Week 6 of FCS action resulted in some shuffling of top-10 teams with Elon’s upset of James Madison and Weber State’s stunning loss to unranked Northern Arizona.
Now halfway through the season, the conference races begin to heat up and each game has increasingly more significance for those teams that might be on the bubble for an at-large bid into the postseason.
Here are the FCS games to watch in Week 7.
No. 3 Eastern Washington at No. 13 Weber State, 6:05 p.m. ET
Had Weber State (3-2, 1-1 Big Sky) won last week, this would likely be one of the top games of the season. Even with the loss, the Wildcats have a huge opportunity against the third-ranked Eagles (5-1, 3-0 Big Sky) at home to regain their footing in the Big Sky.
Weber State has struggled in the passing game this year, especially last week with three interceptions and just 115 yards. However, their defense is best in the Big Sky, allowing 374 yards per game, and they have racked up 17 sacks and 18 turnovers in five games. Senior All-American linebacker LeGrand Toia leads the defense with seven tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
On the other side of the ball, Eastern Washington’s offense continues to be one of the best in the country. It averages nearly 46 points and puts up 570 yards of offense per game. All-American quarterback Gabe Gubrud is likely out with a foot injury again this week. The offense didn’t miss a beat last week with Eric Barriere under center, but those 55 points came against statistically the worst defense in the FCS. He’ll have a much tougher test this week.
No. 8 James Madison at No. 25 Villanova, 1:00 p.m. ET
James Madison (4-2, 2-1 CAA) had its 19-game home winning streak and 20-game conference winning streak snapped last week against Elon. Now it has a tough road game against another conference foe in Villanova (3-3, 0-3 CAA) that’s in desperate need of a victory.
Starting with the home team, the Wildcats have lost two straight weeks to ranked opponents — Stony Brook and Maine — and are heading into this crucial matchup with starting quarterback Zach Bednarczyk coming back from a shoulder injury. If he isn’t able to go, Jack Schetelich will get the start. He threw for 93 yards and two picks last week.
Villanova will have to put up points against the Dukes, which lead the CAA in scoring (40.2 ppg). But those points could be tough to come by against the nation’s third-best scoring defense. James Madison has arguably the best backfield in the FCS with its three-headed monster at running back with seniors Marcus Marshall, Trai Sharp and Cardon Johnson. Pittsburgh transfer Ben DiNucci has been rock solid in his first year with the Dukes, completing 70 percent of his passes. On defense, cornerback Jimmy Moreland has four picks this year.
No. 6 Elon at Delaware, 3:30 p.m. ET
Elon had one of the biggest wins in program history over James Madison last week, which makes its road trip to Delaware a potential letdown game.
The Blue Hens’ (3-2, 1-1 CAA) two losses have come against now-No. 15 Rhode Island and No. 1 North Dakota State. That’s excusable. Now the Hens have a huge chance to claim a top-10 victory and remain in the CAA championship picture with a home victory. Quarterback Pat Kehoe bounced back last week with 291 passing yards and two touchdowns after throwing three interceptions against North Dakota State. This week he’ll be going against one of the top defenses in the conference.
Elon (4-1, 2-0 CAA) held the dynamic James Madison offense to 24 points last week and 146 yards on the ground when it averaged more than 200 yards heading in to the matchup. Delaware and Elon are each solid on the defensive side of the ball, ranked second and third in CAA in total defense. On offense, Elon has the top rushing attack in the conference. Star running back Malcolm Summers ran for 185 yards and a score against the Dukes.
Taking a closer look at our #CAAFB Players of the Week@elonfootball's Malcolm Summers and Zack Monson@blackbearsfb's Deshawn Stevens and Kenny Doak@towson_fb's Shane Simpson pic.twitter.com/ByPpuzNVRD— CAA Football (@CAAFootball) October 8, 2018
No. 19 UC Davis vs. Idaho State, 7:00 p.m. ET
This middle of the season showdown between two undefeated Big Sky teams could be an absolute shootout with two of the best scoring offenses in the country.
Idaho State (4-1, 3-0 Big Sky) has been one of the biggest surprise teams so far this season. Its only loss came against Cal and its offense ranks sixth in the nation with 522 yards per game. The Bengals do most of their damage on the ground with dual-threat quarterback Tanner Gueller and running backs James Madison and Ty Flanagan. Madison and Flanagan have each ran for more than 400 yards and combined for 12 touchdowns in five games. Idaho State put up 62 points last week against in-state rival Idaho.
If UC Davis (4-1, 2-0 Big Sky) is going to do one thing, it’s going to score points. Aside from its lone loss to Stanford, UC Davis has scored at least 44 points in each contest. Quarterback Jake Maier has thrown for 1,576 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games. Watch out for Keelan Doss at receiver for the Aggies. How well Idaho State contains him might be the difference in the game.
No. 15 Rhode Island vs. No. 22 Maine, Noon ET
This game likely wasn’t circled at the beginning of the season as one of the marquee games in the conference, but here in Week 7 both the Rams (4-1, 2-0 CAA) and the Black Bears (3-2, 2-0 CAA) have ranked wins and are undefeated in conference play.
Rhode Island’s lone loss came against UConn in which it put up 49 points, which has been the strength of the Rams this year. They are third in the CAA in scoring (37.2 ppg). Dual-threat quarterback JaJuan Lawson runs the offense and has completed 70 percent of his passes, but he’s questionable for the game after missing last week’s 48-0 victory against Brown. In his place, Vito Priore threw for 310 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
Maine could also be playing with its backup quarterback as starter Chris Ferguson recovers from an injury to his throwing shoulder. Isaiah Robinson started the past two weeks for the Black Bears. But their offense isn’t the strongest asset of the team as its defense continues to be one of the best in the country. Maine ranks first in the country in rushing defense (60.0 ypg) and sixth in the nation in total defense (250.2 ypg). Senior linebacker Sterling Sheffield has dominated opponents this year, accumulating a team-leading nine tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.