This week’s frequent launch of conference play across FCS college football is sponsored by the Big Sky.
Not literally, but it sure feels that way.
The conference with the most nationally ranked teams is putting them to the test right out of the gate: No. 4 Sacramento State travels to No. 7 Idaho for the FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week, No. 3 Montana State visits No. 10 Weber State, and No. 15 UC Davis hosts Eastern Washington, which is just three spots outside the Top 25.
Among the other Big Sky games, No. 12 Montana travels to Northern Arizona, which hasn’t been an easy trip over the last 15 years.
With the Game of the Week leading the way, here is a preview and predictions for the FCS’ best Week 4 matchups (all times ET):
Big Sky: No. 4 Sacramento State (3-0, 0-0) at No. 7 Idaho (2-1, 0-0)
FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week
Kickoff: 4 p.m. (ESPN+/CW31)
Notable: This may wind up being the only game between two teams that defeated FBS opponents this season, and it’s definitely the first top-10 matchup at the Kibbie Dome since No. 6 Idaho defeated No. 8 Northern Iowa 21-12 on Nov. 5, 1994. Sac State has won 22 consecutive regular-season games and 19 in a row in the Big Sky, including a 31-28 thriller over the Vandals last year. Having gained 299 rushing yards in that win, this past week’s FedEx Ground FCS National Team of the Week will seek a ground game behind quarterback Kaiden Bennett and running back Marcus Fulcher. Vandals QB Gevani McCoy spreads the ball to wide receivers Hayden Hatten (1,330 yards, 18 TDs in last 11 games), Jermaine Jackson and Terez Traynor.
The Pick: Idaho
SoCon: No. 21 Mercer (2-1, 0-0) at No. 8 Furman (2-1, 0-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (Nexstar/ESPN+)
Notable: Furman held Mercer to a season-low point total in last year’s 23-13 win. Paladins QB Tyler Huff had four TD runs and completed passes to 10 different receivers in Furman’s 31-28 win over Kennesaw State last Saturday. Mercer is coming off a bye week after Devron Harper racked up 322 all-purpose yards in a 48-22 win over Morehead State. Harper and WR Ty James represent a tough assignment for a Paladins defense that is off to a subpar start after the pass (983 yards, eight TD allowed in three games). It’s a unit, though, that has forced 37 takeaways in its past 16 games.
The Pick: Furman
Patriot: Colgate (0-3, 0-0) at No. 6 Holy Cross (2-1, 0-0)
Kickoff: 2 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: Holy Cross has defeated its last 17 Patriot League opponents by an average of 24.9 points (the PL winning streak is considered 16 because the league doesn’t include the spring 2021 championship game). Crusaders QB Matthew Sluka is coming off a career-high six total TDs against Yale and has 72 in 29 games since the start of the fall 2021 season. Colgate, which has lost six straight games, has only one touchdown this season.
The Pick: Holy Cross
CAA: No. 17 Rhode Island (2-1, 2-0) at No. 21 Villanova (2-1, 0-0)
Kickoff: 2 p.m. (FloSports)
Notable: URI has the early lead in CAA Football’s 15-team race. Kasim Hill ranks third in the FCS in passing yards per game (313.7), and WR Kahtero Summers was one receiving yard shy against Georgia State from having three 100+ games. Since 2021, Villanova is 13-2 when it rushes for 150+ yards, and 5-7 when below it, and the veteran RB trio of Jalen Jackson, DeeWil Barlee and TD Ayo-Durojaiye is nearing 5,000 career yards collectively (4,862).
The Pick: Villanova
SoCon: Chattanooga (2-1, 1-0) at No. 20 Samford (1-2, 0-1)
Kickoff: 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: The defense of defending SoCon champ Samford, which lost to Western Carolina in its conference opener, has been on the field an average of 35 minutes, 36 seconds per game. Over the last two seasons, the Bulldogs are 11-0 when Michael Hiers passes for 2+ TDs, but 1-4 when that doesn’t happen (he had four against Chattanooga in a 35-24 victory last season). The Mocs can control game clock with RB Ailym Ford, who’s on pace for a fourth 1,000-yard season, but QB Chase Artopoeus (eight TD passes) is providing offensive balance.
The Pick: Samford
Pioneer: Dayton (2-1, 0-0) at San Diego (0-3, 0-0)
Kickoff: 5 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: This matchup involves two new head coaches – Dayton’s Trevor Andrews and San Diego’s Brandon Moore – and the programs with the most Pioneer Football League championships (12 each). UD RB Michael Neel has posted back-to-back 100-yard games as the Flyers continue to replace longtime standout Jake Chisholm. The Toreros have a plus-five turnover margin despite the winless start, but QB Dom Nankil has been sacked 13 times.
