There's just two weeks left before the playoff committee convenes and there's still plenty that needs to be decided. The picture will get quite a bit more clear this weekend, however, as several teams lay it all on the line for either conference championships or postseason spots altogether.
Week 11 is here.
South Dakota Hosts North Dakota in Big MVFC Swing
One of the biggest surprise teams in the FCS this season has been South Dakota. The Coyotes (7-2, 5-1 MVFC) can all but lock up a playoff spot this weekend when they host North Dakota. The Hawks (6-3, 4-2 MVFC), though, are desperate and know that a loss will likely keep them on the outside looking in when the committee meets in two weeks.
Quarterback Aidan Bouman and wideout Carter Bell have been quite the tandem for the 'Yotes this fall, teaming up for 520 yards and four touchdowns. Bell has a team-high 30 catches and averages 17.3 yards per reception. Bouman has thrown for 1,603 yards and 10 TDs. If UND can't find a way to slow down these two, it'll be a long afternoon.
On the other side, South Dakota will look to punish the Hawks offense with a smothering defense. Brendan Webb is the guy to watch right now. The standout defensive lineman posted a school record four sacks in a single game last week against Southern Illinois and he'll look to wreak havoc on a North Dakota line that's given up 17 sacks.
Quarterback Tommy Schuster has been on the receiving end of all of those sacks but if he's on, he's capable of putting up big numbers. He's thrown nine touchdowns over his last two games and has four outings this year in which he's passed for at least 250 yards. Expect him to go to receiver Bo Belquist often. Belquist has 48 catches and five touchdowns this season.
There's a realistic shot that South Dakota can get a seed this year but they need a win to keep that hope alive. UND is on the cusp of missing out on the playoffs altogether. There's a lot to play for between these two Missouri Valley rivals on Saturday.
The game will kick off at 1:00 PM (ET) on ESPN+.
SEMO, UT Martin Battle with Conference Title Hopes at Stake
Last year the Ohio Valley Conference auto bid was decided via coin flip because of a weird scheduling wrinkle. That wrinkle was that Southeast Missouri State and UT Martin never played each other and ended the season ties. SEMO won that toss and got in the playoffs while the Skyhawks didn't. This year, though, they'll settle the score on the field. UT Martin (7-2, 4-1 Big South-OVC) can clinch the league title with a victory paired with a Gardner-Webb loss. The Redhawks (4-5, 4-1 Big South-OVC) are one loss away from being eliminated in the race altogether.
The Skyhawks will boast one of the country's best running backs in Sam Franklin and that'll be important because the SEMO run defense is stingy, giving up just 131.8 yards per game on the ground. Franklin in one of just six FCS backs with over 1,000 yards this fall. He's ran for 1,095 and has 10 touchdowns. Franklin will need a big day after having a relatively quiet outing against Tennessee Tech last weekend.
The Redhawks offensive attack will center around their own star running back in Geno Hess. Hess, a sixth-year senior, has five 100-yard games under his belt this year and has rushed for 830 yards along with eight touchdowns. Hess averages 5.2 yards per carry and has gotten at least 11 touches in every game this fall.
The bad news for Southeast Missouri State's offense is the fact that starting quarterback Paxton DeLaurent is likely done for the season with a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 9. Patrick Heitert will get the nod this weekend in DeLaurent's place. He threw for 144 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Robert Morris last Saturday. Heitert will be facing a UT Martin defense that gives up nearly 270 passing yards per outing.
Hoping to return to the postseason fray for the first time in two seasons, the Skyhawks can take a major step in that direction if they handle business here. Playing a SEMO team down its quarterback should help but they'll need to rebound from a game in which they almost lost last weekend. The Redhawks know that they won't be making it as an at large bid meaning a win here is a must.
ESPN+ will carry the game at 3:00 PM (ET) on Saturday.
NDSU Faces Southern Illinois, Loser Possibly Out of Playoffs
It's odd to even say but there exists a scenario this weekend that could knock North Dakota State from being considered for the playoffs. The Bison (6-3, 3-3 MVFC) are one loss away from having four on the season, something that hasn't happened since 2010. Four losses is no guarantee to get in, especially this year. If NDSU wants to avoid that fate they'll need to beat a good Southern Illinois squad. The Salukis (6-3, 3-3 MVFC) are in the exact same boat after losing to USD last weekend. It's a defacto playoff game in Fargo this weekend and it might be the only one the city gets this year.
