As the weather cools down the playoff push is starting to heat up around the FCS and this week there are plenty of games that will have a whole awful lot riding on them. Several teams around the country are looking to cement themselves as bonafide postseason contenders this week while others are just trying to tread water in the race. Buckle up and grab your popcorn because Week 7 is here.
UNH Looks to Keep Dwindling Playoff Hopes Afloat vs Albany
One of the biggest stories in the CAA this year has been the steady rise of Albany. The Great Danes (4-2, 2-0 CAA) are making a push for their first playoff appearance since 2019 and this week they’ll duel a New Hampshire (2-3, 0-2 CAA) that’s, surprisingly, trending in the opposite direction. The Wildcats already find themselves fighting for their postseason lives after a lackluster start to the 2023 campaign. It seems as though they need to get it right this weekend.
One thing UNH has going for it is a really powerful offense. QB Max Brosmer is among the top of the list in passing yards (1,573) and passing touchdowns (14) so far this year. He is a big reason why the offense averages just under 40 points per game. Dylan Laube also plays a major role there. The senior running back has nine total TDs this year.
The big area of concern right now for the Wildcats is their defense that is giving up 425.6 yards per outing. In their last game Towson went wild for 536 yards and 44 points in a shootout loss. That can’t happen again this time around or Albany, who has a pretty solid offense of their own, might have a field day.
Sophomore signal-caller Reese Poffenbarger has been an exciting piece for the Great Danes so far this season. He’s thrown for 12 touchdowns and has 1,140 yards through the air. Poffenbarger has also shown promising running ability, rushing for three scores as well. He and running back Griffin Woodell make quite the pair. Woodell, a freshman, has run for two touchdowns and caught four more out of the backfield.
On defense, Albany is riding the talents of stud linebacker Dylan Kelly. Last week Kelly earned himself CAA Defensive Player of the Week honors for a mammoth 23-tackle performance. On the year he 79 stops (the next closest on the team is Ori Jean-Charles at 54) along with two fumble recoveries. If there’s an antidote to what Brosmer and Laube can do, it looks to be the explosive Kelly.
This contest is big for both teams but it’s arguably bigger for New Hampshire. A loss would drop them to 2-4 on the year and its no guarantee that a four-loss team is going to make the cut from a crowded CAA. The Wildcats need this one. Albany, meanwhile, can really make a statement to the selection committee here by getting its fifth win. The Great Danes still have yet to suffer an FCS defeat and beating UNH will get them that much closer to the postseason.
The game will kick off at 1:00 PM (ET) on Saturday afternoon on FloSports.
North Dakota Seeks First “Nickel Trophy” Win Since ‘03
The state of North Dakota will turn its attention to Grand Forks this Saturday afternoon for another meeting between its two lone DI schools. The #6 Bison (4-1, 1-1 MVFC) will take on the #15 Hawks (3-2, 1-1 MVFC), renewing the fight for the “Nickel Trophy”. NDSU will attempt to capture its sixth consecutive victory over UND. The last time the Alerus Center hosted this game, though, the Hawks gave the Bison everything they could handle and there’s no guarantees this time around either.
If North Dakota wants to escape with its first win over its rivals since 2003, it will need a near-flawless performance from quarterback Tommy Schuster. Schuster is completing passes at a 72.7% rate and has not thrown any interceptions this season. That will need to continue against a Bison defense that has already snagged eight on the year.
Expect Schuster to look to his most prolific receiver in Bo Belquist. The senior wideout has 29 catches for 342 yards and a pair of scores. Last year against NDSU the duo hooked up for 102 yards but could not find the end zone.
On the other side, North Dakota State will run two quarterbacks. The primary signal-caller will be Cam Miller but sophomore Cole Payton will make an appearance as well. Payton leads the squad in rushing with 283 yards and six TDs while Miller handles most of the passing duties. He has 941 yards and seven scores through the air.
Defensively, the Bison will lean on senior tackle Eli Mostaert who has four QB hits and 10 tackles this year. He also has an impressive pick six that he notched back in Week 3 against Central Arkansas. The secondary will be led safety Cole Wisniewski who has four interceptions and 29 stops.
Beating the Bison is never easy and hardly anyone knows that better than UND. The Hawks, though, are a solid bunch this year and the last time this game was played in their building they fell by just six. The Bison can ill-afford another upset loss after already dropping one to South Dakota a few weeks back. It’s sure to be a gritty one and whoever wins it will certainly earn it.
ESPN+ will carry the contest at 2:00 PM (ET) on Saturday
Chattanooga, Mercer Meet in Big SoCon Swing
A huge bounce back opportunity awaits this weekend for #25 Chattanooga (4-2, 3-1 SoCon) after a heartbreaking homecoming loss last week. Standing in their way this time around will be Mercer (4-2, 2-1 SoCon). The Bears, still in search of their first playoff appearance in program history, can take a big step toward making history with a win over the Mocs this Saturday.
Chattanooga’s loss last week cannot be attributed to its offense in the slightest. Quarterback Chase Artopoeus threw for 399 yards and five touchdowns in the two-point. He and receiver Javin Whatley tore apart the Catamounts defense and if they have a repeat performance then Mercer will be in trouble.
The Bears will look to senior DB Lance Wise Jr. to slow down Whatley. Wise has seven career interceptions and has registered 35 tackles this year. Linebacker Ken Standley will handle the middle and attempt to thwart Mocs running back Ailym Ford. Standley has seven tackles for loss and leads the team with 44 total takedowns.
