The Aggies snapped a three-game losing streak and earned their first-ever Big Sky Conference win. UC Davis is only averaging 315 yards per game, while quarterback Randy Wright has been inconsistent, throwing four touchdowns versus five interceptions. But he played better last week.

Both teams like to run the ball, but MSU has the advantage in the passing game and on defense. The status of running back Cody Kirk is still unknown, so expect Tray Robinson and Orenzo Davis to pick up the slack. The Bobcats defense is giving up just 63 yards per game (fourth in the FCS) on the ground and opponents have scored a mere three rushing touchdowns.

A win could set up MSU nicely for its big-time matchup next week versus Eastern Washington. However, Ash should have his players focused enough to get the job done this week.

Prediction: Montana State 38, UC Davis 17

North Dakota (3-2, 1-1) at No. 7 Eastern Washington Eagles (3-1, 2-0), 8:05 p.m.

Series record: First meeting

Last meeting: None

What to know: The No. 7-ranked Eastern Washington Eagles picked up a huge win last week at home versus Montana. It looks like coach Beau Baldwin will use redshirt freshman Vernon Adams moving forward under center.

It certainly wasn't the prettiest of wins - EWU gave up 407 rushing yards - but Adams played great when it counted. The Eagles scored two touchdowns in the final 2:19, aided by a successful onside kick, while Adams found receivers Brandon Kaufman for a 30-yard strike and Ashton Clark for a 20-yard score, which proved to be the difference.

This is the first-ever meeting between the two schools, and it seems the key to the game for North Dakota will be defending the pass. UND is ranked No. 28 in the FCS in rush defense, allowing 191 yards per game, and Eastern Washington has struggled to get anything going on the ground for most of the season.

North Dakota is coming off its second loss of the year, falling to a good Cal Poly squad last week, 35-17 at home. The offense, which averages 40 points per game, scored a season-low 17, as four turnovers, a blocked field goal and a snuffed fake punt were causes for the defeat. UND led early in the fourth quarter, 17-14, but fell apart.

Quarterback Marcus Hendrickson has been solid after filling in for injured starter, Braden Hanson, in Week 2. He ranks 10th in FCS and second in the Big Sky in total offense (286 yards per game), with 1,246 yards passing and 183 yards on the ground. Hendrickson is also eighth in the FCS in passing efficiency, completing 58 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

Expect Eastern's Kaufman to extend his 100-yard receiving streak to six straight contests - having already hauled in 24 catches for 559 yards and five touchdowns - because the Eagles shouldn't have much success find any running lanes. UND will try to get off to a fast start and also has a talented weapon for Hendrickson to play catch with in Greg Hardin (24 receptions, 495 yards, seven touchdowns).

EWU has been a perfect 15-of-15 in the red zone this season, scoring eight touchdowns and seven field goals. That could be the key in this game.

Prediction: Eastern Washington 35, North Dakota 33

Last Week's Record: 20-5 (.800)

Season Record: 85-22 (.794)

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