Set the countdown to 18 days. That’s the amount of time left until the FCS selection show airs and the playoff brackets are set in stone.
To some, those 18 days will seemingly flash by. But these next three weekends still leave plenty of time for FCS programs to make a strong impression or fade into the background.
This process continues with another strong slate of games this upcoming Saturday. Here are the top four games to watch in Week 10:
Samford vs. The Citadel – Saturday at 2 p.m.
Samford never held a lead in Saturday’s game against MSU, but the Bulldogs hung in there and had plenty of responses on offense before MSU finally put the game away for good in the final five minutes.
But putting up 41 points against an SEC defense has to be encouraging for the Bulldogs, who are right in the thick of things in the Southern Conference. Now Samford will have an opportunity to move further up in the conference standings, with a matchup against No. 7 The Citadel (8-0) on the horizon.
Quarterback Devlin Hodges has been the focal point of Samford’s offense all year and he continued his impressive 2016 campaign with 468 yards and four touchdowns against Mississippi State. But running back K’rondis Larry has also come on as of late with his first two 100-yard games in consecutive weeks.
Samford will need that greater balance when going against The Citadel and its ability to slow down the game by running the ball down opponents’ throats and playing solid defense.
While Hodges has put up big numbers, he’s also prone to throwing some interceptions (three against MSU). If The Citadel can force a few turnovers and control the time of possession, Samford may be in trouble.
Youngstown State vs. North Dakota State – Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
NDSU quarterback Easton Stick has only a 2:4 touchdown to interception ratio over the last four games and hasn’t thrown for more than 200 yards since Oct. 1.
Now, Stick doesn’t have to be a prolific passer for the Bison to succeed – especially with its top-level defense – but NDSU isn’t getting the expected production from its running backs either.
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So this weekend’s matchup with Youngstown State, which has made a living off of pulling out low-scoring victories, will be another tough challenge for the Bison.
The Penguins topped Indiana State 13-10 in their homecoming game last weekend. That marked their third win while scoring 20 points or less in their last four games.
Youngstown State has the seventh best total defense in the FCS and only allows 102 rushing yards per game. This helps mask the Penguins’ own offensive struggles over the past month.
Both top 15 teams will look to rediscover themselves on offense when they take the field in Fargo, North Dakota.
James Madison vs. Richmond – Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
That’s what James Madison has accomplished this season after handing Rhode Island an 84-7 loss last Saturday. The Dukes have scored over 40 points six times this season and are second in the FCS in average points per game.
But this offensive firepower will be tested in Week 10 when James Madison is welcomed into Richmond to take on a resurgent Richmond defense in a battle of 7-1 programs.
Richmond’s defense was praised over the first two weeks of the season when it held the FBS’ Virginia to 20 points in an upset win and shut out of Norfolk State in Week 2. But then the Spiders allowed 42 the next week in a loss to Stony Brook and looked substantially less effective as the season went on.
But now Richmond has won its past two games by a combined score of 58-7 and it looks like that defensive intensity is back in full force. The Spiders picked up two interceptions and only allowed 248 total yards last game against Elon.
Something’s got to give when these two rolling units clash with each other.
Eastern Washington vs. Cal Poly – Saturday at 9:05 p.m.
The Eagles and the Mustangs average more than 1,000 offensive yards combined and rank No. 2 and No. 4 respectively in total offense.
Eastern Washington, ranked No. 2 in the coaches poll, is on a six-game winning streak and has only one loss coming against then-No. 1 North Dakota State in Week 2. Cal Poly is on a three-game winning streak, in which it topped 50 points twice, and are up to No. 16 in the latest top 25.
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Simply put: there will be no shortage of points or big plays.
The Eagles bested Montana last week 35-16 – marking their second-lowest scoring output of the season – behind another standout performance from the duo of quarterback Gage Gubrud (four touchdowns) and receiver Cooper Kupp (140 yards, three touchdown catches).
Gubrud and Kupp even hooked up on the opposite end with Kupp completing a 54-yard pass to Gubrud on a successful trick play.
Meanwhile, Cal Poly cruised past Sacramento State 59-47 behind another strong outing on the ground. Five different Mustangs recorded a rushing touchdown and two surpassed the century mark.
Both teams racks up a ton of points in contrasting fashions. We’ll see who outlasts the other in Saturday night’s track meet at San Luis Obispo, California.