Mercer’s offense will be under the command of quarterback Carter Peevy who served as a backup to standout Fred Payton a year ago. Peevy has 1,073 passing yards and six touchdowns this fall and he averages nearly 200 yards per contest. Wideouts Ty James and Devron Harper are valuable assets. James is one of the nation’s best wideouts with 602 yards and five scores. Harper... on top of being an excellent return man... has 25 catches for 287 yards.
Both squads are sitting fairly well at 4-2 but both really could use this win at the same time. It seems as though neither Mercer nor Chattanooga will be in the fight for a SoCon title with the way Furman and WCU are currently playing but an at-large playoff bid is still very much in the works. Both are good teams meaning that whoever wins this one will boost their resume greatly.
The game will begin at 4:00 PM (ET) Saturday afternoon on ESPN+.
“Little Brown Stein” Rivalry Gets Primetime Treatment on Saturday Night
The biggest FCS game of the weekend will go down on Saturday night in Moscow when the Vandals (5-1, 3-0 Big Sky) welcome in longtime rival Montana (5-1, 2-1 Big Sky). Idaho and UM have been partaking in the “Little Brown Stein” game since way back in 1903 but this year’s game is the biggest its been in a good long time. The Griz are hoping to pull off a big upset and get revenge for last year’s loss while Idaho is trying to pick up its sixth win of the year and keep the stein right where it is. Oh yeah, and it’ll be on national TV.
The Vandals won the 2022 edition of this game in Missoula thanks to big performances from quarterback Gevani McCoy and receiver Hayden Hatten. The duo is again putting together another strong year. Hatten leads the team with 430 yards and a pair of touchdowns while McCoy has thrown for over 1,300 yards and eight scores. Then there’s running back Anthony Woods who has been among the best in the country, averaging over 100 yards per game and 10 end zone trips.
Stopping the potent Idaho offense is no easy task and Montana will need its defense to play the best game they have all year. Linebacker Braxton Hill will play a major role in slowing down McCoy and company. Hill has a team-high 55 tackles along with a pick and a fumble recovery this year. He’ll get help on the back end from the dangerous Trevin Gradney who has four picks and three PBUs.
On the other side, the Grizzlies will have the talents of quarterback Clifton McDowell. Since making the switch to McDowell under center, Montana has seen improvement in its offensive proficiency. The senior has yet to toss an interception and has led the team to two straight wins since being named the starter over Boise State transfer Sam Vidlak.
McDowell has a handful of talented pass catchers to work with including the star of last week’s game Aaron Fontes who brought in two touchdowns in the win over UC Davis. Keelan White leads the Griz with 330 receiving yards while Junior Bergen averages over 13 per catch. Also keep an eye out for Bergen in the return game.
Idaho will counter the UM offense with a defense led by Tre Thomas. The grad linebacker has a nose for the ball and has posted 35 stops this year. He and defensive lineman Keyshawn James-Newby have knack for penetrating the backfield. The pair accounts for 5.5 of the team’s 11 sacks this fall. Getting to McDowell will be a job that rests heavily on their shoulders.
The Vandals are looking for their first home win in this series since way back in 1995 but Montana is showing steady improvement. A win over #3 Idaho would send the Big Sky and the FCS world into a frenzy. The Kibbie Dome will be rocking for what is certainly the biggest game its seen in a good long time.
It will all go off at 10:30 PM (ET) on ESPN2.
Other Week 7 FCS Games
THURSDAY - Wagner @ St. Francis
SATURDAY - Princeton @ Brown, Sacred Heart @ Yale, Georgetown @ Lehigh, San Diego @ Marist, Central Connecticut State @ Duquesne, Dartmouth @ Colgate, Davidson @ Butler, Presbyterian @ Dayton, Howard @ Harvard, Bucknell @ Cornell, VMI @ The Citadel, Furman @ Samford, Richmond @ Rhode Island, LIU @ Maine, Hampton @ Monmouth, Elon @ Villanova, St. Thomas @ Drake, Tennessee Tech @ South Carolina State, Penn @ Columbia, Gardner-Webb @ Austin Peay, Youngstown State @ South Dakota, Morehead State @ Valparaiso, Arkansas-Pine Bluff @ Mississippi Valley State, Tarleton State @ Eastern Kentucky, Alabama State @ Jackson State, Alabama A&M @ Grambling, Texas Southern @ Bethune-Cookman, North Carolina A&T @ Delaware, Southern Illinois @ Murray State, Sacramento State @ Northern Colorado, Northern Iowa @ South Dakota State, Indiana State @ Illinois State, Eastern Illinois @ Southeast Missouri State, Fordham @ Stony Brook, Wofford @ East Tennessee State, Robert Morris @ Bryant, Portland State @ Northern Arizona, Northwestern State @ Nichols, North Alabama @ Abilene Christian, Missouri State @ Western Illinois, Lindenwood @ Charleston Southern, Lamar @ Southeastern Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin @ Central Arkansas, Texas A&M-Commerce @ Incarnate Word, Lincoln (CA) @ Southern, Eastern Washington @ Idaho State, Norfolk State @ Tennessee State, Prairie View A&M @ Houston Christian, Cal Poly @ Montana State, UC Davis @ Weber State