Top 25 preview:Top teams keep winning
(STATS) – Finding elbow room near the top of the FCS has been more difficult than usual this season.
Unbeaten Sam Houston State as well as Jacksonville State, Eastern Washington and North Dakota State have represented the top four in some order for a remarkable eight straight weeks.
While the first set of Top 10 rankings from the NCAA Division I FCS selection committee created great discussion and some criticism last week – and a new set of rankings will be out Thursday – each of those four teams has reason to believe it should be No. 1.
Add in unbeaten The Citadel and James Madison and just about everyone is in agreement of the top six teams. Those six have combined for a mere four losses – Jacksonville State's and James Madison's came against FBS opponents and Eastern Washington's came against North Dakota State. Only North Dakota State's came from outside the Top 10, but barely with No. 11 South Dakota State.
So when fans feel their favorite team isn't getting their due, they should remember there are some other pretty darn good teams in the FCS.
The 24-team playoffs that begin in two weeks are highly anticipated.
FCS GAME OF THE WEEK=
The Matchup: No. 14 Charleston Southern (5-3, 2-1 Big South) at No. 25 Liberty (6-3, 4-0)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET at Williams Stadium (19,200) in Lynchburg Stadium
Series: Liberty leads 19-4 (most recent meeting: Charleston Southern won 31-24 at home on Nov. 14, 2015)
The Skinny: Liberty has clinched a share of a record eighth Big South title and seeks its first outright title since 2008 as well as the conference's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. Charleston Southern has to win to remain alive for the title and a playoff bid (with a loss, it won't get to six Division I wins, which are necessary for an at-large bid). Opponents have run the ball well against Liberty, and that's CSU's strength (268.1-yard rushing average), mostly behind big-play RB Mike Holloway. The host Flames are 5-0 since freshman Stephen Calvert has become the starting quarterback. The defense, led by DE Juwan Wells and LB Nick Newman, is coming off a shutout of Presbyterian. The game matches the leading FCS kick returners: CSU's Darius Hammond (32.3 ypr) and Liberty's Frankie Hickson (31.9 ypr).
Prediction: Liberty is 14-2 in November games under coach Turner Gill. Both losses are to Charleston Southern, which faces a desperate spot. Charleston Southern, 20-17.
STATS FCS TOP 25 SCHEDULE=
All Times ET
Friday, Nov. 11
X-No. 24 Harvard (7-1, 5-0 Ivy) at Penn (5-3, 4-1), 7 p.m. – Ouch, the Harvard Crimson school newspaper says to forget Yale, that this is “The Game.” The Crimson will clinch a share of the Ivy League title with a victory.
Saturday, Nov. 12
Southern Illinois (3-6, 1-5 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 17 Youngstown State (6-3, 4-2), noon – YSU has scored one touchdown in the last two games, and it came on special teams. With SIU and Missouri State, next week's opponent, a combined 3-9 in MVFC games, the opportunity is there for the Penguins to end a 10-year playoff drought.
Albany (5-4, 2-4 CAA) at X-No. 21 New Hampshire (6-3, 5-1), noon – The talk is often about UNH trying to extend its streak of consecutive playoff appearances to a national-best 13, but the Wildcats are very much in contention for the CAA Football title. Coach Sean McDonnell's squad is coming off a bye.
X-No. 6 James Madison (8-1, 6-0 CAA) at No. 9 Villanova (7-2, 5-1), 1 p.m. – Like UNH, Villanova is a half-game behind CAA leader James Madison entering the 25th all-time meeting. The conference's best defense sets its sights on slowing down Dukes quarterback Bryan Schor, who has earned four of the last six CAA offensive player of the week honors.
X-No. 5 The Citadel (9-0, 7-0 Southern) at VMI (3-6, 1-5), 1:30 p.m. – “The Military Classic of the South” was tied until The Citadel reeled off wins in the last nine meetings. The playoff-bound Bulldogs and first-year coach Brent Thompson are seeking a perfect conference season.
Wofford (6-3, 4-2 Southern) at X-No. 7 Chattanooga (8-1, 6-1), 2 p.m. – Mocs coach Russ Huesman says leading rusher Derrick Craine will be back after missing the last two games with an ankle injury. Craine's absence has helped Wofford's Lorenzo Long to the SoCon rushing lead.
Bryant (4-5) at X-No. 15 Coastal Carolina (7-2), 2 p.m. – Although All-American running back De'Angelo Henderson is sidelined by injury, Coastal has had two 100-yard rushers in two straight games.
