In the FCS Huddle: Week 11 Preview

2:12 PM, Nov 7, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This week's matchup between Lehigh and Colgate is not exactly a game many people across the FCS would have circled before the season started.

But with two weeks left in the regular season, and with a handful of teams fighting for their playoff lives, it seems the winner, perhaps even the loser, of this Patriot League contest could have a pretty big impact on the power conferences.

Lehigh (9-0), the only unbeaten team in the FCS, puts its 18-game regular- season win streak on the line at home versus Colgate (6-3, 4-0), which is playing for an outright title and undefeated Patriot League season. Whichever team comes out on top will claim the league's automatic bid to the playoffs.

"You play these games for reasons and now you've got to the point where you're playing for a championship," Colgate coach Dick Biddle said. "That's the point I'm trying to sell. Obviously, you're playing Lehigh, who has a great school and program, but we're playing for the championship. When you're talking about the great program that Lehigh has, well, we have won a lot of championships at Colgate as well."

After starting the season with a 1-3 record, Colgate caught fire and quickly got back into contention in Patriot League play. The Raiders have averaged 55 points in four league games and scored at least 47 points during their five- game win streak.

How or why exactly has the offense been thriving? It probably has a lot to do with the Double-Mac Attack.

Quarterback Gavin McCarney and running back Jordan McCord have both eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season and the duo has accounted for 35 of the team's 37 rushing touchdowns. Last week, in a 65-41 victory over Lafayette, McCord rushed for 203 yards and four touchdowns, while McCarney accounted for five touchdowns and set school single-game records for rushing yards by a quarterback with 288 and total offense in a game (512 yards).

McCarney also is keeping teams honest with his arm. He has thrown for 1,861 yards and 14 touchdowns against five interceptions through nine games this season. Plus, he leads the FCS in scoring, averaging 12.22 points per game.

"We just have to try to control the whole scheme," Lehigh coach Andy Coen said optimistically. "We know they are going to get yards and score points. We don't have the expectation that we're going to go into the game and shut them down or out. But we have to make them work for it. I've seen them break so many tackles and make so many guys miss, both players (McCarney and McCord). We cant afford to do that. That's the biggest challenge."

Even Biddle understands just how remarkable his offense and quarterback have been playing.

"In my opinion, he's (McCarney) the best player in the league," Biddle said. "Obviously, I'm biased, but I think he has really had a run of phenomenal games. His rushing performance last week was the second in school and Patriot League history, and he's quarterback. I think he's the real deal. I hate to say that when you're playing somebody and they hear you say that, but for what we ask him to do, a lot of quarterbacks have never had to do that."

All season long, Lehigh has simply found ways to win. Five of the team's nine wins have come by a margin of three points or less. This includes the latest scare last week, in which it had to erase a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Holy Cross, 36-35.

Whether it be a product of the foundation which Coen has built or it's just players buying into the system, something is working. Lehigh is looking to win its third consecutive league title and third straight trip to the FCS playoffs with a win.

"I think the success that we've had over the last couple of years has really been based off of the character of the kids that have been in the program," Coen said. "This team has constantly answered the bell, they've found a way. I think they do a great job with their own emotions. I don't think we are ever too high or too low and that allows us to re-center ourselves when we need to. Quite often, a lot of the adversity that we've faced this year has been at our own hand, turning the ball over or doing silly things. We have to avoid all of that stuff this week."

Even with a loss, Lehigh could still finish with a 10-1 record, if it can also get past rival Lafayette on Nov. 17. However, the Mountain Hawks would have to earn a at-large playoff bid and it doesn't look like there will be a lot of extra spots for teams from non-traditional power conferences like the Patriot.

"I don't really talk about it much (playoffs). We know what our goals are at the beginning of the season and I think we have done a nice job at keeping focused on that," Coen said. "Our goal lies right before us now, it lies three our four days away. We cant be worried about anything other than that."

The Mountain Hawks lead the Patriot League in scoring defense (20 points per game) and total defense (350 yards per game), while Colgate tops the league in scoring offense (41 points per game) and total offense (510 yards per game).

"It's just a great opportunity, this current group of seniors has not had this opportunity at Colgate since they have been here," Biddle said. "Every other senior group has had a chance or has won a league championship. These kids, this is their first chance to do that. I keep telling them that because it's a great opportunity. We know it's going to be tough playing down there and playing in front of that crowd, but you have got to relish that. That's why we do it."

