Top-ranked South Dakota State is putting a 20-game winning streak on the line at No. 12 Southern Illinois, and it isn’t necessarily considered the best game of the FCS college football week?
Wait, the same can be said for No. 4 Furman’s showdown at No. 8 Western Carolina?
It’s all in perception, of course, but also indicative of a top-heavy Week 8 schedule, where No. 2 Montana State at No. 3 Sacramento State is the FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week. It marks the second time this season the Bobcats are the visitors in a game that involves a pair of top-three teams.
Here’s a look at the FCS’ best Week 8 matchups (all times ET on Saturday):
Big Sky: No. 2 Montana State (5-1, 3-0) at No. 3 Sacramento State (5-1, 2-1)
FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Notable: Last year’s Big Sky co-champs are meeting for the first time since 2019, and they’re both 18-1 in-conference since the 2021 season. Sac State has a conference loss at Idaho, so this is basically a must-win game. Montana State is averaging an FCS-high 325.2 rushing yards per game, led by quarterback Sean Chambers (461 yards, 11 touchdowns) and running back Jared White (444, three). With Tommy Mellott back from injury, the Bobcats will split snaps behind center. They have allowed only four sacks, while the defense has racked up 20 (defensive end Brody Grebe has 5.5) in six games. Sac State has spent the last month playing in tight games. While the Hornets stopped the run at Northern Colorado last Saturday, they allowed 175+ yards on the ground in their previous three games. Kaiden Bennett is averaging 281.5 yards of total offense per game, ranking second in the Big Sky. The Hornets haven’t had RB Marcus Fulcher in their last two games after he scored six TDs in their first four games.
The Pick: Montana State
Patriot: Lafayette (5-1, 1-0) at No. 15 Holy Cross (4-2, 2-0)
Under-the-Radar Game of the Week
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: Holy Cross (19 straight wins over PL opponents/18 in regular season) seeks to take a big step toward claiming what would be a record fifth straight league title. The Crusaders’ last league loss was against Lafayette at Fitton Field in 2019, and they needed a Matthew Sluka-to-Justin Shorter TD pass with four minutes remaining to win last year’s game. Sluka has 20 combined TDs this season, with RB Jordan Fuller coming in as the FCS scoring leader (14 TDs). The Leopards already have five wins for the first time since 2014. Jamar Curtis is averaging 131.6 rushing yards against FCS opponents (four of his five games over 100 yards), and the defense has racked up an FCS-high 27 sacks (linebacker Billy Schaeffer leads with 5.5).
The Pick: Holy Cross
Ivy: No. 18 Harvard (5-0, 2-0) at Princeton (2-3, 1-1)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (ESPN+/NBCS Philadelphia/SNY)
Notable: Harvard’s last road loss occurred at Princeton in 2021 – a five-overtime game with a botched officiating decision that aided the Tigers’ 18-16 win. Crimson coach Tim Murphy is tied with the late Carm Cozza (Yale) for the most all-time wins in Ivy games (135). Charles DePrima has accounted for 16 TD passes and runs while leading a rushing attack that’s ranked third in the FCS at 261.8 yards per game. Princeton is below .500 for the first time since being 0-1 in 2014. Having allowed 15 sacks already, the Tigers must account for Harvard defensive tackle Thor Griffith (25 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks in 25 career games). The Tigers rank second in the league in scoring defense (15-point average), but second-to-last in scoring offense (16.4).
The Pick: Harvard
(Here’s a look at the full Stats Perform FCS Top 25 Poll)
Northeast: Saint Francis (2-4, 2-1) at Duquesne (3-3, 2-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (NEC Front Row)
Notable: Duquesne sits in front of a bunched NEC title race. Darius Perrantes is coming off three TD passes against Central Connecticut State, which makes the Dukes 9-0 against non-FBS opponents since 2021 when he has at least a pair. The Dukes still think run first with Taj Butts, JaMario Clements and Edward Robinson all averaging 50+ rushing yards. SFU QB Cole Doyle is leading the NEC in total offense (206.8 yards per game) for the second consecutive season. The Red Flash defense must be better with getting off the field: Opponents are converting a combined 51.6 percent of third and fourth downs.