X-No. 10 North Carolina A&T (8-1, 6-0 MEAC) at Delaware State (0-9, 0-6), 2 p.m. – The Aggies seek to remain sharp and avoid injury a week before the pseudo-MEAC title game against North Carolina Central. Senior running back Tarik Cohen has gone 482 straight touches without a fumble.
X-No. 2 Jacksonville State (8-1, 5-0 OVC) at Murray State (4-5, 4-2), 2 p.m. – Racers quarterback KD Humphries has passed for 1,035 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception in a three-game winning streak. But the No. 2 Gamecocks know a lot about winning streaks, as they've won 22 straight in the Ohio Valley Conference.
X-Northern Arizona (5-4, 4-2 Big Sky) at No. 12 North Dakota (8-2, 7-0), 2 p.m. – Dating to last season, the Fighting Hawks are on a 10-game Big Sky winning streak. They hope to have quarterback Keaton Studsrud (shoulder) back as they try to lock down at least a share of the conference title. NAU coach Jerome Souers has led a four-game winning streak.
X-No. 16 Cal Poly (6-3, 4-2 Big Sky) at Weber State (5-4, 4-2), 2 p.m. – The Mustangs, who were 4-7 last season, would have embraced being in this spot going into the season. Following a home loss to Eastern Washington, they will be disappointed if they don't finish the job with a playoff bid.
Northern Iowa (4-5, 3-3 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 19 Western Illinois (6-3, 3-3), 2 p.m. – UNI freshman Jalen Rima went 94 yards for a touchdown on the longest punt return in school history last week. He's the grandson of Panthers play-by-play radio announcer Gary Rima.
X-No. 18 Montana (6-3, 3-3 Big Sky) at Northern Colorado (5-4, 3-3), 2:05 p.m. – Griz sophomore linebacker Josh Buss has racked up a Big Sky-best 17.5 tackles for loss.
Alabama State (3-6, 3-5 SWAC) at X-No. 20 Grambling State (6-1, 6-0), 3 p.m. – G-Man Chad Williams is second in the FCS in receiving yards per game (134.7), primed to go over 1,000 for the season.
South Dakota (4-5, 3-3 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 11 South Dakota State (6-3, 5-1), 3 p.m. – Seven of South Dakota's eight FCS games have been decided by seven points or less, including three in double overtime. SDSU tight end Dallas Goedert has a seven-game streak of 100 or more receiving yards.
Nicholls (5-4, 5-2 Southland) at X-No. 13 Central Arkansas (8-1, 7-0), 3:30 p.m. – Beating Nicholls, quarterback Chase Fourcade and a physical defense is no sure thing for a UCA team that's a week away from facing top-ranked Sam Houston for the Southland title. The Bears are No. 1 in the FCS against the run (60.8 ypg).
Indiana State (4-6, 2-5 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 4 North Dakota State (8-1, 5-1), 3:30 p.m. – During their FCS dynasty, the Bison have had a bad run of losing key defenders to injury before the playoffs. This year, it's defensive tackle Nate Tanguay (ACL tear). Junior Grant Morgan is expected to start this week.
Delaware (4-5, 2-4 CAA) at X-No. 8 Richmond (7-2, 4-2), 3:30 p.m. – Delaware has won two straight games behind interim coach Dennis Dottin-Carter. The host Spiders hope to get back on track from a loss to James Madison, which made them 3-5 in regular-season games in November since 2014.
Mercer (5-4, 3-3 Southern) at X-No. 22 Samford (6-3, 4-2), 3:30 p.m. – Samford, which let a 10-point lead slip away in the final five minutes of regulation at The Citadel last week, seeks to end a two-game losing streak. Sophomore Devlin Hodges leads all FCS quarterbacks in combined passes and rushes (502).
Idaho State (2-7, 1-5 Big Sky) at X-No. 3 Eastern Washington (8-1, 6-0), 6:35 p.m. – Eagles wide receiver Cooper Kupp has 389 career receptions, just six shy of Terrell Hudgins' FCS-record 395 at Elon from 2006-09.
X-No. 1 Sam Houston State (9-0, 7-0 Southland) at Northwestern State (1-8, 0-7), 7 p.m. – Incredibly, the Bearkats still haven't trailed in a game this season. They have over twice as many offensive touchdowns (67) than punts (33).
Idle: No. 23 Lehigh (8-2, 5-0 Patriot)