Top 10 Preview
No. 2 Towson puts perfect mark on line vs. No. 15 Villanova
Missouri State at No. 1 North Dakota State, 2 p.m. ET Saturday
North Dakota State (5-0, 2-0 Missouri Valley Football Conference) celebrates homecoming by playing host to Missouri State (1-5, 1-1 MVFC). NDSU has won a conference-record 14 consecutive games, including eight in a row at home.
This is the sixth meeting between North Dakota State and Missouri State and the Bison lead the series 3-2 after last year's 21-17 win.
North Dakota State has held all five opponents scoreless in the fourth quarter this season with a nearly three-minute advantage in average time of possession. The Bison have not allowed a fourth-quarter touchdown since Nov. 10, 2012.
North Dakota State leads the nation in scoring defense (10.8 points per game) and third down conversion percentage (.564), and ranks second in total defense (254.6 yards per game) and time of possession (35:08). The Bison are fifth in few penalty yards per game (32.6), sixth in rushing defense (87.8 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (96.84), seventh in fewest first downs allowed (69) and eighth in fewest penalties per game (4.4).
Missouri State has the No. 2 scoring defense (13.5 ppg) in league play, as well as the second-best rushing defense (82.0 ypg) in its two MVFC games. The Bears lead the MVFC and rank third nationally in red zone defense (.600).
Missouri State has never defeated a No. 1-ranked team (0-4).
No. 15 Villanova at No. 2 Towson, 7 p.m. ET Saturday
Seeking its 11th consecutive victory, Towson (6-0, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association) will face one of its toughest challenges of the season when the Tigers play host to No. 15 Villanova (3-2, 2-0 CAA) on homecoming. The game will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network.
Villanova leads the all-time series by a 5-4 margin, although Towson has won each of the past two meetings after a four-game Wildcats run from 2007-10.
The pre-season favorite to win the CAA championship, Villanova brings a three-game winning streak into the game.
During its three-game winning streak Villanova has allowed just 77.6 rushing yards per game and 2.4 yards per rush. Villanova ranks third in the CAA in rushing defense (104.8 ypg) and second in the league in scoring defense (15.8 ppg) and will test itself against a Tigers team which is leading the CAA in both rushing offense (236.7) and scoring (40.8).
In the past three games combined Villanova has run the ball 124 times for 725 yards while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. John Robertson leads the team in rushing with 443 yards (88.6/game) and has scored five rushing touchdowns, while Kevin Monangai has run for 322 yards and a score.
The Tigers come into the game with one of the top offensive teams and one of the top defensive squads in the FCS. Averaging 40.8 points per game, the Tigers are ranked eighth in the FCS. At the same time, Towson is allowing 16.8 points per contest, sixth in the nation. The Tiger offense is coming off a school-record performance in a 44-28 win against New Hampshire, amassing 731 yards of total offense.
Quarterback Peter Athens enjoyed the best game of his career in the win against UNH. He completed 22 of 33 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns. In six games this season, Athens has completed 98 of 154 passes for 1,332 yards and eight touchdowns. He has only thrown four interceptions and he has only been sacked three times.
When the Tigers play Villanova, they will be trying to avoid the slow starts that have hurt them in the past two games. In their 35-21 win against Stony Brook, the Tigers rallied from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit. They also trailed 21-10 at the half. In their win against New Hampshire, the Tigers spotted UNH a 20-3 first-quarter lead before scoring 41 consecutive points.
Not surprisingly, the Tigers have been a second-half team all season. Towson has outscored its opponents by a 118-30 margin in the second half. In the third quarter, the Tigers own a 72-7 advantage. The only third-quarter touchdown that the Tigers have allowed came against Delaware State when Towson already had a 49-0 lead.
If the Tigers beat Villanova, it will tie the school record for consecutive wins, a mark set by the 1974 and '75 Tigers.
