It was a nice showing for the FCS in Week 1. North Dakota State stayed on top with a thrilling overtime win in the season’s opening game, Richmond, Northern Iowa and Eastern Washington all picked up victories over FBS teams and there were plenty of jaw-dropping plays to marvel at.
There’s reason to believe Week 2 will provide similar excitement as programs look to make statement wins and continue to shake up the rankings.
Here are four games from this Saturday to keep an eye on.
North Dakota State vs. Eastern Washington – Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ETA week ago, Eastern Washington sat unranked in the preseason Coaches poll. Now entering Week 2, the Eagles have soared all the way up to the No. 8 spot to make for a top 10 matchup with No. 1 North Dakota State.
A win over a potent FBS program will have that effect. In an offensive shootout that lived up to expectations, the Eagles held on to knock off Washington State 45-42.
Freshman quarterback Gage Gubrud shined with 474 passing yards and six total touchdowns while standout receiver Cooper Kupp broke the FCS all-time touchdown receptions record with his trio last Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Bison started their title defense with a narrow 24-17 overtime victory over then-No. 6 Charleston two weeks ago. NDSU tallied 230 rushing yards to go along with Easton Stick’s 194 passing yards to make for an efficient attack.
The Bison’s talented returning defense also held Charleston Southern to under 300 yards on offense, which should lead to an intriguing matchup with Eastern Washington’s prolific offense.
The Eagles oftentimes score at will, but can NDSU hold them off and keep its No.1 ranking?
Richmond vs. Norfolk State – Saturday at 6 p.m. ETThe Bronco Mendenhall era at Virginia got off to a rocky start as the Spiders handily defeated Mendenhall’s Cavaliers 37-20 last weekend. Now, newly anointed No. 2 Richmond faces another in-state foe in 1-0 Norfolk State.
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Like Eastern Washington, Richmond is known for its offense, and posting 37 on an ACC team justifies that. But the Spiders defense also stepped up in Week 1, causing four turnovers and holding Virginia to a success rate of just 3-of-10 on third-down opportunities.
Norfolk State received no votes in the poll but is a candidate to compete for the MEAC title this season. The Spartans defeated Elizabeth City State 20-12 behind 170 yards rushing and a defense that allowed zero points in the second half.
Richmond will be a steady favorite to come out on top Saturday, but look for Norfolk State to compete and maybe pull off a surprise similar to what Richmond did last weekend.
Samford vs. Central Arkansas – Saturday at 7 p.m. ETThis matchup is a case of two on-the-fringe teams looking for a solid early-season win to sneak into the top 25.
Both come off a win in Week 1 in which they lit up the scoreboard and picked up some votes in the coaches poll (Samford received 15, Central Arkansas got five). Samford ran past Mars Hill 77-7 while Central Arkansas cruised by Houston Baptist 56-13.
Quarterback Devlin Hodges tossed 313 yards and five touchdowns for Samford, while nine Central Arkansas players combined to rush for 283 yards in their respective games. While this matchup will be a step up for both programs, don’t expect offense to be at a premium on either side.
If you like offense, tune into this Week 2 matchup. It will be a good mix of entertaining, high-octane scoring with extra meaning when it comes to next week’s polls.
Jacksonville State vs. LSU – Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ETIt’s silly to believe that LSU, a team that started in the preseason FBS top five, will drop to 0-2 to start the season. But don’t count out Jacksonville State to keep this game competitive and exciting.
The Gamecocks, after finishing as runner-ups last year, opened their 2016 season with a 31-12 win over North Alabama behind the dependent arm and legs of Eli Jenkins who accounted for 322 total yards.
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Jacksonville State is well-versed when it comes to facing the top FBS programs in the country and never back down from the challenge. Just last season, the Gamecocks narrowly missed out on pulling off an upset over a then-top 10 team in Auburn.
Granted, that Tigers team was one of college football’s greatest disappointments last year and it’s hard to group this year’s talented LSU team with that. But it’s unwise to look past Jacksonville State’s own talent and persistence.
LSU all-world running back Leonard Fournette enters Saturday’s game questionable to play after last week’s late ankle injury. If Fournette is limited in any way, that may further help the Gamecocks’ cause.