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

William & Mary Tribe (2-7, 1-5 CAA) at No. 4 Old Dominion Monarchs (8-1, 5-1), noon (Comcast SportsNet)

Series record: Tied, 1-1

Last meeting: Old Dominion 35, William & Mary 31 (Nov. 12, 2011)

What to know: Old Dominion looks to be heading to the playoffs for the second straight year after improving to 8-1 with a 53-27 whooping of Georgia State last week. The Monarchs are ineligible for the CAA Football title, but they are still eligible for an at-large playoff spot.

Interestingly, ODU's run game has become more of a factor in its last couple games. The Monarchs have scored 11 rushing touchdowns versus just four passing touchdowns in the last three games and actually rank fifth in the CAA with 169 yards per game on the ground.

William & Mary's woes continued last week at New Hampshire, although the Tribe competed well. Inconsistency on offense contributed to the team's third straight loss. W&M ranks third in the CAA in total defense, allowing 344 yards per game. However, there's a certain uncertainty as to who will step up on offense for a unit which only ranks ahead of Georgia State and Rhode Island in the conference with 330 yards per game.

The Monarchs have scored 27 rushing and 27 passing touchdowns on the season.

Prediction: Old Dominion 40, William & Mary 24

No. 25 Harvard Crimson (7-1, 4-1 Ivy) at Penn Quakers (4-4, 4-1), noon (NBCSN)

Series record: Harvard leads, 46-34-2

Last meeting: Harvard 37, Penn 20 (Nov. 12, 2011)

What to know: All the marbles in the Ivy League are up for grabs this week as No. 25 Harvard heads to Penn for a clash of the league's two first-place squads. Both teams are coming off of huge wins, as Harvard demolished Columbia, 69-0, and Penn needed a fourth-quarter rally to defeat rival Princeton, 28-21.

Once again, this series will help determine which team will obtain the Ivy League crown. In fact, at least one of the two teams will win the title for the 13th time in the last 16 seasons.

Penn senior quarterback Billy Ragone was named the Ivy's Offensive Player of the Week after leading his team on a 58-yard, 10-play scoring drive to set up a 3-yard touchdown run which proved to be the game-winner. He needs 109 passing yards to become just the third player in program history with 4,000 passing yards in a career.

Harvard signal-caller Colton Chapple established a new school record for single-season touchdown passes with his 19th, 20th and 21st in the win last week. It was the largest margin of victory since the Ivy league began play in 1956 and Harvard's largest output since a 77-0 victory over Cornell in 1890. I think we all remember that one.

Penn holds the advantage at Franklin Field with an all-time record of 19-15-2, which could help, but the Crimson's balanced attack has yet to be fully shut down this season. The Quakers give up 241 passing yards per game and their offense only scores 21 points per game, so a shootout is not the ideal possibility.

Prediction: Harvard 40, Penn 28

Colgate Raiders (6-3, 4-0 Patriot) at Lehigh Mountain Hawks (9-0, 3-0), 12:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

Series record: Colgate leads, 27-21-2

Last meeting: Lehigh 45, Colgate 25 (Oct. 29, 2011)

What to know: When Colgate visits Lehigh this week, not only will the Patriot League title and automatic playoff berth be on the line, but the fate of many bubble teams across the FCS also could become a little bit more clear. The teams have combined for at least a share of the Patriot League title in 13 of the last 15 years.

Lehigh enters the game as the FCS' only remaining undefeated team at 9-0 and the Mountain Hawks erased a 12-point fourth quarter deficit last week at Holy Cross to survive, 36-35. LU has won 18 straight regular-season games, which is the best mark in the FCS. It could tie a Patriot League record of 19 straight league wins with a victory this week.

After a 1-3 start to the season, Colgate has won five games in a row and its offense has been unstoppable. During that span, the Raiders have averaged 53 points per game.

The key to the game will be how Lehigh plans to contain quarterback Gavin McCarney and running back Jordan McCord. The "Double-Mac Attack" has accounted for 35 of the team's 37 rushing touchdowns, and McCord averages 152 yards per game and has rushed for 1,368 yards compared to McCarney, who averages 112 yards per game and has rushed for 1,010 yards this season.

