Halloween is almost here and that means there’s just a few weeks left for FCS teams around the country to prove themselves to the selection committee. Week 9 will have some heavy-hitting matchups that the committee will surely be keeping a keen eye on. From Idaho all the way to Arkansas, this week is going to be a fun one.
#1 SDSU, #4 USD Meet in Biggest “South Dakota Showdown” Yet
There will be no bigger FCS game this weekend than the one that will go down in South Dakota on Saturday afternoon. The Jackrabbits (7-0, 4-0 MVFC) will renew their in-state beef with the Coyotes (6-1, 4-0 MVFC) and it’s going to mean a whole awful lot. While ESPN’s College Day GameDay is not making an appearance despite the rumblings, the game itself will be just as big. With the mighty Jackrabbits still being undefeated but taking a scare last week and the ‘Yotes winning six straight, this has all the makings of a classic and the playoff picture hinges greatly on the result.
South Dakota has shot up the rankings this year thanks in large part to a stellar defense that’s allowing under 15 points and 200 passing yards per contest. The USD secondary has been a no-fly zone, knocking away 13 passes and intercepting three. Guys like Dennis Shorter and Myles Harden have made a world of difference and are pivotal to the success on the back end.
That means that SDSU signal-caller Mark Gronowski will need to have his best stuff this weekend. Gronowski has been as solid as can be for the Jackrabbits, throwing just two picks all year compared to 16 touchdowns. His 1,321 pass yards are a big reason why the Jacks boast the second most efficient offense the Missouri Valley. Receivers like Jaxon and Jadon Janke are also instrumental in that feat.
On the other side, USD quarterback Aidan Bouman has been just as valuable to his offense, tossing one interception in 143 attempts this year. Bouman has connected with wideout Carter Bell often making Bell the most targeted pass-catcher on the team with 26 receptions and four scores. These two will look to continue their success against an SDSU defense that surrenders just 171 yards per game.
Then there’s the running backs for both squads. South Dakota State will utilize the explosive Isaiah Davis while the Coyotes will have Travis Theis. Davis has eight touchdowns on the year and has rushed for 685 yards while Theis has four TDs and 568 yards. Both carry the ball a lot, too. Theis has 112 totes on the year while Davis has 92.
It’ll be hard to top the excitement of what happened last time these two met in Vermillion but this has the makings of a great one. Two quarterbacks that are playing well, a pair of running backs that are bruisers and two really good defenses should have fans in South Dakota excited for this one. The trash talking has been well underway on social media all week and soon it’ll be time to decide it between the lines.
The game will start at 2:00 PM (ET) on Saturday and can be streamed on ESPN+.
Idaho Hosts Montana State in Decisive Big Sky Tilt
Just last week Montana State (6-1, 4-0 Big Sky) was featured in a big game and now, fresh off an impressive win over Sacramento State in primetime, the #2 Bobcats are back in another one. Idaho (5-2, 3-1 Big Sky) will host its second consecutive foe from the Treasure State but the Vandals are hoping this one goes differently after falling to the Grizzlies before their bye. MSU is the only team left that’s unbeaten in Big Sky play and can really strengthen their lead on the conference with a win. Idaho is fighting for a seed in the playoffs and needs a victory to keep that dream alive. The Kibbie Dome will be rocking on Saturday.
If Montana State’s rushing attack plays anything like it did last weekend, the Vandals defense could be in for a long day. The ‘Cats ran for 330 yards a week ago and that was par for the course. MSU leads the nation by a lot with 325 yards per game (the next closest is Davidson at 301.7) and they have a ton of guys who can do it. Both quarterbacks, Tommy Mellott and Sean Chambers, are dangerous with the ball in their hands but so are backs Julius Davis and Jared White.
Idaho will attempt to slow down this deadly ground game with a strong defensive line led by Keyshawn James-Newberry. The standout sophomore has had a tackle for loss in all but one game so far this year and has five sacks to his name. He and linebacker Tre Thomas, who leads the team with 40 stops, will have a tall order going against MSU’s tough backs.
The Vandals, though, will have a talented offense in their own right. Quarterback Gevani McCoy can make it happen with his arm and his legs. He’s thrown for over 1,600 yards and has accounted for 12 total touchdowns. Anthony Woods will handle most of the running duties, though. He has 11 scores on the year and 703 yards on the ground.
Both Idaho and Montana State will feature great receiver play as well. For UI, Hayden Hatten has been the guy on the outside this year, catching 46 passes and four TDs. The ‘Cats, meanwhile, have gotten a lift recently from Colorado State transfer Ty McCullouch. The junior has a touchdown catch in each of the last two games since coming back from an injury.
