For this week's FCS game of the week, we head to Huntsville, Texas where No. 25 Eastern Kentucky visits No. 1 Sam Houston in one of four Week 11 top-25 matchups.
Sam Houston and Eastern Kentucky sit at the top of the AQ7 standings, respectively. If Sam Houston wins in Week 11, the Bearkats win the AQ7's automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs. If Eastern Kentucky wins, it can clinch an automatic playoff berth with a win during the following week.
Week 11 FCS game of the week:
Eastern Kentucky will battle Sam Houston in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. Dual-threat quarterback Parker McKinney leads the Colonels into the top-25 matchup after rushing for a career-high 100 yards in his last outing. Behind a rushing attack that averages 4.5 yards per carry, the Eastern Kentucky offense is the fourth-ranked red-zone offense in the nation. The Colonels will need leading rusher running back Da'Joun Hewitt to have a great day against a stout Sam Houston defense.
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Eastern Kentucky's defense knows how to create turnovers. Its 12 interceptions rank tenth in the FCS, with 33.3 percent of the interceptions returned for touchdowns. Cornerback Davion Ross has three pick-sixes by himself.
Elsewhere on the defense, Colonels' linebacker Kyle Bailey has been a tackling machine; Bailey had 12 tackles in his last performance and is in the top-20 of the FCS in solo tackles per game. Bailey and crew face their biggest challenge yet in slowing down the reigning national champion Bearkats.
Sam Houston has the third leading scoring offense in the FCS behind quarterback Eric Schmid. Schmid is near the top of nearly every passing category in his career all-time and he may get the return of shifty wide receiver Jequez Ezzard after Ezzard missed last week.
While Schmid can attack opposing defenses through the air, the Bearkats also have a strong rushing attack. Last week, Sam Houston rushed for 403 yards, its most since 2013, with five different running backs scoring touchdowns. Sam Houston's diverse offense has added to the dominance of the reigning national champions.
A strong defense is a key reason why Sam Houston has won 19 consecutive games (leads FCS), including 11 straight games at home. The Bearkats defense is star-studded with All-Americans like defensive back Zyon McCollum and defensive linemen Jahari Kay. This week, Kay will go up against an Eastern Kentucky offensive line that has allowed just nine sacks while McCollum will look to add to his 50 career passes defended. Sam Houston will need its top players to step up as the Bearkats look to clinch their return to the FCS Playoffs.
When Sam Houston faces Eastern Kentucky, it will likely decide the winner of the AQ7 in the makeshift league's inaugural season. With playoff implications on the line, expect this game to start competitively as the Bearkats and Colonels will look to make a statement.