Lehigh got one of its best weapons back last week as senior Ryan Spadola returned to the Lehigh lineup after missing time due to mononucleosis. He had eight catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns. The Mountain Hawks have the edge defensively, allowing 350 yards per game.

Colgate allows 31 points per game, including 210 rushing and 201 yards passing per contest. Honestly, whichever team hits 50 points first and/or has the ball last, will win.

Prediction: Lehigh 50, Colgate 45

No. 9 James Madison Dukes (7-2, 5-1 CAA) at No. 21 Villanova Wildcats (6-3, 4-2), 1 p.m.

Series record: James Madison leads, 11-9

Last meeting: James Madison 34, Villanova 10 (Oct. 15, 2011)

What to know: James Madison picked up some steam after last week's convincing 31-7 victory at Maine. The Dukes not only came home feeling good after a long trip up to Maine, but they gained some confidence after allowing a mere 104 total yards and forcing three interceptions.

Quarterback Justin Thorpe answered questions about a possible controversy under center as he replaced freshman Michael Birdsong, coming off the bench to total 111 rushing yards and two touchdowns while throwing for one touchdown pass. The Dukes should feel solid before two key matchups at Villanova this week and versus Old Dominion on Nov. 17.

On the other hand, Villanova lost some momentum after a tough 49-35 shootout loss versus Towson on Oct. 27. The Wildcats need to win out to feel safe on Selection Sunday, but finishing 7-4 would still leave the team with a slight chance of making the postseason.

VU still leads the CAA in rushing, averaging 253 yards per game and it all starts with freshman signal-caller John Robertson (741 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns) and running back Kevin Monangai (894 rushing yards, nine touchdowns).

JMU's rush defense ranks No. 1 in the CAA and 15th in the FCS with 116 yards per game and the Dukes have allowed only five rushing touchdowns this season. Expect coach Mickey Matthews to try to make Robertson beat his team with his arm rather than his legs.

Prediction: James Madison 35, Villanova 33

Murray State Racers (4-5, 3-3 OVC) at No. 22 Eastern Kentucky Colonels (7-3, 5-2), 1 p.m.

Series record: Eastern Kentucky leads, 42-25-4

Last meeting: Eastern Kentucky 34, Murray State 33 (Oct. 29, 2011)

What to know: Eastern Kentucky needs a win this week if it wants a chance at making the FCS playoffs. This game is the Colonels' final regular-season contest. What an opportunity they have to potentially share the Ohio Valley Conference title in the Battle of the Bluegrass versus rival Murray State.

Eastern Kentucky has won seven of the last 10 games in the series, but MSU is a dangerous team regardless of its 4-5 record. The Racers racked up 555 yards of offense last week in a nice win over then-No. 18 Tennessee State. Quarterback Casey Brockman completed 27-of-38 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 19 yards and another score on his way to establishing the OVC career record for total offense (9,945 yards). In fact, he needs 300 passing yards to break the OVC single-season mark.

Eastern Kentucky responded well after a loss versus Eastern Illinois the previous week by defeating Southeast Missouri State, 31-7, last week. Running back Matt Denham passed the 3,000-yard career rushing plateau and he averages 117 rushing yards per game, good for No. 11 in the FCS.

Prediction: Eastern Kentucky 38, Murray State 34

Chattanooga Mocs (5-4, 4-2 SoCon) at No. 13 Wofford Terriers (7-2, 5-2), 1:30 p.m.

Series record: Wofford leads, 10-8

Last meeting: Wofford 28, Chattanooga 27 (Nov. 19, 2011)

What to know: Wofford lost what could be a costly game last week at Samford. The Terriers fell in two overtimes, 24-17, and are now 7-2 overall. With a win earlier in the season versus Division II Lincoln, Wofford likely has to win at least one of its last two games to reach the seven-win Division I plateau. The Terriers' last game on Nov. 17 is at FBS South Carolina. Not an easy task for any team.

In the loss last week, fullback Eric Breitenstein crossed the 5,000-yard mark in his career. He now has 5,091 yards and is just 37 yards behind Shawn Graves for the program's all-time rushing record. At Samford, the Terriers played without six key players, including quarterback Michael Weimer and running back Donovan Johnson, and can only hope to get healthier before arguably the biggest game of the season this week.

