No. 1 vs. No. 2.
It feels as though the FCS college season has led to Saturday’s showdown between defending national champion North Dakota State and South Dakota State, but it’s only midseason, so a playoff encore may follow down the road.
The FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week is just the second regular-season meeting in subdivision history between the top-two ranked teams, so, yes, this year’s Dakota Marker rivalry isn’t just special, it’s rare.
Here are the big games in Week 7 across FCS college football (all times ET on Saturday):
FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week/MVFC: No. 2 South Dakota State (5-1, 3-0) at No. 1 North Dakota State (5-1, 3-0)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. (ABC ND/ESPN+/Midco SN)
Notable: Heading into their 113th all-time meeting. NDSU holds a 63-44-5 series lead, but SDSU has captured the last two games. The winning team has had a higher time of possession in the last 18 meetings since 2008 – NDSU 12 times and SDSU six times. The host Bison boast depth at running back led by Hunter Luepke (478 yards, 8 touchdowns) and TaMerik Williams (career-high 145 yards, 3 TDs last week), while SDSU relies on standout Isaiah Davis (626 yards, 5 TDs). SDSU has held all six opponents under 100 rushing yards, and all but one under 75, but NDSU hasn’t held any below 100 rushing yards. SDSU QB Mark Gronowski targets the Janke twins, wide receivers Jaxon (159 receptions, 2,325 yards, 19 TDs in career) and Jaxon (81-1,324-17). NDSU signal caller Cam Miller is coming off his first game over 200 passing yards this season.
The Pick: North Dakota State
CAA: No. 14 Elon (5-1, 3-0) at co-No. 25 Rhode Island (3-2, 1-1)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (FloSports)
Notable: Elon’s season-ending win over URI last November was its fourth straight in the series and likely kept the Rams (7-4) from earning their first FCS playoff bid since 1985. In that game, URI QB Kasim Hill had a career-best 394 passing yards. The Phoenix lead the CAA in average time of possession (33:28), with QB Matthew McKay ranking fifth in the FCS in total offensive yards per game (320.7).
The Pick: Rhode Island
(CAA Football has six teams in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 rankings)
NEC: Stonehill (3-0, 1-0) at Sacred Heart (3-2, 1-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (NEC Front Row)
Notable: Stonehill has played only once since Sept. 10, when it won its NEC opener over Duquesne on Oct. 1 to earn FedEx Ground FCS National Team of the Week. While Sacred Heart has been inconsistent this season, it’s the two-time defending conference champ and a winner of 12 straight home games. The Pioneers are 3-0 this season and 8-1 the last two seasons when Malik Grant has 100+ rushing yards.
The Pick: Sacred Heart
Ivy: Columbia (3-1, 0-1) at Penn (4-0, 1-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: Columbia coach Al Bagnoli is 3-3 against the Penn program he guided for 23 seasons from 1992-2014. This year’s Quakers squad is off to its best start since Bagnoli guided a 10-0 campaign in 2003. Trey Flowers, who rushed for 149 yards and two TDs against Georgetown last Saturday, will test a Columbia rush defense that allows just 27.5 net rushing yards per game and 1.3 yards per carry.
The Pick: Penn
(Ivy League’s Bagnoli, Murphy, Teevens form Division I’s one-of-a-kind coaching trio)
New Hampshire (4-2) at Dartmouth (1-3)
Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: UNH’s Dylan Laube rushed for 75- and 53-yard TDs in last year’s Granite Bowl, and ranks second in the FCS in all-purpose yards per game (166.8) this season. Dartmouth seeks to halt its first three-game losing streak since 2011 (two in overtime and 24-21 at Yale). QB Nick Howard missed the Yale loss due to injury, but junior Dylan Cadwallader had two TD passes and one score on the ground in his first career start.
The Pick: New Hampshire
Big Sky: Idaho (3-2, 2-0) at No. 3 Montana (5-0, 2-0)
Kickoff: 3 p.m. (Montana TN/ESPN+)
Notable: Montana has claimed the Little Brown Stein in the last seven meetings, four of which occurred when Idaho was an FBS program. Since the start of the 2021 season, Griz LB Patrick O’Connell has 30.5 tackles for loss and 21 sacks. In his last four games, Vandals QB Gevani McCoy has completed over 75% of his passes with nine TDs and no interceptions.
