Is it mid-December? It sure feels like it.
Well, give or take about 40 degrees warmer in Brookings, South Dakota, on Saturday.
The FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week always stands out, but No. 3 Montana State at No. 1 South Dakota State (full Stats Perform FCS Top 25 Poll) is a rematch from the semifinal round of the last two FCS playoffs, and it’s considered the top non-conference matchup of the 2023 regular season.
The home team was the winner in each semifinal, Montana State in 2021, then South Dakota State last December on its way to capturing its first national championship. (The 2023 FCS championship game will be played on Jan. 7, 2024)
With the Game of the Week leading the way, here is a preview and predictions for the FCS’ best Week 2 matchups (all times ET):
No. 3 Montana State (1-0) at No. 1 South Dakota State (1-0)
FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (ESPN+/Montana Television Network)
Notable: The two semifinal-round matchups were relatively clean games with just two turnovers (both by SDSU in 2021) and 135 combined penalty yards. MSU outscored SDSU 14-0 in the second half of a 31-17 win in the 2021 showdown, while the Jackrabbits used a dominant first half and a 284-87 advantage in rushing yards to win 39-18 last December. The Bobcats unveiled national freshman of the week running back Scottre Humphrey while they rushed for FCS highs of 407 yards and seven touchdowns in a season-opening rout of Utah Tech. SDSU is 20-1 when RB Isaiah Davis scores a touchdown and 15-1 when he rushes for 100+ yards. MSU leads the all-time series 11-6, but SDSU has won four of the last five games.
The Pick: South Dakota State
No. 5 Holy Cross (1-0) at Boston College (0-1)
Kickoff: Noon (ACC Network Extra/ESPN+)
Notable: Holy Cross has defeated an FBS opponent in two consecutive seasons – UConn 38-28 in 2021, then Buffalo 37-31 last year on Matthew Sluka’s game-ending, 46-yard TD pass to Jalen Coker. Junior RB Jordan Fuller has scored 27 TDs and passed for one more in 25 career games. Boston College’s 27-24 overtime loss to Northern Illinois to open the season marked its eighth loss in its last 11 home games.
The Pick: Boston College
No. 11 New Hampshire (1-0) at Central Michigan (0-1)
Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: UNH RB Dylan Laube, the 2022 FCS leader in all-purpose yards per game, had a Week 1-high 229 yards on 21 touches while scoring three TDs in a 51-17 victory at Stonehill. Max Brosmer’s five TD passes went to different receivers. CMU’s negative-18 turnover margin last season was worse than all but Northwestern in the FBS (the Chippewas were -1 in an opening loss at Michigan State).
The Pick: New Hampshire
St. Thomas (1-0) at South Dakota (0-1)
Kickoff: 2 p.m. (Midco Sports)
Notable: St. Thomas, the defending Pioneer Football League champion, has an 18-4 record since moving from Division III to the FCS in 2021, but the Tommies are 0-2 against D-I non-conference opponents (outscored 88-16). Last season, USD linebackers Stephen Hillis and Brock Mogensen led the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 115 and 107 tackles, respectively.
The Pick: South Dakota
Southern: No. 8 Samford (1-0) at Western Carolina (0-1)
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. (Nexstar/ESPN+)
Notable: Samford went unbeaten in the Southern Conference while capturing its first outright title last season, and Michael Hiers passed for four touchdowns in a 35-12 win over Western Carolina. The host Catamounts have dropped five straight games in the series, and have been turnover-plagued since 2021, committing 44 in 13 losses (five at Arkansas in the opener), but only 19 in 10 wins.
The Pick: Samford
Northern Arizona (0-1) at No. 17 North Dakota (1-0)
Kickoff: 4 p.m. (ESPN+/Midco Sports 2)
Notable: NAU has lost 13 straight games to ranked opponents, including 27-24 in last year’s matchup. Linebacker Alex McLaughlin opened his Lumberjacks career with 10 tackles, two pass breakups and a sack in a loss at Arizona. UND’s Tommy Schuster was 22 of 26 for 262 yards and three TDs in a win over Drake to raise his career completion percentage to 66.8, the highest among active FCS quarterbacks. This is the second of five 2023 Big Sky-MVFC Challenge series matchups (the MVFC leads 1-0).