Chattanooga trailed Western Carolina, 24-16, at halftime last week, but woke up in the second half to run away for a 45-24 victory. Quarterback Jacob Huesman and running back Kendrix Huitt combined for 267 rushing yards and three touchdowns and the Mocs totaled 367 yards on the ground - the most rushing yards by a UTC team since 1994.

Something has to give in this contest with Wofford and its triple option attack averaging 372 yards per game and the talented UTC defense allowing 142 rushing yards per game.

Prediction: Wofford 33, Chattanooga 30

The Citadel Bulldogs (5-4) at Virginia Military Keydets (2-7), 1:30 p.m.

Series record: The Citadel leads, 35-30-2

Last meeting: The Citadel 41, Virginia Military 14 (Oct. 29, 2011)

What to know: The Citadel and Virginia Military meet for a special matchup in the Military Classic of the South, with the ownership of the coveted Silver Shako on the line. The series resumed last year after a three-year hiatus and VMI hasn't won in the series since 2002.

Potentially, The Citadel still has a shot at making the FCS playoffs, if, and only if, it can win its final two games versus VMI and Furman. Early wins over Georgia Southern and Appalachian State in back-to-back weeks could go a long way for a 7-4 potential-playoff team.

Last week, in the team's final home game of the season, The Citadel took down Elon, 38-24. Running back Darien Robinson rushed for a career-high 178 yards and one touchdown and went over the 100-yard mark for the sixth time this season, the most by a Bulldogs player since Nehemiah Broughton also had six in 2002.

VMI has just two wins through nine games this season and its offense has struggled. The Keydets average 10 points per game, which ranks second-to-last in the FCS and have scored just five rushing touchdowns and six passing touchdowns on the season.

Prediction: The Citadel 34, Virginia Military 17

Howard Bison (6-3) at No. 7 Georgia Southern Eagles (7-2), 2 p.m.

Series record: First meeting

Last meeting: None

What to know: Georgia Southern faces an interesting scenario with two weeks to play after dropping a heartbreaker at home last week versus rival Appalachian State. The Eagles had their FCS-leading 14-game home winning streak snapped in a 31-28 loss, but they still secured a share of their second straight SoCon title thanks to Samford defeating Wofford last week as well.

GSU plays host to Howard in a non-conference game this week and wraps up the regular season on Nov. 17 at the University of Georgia. Coach Jeff Monken better hope his team isn't looking ahead because most likely a win here will earn the Eagles a spot in the FCS playoffs.

The loss versus App State got a little more interesting when hours after the game All-America nose tackle Brent Russell was arrested by campus police. He was charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of a law enforcement officer, and on Monday the school suspended him indefinitely.

Howard improved to 6-3 overall with a 20-10 win over Hampton last week. The Bison allow 26 points per game and score 24 points per contest, but the key will be trying to slow down GSU's triple option attack, which will not be easy. Howard runs the ball for an average of 210 yards per game and only throws for 142.

Expect Georgia Southern to re-focus its attention on the task at hand and to commit to stopping Howard's run game before its pass game, because the Bison have only thrown for seven touchdowns this season.

Prediction: Georgia Southern 42, Howard 17

Butler Bulldogs (8-2, 7-0 PFL) at Drake Bulldogs (6-3, 5-1), 2 p.m.

Series record: Drake leads, 14-6-1

Last meeting: Drake 24, Butler 14 (Sept. 24, 2011)

What to know: With a win in its final game of the season, Butler can secure the Pioneer Football League title outright for the first time in program history. Last week versus Jacksonville, quarterback Matt Lancaster found the end zone from 1 yard out with just two seconds left to help the Bulldogs remain perfect in league play and clinch at least a share of the PFL title.

Drake comes into the contest looking to play the spoiler after a tough 28-13 loss at Dayton, but a win could move them into a tie for the league title. Its defense gives up a pretty balanced amount of yards. Opponents are averaging 162 rushing and 172 passing yards per game. Drake's signal-caller, Mike Piatkowski has the ability to stretch the field as well, having thrown for 2,630 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season.

Butler has been a exciting surprise this season, after being predicted to finish seventh in the PFL in the preseason. Lancaster has thrown for 2,460 yards and 19 touchdowns versus just three interceptions. He also has added 448 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Running back Trae Heeter missed most of the JU game with an injury, but he still leads the PFL in rushing with 109 yards per game. His status will be crucial if Butler wants a victory.