The Pick: Montana
CAA: No. 17 Villanova (3-2, 1-1) at No. 21 Richmond (3-2, 1-1)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. (FloSports/MASN)
Notable: Both teams enter the important matchup off a bye. Richmond QB Reece Udinski leads the FCS in completions (167) and completion percentage (77), while Villanova’s Connor Watkins is No. 1 in yards per attempt (12.64) and yards per completion (19). ‘Nova ranks 130th and last nationally with just two sacks, so Udinski’s quick release won’t help the Wildcats.
The Pick: Richmond
Southern: ETSU (3-3, 1-3) at No. 12 Mercer (5-1, 3-0)
Kickoff: 4 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: The SoCon title was on the line when ETSU edged Mercer 38-35 to end the 2021 regular season. This season, the Bears are tied with Samford atop the conference standings and have allowed just 19 points (one touchdown) in three home wins. The matchup boasts the SoCon’s leading scorers in Mercer WR/KR Devon Harper (12 TDs) and ETSU RB Jacob Saylors (10). Mercer QB Fred Payton has passed for 16 TDs without an interception.
The Pick: Mercer
Southland: co-No. 8 UIW (5-1, 2-1) at Nicholls (1-5, 1-1)
Kickoff: 4 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: The host Colonels just earned their first win in walk-off style, and now host their former quarterback from the 2021 spring and fall seasons, UIW’s Lindsey Scott Jr. The transfer just passed for seven touchdowns in one half, joining Colonels place-kicker Gavin Lasseigne as two players coming off national player of the week honors.
The Pick: UIW
Stony Brook (0-5) at No. 22 Fordham (5-1)
Kickoff: 6 p.m. (SNY/ESPN+)
Notable: In leading the FCS’ No. 1-ranked offense, Fordham QB Tim DeMorat has 30 TD passes, the most by a subdivision player through six games in over 25 years. Stony Brook has not scored more than 14 points in a game, its offense set back by injuries at running back and now run by true freshman QB Charlie McKee.
The Pick: Fordham
ASUN-WAC: Sam Houston (2-2) at No. 23 Eastern Kentucky (3-2, 3-1)
Kickoff: 6 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: Both teams are coming off byes. EKU QB Parker McKinney ranks fifth among FCS QBs in total offensive yards per game (354.2). Sam Houston QBs have yet to complete above 50% of passes in a game, but the Bearkats offense boasts accomplished pass catchers in Cody Chrest (157 career receptions), Ife Adeyi (124) and Noah Smith (87).
The Pick: Eastern Kentucky
Big Sky: No. 5 Sacramento State (5-0, 2-0) at Eastern Washington (1-4, 0-2)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: Sac State, the only FCS team yet to trail in a game this season, seeks to match the best start in program history (6-0 1991). The Hornets are 23-1 under third-year coach Troy Taylor when they have 30+ carries, their rushing attack this season led by RB Cam Skattebo (539 yards, 5 TDs) and platoon-QB Asher O’Hara (330, 8). EWU, hurt by one of the FCS’ tougher schedules, is surrendering 548.6 yards per game, which ranks last in the nation. The Eagles’ streak of 15 consecutive winning seasons is in jeopardy.
The Pick: Sacramento State
SWAC: Alcorn State (3-2, 2-0) at Southern (3-2, 2-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: Southern had lost 10 of the 11 previous meetings against Alcorn State before winning 38-35 last season on Luke Jackson’s 47-yard field goal with one second remaining. QB BeSean McCray is averaging 7.8 yards per carry and has only been below 75 yards against LSU. Alcorn RB Jarveon Howard, a Syracuse transfer, has games of 194 yards and a TD against Stephen F. Austin and 295 yards and four TDs against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. While Southern wants to run the ball, the Braves are tied for second nationally in sacks per game (four).
The Pick: Alcorn State
ASUN-WAC: Tarleton (4-1, 3-0) at Stephen F. Austin (3-3, 2-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: SFA leads the ASUN-WAC Challenge power rankings, which will determine an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. Tarleton, second in the rankings, but ineligible for the playoffs, is 10th in the FCS in yards per game (475.2), with Montana State transfer WR Jaden Smith (30 receptions, 564 yards, 6 TDs) off to a big start. SFA WR Xavier Gipson is a big-play machine (41.2-yard average on 33 career TD catches), but the Lumberjacks are 9-0 since 2020 with 150+ rushing yards.
The Pick: Stephen F. Austin
Last Week’s Record: 13-1 (.929)
Season Record: 56-23 (.709)