There’s yet another showdown in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and Tom Flacco — yes, Joe Flacco’s brother — leads his team into hostile territory at Joe’s old stomping grounds in a heavy slate of ranked matchups.
Here are the five games you should be watching in Week 9 of FCS football action that could be looked at closely when it gets down to selection time for the playoffs.
No. 8 South Dakota State at No. 9 Illinois State, 1 p.m. ET, WATCH
Both the Jackrabbits (4-2, 2-2 MVFC) and the Redbirds (5-2, 2-2) are coming off conference losses and desperately need a win so not to fall under .500 in conference.
South Dakota State was held to just nine points last week in a 15-point loss to Northern Iowa, despite averaging 48 points per game heading into the matchup. It’s difficult to imagine Taryn Christion going another week without a touchdown pass for the Jackrabbits, but the Illinois State defense ranks 19th in passing defense compared to Northern Iowa at 79th.
No. 10 Towson at No. 21 Delaware, 3:30 p.m. ET, WATCH
For name recognition only, this is incredible enticing game to watch. When considering where these two teams are compared to preseason projections, it’s must-watch football.
Towson (6-1, 4-0 CAA) quarterback Tom Flacco will face his brother’s former team in Week 9 with crucial conference positioning on the line. Flacco leads the CAA in passing yards per game (282.3) and passing touchdowns (17). The Tigers are first in the conference in scoring offense (40.3 ppg) and first in total offense (486.3 ypg) while the Blue Hens (5-2, 3-1) are second in scoring defense (18.1). There are currently five teams in the CAA with one conference loss.
No. 5 Weber State at No. 24 North Dakota, 3 p.m, WATCH
Two games removed from its huge home win over then-No. 3 Eastern Washington, the Weber State Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 Big Sky) have a road test at North Dakota (5-2), which has won three in a row.
The Wildcats defense has been superb the past two weeks. It allowed just six points against the nation’s 10th-best scoring offense and held Montana State to only 221 total yards in a 34-24 win last week. On the other side of the ball, North Dakota’s offense ranks 18th in total offense with 462.7 yards per game and three running backs that average more than 80 rushing yards per game.
No. 15 Stony Brook at No. 3 James Madison, 3:30 p.m. ET, TV: MASN, SNY
Last week’s biggest winner was probably James Madison and the Dukes (5-2, 3-1 CAA) didn’t even play. They jumped two spots without playing and now have a vital CAA matchup at home against Stony Brook (6-2, 4-1 CAA).
The Dukes were widely expected to win the CAA for a fourth straight year, but another loss would practically throw any possibility of that right out the window. Stony Brook running backs Donald Liotine and Jordan Gowins both average around 100 rushing yards per game and will provide the greatest challenge to the 10th-ranked rushing defense in the country that allows only 95 yards per game on the ground.
No. 14 Central Arkansas at No. 16 McNeese, 7 p.m. ET, WATCH
Welcome to the spotlight, Southland Conference. Recently Sam Houston State has dominated the conference, but Central Arkansas (5-2, 4-1) and McNeese (5-2, 4-1) are both vying for playoff spots and have respective conference championship hopes in the line in this game.
Since Bears starting quarterback Breylin Smith was hurt late in the overtime loss to Sam Houston State, Luke Hales has been phenomenal for Central Arkansas. He has thrown for 11 touchdowns in three games and will be going against a passing defense ranked 88th. For McNeese, both its offense and defense are hoping to bounce back from a 45-17 loss to Incarnate Word last week in which it recorded just 222 yards of offense.
McNeese, Central Arkansas and Incarnate Word are tied for first in the Southland at 4-1. A McNeese loss would put the Cowboys firmly behind the Bears and Incarnate Word. A win for the Bears would keep them in the driver’s seat with a game against Incarnate Word in two weeks.