Prediction: Butler 30, Drake 27 (OT)

No. 23 UT Martin Skyhawks (7-2, 5-1 OVC) at Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (2-7, 0-6), 2:30 p.m.

Series record: Tennessee Tech leads, 21-10-2

Last meeting: Tennessee Tech 34, UT Martin 31 (Oct. 1, 2011)

What to know: If UT Martin can find a way to win its final two games, the Skyhawks will secure the Ohio Valley Conference title and the automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. The other OVC team which sits at 5-1 in conference play, Eastern Illinois, lost to UT Martin on Oct. 6. However, a win on Saturday for EIU guarantees it at least a share of the OVC championship.

Few players at most levels of football can say they have thrown for seven touchdowns in one game without an interception, but for UT Martin quarterback Derek Carr, it's becoming a common occurrence.

Carr has threw seven touchdowns with zero interceptions in two games this season. Last week versus Jacksonville State, he threw for 402 yards and the seven touchdowns, matching the TD tosses against Murray State on Oct. 13. Receiver Quentin Sims tied an OVC record by catching five of those passes for touchdowns against Jacksonville State.

Tennessee Tech has struggled this season and is looking to snap a seven-game losing streak. However, the series has been close in the last six years (tied, 3-3) and the away team has won every contest during that span. Expect that trend to continue this year.

If there is any chance UT Martin is looking ahead, the Skyhawks could be in serious trouble. After all, anytime the Sgt. York Trophy is up for grabs, anything can happen.

Prediction: UT Martin 42, Tennessee Tech 30

No. 6 Stony Brook Seawolves (9-1, 5-0 Big South) at Liberty Flames (4-5, 3-1), 3:30 p.m. (MASN)

Series record: Tied, 2-2

Last meeting: Stony Brook 41, Liberty 31 (Nov. 19, 2011)

What to know: Things get extremely interesting this week in the Big South Conference and for plenty of bubble teams around the FCS as well. With a win, SBU can obtain its second straight outright Big South title and the automatic playoff bid. A loss would be devastating - especially with this being the Seawolves' last game of the regular season - because it would open up the door for Coastal Carolina or Liberty to take the title.

The history of the short all-time series alone makes for a heavyweight battle. Liberty has won 17 straight conference home games, with its last loss coming in 2006. The series is tied, 2-2, and in each contest the home team has been victorious. Each of the last three games has had conference title implications.

SBU quarterback Kyle Essington not only has impressive numbers (1,683 yards, 22 touchdowns, four interceptions), but he also is only the second quarterback in Big South history to throw at least 20 touchdowns in consecutive seasons. His passing efficiency rating of 194.18 is good for No. 1 in the FCS and is 24.07 points ahead of the next closest quarterback.

Liberty is led by freshman quarterback Josh Woodrum, who has started seven games and thrown for 1,646 yards and 10 touchdowns versus eight interceptions this season. The running game has improved, as Aldreakis Allen and Sirchauncey Holloway carry the load of snaps and have scored a combined 13 touchdowns through nine games.

The Flames have dropped seven of their last eight matchups against Top 25 opponents and SBU's running game, featuring Miguel Maysonet and Marcus Coker, should prove to be too much to handle.

Prediction: Stony Brook 38, Liberty 31

No. 16 South Dakota State Jackrabbits (7-2, 5-1 MVFC) at No. 1 North Dakota State Bison (8-1, 5-1), 3:30 p.m. (Fox College Sports)

Series record: North Dakota State leads, 53-40-5

Last meeting: North Dakota State 38, South Dakota State 14 (Oct. 22, 2012)

What to know: In the 99th meeting of the Dakota Marker game, both teams enter the contest tied for first place in the Missouri Valley Conference. Similarly, each team won last week on the road. SDSU defeated Southern Illinois on the final play of regulation and it used three field goals to win, 16-12. North Dakota State survived a scare from Missouri State, and although quarterback Brock Jensen threw three interceptions, the Bison managed to hold on for a 21-17 victory.

Clearly, the NDSU's defense is more than capable of leading the team to victory. The Bison lead the FCS in scoring defense with 10 points per game, total defense with 180 yards per game, pass defense at 166 yards per game, defensive third down efficiency at 24 percent and first downs allowed at 10 per game.

