The weekly best games of the week preview is at its best when showcasing FCS college football matchups that are tossups, but the new one surely needs a disclaimer that says a losing record of predictions may be on the way.
Yes, seriously, it’s easy to go either way in predicting this week’s key matchups, including No. 15 Southern Illinois at No. 13 Southeast Missouri, the FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week. (Here’s the full Stats Perform FCS Top 25 Poll)
Take a look at the list below and see if you have confidence with your picks.
With the Game of the Week leading the way, here is a preview and predictions for the FCS’ best Week 3 matchups (all times ET):
No. 15 Southern Illinois (2-0) at No. 13 Southeast Missouri (1-1)
FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: Two schools separated by less than 50 miles will meet for the 91st time in the “War for the Wheel” matchup (the wheel trophy reflects how in the early years of the series the visiting team would cross the Mississippi River in a boat to play the game). Three of the last five meetings have been decided by four or fewer points, with SEMO winning 34-31 last year to extend its series lead to 43-39-8. SEMO running back Geno Hess leads active FCS players in rushing yards (4,223) and touchdown runs (55), and quarterback Paxton DeLaurent keeps targeting wide receivers Ryan Flourney (20 receptions, 195 yards, TD through two games) and Damoriea Vick (17-153-2). SIU has impressed with a blowout of Austin Peay and an FBS win at Northern Illinois. Nic Baker is a 65.8 percent career passer, connecting for 7,030 yards and 53 TDs. Defensively, SIU has five interceptions and SEMO four.
The Pick: Southern Illinois
No. 6 Holy Cross (1-1) at Yale (0-0)
Kickoff: Noon (ESPN+)
Notable: Defending Ivy League champion Yale opens its 150th season seeking to run the ball behind left tackle and 2024 NFL Draft prospect Kiran Amegadjie with QB Nolan Grooms, the 2022 Ivy offensive player of the year, and RBs Tre Peterson and Joshua Pitsenberger (a combined 2,136 yards and 19 TDs last season). Holy Cross’ Patriot League preseason players of the year are off to big starts: QB Matthew Sluka (542 yards of total offense, four total TDs) and linebacker Jacob Dobbs (FCS-high 34 tackles).
The Pick: Holy Cross
Stonehill (1-1) at Georgetown (2-0)
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: The host Hoyas seek their first 3-0 start since 2016. Their offense has been nearly 70 percent run behind Joshua Stakely (31 carries, 234 yards, two TDs) and Naieem Kearney (31-189-3). Stonehill is coming off a 33-30 win at Central Connecticut State with Perry Shelbred providing a 52-yard, game-ending field goal and RB Jermaine Colbert posting his fifth career 100-yard game (182 yards with a touchdown).
The Pick: Georgetown
CAA: Campbell (1-1, 0-1) at Monmouth (1-1, 1-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (FloSports)
Notable: Campbell QB Hajj-Malik William has an FCS-high 81 completion percentage (47 of 58), and he accounted for five total TDs last Saturday when the Camels set their program’s Division I record with 611 yards against The Citadel. Monmouth has gone to 2022 FCS rushing leader Jaden Shirden for a national-high 57 carries through two games, but he’s averaged only 3.7 yards per carry for 211 yards.
The Pick: Monmouth
Illinois State (2-0) at Eastern Illinois (1-1)
Kickoff: 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: ISU has a 59-42-9 series lead heading into the 111th matchup of the Mid-America Classic. The Redbirds had two interception returns for TDs in last year’s fifth straight win, and this season they rank first in the FCS in rushing defense (46 yards per game), second in total defense (198.5 per) and third in scoring defense (nine points per game), while tying for the top spot in sacks per game (five). EIU’s Pierce Holley has passed for 494 yards and four TDs, but Bowling Green got to him for five sacks.
The Pick: Illinois State
Hampton (1-1) at Howard (1-1)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: The “Battle of the Real HU” returns to Audi Field in Washington, D.C., with Hampton holding a 55-41-1 series lead heading into the 98th meeting. Howard QB Quinton Williams has produced 56 career TDs, including seven through the air in two games against Hampton. The Pirates have their top rushing offense in decades (251.5-yard average) behind RBs Elijah Butts and Darran Butts and QB Chris Zellous.
The Pick: Howard
Central Arkansas (1-1) at No. 2 North Dakota State (2-0)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. (ESPN+/ABC North Dakota)
Notable: In the only previous meeting during the 2020 pandemic-impacted season, NDSU won 39-28 in what was considered to be Trey Lance’s showcase game for NFL scouts. The Bison have allowed only 17 points in two games, and safety Cole Wisniewski is the first FCS player to pick off three passes. UCA will seek ball control with RBs ShunDerrick Powell, Kylin James and Darius Hale, who have combined to average seven yards per carry.