The Pick: North Dakota
No. 12 Weber State (1-0) at No. 21 Northern Iowa (0-1)
Kickoff: 5 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: While Iowa State pulled back in the second half of a 30-9 win over UNI, the Panthers allowed only 250 yards and 2 of 11 third-down conversions to the Cyclones. Theo Day (3,121 passing yards, 26 TDs last year) seeks to get on track to help UNI build on an 18-4 record in home openers under coach Mark Farley. Weber State has led the Big Sky in total defense and scoring defense in five of the last six seasons. Abraham Williams has scored on a kickoff return of 100+ yards in five of his last nine games.
The Pick: Northern Iowa
Kennesaw State (1-0) at Chattanooga (0-1)
Kickoff: 6 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: This is the first meeting between two schools that are separated by less than 100 miles. KSU is transitioning toward the FBS as an FCS independent this season, having beaten Tusculum 38-7 in its opener behind QB Jonathan Murphy (309 yards of total offense, three total TDs). The Mocs suffered a 41-27 upset loss at North Alabama, allowing the first 21 points, scoring the next 27, then giving up 20 in a row. Workhorse RB Ailym Ford has 18 career games of 100+ rushing yards and six more of 90+ yards, including against UNA.
The Pick: Chattanooga
LIU (0-1) at Bryant (0-1)
Under-the-Radar Game of the Week
Kickoff: 6 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: Both teams are considered conference dark horses, Bryant in the Big South-OVC and LIU in the Northeast Conference. LIU defensive end Eric O’Neill had 3.5 tackles for loss against Ohio University, giving him 17.5 in the Sharks’ last five games. Bryant QB Zevi Eckhaus ranked fourth in the FCS in passing yards per game (293.5) last season. Ryan Clark scored on his only two carries against UNLV (both one-yard runs).
The Pick: Bryant
Elon (0-1) at Gardner-Webb (0-1)
Kickoff: 6 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: The kickoff time makes this the season’s first matchup between 2022 FCS playoff qualifiers (Elon won head-to-head 30-24 in the regular season). Elon RB Jalen Hampton may have gotten started on another 1,000-yard season with 89 plus a TD against Wake Forest. G-W held a 24-21 lead in the third quarter at Appalachian State before allowing the final 24 points. Running back Jayden Brown gained 112 yards and three TDs from scrimmage.
The Pick: Gardner-Webb
Jackson State (1-1) at Southern (0-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: This rivalry game is a rematch of last year’s SWAC championship game, but it doesn’t count toward conference records. JSU wide receiver Rico Powers is averaging 26.8 yards on eight receptions, including a 66-yard TD from Zy McDonald. Against Alabama State, Southern was 4 of 14 on third downs, but 4 of 5 on fourth-down conversions. Jalen Campbell had a SWAC weekly high with 15 tackles.
The Pick: Jackson State
No. 18 North Carolina Central (1-0) at North Carolina A&T (0-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (FloSports)
Notable: NCCU had lost four straight times to its rival by a combined 136 points before winning last year’s game 28-13 behind QB Davius Richard (four total TDs: two passing, two rushing). Eagles PK Adrian Olivo is 36 of 43 (83.7%) on career field goal attempts. N.C. A&T, seeking its first win for coach Vincent Brown, must improve against the pass after UAB QB Eli Brickhandler was 38 of 41 (92.7%) last Saturday.
The Pick: North Carolina Central
Abilene Christian (1-0) at Prairie View A&M (1-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (PVAMU Sports Network)
Notable: ACU won last year’s matchup 21-13. With size on the offensive line and at running back, the visiting Wildcats will seek to build off 268 rushing yards against Northern Colorado – Jeremiah Dobbins had 83 yards, Jay’Veon 76 and a TD, and Xavier Wishert 58 and two scores. Carlos Villagomez’s OT field goal was the difference as PVAMU scored the final 20 points of a 37-34 win at Texas Southern.
The Pick: Abilene Christian
No. 7 Idaho (1-0) at Nevada (0-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (Nevada Sports Network/Mountain West Network)
Notable: Idaho is 0-8 against FBS opposition since its return to the FCS in 2018. All-America WR Hayden Hatten has caught 18 TDs in his last nine games, and RB Anthony Woods is coming off his first two-TD game as well as 138 rushing yards against Lamar. Nevada lost to an FCS opponent last season (55-41 to UIW).
The Pick: Idaho
Last Week’s Record: 11-3 (.786)
Overall Record: 14-3 (.824)