FCS games to watch: North Dakota St. looks to bounce back from first loss
As promised, last weekend provided a major shift in the FCS following weeks of stagnancy at the top of the rankings.
There’s a new No. 1 entering Week 8, as South Dakota State knocked off North Dakota State to open the door for Sam Houston State to take the mantle.
Now, of course, one loss certainly doesn’t mean that the Bison are ready to give up their throne as FCS champions – they’ve dropped at least one game in four of their last five straight title runs – but nonetheless, NDSU’s latest defeat creates quite the storyline.
Now the Bison will take on another top 15 team amidst another intriguing slate of games this upcoming weekend. Check out all the must-watch games in Week 8:
The Citadel vs. Wofford – Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The Citadel proved its legitimacy among the top dogs in the FCS last weekend with a 22-14 win over then-No. 3 Chattanooga. And no surprise, it was the running game that led the way.
The Bulldogs attempted 77 rushes for 342 yards while quarterback Dominique Allen only attempted four passes the whole game, completing just one.
This imbalance isn’t the typical formula for success, but it’s worked so far for The Citadel (6-0), who boasts the nation’s top rushing offense (381 yards per game) and the worst passing offense (56 yards per game).
The No. 6 Bulldogs will look to remain undefeated and make a move into the top five with its next challenge against a 4-2 Wofford team that just missed out on the latest top 25 in the coaches poll by one spot.
Wofford runs a similar offense to The Citadel with the fourth best rushing offense and the second worst passing offense, right in front of the Bulldogs. So expect both teams to run early and often.
With both rushing units doing such a heavy lifting in both offenses, Saturday’s game will likely come down to who can plug the gaps on defense.
Youngstown State vs. South Dakota State – Saturday at 3 p.m.
The Jackrabbits were the biggest winners in Week 7 with that aforementioned upset over No. 1 North Dakota State that returned the Dakota Marker trophy to their state.
Now, No. 11 SDSU will take on a team ranked just one peg below in Youngstown State.
The Jackrabbits once again relied on the talent of Taryn Christion under center, who passed for 303 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 141 more yards in the 19-17 victory. On defense, SDSU held NDSU to just over 300 yards of total offense and a pair of rushing touchdowns from quarterback Easton Stick.
The Jackrabbits have now won three straight after starting the season 2-3.
Meanwhile, the Penguins are also hot. Youngstown State topped a talented but underperforming team in Northern Iowa 14-10 last week to extend their winning streak to four. Youngstown State’s only loss this year has come to West Virginia, one of 11 undefeated teams left in the FBS.
SDSU cruised by Youngstown State 38-8 in last season’s conference matchup. With first place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference up for grabs this week, there’s more than just revenge on the line.
Villanova vs. Albany – Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
After a three-overtime loss to Richmond and a stunning defeat to Maine, Albany is slipping in the rankings and is now in dire need of a win. The No. 24 Great Danes will have to do so against the No. 17 Wildcats, who are also coming off a loss to those same Spiders.
Both teams’ offensive stars were held to limited success in Week 7. Albany only managed 16 points behind a subpar day from star running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks (41 yards) while Villanova was shut out and held to under 93 yards rushing.
Limiting both respective rushing attacks for a second straight week will be the defensive gameplan on both sides, as it largely carries each offense. In particular, Albany will certainly be happy if turnover-prone Villanova quarterback Zach Bednarczyk is forced to take to the air more than the Wildcats would like.
While both teams have started off the year on a high note, neither has really picked up a signature win to date. This Saturday’s matchup is a chance for both sides to do exactly that.
North Dakota State vs. Western Illinois – 7 p.m.
The Bison fell to No. 4 (with one first place vote) after their misstep against the Jackrabbits. There’s still plenty of time to move back up to No. 1 by the time the postseason arrives.
That prospective journey begins in Week 8 against No. 13 Western Illinois. The Fighting Leathernecks have made a knack of pulling out close victories and have won their past two games by a combined four points.
Western Illinois most recently defeated Missouri State 38-35 behind a 323-yard performance from quarterback Sean McGuire, who ranks in the top 20 in passing yards this year to go along with 10 touchdowns.
For NDSU, its 17-point output against SDSU was its lowest of the season. Stick was held to just 143 passing yards and the team's top two running backs King Frazier and Bruce Anderson combined for just 58 yards on the ground.
The Bison will surely hope to see greater success from that side of the ball while getting a similar performance from its consistent defense.
NDSU’s schedule hasn’t provided any easy wins by any means this season. That constant challenge continues in Week 8 as the Bison look to avoid any hangover effect from last week’s disappointment.