South Dakota State does have running back Zach Zenner, who leads the FCS in rushing, averaging 166 yards per game. But in the last three games, he has been held in check. Last week versus SIU, he was held to a season-low 49 yards on 17 carries. Still, he has amassed 1,496 yards through nine games this season.

The Bison also lead the FCS in time of possession, holding onto the ball for 36 minutes and nine seconds per contest and can slow down the pace of the game with its grinding run attack.

SDSU only scores 21 points per game, so don't expect a high-scoring affair between either squad. Quarterback Austin Sumner will need to hold onto the ball and look to targets like Tyrel Kool and Aaron Rollin because NDSU's rush defense is superb.

Prediction: North Dakota State 28, South Dakota State 21

Rhode Island Rams (0-9, 0-6 CAA) at No. 17 Towson Tigers (5-4, 4-2), 3:30 p.m.

Series record: Tied, 6-6

Last meeting: Towson 28, Rhode Island 17 (Nov. 19, 2011)

What to know: Two weeks ago, Towson had a record of 3-4 and essentially needed to win out with road games versus Villanova and Delaware. It didn't look great. Fast forward to Week 11 and the Tigers stand at 5-4 overall and still have a fighting chance to make the FCS playoffs.

Last week versus the Blue Hens, Towson not only kept its own playoff hopes alive, but it likely ended UD's chances with a 34-27 overtime victory. Towson went back to its bread and butter, rushing for 198 yards against the CAA's previous leading rush defense.

As long as the Tigers don't play down to winless Rhode Island this week, the showdown in Durham, N.H., on Nov. 17 versus New Hampshire could set up to be one heck of a contest.

URI averages 9.9 points per contest, which ranks last in the FCS, and is 110th in scoring defense, allowing 37 points per game. The Rams' rush defense gives up 216 yards per game compared to the Towson run game, which averages 204 yards per game.

Prediction: Towson 38, Rhode Island 14

Delaware Blue Hens (5-4, 2-4 CAA) at Richmond Spiders (6-3, 4-2), 3:30 p.m.

Series record: Delaware leads, 19-8

Last meeting: Delaware 24, Richmond 10 (Nov. 12, 2011)

What to know: Last week, Delaware dropped another brutal game, this time in overtime, a 34-27 setback versus Towson. The Blue Hens now have a record of 5-4, and with have a win over Division II West Chester earlier in the season, reaching seven Division I wins is impossible.

Richmond enters the contest following its bye week, and it would be hard to leave the Spiders out of the field of 20 if they can win their final two games of the regular season. RU dominated Rhode Island two weeks ago, blanking the Rams, 39-0.

Quarterback Michael Strauss has been great replacing injured starter John Laub, and in his last two starts he has thrown for six touchdowns and no interceptions. The Spiders in general don't turn the ball over very often and are tied for the lead in the FCS in having thrown only two interceptions through nine games.

In general, UD has to be disappointed after such a strong start to the season and it's tough to compete week in and week out after dropping four of the team's last five games. The Spiders have won three of the last four in the series and coach Danny Rocco's offense can put up some big numbers.

Prediction: Richmond 36, Delaware 28

Furman Paladins (3-6, 2-4 SoCon) at No. 12 Appalachian State Mountaineers (7-3, 5-2), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN3.com)

Series record: Furman leads, 22-17-3

Last meeting: Furman 20, Appalachian State 10 (Nov. 5, 2011)

What to know: Just when Appalachian State looked like it was out of the Southern Conference race, the tide turned after a critical 31-28 victory at Georgia Southern last week. Because Samford defeated Wofford, App State can now clinch a share of the SoCon title with a win this week versus struggling Furman.

Quarterback Jamal Jackson passed for a career-high 383 yards and three touchdowns versus GSU and seems to be fine after a knee injury the previous week against Western Carolina. Freshman receiver Sean Price also set a career highs with seven receptions for 231 yards (a school record for freshmen). The Mountaineers didn't play great on defense, but they came up with huge stops late in the game to steal a road victory.

Furman comes into the game giving up 393 yards per game, which is actually better than ASU's 424 yards per game, but the Paladins rank last in the SoCon in scoring with 24 points per contest. Running back Jerodis Williams averages 112 yards per game on the ground and he ranks No. 3 in the conference in rushing. He has already run for 1,008 yards and scored 10 touchdowns this season.

