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FCS: Week 11 Preview, How to Watch

Three auto-bids to the playoffs have already been clinched and more could come into focus in Week 11.

NCAA Football: UC - Davis at California Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

There are only two weekends left of FCS action before the selection committee convenes to decide which 24 programs will get into the playoffs and there’s still lots to iron out. Only three conferences have seen their auto-bids punched but more could be on the way this week. Two big SoCon battles highlight the Week 11 slate but the Big Sky, CAA and AQ7 also have a lot hanging in the balance. Here’s what’s on the line this weekend around the subdivision.

Abilene Christian Looks to Stay Atop AQ7 vs. Sam Houston

If the regular season ended right now, Abilene Christian would be the recipient of the WAC-ASUN (AQ7)’s auto bid to the postseason; it would be the program’s first FCS playoff appearance in school history. To keep that dream alive, though, the Wildcats (6-3) will need to get by last year’s only undefeated team and FBS-transitioning Sam Houston (5-2) on Saturday afternoon.

Running back Jeremiah Dobbins will look to keep up his solid season against a Bearkats defense that allows just 102.4 yards per game. Dobbins leads ACU with 718 yards on 140 carries this season. He also has seven touchdowns to his name in 2022.

On the other side, defensive back Elijah Moffett will be a key player in slowing down the Sam Houston offense. Moffett has a team-high 41 total tackles and has knocked away three passes while intercepting another. He will be up against quarterback Keegan Shoemaker who has thrown for 813 yards and four touchdowns. Shoemaker started serving as Sam Houston’s starter on October 1.

This game could be won or lost on the play of Abilene Christian signal-caller Maverick Mclvor who has struggled with interceptions at times this season. Mclovr has tossed nine picks this season and has three games with multiple interceptions. He has thrown 14 touchdowns, though, and has a completion percentage of 59.7%.

Right now ACU is unbeaten in WAC play at 3-0 and the AQ7’s auto-bid may determined by quality of victories if someone from the ASUN is also undefeated after next weekend. A win over a team on its way up to the FBS would be huge for the Wildcats’ pedigree going into the final week against Stephen F. Austin. Sam Houston is ineligible for postseason play or a WAC title this year per NCAA transition rules.

The game will begin at 1:00 PM (ET) on ESPN+.

Spiders, Blue Hens Meet in Big CAA Tilt

Syndication: Wilmington News Journal Benjamin Chambers/Delaware News Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

The CAA race is as tight as any this season and Saturday’s showdown between Delaware and Richmond likely will go a long way in deciding its eventual outcome. The #12 Spiders (7-2) are fresh off a key win over New Hampshire while the #17 Blue Hens (7-2) likely need to win out to have any hope of claiming the league championship.

Richmond could be without starting quarterback Reece Udinski after he suffered a lower-body injury against the Wildcats last weekend. Udinski is currently the best passer in the conference with 2,572 yards and 22 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 76.1 %. If he can’t go, the Spiders will look to Kyle Wickersham who has only attempted two throws all year but it should be noted Udinski is currently listed first on the two-deep roster for this weekend.

Whoever is calling the signals will likely look to receiver Jakob Herres for help. Herres leads the team with 731 yards on 52 catches. He only has three touchdowns this year but Herres is vital in keeping the chains moving as he averages 14.1 yards per reception.

Across the field, Delaware also has one of the better QBs in the conference and in the nation with Nolan Henderson. Henderson has thrown for 25 touchdowns this fall with five of them coming last week against Monmouth. He’s only had one game this year in which he’s passed for less than 200 yards and that could be big against a Spiders unit that gives up 210.1 per contest.

The Blue Hens have already lost two conference games this year and, while that may already be too many for a CAA title, a third will surely kill the idea once and for all. More importantly, Delaware needs a win to reach the eight-win threshold that could be the difference between getting into the playoffs and being left out. Richmond, however, would still have all its goals in front of it with a victory and a big showdown with William & Mary in the final week.