The Pick: North Dakota State
No. 19 Southeastern Louisiana (0-2) at Eastern Washington (0-2)
Kickoff: 4 p.m. (ESPN+/SWX)
Notable: This first-time meeting is two seasons too late for a matchup of recent Walter Payton Award-winning QBs, SLU’s Cole Kelley (2020) and EWU’s Eric Barriere (2021). Against tough competition, EWU QB Kekoa Visperas and WR Efton Chism III have connected 17 times. The visiting Lions, who have two FBS losses, are about to play their 22nd true road game of the 2020s, the most in the FCS (10-11 record). Safety Ian Goodly has 26 tackles for a defense that has struggled to stop the run.
The Pick: Southeastern Louisiana
No. 7 Furman (1-1) at Kennesaw State (1-1)
Kickoff: 5 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: FBS-bound Kennesaw, which beat Furman 52-42 in the only previous meeting in 2016, just lost to another Southern Conference team, Chattanooga. Only one of this year’s SoCon favorite’s last eight opponents have averaged at least three yards per carry. The Paladins have been excellent in the red zone, scoring eight of nine times (seven TDs), including RB Dominic Roberto rushing for three scores.
The Pick: Furman
Western Carolina (1-1) at Eastern Kentucky (0-2)
Kickoff: 6 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: WCU sits only three spots outside the Top 25 after a 30-7 thrashing of then-No. 8 Samford, which earned the Catamounts FedEx Ground FCS National Team of the Week. It helps to have a high-scoring offense, but the Cats also boast Richard McCollum, who has made 35 of his last 37 (94.6%) field goal attempts, including all five this season. Following two FBS games to open the season, EKU QB Parker McKinney seeks a 2023 breakout for a career which surpassed 10,000 passing yards last Saturday. The Colonels program is mourning the loss of two-time national championship-winning coach Roy Kidd.
The Pick: Western Carolina
Ferris State (2-0) at No. 12 Montana (2-0)
Kickoff: 8 p.m. (ESPN+/ABC-FOX Montana/SWX in Billings)
Notable: This is UM’s toughest non-conference opponent because Ferris State is the two-time defending Division II champion and has won 28 straight road games, displaying terrific offensive balance during the run. The Grizzlies have controlled time of possession in two wins (33 minutes, 22 seconds on average) and will seek to continue with RBs Eli Gillman (197 yards, three TDs) and Nick Ostmo (118 yards, two TDs in season debut against Utah Tech). Bobby Hauck’s 118 coaching victories at Montana (2003-09, 2018-present) are within five of the Big Sky record (Jerome Souers’ 123 at Northern Arizona from 1998-2018).
The Pick: Montana
No. 8 Sacramento State (2-0) at Stanford (1-1)
Kickoff: 8 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
Notable: Stanford coach Troy Taylor guided Sac State to Big Sky titles in each of his three seasons – 2019, 2021 and last year. The Andy Thompson coaching era has opened with the Hornets beating two straight Southland opponents (Nicholls and Texas A&M-Commerce) and with QB Kaiden Bennett’s emergence (536 yards of total offense, six total TDs).
The Pick: Stanford
No. 10 UIW (1-1) at Abilene Christian (2-0)
Under-the-Radar Game of the Week
Kickoff: 8 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: This matchup pits ACU’s physicality against UIW’s speed. UIW transfer QB Zach Calzada was 29 of 40 for 382 yards and three TDs and rushed for another score in a 42-7 rout at Northern Colorado. ACU’s Maverick McIvor (28 of 43, for 533 yards and five TDs) ranks third among FCS QBs with 19 yards per completion.
The Pick: Abilene Christian
Jackson State (2-1) at Texas State (1-1)
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Notable: In their first-time meeting, JSU is seeking its first-ever FBS win, and the first by a SWAC program since coach Eddie Robinson led Grambling State past Oregon State 23-6 on Sept. 28, 1985. Irv Mulligan has provided 75+ rushing yards in all three games, and the defense remains stingy under first-year coach T.C. Taylor (275.3 yards allowed per game). Texas State upset Baylor 42-31 as a 26-point underdog in coach GJ Kinne’s first game.
The Pick: Texas State
Last Week’s Record: 11-3 (.786)
Overall Record: 25-6 (.806)