With numerous teams still in the hunt, the FCS playoff race is as exciting as it has been in years. Seeds, general bids and automatic bids are set during the final week of the regular season.
Let’s predict some outcomes.
Record 2022: 69-34
Record 2019-2021: 244-115
TIED TOGETHER: Week 12 Consideration Guide
No. 8 William & Mary at No. 11 Richmond
The winner of this legendary rivalry game will surely get a place in the playoffs. The loser still looks like he’s getting a bid.
Statistically, W&M has the third best pass defense in the CAA. Delaware (No. 1) was able to limit Richmond’s passing attack in a 21-13 win over Richmond last week despite Reece Udinski playing through an injury. I like W&M’s well-rounded defense and his ability to control the clock and pace of this game offensively with his fast offense averaging 277.0 yards per game on the ground.
The tribe must control the line of scrimmage on offense and attack well in space on defense.
Prediction: William & Mary 24-21
Dayton at Davidson
The winner here gets the Pioneer’s AQ into the playoffs.
Davidson has taken San Diego’s place as the top-tier team in the PFL. Dayton has been a contender with explosive offensive play lately. Jake Chisholm is a fantastic all-around player for Dayton (960 yards rushing and 11 TDs, 239 yards receiving and 4 TDs). Davidson has a fierce option for a fast attack leading FCS (357.4 YPG) led by Dylan Sparks and Coy Williams.
I like Davidson here as he’s at home and Davidson is in this situation before going on the line in a key conference game with playoff implications.
Prediction: Davidson 28-21
No. 19 Mercer at No. 9 Samford
I believe Samford has a legitimate argument for the No. 4 if they win and end up 10-0 against FCS. And I think Mercer could be left out of the group with one loss, a 7-4 record and no wins in the current rankings. If Mercer wins, then I think the committee will make room for four SoCon teams (assuming Furman and Chattanooga avoid trouble).
Mercer hasn’t won the big games this season, but he’s looked fantastic against the underdogs. Getting just 21 and 13 points against Chattanooga and Furman is a problem against an improved Samford defense. And the Samford offense is just rolling, clinching a great win on the road last week in Chattanooga and scoring 35 points on solid defense.
This looks like a balanced squad, with defense complementing offense. Give me the bulldogs at home.
Forecast: Samford 28-24
North Carolina A&T at Gardner-Webb
The Big South title and AQ are at stake here.
Gardner-Webb enjoyed a brutal non-conference schedule, playing against three FBS opponents (Coastal Carolina, Marshall and Liberty) and two FCS ranked teams (Elon and Mercer). But the roster capitalized on those challenges to sit alongside NC A&T 4-0 (5-5 overall) in the Big South standings.
NC A&T has also bounced back from a rough start, starting 3-0 with losses to rivals NC Central, defending champions NDSU and FBS Duke.
NC A&T is looking for a playoff AQ before heading to the CAA next season. NC A&T’s defense is now up to standard for the program and the fast offense was great, led by Bhayshul Tuten (1,255 yards and 12 TDs). Defense and control of the ball? How to win games in November.
Forecast: NC A&T 31-24
No. 5 UIW in the Northwest State
Northwestern State is 0-5 in non-conference but currently 4-1 in Southland alongside Southeastern and UIW. The Demons still have a shot at getting the Southland AQ. They would have to beat NUIW and hope Nicholls beats Southeastern to go 5-1 in league play while UIW and Southeastern go 4-2.
But I don’t see that.
UIW will want to put together a statement win to back up their case for a seed. The Cardinals have outscored their opponents this season by 51.6 points to 20.3. The defense has noticeably gotten stronger while QB Lindsey Scott Jr. just makes opposing defenses look silly.
Prediction: UIW 38-17
No. 13 Montana in State No. 3 Montana
I’m typing this from Bozeman Airport and maybe it’s just the coffee but I’m looking forward to this game and can’t wait to feel the buzz around town. Not only is this one of college football’s most intense rivalries, and the stakes are high (MSU seeded in the top 3 with a win, Montana potentially eliminated from the playoffs with a loss), it’s ESPN’s “College GameDay.” it also in the city to increase the excitement.