The contest will kick off at 1:00 PM (ET) on FloFootball.

Samford Seeks Share of SoCon Title at Chattanooga

Samford is just one win away from locking up at least a share of the SoCon crown but Chattanooga is trying to avoid a second loss in three weeks. The #10 Bulldogs (8-1) have won seven consecutive contests dating back to September but the #11 Mocs (7-2) have not lost to Samford since 2013. Something will have to give this Saturday.

If Chattanooga doesn’t want to see its SoCon championship hopes slip away completely, it will need to get after quarterback Michael Hiers. Hiers has thrown for nearly 2,500 yards and 27 touchdowns this season and, more impressively, has only tossed three picks. The Mocs, however, are one of the best pass-rushing teams in the country with 27 sacks. Guys like Jay Person and Ben Brewton will need to key in on Hiers and make him uncomfortable.

Hiers, though, has some dangerous targets at his disposal. Receiver Kendall Watson is a big-play threat that leads the team with 720 receiving yards while fellow wideout Chandler Smith has found the end zone ten times this fall. The duo account for 122 of Hiers’ 249 completed passes.

Chattanooga, meanwhile, will be piloted by signal-caller Preston Hutchinson and running back Ailym Ford. Ford is second in the SoCon with 949 rush yards on 179 totes this season. He’s racked up 10 touchdowns as well. Hutchinson averages 231.1 pass yards per game and has thrown for 13 scores.

As mentioned above, Samford can nab a portion of the league title with a win here and they could even win it outright if Furman gets by Mercer. It would be the Bulldogs first SoCon championship since 2013 and first under eighth-year head coach Chris Hatcher.

Chattanooga needs a victory to stay well-within the playoff conversation and a win likely would get them in. A loss here wouldn't knock them out of it but it would make things a lot more dicey heading into their Week 12 matchup with Western Carolina.

The Bulldogs and Mocs will kick at 1:30 PM (ET) on ESPN+.

Furman, Mercer Eye Key Eighth Win

NCAA Football: Furman at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Furman is on the cusp of locking up a playoff spot but standing in their way is a very good Mercer team with similar aspirations. The #13 Paladins (7-2) are looking to win their fifth straight while the #14 Bears (7-2) attempt to pick up their sixth win in league play. Someone’s postseason dreams will be pushed to the brink in Macon on Saturday.

Mercer will be led by quarterback Fred Payton who is having the best season of his collegiate career with 2,242 pass yards and 28 touchdowns under his belt. Payton, in spite of his overall success, has struggled over the last month, throwing seven interceptions since the middle of October after having none prior to that point. Furman’s defense has picked off 14 passes this season.

The Paladins, meanwhile, have something special in senior tight end Ryan Miller. Miller leads the team in receiving yards (579), touchdowns (9) and catches (53) this year and has been the consistent, go-to target of quarterback Tyler Huff all year. Miller currently leads all FCS tight ends in total touchdowns. He’ll be facing a Bears defense that surrenders 182.1 pass yards per game.

The X factor here could be the play of Furman’s secondary and, more specifically, safety Ryan Hugh. Hugh has successfully notched five PBUs this season and has intercepted four passes. If Payton’s recent struggles through the air continue, Hugh may be the guy to make any mistake a costly one.

If Furman wants to keep pace with Samford (the only team that beat them in SoCon play this season) they need a win. It feels like Mercer, though, may need a win just to stay alive in the playoff chase. The Bears know what it’s like to miss out with a 7-4 record and a defeat here would ensure they go into the final week with that seven-win mark. A win for Mercer, though, would flip the whole script as they’d have an outside shot at the league title pending some other help. However you cut it, there’s plenty at stake here.

ESPN+ will have the game at 3:00 PM (ET).

