The FCS is heating up and games are getting more and more meaningful by the week. Week 9 is sure to be another exciting one for fans of the subdivision as several conferences will see major games across the country this weekend. In fact, several leagues could be decided in this Saturday’s action. From the SoCon to the Big Sky and everything in between, here’s what’s going down this weekend.
Holy Cross Looks to Remain Unbeaten vs. #22 Fordham
The Patriot League may very well be decided based off what happens Saturday in Worcester between Fordham and Holy Cross. The winner of this year’s “Ram-Crusader Cup” will likely also hoist the conference title as both teams are sitting atop the standings right now. The #5 Crusaders (7-0) are experiencing one of the best seasons in school history and have won five straight over the Rams (6-1).
Fordham has one the best offense in the country by many standards. Quarterback Tim DeMorat leads the nation with 3,023 passing yards and has 33 touchdowns (second in the FCS to only UIW’s Lindsay Scott Jr). DeMorat has only thrown four interceptions in 275 pass attempts all season.
DeMorat has some of the best receivers in the nation in Fotis Kokosioulis and MJ Wright. Between the two they’ve racked up 1,547 yards and 12 touchdowns. The duo has caught 92 of DeMorat’s 186 pass completions this fall.
Holy Cross will combat Fordham’s high-octane offense with a stout defense. Linebacker Liam Anderson leads a Crusader defense that only allows just over 16 points and 127 rush yards per contest. Anderson and fellow linebacker Jacob Dobbs have teamed up for 76 tackles and a sack this year.
This contest will have a lot riding on it. If Holy Cross walks away the winner then, in all likelihood, no one will catch them for the Patriot League crown and it seems very possible that they could run the table to go undefeated and receive a seed in the playoffs.
If Fordham comes out on top, though, then they would actually take the lead in the race for the conference title and make it very possible that the league sends two representatives to the postseason this year. At 7-1, they’d have a really good shot of ending a playoff drought that’s lasted since 2015.
The game will kick off at 1:00 PM (ET) on ESPN+.
William & Mary Hosts Rhode Island
#10 William & Mary (6-1) has been on a tear this season and their success will be put to the test against a hot Rhode Island (5-2) team that’s won three straight including a big victory over then-#14 Elon. The Tribe has not seen the Rams since the 2019 season and in their last meeting they routed URI 55-19. This time, again, the matchup will take place in Williamsburg with the winner looking to make a big move in the CAA race.
If Rhode Island is to pull an upset here, they’ll need a big day from running back Marques DeShields. DieShields leads the Rams in rushing yards (664), attempts (99) and touchdowns (8) and also has three straight 100-yard games going in. He played a big part in URI’s wins over Brown and Monmouth in that three-game stretch.
William & Mary will also field a very strong running game with the likes of Bronson Yoder and Malachi Imoh. The tandem of backs has paced the Tribe offense this season with 1,020 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns combined. Neither eclipsed the 100-yard mark last week against Towson, though, but likely could this time against a Rams defense that gives up nearly four yards per attempt.
The play of both quarterbacks will also be big in this one. W&M’s Darius Wilson has 1,300 passing yards this year and has three multi-touchdown games (including last week’s win over Towson) while Rhode Island’s Kasim Hill has 1.738 yards and 12 touchdowns. Hill, though, tossed three picks last week against Monmouth.
If William & Mary wins then they’re almost guaranteed a playoff spot at what would be 7-1. They’d have victories over two ranked teams, one being a #6 Delaware team and the other being over #18 URI.
The Rams, though, can really send the CAA into turmoil if they pull the win. They’d be 6-2 and drop W&M behind them in the standings. Everyone would still seemingly be looking up at New Hampshire but the hopes of returning to the postseason for the first time since 1985 would get better.
FloFootball will have the Saturday game at 1:00 PM (ET).
Chattanooga, Furman Meet in Big SoCon Bout
Last week #7 Chattanooga got by one of the biggest tests of their season when they took down a high-powered Mercer squad. This week, though, the Mocs (6-1) will have another daunting task in facing #24 Furman (6-2) on the road as they look to take a stranglehold on the SoCon. The Paladins have won three in a row but haven’t toppled Chattanooga at home since 2018.
The Mocs will look to keep riding their strong defense that forced six turnovers against the Bears last week. The unit is among the best in the country in sacks with 22 this season. Guys like Devonnsha Maxwell and Jay Person play a big role there. The duo has combined for 12 of said sacks and 54 total tackles.
Another big player on the Chattanooga defense is DB Kameron Brown. Brown has nabbed four interceptions this season and got two last week against a Mercer team that doesn’t throw many picks. That means Furman signal-caller Tyler Huff will need to be very wary of passes on Brown’s side of the field. Huff has thrown four picks this season but hasn’t tossed any since Week 6.
On the other side, the Paladins will look to running back Dominic Roberto to bust through the tough Mocs defense. Roberto has 779 rush yards (10th best in FCS) and eight scores this season. Last week against VMI he averaged 11.8 yards per attempt despite seeing a season-low eight carries.
You’ve got to believe Chattanooga would have the SoCon title well in hand if they win this one. Triumphs over Mercer and Furman (both ranked) would have the Mocs at 7-1 and give them tiebreakers over two of the better teams in the conference. A seed would be well within reach also.
Furman can really make things interesting, though. They’d pull ahead of Chattanooga in the standings but would still need Samford to lose their game against The Citadel as Samford beat them earlier this year. The Paladins could improve to 7-2 with just two to go; one of those remaining games coming against Mercer.
The game will kick off at 2:00 PM (ET) on ESPN3.