For me, it depends on the quarterbacks. Will Lucas Johnson from Montana play or not? When he doesn’t, we’ve seen the Griz offense really struggle. When he plays what kind of mobility does he have with whatever kind of leg injury he has? Can Tommy Mellott play with his arm enough for MSU? And what impact will Sean Chambers’ return from injury have? He’s still third in FCS with 16 rushing TDs despite missing the last month of action.
MSU will get their rushing yards. Montana will get its TFLs and sacks and big hits. Each unit receives theirs at different times in the game. It comes down to the QBs, and I feel better about MSU’s QB situation going into this game, tied with Bozeman.
Prediction: Montana State 24-21
State of Kennesaw in eastern Kentucky
EKU needs this win to have seven D1 wins. It will have an argument for a bid at large with an FBS (Bowling Green) win and a ranked win over SEMO. And I *think* EKU could get the ASUN-WAC AQ with a win-loss from Central Arkansas to Jacksonville State since EKU would own the ASUN tiebreaker and EKU would have a higher computerized power ranking than the SFA and ACU of the WAC has.
Kennesaw has played better over time, but I like EKU here at home. Parker McKinney is a great QB and I think the team will put in a complete performance knowing what’s at stake. Kennesaw doesn’t have that much to play at 5-5 overall and 1-3 in the ASUN
Forecast: Eastern Kentucky 35-24
Stephen F Austin at Abilene Christian
ACU is 3-0 in the WAC standings and SFA is 2-1. These two teams previously played with an SFA 41-38 home win, but it didn’t count in the WAC rating.
ACU can secure the WAC Championship with a win and stack its power rankings against the ASUN champion for playoff AQ. ACU could also get eight D1 wins if it doesn’t get the AQ. They had an impressive performance on the AND rankings a couple of weeks ago, losing 34-31 in a place that isn’t easy to play. Since then they have won twice in a row. SFA has lost back-to-back to D1 transition Utah Tech and 34-7 at home to UCA. Momentum is taking two different paths here.
Forecast: Abilene Christian 35-21
No. 16 North Dakota in State No. 4 North Dakota
This is not a gimme for NDSU. AND plays well, especially offensively with a mix of physical running and spreading the ball in the air. I’ve been waiting for NDSU to take it to another level, similar to last year’s SDSU loss, and just haven’t seen it yet. With the season-ending injury of starting RT Mason Miller, the status of All-American fullback Hunter Luepke yet to be known this weekend (and maybe beyond) but in doubt, as well as the All-Americans’ past injuries Noah Gindorff (TE) and Eli Mostaert (DT), this Bison team may not have the next level game they hit last year.
But while the Bison aren’t a juggernaut, they’re still a top-five team in FCS. Maybe even the best team in FCS until January, but I haven’t seen that performance yet. I think it will be a close game for three quarters but NDSU’s Elite OL will have the advantage in the fourth quarter as there is a defense that wasn’t as strong as previous AND units.
Forecast: NDSU 31-21
#24 UC Davis in #2 Sacramento State
Another great rivalry to end the regular season. UC Davis is in a win-and-in situation to finish 7-4 with back-to-back road wins over ranked opponents. Losing and coming in 6-5 in this big bubble will be difficult. Sac State can secure a top 2 seed with a win.
UC Davis has been on a spree lately, wrecking their opponents, including Idaho, for most of last week’s game. The offensive line is playing at a high level and UC Davis can score quickly with some explosive athletes. The Sac State defense needs to play one of their better games. The Hornets can also score in a variety of ways, and their ground play has proven difficult to fully contain.
This is going to be a fight. But it seems every week when we think Sac State might lose, it finds a way to win. This could be another big play from Asher O’Hara on the floor to control the clock and keep UC Davis offense off the field.
Forecast: sac state 35-31