If it feels like there are more games of impact than usual across FCS college football this week, credit the conference title races and implications on the postseason.
Actually, so many games are big.
There’s not a lot of wiggle room remaining, either, so it’s win, win and, no excuses, win.
Here are some of the best games in Week 11 across the FCS (all times ET Saturday unless noted):
FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week/SoCon: No. 10 Samford (8-1, 6-0) at No. 11 Chattanooga (7-2, 5-1)
Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: Samford will clinch a share of the SoCon title with a win, and combined with a Furman victory at Mercer, the Bulldogs would secure an automatic bid to the 24-team FCS playoffs. Michael Hiers has the FCS’ highest completion percentage at 76.4, and it’s 84.7 (105 of 124) in the last three games. The Bulldogs have allowed 22 sacks, so that must be appealing to Chattanooga pass rushers Devonnsha Maxwell and Jay Person, who have a combined 43 sacks and 79 tackles for loss in their career. Ailym Ford has averaged over 25 carries while surpassing 100 rushing yards in four straight games.
The Pick: Chattanooga
(Our FCS playoff bracket projection heading into Week 11)
Big Sky: No. 2 Sacramento State (9-0, 6-0) at Portland State (4-5, 3-3)
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET Friday (ESPN+)
Notable: In Sac State’s QB rotation, Jake Dunniway has a TD pass and Asher O’Hara a TD run in every game, with the unbeaten Hornets ranked third in the FCS in points per game (42.8). PSU, behind emerging QB Dante Chachere (24 total TDs), could attack with the run: The Vikings’ two highest carry and rushing yardage totals are in their last two games, and the three highest carry and rushing yardage totals against the Hornets have occurred in their last three games.
The Pick: Sacramento State
Ivy: No. 24 Princeton (8-0, 5-0) at Yale (6-2, 4-1)
Kickoff: Noon (ESPN+)
Notable: Yale leads 78-55-10 heading into the 144th all-time meeting of the second most-played FCS series behind Lafayette-Lehigh. Yale has scored season highs in back-to-back wins, first 41 points against Columbia, then 69 versus Brown (also the Bulldogs’ highest point total since 1929). Meanwhile, unbeaten Princeton has kept every opponent under 20 points, ranking second nationally in scoring defense (11.4). NFL prospect Andrei Iosivas and fellow Tigers WR Dylan Classi both have four games with 100+ receiving yards.
The Pick: Princeton
MVFC: South Dakota (3-6, 2-4) at No. 19 North Dakota (6-3, 4-2)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: Heading into the 99th all-time meeting, UND has a 62-31-5 series lead, including wins in the last 14 matchups in Grand Forks. It doesn’t help USD to be 0-5 on the road this season. UND, behind efficient QB Tommy Schuster, ranks fifth in the FCS in time of possession (34 minutes, 30 seconds), while USD is 115th (27:02). Coyotes LBs Stephen Hillis (9.8) and Brock Mogensen (9.3) are the MVFC leaders in tackles per game.
The Pick: North Dakota
ASUN: Austin Peay (6-3, 2-2) at Kennesaw State (5-4, 1-2)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: With Austin Peay all but guaranteed a Week 12 loss at Alabama, this is a must-win as far as its playoff resume is concerned. QB Mike DiLiello will target WR Drae McCray, who has a catch in all 20 of his career games (107 overall). KSU, which is on a three-game winning streak, will pound the run against an AP defense that has allowed 443 yards and five TDs on the ground in its last two games. The Owls have an FCS-high 24 takeaways, including defensive backs Markeith Montgomery, Deontre Morris and Chance Gamble with five each.
The Pick: Kennesaw State
WAC: Abilene Christian (6-3) at Sam Houston (5-2)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: This matchup doesn’t count in the WAC standings due to FBS-bound Sam Houston’s ineligibility. ACU, whose last four games have been decided by five or fewer points, is having the best defensive season of its Division I era (since 2013), allowing 351.4 yards and 21.6 points per game. The Bearkats are playing at home for the first time since Sept. 17. Redshirt freshman Zach Hrbacek rushed for 203 yards and two TDs at Tarleton two weeks ago.
The Pick: Sam Houston
Big South: Gardner-Webb (4-5, 3-0) at Campbell (4-5, 2-2)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
Notable: G-W and North Carolina A&T are tied atop the standings and will play for an automatic playoff bid on Nov. 19. A win here would give the Runnin’ Bulldogs their first three-game winning streak since 2013. QB Bailey Fisher has 14 total TDs (rush and pass) and zero interceptions and been sacked only three times in four wins, but it’s seven total TDs, eight picks and 16 sacks in losses. Campbell is 4-0 at home. The Camels are dealing with key injuries, and QB Chad Mascoe Jr. came off the bench to pass for 378 yards and three TDs against Bryant.