The Mountaineers understand what's at stake and want to finish strong, especially because this is the team's last game of the regular season.

Prediction: Appalachian State 35, Furman 25

Portland State Vikings (3-6, 2-4 Big Sky) at No. 2 Montana State Bobcats (8-1, 5-10, 3:35 p.m. (ROOT NW)

Series record: Montana State leads, 17-9

Last meeting: Montana State 38, Portland State 26 (October 8, 2011)

What to know: One of the positives of losing before a bye week is that a team can regroup and get healthy. It might have been just what Montana State needed after its Week 7 loss versus Eastern Washington. Running back Cody Kirk is healthy, the defense has stepped up its game and the Bobcats have a chance to make some statements before ending the regular season.

Last week, in a come-from-behind 20-17 victory at Sacramento State, coach Rob Ash tied Sonny Holland for the school's win record by a head coach with 47 victories. MSU turned to Kirk for when they needed him most, as he rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns, giving him five over the last two games. Signal- caller DeNarius McGhee's impressive 33-game touchdown pass streak came to end last week, but the Bobcats still found a way to win.

Montana State leads the Big Sky in total defense (290 yards per game) and rush defense (65 yards per game).

Portland State dropped a tough game versus Northern Colorado last week and it has struggled in the all-time series versus MSU. The Vikings have lost six straight contests and nine of the last 10 games versus the Bobcats, plus they haven't won in Bozeman since 2000.

Prediction: Montana State 40, Portland State 18

No. 3 Sam Houston State Bearkats (7-2, 5-1 Southland) at Northwestern State Demons (4-5, 2-3), 4:05 p.m. (Southland TV)

Series record: Northwestern State leads, 19-15

Last meeting: Sam Houston State 43, Northwestern State 17 (Nov. 12, 2011)

What to know: Sam Houston State can only claim a share of the Southland Conference title with a win over Northwestern State this week because of an early loss to Central Arkansas on Sept. 22. UCA clinched at least a share of the title and locked up the Southland's automatic bid for the FCS playoffs with a win last week.

Still, the talk of the town in the conference and on the national level has been how scary SHSU has looked since the loss versus UCA. The Bearkats have won six straight games and been clicking on all cylinders during that span. Last week versus Southeastern Louisiana, Sam Houston blanked the Lions, 70-0 - the most points for a Bearkats team in Southland Conference play.

Last week, junior Brian Bell became the program's winningest signal- caller with his 26th victory as a starter. Meanwhile, running back Timothy Flanders' 49 career rushing touchdowns rank No. 3 in conference history.

Northwestern State fell to Central Arkansas, 34-14, last week, ending its hopes at a possible Southland title. It was the sixth straight loss for the Demons versus a ranked foe. However, Northwestern State is 4-0 through its first four home games for the first time since 2004 and quarterback Brad Henderson has thrown just two interceptions in his last 336 attempts dating back to last season.

Prediction: Sam Houston State 40, Northwestern State 23

Southern Utah Thunderbirds (4-6, 3-4 Big Sky) at No. 11 Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (8-1, 6-0), 4:05 p.m. (NAU-TV)

Series record: Northern Arizona leads, 12-4

Last meeting: Southern Utah 27, Northern Arizona 24 (Nov. 19, 2011)

What to know: After barely slipping by Northern Colorado two weeks ago, Northern Arizona responded well by winning, 50-10, last week at Idaho State. The Lumberjacks might not get the love in the FCS Top 25, but they are sitting pretty at 8-1 overall. Olus they can clinch at least a share of the Big Sky title with a win.

NAU won't overly impress on offense and everyone knows about running back Zach Bauman (1,055 yards, eight touchdowns) and his abilities. Quarterback Cary Grossart manages the offense well, having thrown 10 touchdowns versus five interceptions this season and he is completing 66 percent of his passes.

Southern Utah will be no cake-walk even with a record of 4-6. The Thunderbirds have the athletes to stay in games offensively and it's the last game of the season for a team which has nothing to lose. Last week at North Dakota, SUU finished with a season-high 520 yards of offense and limited UND to 308 total yards. However, the Thunderbirds still managed to lose.