A lot is going to be determined this weekend in Moscow. Montana State hasn’t played Idaho since 2021 and that game was in Bozeman and it was a slugfest. This one should be a lot more high-scoring and if anyone... on paper... has what it takes to stay with MSU it’s Jason Eck’s team.
The Bobcats and Vandals will clash at 4:00 PM (ET) on Saturday. ESPN+ will carry the contest.
Central Arkansas Seeks Fifth-Straight Win vs. Tarleton State
So far this season Central Arkansas (5-2, 3-0 UAC) has been challenged but has risen to the occasion and now the Bears find themselves leading the United Athletic Conference. This week, though, they’ll have another tough test as Tarleton State (5-3, 1-2 UAC) comes to town and is looking to play spoiler to UCA’s unblemished league record. Do the Texans have enough in them to leave the stripes in Conway with a win or will the Bears keep it a perfect 5-0 at home?
ShunDerrick Powell is among the best running backs in the country, ranking sixth in the FCS with 878 rushing yards. Powell’s six rushing touchdowns are a team-high and he will likely be used heavily against a TSU defense that’s allowed 15 rushing touchdowns in 2023. Powell averages 125.4 yards per contest.
The UCA offense will also be led by quarterback Will McElvain. McElvain has 1,594 passing yards and 16 touchdowns through the air this year along with a 65.6% completion percentage. He’s thrown just three interceptions in 221 attempts.
Tarleton State linebacker O’tay Baker will try and counter what the Bears will do on offense. Baker, on top of a forced fumble, has four of the team’s 22 sacks this year and 5.5 tackles for loss. He and DB Jalen Carr play major roles on the defense. Carr has eight PBUs but has yet to come down with a pick.
On offense, the Texans will have Victor Gabalis lead the way from under center. Gabalis has thrown for nearly 1,700 yards this fall and has 14 TDs. He has, however, tossed a whopping 11 interceptions and that might spell bad news as the Bears have picked off opposing passers six times.
A win here will go a long ways in helping Central Arkansas reach the postseason for the first time since 2019. It certainly seems like the UAC auto bid is favored to go to the Bears right now but with Austin Peay hot on its tail, UCA can ill afford a slip up. Tarleton State, meanwhile, has the opportunity to make a statement win and, although the Texans are not playoff eligible until next year, they can certainly throw a wrench into the race if they can pull one out on the road.
The game will kick off at 5:00 PM (ET) on Saturday night on ESPN+.
Other Week 9 FCS Games
THURSDAY - LIU @ Central Connecticut State, South Carolina State @ North Carolina Central
FRIDAY - Brown @ Penn
SATURDAY - Duquesne @ Sacred Heart, Stonehill @ Wagner, Howard @ Delaware State, Tennessee Tech @ Robert Morris, Columbia @ Yale, Lafayette @ Georgetown, Merrimack @ St. Francis, Holy Cross @ Fordham, Bucknell @ Colgate, Stetson @ Drake, Valparaiso @ Butler, Albany @ Maine, Princeton @ Cornell, Monmouth @ William & Mary, Northern Iowa @ Illinois State, New Hampshire @ Rhode Island, Chattanooga @ VMI, UT Martin @ Gardner-Webb, East Tennessee State @ Furman, Marist @ St. Thomas, Morgan State @ Norfolk State, North Carolina A&T @ Hampton, Stony Brook @ Villanova, Missouri State @ Youngstown State, Indiana State @ North Dakota, Mercer @ Western Carolina, Southeast Missouri State @ Nicholls, Bethune-Cookman @ Grambling, Lincoln (CA) @ Kennesaw State, Jackson State @ Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Lindenwood @ Tennessee State, Mississippi Valley State @ Alcorn State, The Citadel @ Samford, Texas A&M-Commerce @ Houston Christian, Northern Colorado @ Montana, Abilene Christian @ Southern Utah, Campbell @ Richmond, Murray State @ North Dakota State, Alabama State vs. Alabama A&M (Birmingham, AL), Prairie View A&M @ Florida A&M, Incarnate Word @ Lamar, UC Davis @ Northern Arizona, Southern Illinois @ Western Illinois, North Alabama @ Austin Peay, Eastern Washington @ Portland State, Delaware @ Towson, Dartmouth @ Harvard, Bryant @ Charleston Southern, Texas Southern @ Southern, Morehead State @ San Diego, Presbyterian @ Davidson, Eastern Kentucky @ Utah Tech, Northwestern State @ McNeese, Idaho State @ Sacramento State