The Pick: San Diego
SWAC: Alabama State (1-1, 0-0) at No. 22 Florida A&M (2-1, 1-0)
Under-the-Radar Game of the Week
Kickoff: 6 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: FAMU has won 16 straight home games – the FCS’ second-longest active streak – and would take full control of the SWAC’s East Division race with a victory. The Rattlers defense been strong with defending third downs (opponents are under 30 percent conversions), and linebacker Isaiah Major (21 tackles) and defensive end Anthony Dunn Jr. (seven tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks) are off to big starts. ASU’s Kisean Johnson has three straight games of 100+ receiving yards since last season.
The Pick: Florida A&M
No. 16 Southeast Missouri (2-1) at Eastern Kentucky (0-3)
Kickoff: 6 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: EKU won last year’s matchup 28-23, but comes in as a desperate team, seeking to avoid its first 0-4 start since 1934. Wide receiver Jaden Smith collected a career-high 10 receptions against Western Carolina and has 21 this season. SEMO is tied for the FCS high with a +7 turnover margin. While Geno Hess is most dangerous as a rusher (4,322 yards, 56 TDs in career), his 10 receptions are a career high.
The Pick: Southeast Missouri
CAA: No. 11 New Hampshire (2-1, 0-0) at No. 19 Delaware (2-1, 1-0)
Kickoff: 6 p.m. (FloSports/Delaware Sports Network)
Notable: These CAA powers meet for the first time since 2019, when UNH’s then-freshman QB Max Brosmer (6,093 passing yards, 51 TDs in career) had a career-low 77.1 passer rating in a 16-10 loss. Dylan Laube owns three of the FCS’ top eight performances for all-purpose yards, averaging 274.3 per outing. The Blue Hens are 14-3 at home this decade. Marcus Yarns hasn’t been stopped behind the line of scrimmage and has averaged 11.4 yards over 29 carries – highest among FCS players with 10+ carries.
The Pick: New Hampshire
CAA: Elon (1-2, 1-0) at Campbell (2-1, 1-1)
Kickoff: 6 p.m. (FloSports)
Notable: Campbell QB Hajj Malik-Williams (7,806 yards of total offense, 66 total TDs in career) was stopped on a late two-point attempt when Elon won 24-23 in the only previous meeting in 2021. The Camels are averaging 41.7 points despite their average time of possession being under 23 minutes. Jalen Hampton (153) led the way as Elon rushed for 260 yards against North Carolina A&T, marking the Phoenix’s highest total since 2017.
The Pick: Elon
SWAC: Prairie View A&M (1-1, 1-0) at Alcorn State (1-2, 0-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Notable: This is one of the season’s key SWAC West Division games, with Alcorn on a five-game winning streak in the series. The Braves will go with a heavy dose of RB Jarveon Howard (296 carries, 1,483 yards, 14 TDs in last two seasons) offensively, and linebacker Terreance Ellis and their pass rush pursuing PVAMU’s Trazon Connley. The Panthers’ usually stout defense has surrendered nearly 20 yards per completion as well 14 TD passes, and has yet to post a sack.
The Pick: Alcorn State
UAC: Abilene Christian (2-1, 0-0) at Central Arkansas (1-2, 0-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: Purple power is on display in a key United Athletic Conference opener between former Southland members. UCA’s ShunDerrick Powell had 218 rushing yards on just 18 carries and 347 all-purpose yards in a show-stopping performance against North Dakota State. ACU has 10 sacks and allowed just one. The Wildcats are 9-4 against non-FBS opponents in coach Keith Patterson’s two seasons, with each loss by seven or fewer points.
The Pick: Central Arkansas
Big Sky: No. 3 Montana State (2-1, 0-0) at No. 10 Weber State (2-1, 0-0)
Kickoff: 8 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: Montana State’s FCS-leading rushing attack has six – count ‘em, six – players with 100+ rushing yards through three games, with Scottre Humphrey (six) tied for second nationally in TD runs and Sean Chambers (five) first among QBs. The Bobcats are 6-for-6 on field goals and have made an FCS-high 30 over the last two seasons. Poor snaps to the punter led to Weber State surrendering an NCAA single-game record four safeties in a 43-38 loss to the Bobcats last season. The defense has been on the field too much, but it’s helped LB Winston Reid be the Big Sky tackles leader (36).
The Pick: Montana State
Big Sky: Eastern Washington (1-2, 0-0) at No. 15 UC Davis (2-1, 0-0)
Kickoff: 10 p.m. (ESPN+/KQCA My 58)
Notable: EWU is 10-0 all-time against UC Davis. The Eagles’ always potent offense has opted for safe play-calling as QB Kekoa Visperas (33 of 47, 349 yards, two TDs, one interception against Southeastern Louisiana) settles in as the starter. The host Aggies, who fended off an upset bid by Southern Utah 23-21, have allowed an alarming 26 tackles for losses. Running back Lan Larison leads Big Sky players in touches from scrimmage (59) and is second in scrimmage yards (342).
The Pick: UC Davis
Last Week’s Record: 7-7 (.500)
Overall Record: 32-13 (.711)