When you look at Southern Utah's losses in conference play, it doesn't look very bad because it has competed in just about every contest. Expect quarterback Brad Sorensen to end his collegiate career with a bang, but ultimately NAU's defense could shut down the run game and force Sorensen to make tough throws.

Prediction: Northern Arizona 37, Southern Utah 30

UC Davis Aggies (3-6, 2-4 Big Sky) at No. 5 Eastern Washington Eagles (7-2, 6-1), 4:35 p.m. (SWX)

Series record: Eastern Washington leads, 2-0

Last meeting: Eastern Washington 41, UC Davis 31 (Sept. 15, 2007)

What to know: One week after falling off the perch as the FCS' No. 1-ranked team, Eastern Washington defeated Cal Poly, 34-17. EWU will honor its 16 seniors in what could be the last home game of their careers, but the Eagles could change that with two wins to end the regular season.

UC Davis has the advantage of coming off its bye week, but EWU will be the fifth team they've faced this season, which is currently ranked in the FCS Top 25. The Aggies average 26 points per game and give up 29 points per contest. Plus they are just 1-4 on the road this season.

The Eagles have an impressive record in games starting in November and beyond. EWU is 9-0 since 2010 and 18-3 since 2007, and any game played on "The Inferno" is tough for opponents. Wide receiver Brandon Kaufman has reeled in 51 catches for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns and both quarterbacks Vernon Adams and Kyle Padron have the skill sets to lead the offense.

Prediction: Eastern Washington 38, UC Davis 23

Alabama A&M Bulldogs (7-2, 6-2 SWAC) at Jackson State Tigers (5-4, 5-2), 5 p.m.

Series record: Jackson State leads, 14-8

Last meeting: Jackson State 34, Alabama A&M 6 (Nov. 12, 2011)

What to know: Alabama A&M kept its SWAC title hopes alive with a 24-23 overtime victory versus Southern last week. It was the first win for the Bulldogs on Senior Day since 2009, but they had to earn it. Southern led in overtime by six - thanks to a missed extra point - and it looked bleak for A&M facing a 4th-and-11 situation, but the Bulldogs converted and scored just a couple plays later before senior place-kicker Chance Wilson nailed the extra point for the win.

Jackson State picked up another huge victory last week against Grambling State and controlled most of the game. The Tigers' defense allowed just five rushing yards in the 53-17 win and now rank No. 18 in the FCS in allowing just 309 yards per game.

Alabama A&M seeks revenge after a 34-6 beating last season versus the Tigers. Quarterback Deaunte Mason only threw for 96 yards last week, a season-low for the senior who averaged 198 yards per game. His numbers should improve versus a JSU defense which gives up 189 passing yards per game, good for sixth in the conference.

Prediction: Alabama A&M 24, Jackson State 20

Idaho State Bengals (1-8, 0-6 Big Sky) at Cal Poly Mustangs (7-2, 5-2), 9:05 p.m.

Series record: Cal Poly leads, 11-6

Last meeting: Cal Poly 49, Idaho State 10 (Nov. 1, 2008)

What to know: Cal Poly needs to stop the bleeding fast. The Mustangs have quickly dropped two straight games, most recently last week at Eastern Washington, although the loss didn't count toward Big Sky Conference standings so it's not the worst-case scenario. In that game, Cal Poly rushed for 252 yards - far below its season average - turned the ball over three times and scored a season-low 17 points.

The Mustangs can still earn at least a share of the Big Sky title with wins in its final two games of the regular season against Idaho State this week and Nov. 17 at first-place Northern Arizona. First and foremost, CP has to find its groove again, which should be easier with a home contest versus a struggling Idaho State squad that has given up 50 points or more in seven straight games. The Bengals lost versus NAU, 50-10, last week and surrendered 616 yards of offense. Yikes.

Cal Poly needs to win at least one game in the next two weeks to feel somewhat safe for the FCS playoffs. Its defense was tested and exploited last week, which is cause for concern, but Idaho State's defense ranks last in the FCS in allowing 567 yards per game. Slotback Deonte Williams has eight games of 100 or more rushing yards this season, which ties the school record set by James Noble in 2005. Expect that record to be broken this week.

Prediction: Cal Poly 52, Idaho State 28

Last Week's Record: 14-5 (.737)

Season Record: 158-52 (.752)

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