“College GameDay” Comes to Jackson for JSU-Southern
All eyes will be on Jackson on Saturday as ESPN’s “College GameDay” makes an unprecedented trip for #9 Jackson State’s marquee matchup with Southern. The Tigers (7-0) are one of the best FCS squads this year and easily the favorite to win this year’s Celebration Bowl. The Jaguars (5-2), though, are no slouch and will be looking to upset JSU. “College GameDay”’s visit marks the first to an FCS institution since last season when they were on site for another HBCU game between North Carolina Central and Alcorn State.
Jackson State will again deploy the talents of phenom quarterback Shedeur Sanders. The sophomore has passed for 2,231 yards and 23 touchdowns this fall and has not had a game in which he’s thrown for under 200 yards yet. Sanders also hasn’t taken a sack in nearly three weeks and has rushed for 104 yards and two scores as well this year.
It isn’t just Sanders, however, that makes JSU’s offense so potent. Receiver Dallas Daniels is averaging 11.3 yards per catch and leads the team with six receiving touchdowns. The senior wideout is one of Sanders’ favorite targets this season with 42 catches.
Southern will need to be on their game defensively as Jackson State can hurt it’s opponents in a variety of ways and do so in a flash. The Jaguars D, though, has some dangerous guys of their own on the back end. Defensive backs Corione Harris and Jordan Carter account for half of the team’s 10 interceptions this year and 47 tackles between them. Sanders will need an eye on these two or they can make him pay.
Many see Jackson State as a shoo-in for the SWAC championship and appearance in the Celebration Bowl later this year and if they win here to go to 8-0 then it will very likely happen. Southern could throw a real wrench into things with an upset, however. They still wouldn’t be ahead of JSU in the standings but would hold a tiebreaker and start to maybe enter that discussion of an at-large HBCU bid to the FCS playoffs.
The contest will begin at 2:00 PM (ET) on ESPN3.
Montana, Weber State Each Seek Bounce-Back Win
Both #11 Montana (5-2) and #5 Weber State (6-1) are playing rebound this Saturday as each lost heartbreakers to Big Sky foes last weekend. The Wildcats are looking to get back on track after falling on the road to Montana State while the Grizzlies are trying to get right after losing two straight, most recently to Sacramento State in overtime.
If Weber State is to correct it’s mistakes from last week it must improve on special teams. Long snapper Grant Sands had a historically bad afternoon sending four errant snaps through the end zone for safeties on each occurrence. That needs cleaned up as does the defense which surrendered nearly 500 yards, 347 of which came on the ground.
The Wildcats defense may get a boost as Montana lost a couple players including quarterback Lucas Johnson to an injury last week against Sac State. Johnson, who went down in the second quarter last Saturday night, has 1,240 pass yards and 13 TDs this year. Receiver and returnman Junior Borgen also left last week’s game with a hand injury. At the time of publication it is unclear whether either will play this weekend.
If Johnson can’t go, that’ll mean backup QB Kris Brown will likely get the nod. Brown finished the game against the Hornets with 141 yards and a touchdowns. He also has experience after playing in ten games for Montana. His counterpart will be Weber State’s Bronson Barron who’s thrown for 1,585 yards and 12 scores this fall.
There’s a ton on the line for both teams here. If Montana loses a third straight then they’ve all but kissed their hopes a seed in the playoffs goodbye and would start to be in jeapordy of missing out altogether with tough games against Montana State and Eastern Washington still left.
If WSU drops another, though, then they too would be letting a potential seed slip away. It seems like a long shot that they’d win a Big Sky championship now but another loss would surely eliminate them from that. Both teams need this one badly.
The game will start at 3:00 PM (ET) on ESPN+.
Other Week 9 FCS Games
FRIDAY - Yale @ Columbia
SATURDAY - St. Francis @ Sacred Heart, Wagner @ Central Connecticut State, LIU @ Duquesne, Morehead State @ Butler, South Carolina State @ Morgan State, Presbyterian @ Marist, Georgetown @ Lafayette, Penn @ Brown, Cornell @ Princeton, Colgate @ Bucknell, Merrimack @ Stonehill, Towson @ Monmouth, Stony Brook @ Albany, Richmond @ Maine, Hampton @ Villanova, Drake @ Stetson, Valparaiso @ Dayton, Charleston Southern @ Kennesaw State, Campbell @ North Carolina A&T, East Tennessee State @ Wofford, Harvard @ Dartmouth, Bryant @ Gardner-Webb, Mercer @ VMI, South Dakota @ Youngstown State, William Jewell @ Lindenwood, San Diego @ St. Thomas, Eastern Kentucky @ Southeast Missouri State, Howard @ Norfolk State, Samford @ The Citadel, North Carolina Central @ Delaware State, Tennessee State @ Murray State, UT Martin @ Houston Christian, Incarnate Word @ Texas A&M-Commerce, Utah Tech @ Stephen F. Austin, Tennessee Tech @ Eastern Illinois, Indiana State @ South Dakota State, Lincoln (CA) @ Texas Southern, Alcorn State @ Grambling State, Western Illinois @ Missouri State, Northern Iowa @ Southern Illinois, Bethune-Cookman @ Prairie View A&M, Illinois State @ North Dakota State, Alabama State vs Alabama A&M (Birmingham, AL), Robert Morris @ Appalachian State, Delaware @ Elon, Arkansas-Pine Bluff @ Florida A&M, Nicholls @ Lamar, Portland State @ Eastern Washington, Jacksonville State @ Austin Peay, Abilene Christian @ North Dakota, North Alabama @ Central Arkansas, Cal Poly @ UC Davis, Sam Houston @ Tarleton State, Southeastern Louisiana @ McNeese, Idaho @ Sacramento State