The Pick: Duquesne
Southern: No. 4 Furman (5-1, 3-0) at No. 8 Western Carolina (5-1, 3-0)
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: First place is on the line for two SoCon teams whose only losses are to FBS opposition. WCU’s No. 1-in-the-FCS offense at 531.8 yards per game has had two weeks to recharge after a 52-50 walk-off win at Chattanooga. Running back Desmond Reid ranks No. 1 nationally with 141.2 rushing yards per game, but Furman has allowed just under 100 per game, which is best in the conference. In the Paladins’ 47-40 victory over WCU last year, Dominic Roberto rushed for 252 yards as part of their 57-run, 10-pass breakdown, although three of Tyler Huff’s seven completions went for touchdowns.
The Pick: Western Carolina
MVFC: No. 1 South Dakota State (6-0, 3-0) at No. 12 Southern Illinois (5-1, 2-1)
Kickoff: 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: SIU ended North Dakota State’s FCS-record 39-game winning streak in the spring 2021 season. Nic Baker is still their quarterback as the Salukis seek to be streak-busters once again in Carbondale, with SDSU’s 20-game run tied for the 10th-longest all-time. Incredibly, the reigning FCS champion Jackrabbits have been successful on their last 69 trips into an opponent’s red zone (56 TDs, 13 field goals). In a 10-game span since the start of the 2022 playoffs, QB Mark Gronowski has passed for 23 TDs and only one interception. Baker became SIU’s career passing yardage leader (8,004) against Murray State last Saturday while the PJ Jules-led defense didn’t allow a TD to a conference foe for the first time in 11 years.
The Pick: South Dakota State
Big South-OVC: Charleston Southern (3-3, 1-0) at No. 17 UT Martin (5-1, 2-0)
Kickoff: 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: UTM won the only previous meeting in 1994, but now it’s a conference matchup, with the Skyhawks entering as co-leaders of the Association with Southeast Missouri. CSU, under first-year coach Gabe Giardina, has won back-to-back games to reach .500 for the first time since being 1-1 early in the 2021 campaign. The Buccaneers are averaging only 211.5 offensive yards per game, but TJ Ruff has rushed for 283 yards and four TDs in their last three games. UTM DE Daylan Dotson has been a one-man wrecking crew with 10.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks and 11 QB hurries. Aidan Laros leads the FCS in punting average (47.9).
The Pick: UT Martin
Southland: Nicholls (2-3, 2-0) at Texas A&M-Commerce (1-5, 1-1)
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: A rugged non-conference schedule prepped Nicholls for the Southland, where the Colonels have outscored two opponents by a combined 69-17. Collin Guggenheim didn’t score on his first 76 carries this season, then had TDs on four of his last six against HCU on Oct. 7. That was also the second straight game in which safety Tyler Morton was a part of two turnovers (three interceptions, one forced fumble). TAMUC has a plus-10 turnover margin despite being 1-5. The Lions hung within three points of nationally ranked UIW midway through the fourth quarter of a 28-11 loss.
The Pick: Nicholls
MVFC: No. 11 North Dakota (4-2, 2-1) at Northern Iowa (3-3, 2-1)
Kickoff: 5 p.m. (ESPN3)
Notable: UND goes from routing rival North Dakota State to seeking its first road win of the season. The Fighting Hawks will again want the ball in the hands of RB Gavin Ziebarth and all-purpose standout Luke Skokna, who scored three TDs each against the Bison. UNI has a +4 turnover margin in three wins, but is minus-10 with QB Theo Day sacked 14 times over their three losses. Kicker Matthew Cook has scored 367 career points, just 17 shy of former UNI running back David Johnson’s record 384 from 2011-14.
The Pick: North Dakota
UAC: No. 24 Austin Peay (4-2, 1-0) at Southern Utah (2-4, 1-1)
Kickoff: 8 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: AP QB Mike DiLiello has accounted for 17 total touchdowns, and 14 have come during the Governors’ four-game winning streak. Jevon Jackson also has been red hot with three straight 100+ rushing performance and a 154.3-yard average over the stretch. SUU has been a part of four games decided by three or fewer points, with the lone win in the Thunderbirds’ most-recent game, 27-26 at Tarleton on Oct. 7. Justin Miller joins DiLiello with 14 TD passes, part of a tie for ninth in the FCS. His favorite receivers, Zach Mitchell and Isaiah Wooden, have the exact same season totals: 32 catches for 416 yards and four TDs.
The Pick: Austin Peay
Last Week’s Record: 11-3 (.786)
Overall Record: 71-30 (.703)