The Pick: Gardner-Webb
CAA: No. 12 Richmond (7-2, 5-1) at No. 17 Delaware (7-2, 4-2)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (FloSports/NBC Sports Philadelphia)
Notable: Richmond shares first place in the CAA with New Hampshire and William & Mary. Reece Udinski has a 76.2 completion percentage, and his 22 TD passes are six shy of the school’s single-season record. He’s dealing with a lower-body injury, perhaps making it harder to go up against a UDel defense that has smothered passing attacks, keeping four opponents under 100 yards and allowing 116.9 per game (No. 2 in the FCS). Nolan Henderson’s 25 TD passes are just four shy of the Blue Hens’ single-season record.
The Pick: Delaware
CAA: No. 22 Rhode Island (6-3, 4-2) at No. 21 New Hampshire (6-3, 5-1)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (FloSports)
Notable: Given there are six legitimate playoff candidates in the CAA, this may be an elimination game. URI’s Marques DeShields has reeled off five straight games with 100+ rushing yards and has 12 TDs this season. In Rams’ wins, their defense has allowed 305.5 yards per game, but it’s 200 yards higher in losses. UNH, behind RB Dylan Laube (171.3 all-purpose yards per game), tends to win with the run, so the Wildcats will take aim on URI’s defensive front seven. Talk about defensive balance, the ‘Cats have 10 players between 25 and 40 tackles, led by safety Pop Bush with 40.
The Pick: New Hampshire
MVFC: North Dakota State (7-2, 5-1) at Southern Illinois (5-4, 4-2)
Kickoff: 2 p.m. (ABC North Dakota/ESPN+)
Notable: The bad news for SIU: It needs to beat the defending FCS champion to remain in playoff contention. The good news: The last time the Salukis hosted NDSU in Carbondale on Feb. 27, 2021, they beat the Bison 38-14 to end their FCS-record 39-game winning streak. Before last week’s bye, SIU QB Nic Baker passed for 485 yards and three TDs against UNI. The Bison have kept all of their FCS opponents under 200 passing yards. Fullback Hunter Luepke has scored 21 TDs in his last 16 games.
The Pick: North Dakota State
ASUN: Eastern Kentucky (6-3, 2-1) at Jacksonville State (7-2, 3-0)
Kickoff: 2 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: EKU, the first team outside the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 rankings, has reheated with three straight wins behind QB Parker McKinney (347.6 yards of total offense per game, 30 totals TDs), but the Colonels allow too many points in the fourth quarter (107). JSU’s average time of possession is 24:35, the third-lowest in the FCS. This is the Conference USA-bound program’s second-to-last FCS game.
The Pick: Jacksonville State
SoCon: No. 13 Furman (7-2, 5-1) at No. 14 Mercer (7-2, 5-1)
Kickoff: 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: Both teams are coming off byes. Mercer’s point of emphasis during the break must have been ball security because it has committed 11 turnovers in its last two games. In fact, all seven of QB Fred Payton’s interceptions have come in the last three games after he had none in the first six games. Furman wants to get RB Dominic Roberto (801 rushing yards) going after a subpar game against Chattanooga, but the Mocs know they can rely on TE Ryan Miller (53 receptions), who has a TD catch in all but one game.
The Pick: Mercer
Southland: Northwestern State (4-5, 4-0) at No. 25 SE Louisiana (6-3, 3-1)
Kickoff: 4 p.m. (ESPN3)
Notable: The visiting Demons are a first-place team that’s flying under the radar because they likely need to beat Southeastern Louisiana and definitely have to win against No. 6 UIW on Nov. 19 to be playoff-bound. QB Zachary Clement has 12 of his 17 TD passes in the four Southland wins. SLU QBs Cephus Johnson III and Eli Sawyer shared time under center at Lamar last Saturday, when WR Maurice Massey (10 catches, 150 yards, two TDs) had a breakout performance in a unit that already boasts Gage Larvadain and CJ Turner.
The Pick: Southeastern Louisiana
Pioneer: Davidson (7-2, 5-1) at San Diego (3-5, 2-3)
Kickoff: 5 p.m. (WCCSports.com)
Notable: Davidson is seeking a third straight trip to the playoffs, with Butler and Dayton also in the mix for the PFL’s auto bid (St. Thomas is 6-0 in the league, but ineligible for the playoffs). Davidson is averaging nearly 65 carries per game as well as an FCS-best 372.7 yards on the ground. Dylan Sparks and Coy Williams are over 600 rushing yards and QB Jayden Waddell and Mark McCurdy are nearing 500. Toreros QB Judd Erickson has thrown a three-game streak with three TD passes.
The Pick: Davidson
Big Sky: UC Davis (5-4, 4-2) at No. 15 Idaho (6-3, 5-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: After a 1-4 start, UC Davis is averaging 54 points during a four-game winning streak, and its final assignments against Idaho and No. 2 Sacramento State offer the chance to become a serious playoff contender. RB Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. has six 100+ rushing games this season and 21 in his career (the FCS active high). Idaho QB Gevani McCoy’s 23 TD passes are the most by an FCS freshman, and red-hot WR Hayden Hatten has caught 12 of them in the last five games.
The Pick: UC Davis
Last Week’s Record: 8-4 (.667)
Season Record: 91-42 (.684)
(Need more? Tracking FCS conference champions and postseason qualifiers)