FCS predictions: Quality teams at Top 25 doorstep

(STATS) – The STATS FCS Top 25 needs to go about 35 deep.

There’s a bunch of teams sitting just outside the national media rankings that are having excellent seasons. Some even have statement-type games on Saturday.

The question is, would a win even force them into the Top 25 when there are so many candidates?

Among the teams with important home games are Delaware (4-2, only losses to Virginia Tech and James Madison) against No. 11 Richmond; Eastern Illinois (5-2) against No. 3 Jacksonville State for first place in the Ohio Valley Conference; Southern Utah (4-2, wins over Northern Iowa and Weber State) against No. 8 Eastern Washington, the Big Sky leader; and Dartmouth (two spots outside the Top 25) against Columbia in an Ivy League matchup of 5-0 teams.

Northern Arizona (4-2), the first team outside the Top 25, is on a four-game winning streak, including a 37-16 rout of nationally ranked Illinois State. Nicholls (5-2, only losses to Texas A&M and Sam Houston State), which is on a bye, owns a win over a fellow Southland team in the rankings, McNeese.

The Big South boasts two 5-1 teams in Kennesaw State (win over Liberty, loss only to Samford) and Monmouth. Northern Iowa is 3-3 against a difficult schedule and would improve to 3-1 in the Missouri Valley with a home win over No. 9 Youngstown State on Saturday.

To put it mildly, voters haven’t had it easy in determining the final picks on their ballots.

WEEK 8 FCS TOP 25 PICKS

All Times ET

X – Predicted Winner

Week 7 Record: 14-4 (.778); Season Record: 110-25 (.815)

Saturday, Oct. 21

X-No. 14 Elon (5-1, 3-0 CAA) at Rhode Island (1-5, 0-3), noon – Brelynd Cyphers and De’Sean McNair figure to share carries following a season-ending injury to standout running back Malcolm Summers.

Bethune-Cookman (3-3, 2-1 MEAC) at X-No. 12 North Carolina A&T (7-0, 4-0), 1:30 p.m. – A&T senior Khris Gardin (96 returns, 1,486 yards) is 179 punt return yards shy of the all-time FCS record.

X-No. 19 Western Carolina (5-2, 3-1 Southern) at VMI (0-7, 0-4), 1:30 p.m. – Western Carolina has won 14 straight games in the series and VMI is on a 13-game losing streak since last season.

X-No. 16 Samford (4-2, 2-1 Southern) at No. 5 Wofford (6-0, 4-0), 1:30 p.m. – Break up the Wofford passing game: Option quarterback Brandon Goodson’s 219 passing yards against The Citadel were the most for the Terriers since they joined Division I in 1996.

Towson (2-4, 0-3 CAA) at X-No. 18 New Hampshire (4-2, 2-1), 2 p.m. – UNH junior Neil O’Connor has over 150 receiving yards in three straight games.

Norfolk State (2-4, 2-1 MEAC) at X-No. 25 North Carolina Central (5-1, 3-0), 2 p.m. – Eagles freshman quarterback Chauncey Caldwell has increased his passing yards with each game, up to 333 against Gardner-Webb last week.

X-No. 9 Youngstown State (3-3, 1-2 Missouri Valley) at Northern Iowa (3-3, 2-1), 2 p.m. – UNI has won 12 of the last 14 meetings and hasn’t lost to the Penguins at home since 1999.

X-No. 3 Jacksonville State (5-1, 3-0 Ohio Valley) at Eastern Illinois (5-2, 4-0), 3 p.m. – This is the STATS FCS Game of the Week. The Gamecocks’ 27-game OVC winning streak began in 2013 the week after they lost at Eastern Illinois.

Alcorn State (5-2, 3-0 SWAC) at X-No. 17 Grambling State (5-1, 2-0), 3 p.m. – Having met in each of the last two SWAC championship games, this is the fifth game between these powers since the start of the 2015 season.

X-No. 4 South Dakota (6-0, 3-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 24 Illinois State (4-2, 2-1), 3 p.m. – Gulp, the Redbirds, on a two-game losing streak, are wrapping up the regular season against the five MVFC teams ranked in the top 13.

X-No. 13 South Dakota State (4-2, 1-2 Missouri State) at Missouri State (1-5, 0-3), 3 p.m. – This will be the Jackrabbits’ 100th win at the Division I level.

X-No. 11 Richmond (4-2, 2-1 CAA) at Delaware (4-2, 2-1), 3:30 p.m. – Hey, do you think anybody noticed Delaware coach Danny Rocco was Richmond’s coach last season?

No. 10 Western Illinois (5-1, 2-1 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 2 North Dakota State (6-0, 3-0), 3:30 p.m. – WIU quarterback Sean McGuire will test the Bison secondary (11 interceptions). NDSU and WIU rank third and fourth, respectively, in the FCS in turnover margin.

X-No. 1 James Madison (6-0, 3-0 CAA) at William & Mary (2-4, 0-3), 3:30 p.m. – The top-ranked Dukes hold a 22-17 series lead, and William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock has coached in every game.

Lamar (1-5, 0-4 Southland) at X-No. 7 Sam Houston State (5-1, 3-1), 4 p.m. – The Bearkats’ last loss at Bowers Stadium was against Lamar on Sept. 15, 2015. Their 16-game home winning streak (including one game played at Baylor) is the longest in the FCS.

Incarnate Word (1-5, 1-3 Southland) at X-No. 20 McNeese (5-1, 3-1), 7 p.m. – The Cowboys have allowed only one offensive touchdown in three straight Southland wins. That drive started in their territory.

X-No. 6 Central Arkansas (5-1, 4-0 Southland) at Northwestern State (1-5, 1-3), 7 p.m. – Four different UCA players have been named Southland defensive player of the week, the latest being outside linebacker George Odum.

X-No. 8 Eastern Washington (5-2, 4-0 Big Sky) at Southern Utah (4-2, 2-1), 7 p.m. – The upset-minded Thunderbirds are 11-1 at home over the last three seasons.

X-No. 23 Weber State (4-2, 2-1 Big Sky) at Cal Poly (0-6, 0-3), 9:05 p.m. – Wildcats coach Stefan Cantwell was in concussion protocol after being knocked out of last week’s game against Southern Utah.

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