Lamar at No. 3 Sam Houston State, 3 p.m. ET Saturday
Sam Houston State (4-1) celebrates homecoming by playing host to Lamar (3-2). It marks the Southland Conference opener for both teams.
Sam Houston State leads the all-time series 16-8-1. The Bearkats have had the upperhand in three seasons since Lamar has brought back the program winning all three games by a combined score of 160-17.
The Bearkats own a 18-game home winning streak, the longest in school history and, currently, in the FCS.
Sam Houston State leads FCS national statistics in both rushing yards per game (331.8) and scoring (51.6 points). The Bearkats stand No. 14 in FCS total offense (484.8) and No. 3 in pass efficiency (179.21).
All-America running back Timothy Flanders ranks third in the FCS in total rushing yards with 766 in five games this year. He stands No. 2 in the FCS in rushing yards per game (153.2).
Flanders is the first Southland Conference running back to gain 5,000 rushing yards. He holds 31 Sam Houston State school records and eight Southland Conference marks. He has rushed 852 times for 5,000 yards and 61 touchdowns in his career.
Brian Bell is Sam Houston’s all-time winningest quarterback, leading SHSU to 33 victories in 43 starts since 2010. He is the program’s all-time leader in passing (6,904 yards) and total offense (7,942 yards). Bell’s 64 career touchdown passes also is an SHSU school mark and stands as the eighth-highest total in Southland annals.
The 3-2 start for Lamar equals its best start since bringing back the program in 2010. Lamar enters the contest looking for a third consecutive win, something that has only been done one other time since its return.
For all the offensive firepower that both teams bring into the game, the stats will argue that Saturday's game will be dictated by the defenses. Lamar leads the Southland surrendering only 303 yards of total offense, while the Bearkats are third (368.8). The Cards also lead the Southland in pass (140.6 ypg) and scoring defense (20.4 ppg), while Sam Houston brings the league's best rushing defense (116.0 ypg) into the game. The two schools are also the two least penalized teams in the league.
Lamar has the conference's top freshman running back in Kade Harrington. Recently named to the CFPA Freshman Performer of the Year watch list, Harrington is fifth in the league in rushing and is on pace to set a Lamar rushing record for a freshman. Harrington leads the team with 61 rushes for 343 yards (5.6 ypc) and enters Saturday’s game needing only 265 more yards to break the school's freshman rushing record.
Southern Illinois at No. 5 UNI, 5 p.m. ET Saturday
UNI (4-1, 0-1 Missouri Valley Football Conference) celebrates homecoming by playing host to Southern Illinois (3-3, 1-1 MVFC).
UNI holds a 16-15 lead in the all-time series. The last time UNI defeated Southern Illinois was in 2011 when the Panthers won 17-10 inside the UNI-Dome. UNI is 5-1 against Southern Illinois inside the UNI-Dome during the era of head coach Mark Farley.
UNI is coming off of its first loss of the season while Southern Illinois is coming off a win against then-No. 9 South Dakota State. UNI currently holds an edge versus Southern Illinois in several statistical categories in the MVFC. The Panthers outrank the Salukis in rushing offense, scoring offense and total defense. UNI is ranked first in sacks in the league with 19 which will test the Panthers since SIU has only allowed five all season.
UNI has forced a fumble on the opening kickoff two games in a row now. Linebacker Zach Cutkomp forced a fumble against NDSU returner Marcus Williams on Saturday, with Blake White coming up with the recovery. Against McNeese State, Panther defensive back Blake White forced a fumble on the opening kickoff and it was recovered by Jeremy Johnson. UNI has either had a forced fumble or a fumble recovery in four out of the five games this season.
The Salukis are second in the MVFC and 32nd in the nation in total offense with an average of 432.5 yards per game.
Quarterback Kory Faulkner was named MVFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against SDSU. He threw for one touchdown and ran for two more. Faulkner leads the conference and is 15th in the nation in total passing yards (1,475). He leads the MVFC and is 23rd in the nation in total offense (270.7 per game). He has thrown 15 touchdown passes this season, which is his career-best for a single season.