Aggies Look to Keep Slim Playoff Hopes Alive at Idaho

It seems like it’s been forever since the Kibbie Dome has hosted a meaningful game this late into the season but on Saturday it will do just that as Idaho (6-3) welcomes in UC Davis (5-4). The #15 Vandals are trying to slam the door on the Aggies postseason aspirations but UC Davis has won four in a row and come in as one of the hottest teams in the Big Sky.

The Aggies offense goes and running back Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. goes. Over their last four games (all wins in which UC Davis scored at least 40 points) Gilliam has gotten at least 14 touches per contest and, outside of a quiet day against Northern Colorado, has found the end zone twice in each game. He will likely need similar numbers this week against an Idaho defense that allows 121.9 rush yards per outing this season.

On the other side, the Vandals will boast the talents of freshman quarterback Givani McCoy and receiver Hayden Hatten. Last week McCoy and Hatten torched Eastern Washington for 146 yards and four touchdowns. It was the second time this season Hatten has recorded a four-TD game, tying him for the most touchdown receptions by an FCS pass-catcher this fall with 12 total.

If UC Davis can’t find a way to stop the duo it will be a long afternoon. Cornerback Rex Connors will have his work cut out for him but could be just the man for the job. Connors has notched three interceptions this year and has gotten in 51 total tackles.

This game will have major implications for both teams. The Aggies need to win out to have any hope of hearing their name called on Selection Sunday and you’ve got to believe a road win over a ranked Idaho squad would do wonders for their resume. The Vandals, meanwhile, would also be in danger of missing the postseason cut with a loss. A win, though, would be their seventh and with a struggling Idaho State team on the docket in the final week, Idaho would love nothing more than to go into Week 12 at 7-3.

The contest will start at 7:00 PM (ET) on ESPN+.

Other Week 11 FCS Games

FRIDAY - Sacramento State @ Portland State

SATURDAY - Charleston Southern @ North Carolina A&T, Columbia @ Brown, Maine @ Albany, Sacred Heart @ Wagner, Merrimack @ Central Connecticut State, Duquesne @ St. Francis, Bryant @ Holy Cross, Valparaiso @ Marist, Colgate @ Lehigh, Princeton @ Yale, Bucknell @ Georgetown, Morehead State @ Dayton, South Dakota @ North Dakota, Austin Peay @ Kennesaw State, Lafayette @ Fordham, Dartmouth @ Cornell, Stonehill @ LIU, Gardner-Webb @ Campbell, Villanova @ William & Mary, Towson @ Stony Brook, Rhode Island @ New Hampshire, Elon @ Hampton, South Carolina State @ Howard, Western Carolina @ East Tennessee State, Harvard @ Penn, WMI @ Wofford, Virginia-Lynchburg @ The Citadel, McKendree @ Lindenwood, Stetson @ St. Thomas, North Carolina Central @ Norfolk State, Butler @ Drake, Northern Arizona @ Northern Colorado, Eastern Kentucky @ Jacksonville State, Morgan State @ Delaware State, North Dakota State @ Southern Illinois, Indiana State @ Western Illinois, Robert Morris @ Murray State, Bethune-Cookman @ Alcorn State, McNeese @ Houston Christian, Illinois State @ South Dakota State, Lincoln (CA) @ Southern Utah, Southeast Missouri State @ Eastern Illinois, Tarleton State @ Utah Tech, Prairie View A&M @ Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Florida A&M @ Alabama State, Idaho State @ Weber State, Eastern Washington @ Montana, Youngstown State @ Missouri State, Lamar @ New Mexico State, Texas A&M-Commerce @ Nicholls, Tennessee Tech @ North Alabama, Davidson @ San Diego, Mississippi Valley State @ Southern, Central Arkansas @ Stephen F. Austin, Alabama A&M vs Jackson State (Mobile, AL), UT Martin @ Tennessee State, Northwestern State @ Southeastern Louisiana, Grambling State @ Texas Southern, Montana State @ Cal Poly