Entering Week 7 of the college football season, it’s starting to become increasingly apparent who are the contenders and pretenders within the FCS.
There’s been little to no movement in the polls among the upper echelon of elite programs the past two weeks. Although, teams continue to shuffle in and out on the backend of the top-25 list.
This week may be different, however, as the latest slate of games is highlighted by a trio of top-15 matchups. Below are the must-watch matchups in Week 7:
James Madison vs. New Hampshire – Saturday at noon
James Madison stayed put at No. 6 after its 31-24 win over rival William & Mary and remains undefeated in FCS play.
Once again, it was running back Khalid Abdullah that carried the Dukes to victory, rushing for 194 yards and three touchdowns. Abdullah ranks second in the FCS with 797 yards in five games.
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Meanwhile, New Hampshire cracked the top 25 for the first time this season, coming in at No. 25. The Wildcats topped Elon last week 13-10 and have won four of their last five games following its season opening loss to the FBS’ San Diego State.
UNH took a dip into the waters of the national ranks this week. Now, the Wildcats look to make a big splash and justify that spot.
Chattanooga vs. The Citadel – Saturday at 3 p.m.
Two undefeated teams put their unblemished records on the line when No. 3 Chattanooga (6-0) travels across the state border to visit No. 9 The Citadel (5-0) in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Mocs have rolled through their fairly soft schedule thus far with the biggest win coming against newly-ranked No. 24 Samford in Week 4. Chattanooga is averaging 42 points per game on offense, and quarterback Alejandro Bennifield is coming off a four-touchdown performance in a 52-31 victory over Mercer.
The Citadel will be a major step up in competition for the Mocs as the Bulldogs pose the top rushing offense in the country (388.8 yards per game) to go along with a tough defense that has held opponents to just 14 points on three occasions so far.
Seven players have rushed for at least 100 yards and five have scored at least two touchdowns on the ground for The Citadel. There’s no single rusher that the Bulldogs rely on and multiple players are rotated in to give different looks – including quarterbacks Dominique Allen and Jordan Black, who both fall under the list.
Saturday’s game will largely be revealing of both sides’ legitimacy as contenders.
Richmond vs. Villanova – Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
No. 11 Villanova enters on a five-game winning streak after outscoring Rhode Island and Elon by a combined 77-7 over the past two weeks.
The Wildcats' Zach Bednarczyk has thrown for eight touchdowns and three interceptions in his second season under center and Javon White and Aaron Forbes have made up a formidable double threat on the ground with 11 combined touchdowns.
But excluding Week 1’s game against Pittsburgh, Villanova’s remaining five opponents have combined to go 8-15 so far this season. So this weekend’s trip to Richmond for the Spiders’ homecoming game will be a new measure for the Wildcats.
Richmond has responded well since its surprising 42-14 blowout loss to Stony Brook in Week 3 with some quality wins, including last week’s thriller that ended with a David Broadus four-yard score and an ensuing defensive stop in the third extra frame.
Let’s see how Villanova responds in its biggest test of the season.
North Dakota State vs. South Dakota State – Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
While the Jackrabbits never trailed in its 45-39 win over Southern Illinois, they had to fend off a frightening comeback attempt from the Salukis, who trimmed the deficit to three on two occasions in the second half.
Nonetheless, the Jackrabbits moved back over .500 at 3-2 on the season and slotted in at No. 14 in the latest coaches poll. South Dakota State has played well in both losses, hanging in tough with the Big 12’s TCU late into the fourth quarter in Week 1 and falling 38-31 to ranked Cal Poly in Week 3, and are deserving of their national ranking.
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However, the Jackrabbits’ plus-.500 mark may not last too long as their next task has them traveling to Fargo to face unanimous No. 1 North Dakota State with the Dakota Marker trophy on the line.
The Bison continued its quest for a sixth straight FCS title with a 27-3 win against a solid Missouri State team in Week 6. North Dakota State has been rolling on all cylinders with its balanced offense and a tremendous defensive effort that’s kept offenses at 21 points or less in four of its five games.
Including Saturday’s matchup with South Dakota State, the Bison’s next four matchups all come against current ranked teams. Will they stay perfect entering the playoff bracket? The Jackrabbits have the latest say in that.