Southern Illinois ranks seventh in the nation and second in the MVFC in rushing defense, yielding 92.8 yards per game on the ground. Northern Iowa holds the MVFC’s third-best rushing offense at 195.2 yards per game thanks to running back David Johnson, who ranks sixth in the nation at 138.2 yards per game.
Gardner-Webb at No. 6 Coastal Carolina, 6 p.m. ET Saturday
Coastal Carolina (5-0) plays host to Gardner-Webb (4-2) in the Big South Conference opener for both teams.
Coastal Carolina is 8-2 all-time versus Gardner-Webb. Six of the last eight meetings overall have been decided by five points or less.
Last year, Coastal Carolina quarterback Alex Ross made his first career start for an injured Aramis Hillary and led the Chanticleers to a 55-33 win. In that game, CCU rolled up 596 yards of offense, which was the second-best school total at the time, and Ross completed an 81-yard TD pass to Niccolo Mastromatteo, which is the longest pass play in school history. Ross posted a Big South freshman record with 404 yards of total offense.
Coastal Carolina is the first team in Big South history to score 50 points, rush for more than 300 yards and gain more than 500 yards of offense in three consecutive games. The Chants’ achievement has also tied the Big South records in each category separately. Meanwhile, Coastal’s season average of 507.6 yards of offense is pacing way ahead of the Big South single-season record of 468.1 established by the Chanticleers in 2006.
Coastal Carolina leads the Big South in several offensive categories, including total offense and scoring offense (43.2 ppg), which ranks seventh and fifth in the FCS, respectively. The Chanticleers are ranked second in the FCS in red zone offense (96.6 percent) and third down conversions (56.1 percent) and fourth in rushing offense (282.6 ypg).
Lorenzo Taliaferro, who has scored a league-best 11 TDs (fourth in the FCS), is the first player in Big South history to score 10 touchdowns in his team’s first five games. Taliaferro has scored a touchdown in every game this season. He owns a streak of three consecutive multi-TD games. Taliaferro also leads the Big South in rushing yards (691; ninth in the FCS) and rushing yards per game (138.2; sixth in the FCS).
Gardner-Webb has scored 50 points in back-to-back games for the first time since 2005, and has also put up 500 yards offensively in consecutive games for the first time since that season. The Runnin’ Bulldogs lead the FCS in time of possession (35:12).
Gardner-Webb’s defense has limited its opponents to just 23 third down conversions in 80 chances this season (28.8 percent), which ranks ninth nationally among FCS programs. In its four wins this season, Gardner-Webb has allowed 9.5 points, 78.8 rushing yards and 216.5 total offensive yards per game. In its two losses, GWU is allowing 54.0 points and 547.5 yards per game, including 234.0 yards on the ground.
No. 8 Eastern Washington at North Dakota, 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Eastern Washington (3-2, 1-0 Big Sky Conference) makes its first trip to North Dakota (2-3, 1-1 Big Sky). The Eagles will be the fourth ranked team North Dakota has played at home this season, having lost previously to South Dakota State, Montana and Montana State.
This week’s contest is Eastern’s 200th Big Sky game since joining the league in 1987. As the Big Sky celebrates its 50th anniversary this season, the Eagles are in their 26th year as a member and have a current record of 114-85 (.573).
The Eagles have scored 40 percent of their points in the first quarter this season, with fast starts in all five games yielding a total of 75 tallies in the first period. Eastern has scored 44, 35 and 34 points in quarters two through four, respectively. Eastern has outscored opponents 119-73 in the first half and have had leads at intermission in all of its wins. Eastern is 0-2 when it trails at halftime and has been outscored 98-69 after intermission. Eastern was outscored 36-21 in the third quarter until the Weber State game when the Eagles outgained the Wildcats 165-14 en route to a 14-0 advantage on the scoreboard.
Eastern’s defense will hope for a repeat performance against one of the Big Sky’s premier players in UND wide receiver Greg Hardin. He enters Saturday’s game ranked third in FCS in all-purpose yards per game (221.6), eighth in reception yards per game (108.4) and 13th in kickoff return average (29.4 with two touchdowns). He has a total of 25 catches for 542 yards and three touchdowns this season. A year ago against EWU, Hardin managed only four catches for 32 yards and a long of 15, and had 78 yards on four kickoff returns with a long of 23.
No. 9 Fordham at Georgetown, 1 p.m. ET Saturday
Fordham looks to advance to 7-0 for the first time since 1930 when it plays at Georgetown (1-4) in a matchup of Patriot League teams. Fordham won last year's matchup 38-31.
Georgetown will look to turn things around, coming off three consecutive losses, as an injury-riddled GU defense has allowed 40 or more points in each game. Fordham has been one of the hottest teams in the FCS, winning all six of its games, including a 52-34 win against then-No. 10 Lehigh last week. The Rams have scored 50 or more points three times this season behind the duo of quarterback Michael Nebrich and running back Carlton Koonce. Nebrich earned serveral weekly awards for his performance against Lehigh as he completed 26 of 36 passes for a career-high 384 yards and career-tying four touchdowns. Koonce gained 99 yards on 27 carries with two scores in last year's game against Georgetown.
Georgetown has had a combined 12 players from its season-opening two-deep miss 23 games this season due to injury, including four different linebackers missing at least two games apiece. This week GU hopes to have linebackers Dustin Wharton and Nick Alfieri, cornerback Ettian Scott and safety Stephen Atwater back on defense together for the first time since the second week of the season.
Georgetown has been nearly automatic when crossing the opposing team’s 20-yard line this season, converting 14 of 16, including 13 touchdowns. Fordham has converted 27 of 31 opportunities.
No. 10 Montana at UC Davis, 7 p.m. ET Saturday
Montana (4-1, 1-1 Big Sky Conference) is the homecoming opponent when it plays at UC Davis (2-4, 2-0 Big Sky). Montana leads the series 4-0. The teams have not met since 2009.
Montana is averaging 40.6 points per game (ninth in the FCS) while allowing 19.6 points per game. UC Davis is averaging 14.2 points per game while allowing 20.6.
The Grizzlies have a team passing rating of 187.98, best in the FCS. Most of that is sparked by QB Jordan Johnson, whose nation-leading 190.5 efficiency rating features 14 touchdown passes and no interceptions.
The ground game is paced by the running back tandem of Travon Van, who has rushed for 379 yards and three TDs, and Jordan Canada (345 yards and four TDs).
While UC Davis is the top Big Sky team and 14th nationally at stopping third down conversions (30 percent), the Grizzlies are the best in the conference in converting on third down (50 percent), which ranks seventh nationally.
The defensive side of the ball is also potent for Montana which is 19th nationally against the run (115.6 ypg) and 41st in total defense (357.0 ypg).
For UC Davis, QB Randy Wright is currently ranked eighth for career passing yards (7,546) among active FCS players and seventh in completions (637).
Gabe Manzanares has rushed for 546 yards and five TDs. He has gained 383 yards in the Aggies’ two wins.
Out of 122 FCS schools, North Dakota is 110th in turnover margin with an average of -1.4 per game (six takeaways, 13 giveaways including eight interceptions). It is 55th in total offense (391.8), 27th in passing offense (264.6), 92nd in rushing offense (127.2) and 38th in scoring offense (32.4). Defensively, UND is 93rd in total defense (442.4), 83rd in rushing (190.0), 90th in passing (252.4) and 105th in scoring (37.6). North Dakota ranks in the top 10 in FCS in red zone offense (fourth, .941 scoring percentage) and net punting (ninth, 39.65). UND has returned two kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns this season.
UC Davis is looking for its first three-game winning streak since the end of the 2010 season.