North Dakota State will need to get better play from quarterback Cam Miller who tossed two interceptions in the loss to SDSU last weekend. Miller has thrown for 1,578 yards and 12 TDs this year but he can ill afford any mistakes against a Salukis defense that has picked off opposing passers five times. Miller is completing passes at a 73.5% rate this fall but is now facing a pass defense that is holding its opponents to under 200 yards per game.
SIU is led by quarterback Nic Baker. The senior signal-caller has nearly 2,000 passing yards this season along with 12 touchdowns. Baker has also carried the ball for 99 yards and a score. He'll be throwing the ball to Vinson Davis II. Davis leads the team with 520 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Baker and company will be going up against an NDSU defense that's been very opportunistic with takeaways. Linebacker Cole Wisniewski has four interceptions this year while Logan Kopp is right behind him with three. In total the Bison D has forced 13 turnovers.
The loser here will be in real danger of not hearing their name called on Selection Sunday and it would come as a surprise for whoever that may be. Southern Illinois was off to a 4-0 start before dropping three of their last five. The Bison, of course, have been the FCS standard for over a decade now and have not missed the playoffs since 2009. Someone's season may come to a disappointing close in Carbondale.
The Bison and Salukis will kick off at 3:30 PM (ET) on Saturday. The game will be on ESPN+.
Nicholls Eyes Southland Crown vs. Lamar
All season long Incarnate Word has been the favorite to win Southland Conference and there hasn't been much of a second thought about it. Last weekend, though, Nicholls upended things by taking down the Cardinals and stealing control of the league title race. This weekend the Colonels (4-4, 4-0 Southland) can take home the conference championship and an auto bid to the playoffs with a win. Lamar (5-4, 4-1 Southland) is clinging to slim hopes of getting in also. It'll make for a good one down in Thibodaux.
The Colonels are hoping for a repeat performance from running backs Jaylon Spears and Collin Guggenheim after their monster showing last week. The pair each ran for over 150 yards against UIW with Guggenheim finding the end zone four times. That is the second time this season he's rushed for four scores in a single game, tying a school record. If they can manage something similar against Lamar's defense, which has given up 14 rushing touchdowns this year, they'll be in good shape.
Pat McQuaide will be throwing passes for Nicholls. He's eclipsed 1,600 yards this year and has thrown eight TDs. McQuaide, though, has struggled with picks, tossing nine on the season. That's could spell trouble as the Cardinals have intercepted seven passes this fall. He'll need to avoid guys like DB Kevin Anderson. The senior has two interceptions and a forced fumble.
For Lamar, the quarterback will be junior Robert Coleman. Coleman has thrown 11 touchdowns on 127 completions this year and has 1,535 yards. He'll look to Andre Dennis and Sevonne Rhea on the outside. The receiver duo is responsible for nearly 700 yards and five touchdowns combined.
For Nicholls the task at hand is simple; win and you're in. It's a spot that not many thought the Colonels would be in back in August but here they are, on the cusp of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2019. Lamar, though, is not dead in the water either. They'll need some help but a win here would go a long way in helping them in their chase for the Southland title as well.
The Saturday contest will begin at 4:00 PM (ET) on ESPN+.
Other Week 11 FCS Games
FRIDAY - Grambling State @ Arkansas-Pine Bluff
SATURDAY - Charleston Southern @ Robert Morris, Holy Cross @ Army, Murray State @ Illinois State, New Hampshire @ Monmouth, South Dakota State @ Youngstown State, Yale @ Princeton, Morgan State @ South Carolina State, Norfolk State @ Delaware State, Central Connecticut State @ Merrimack, Stonehill @ Duquesne, Wagner @ LIU, Brown @ Columbia, Fordham @ Lafayette, Delaware @ Campbell, Georgetown @ Bucknell, Lehigh @ Colgate, North Carolina A&T @ Rhode Island, Tennessee State @ Eastern Illinois, Towson @ Villanova, Albany @ Stony Brook, Western Illinois @ Indiana State, William & Mary @ Hampton, East Tennessee State @ Western Carolina, VMI @ Furman, Alabama A&M @ Bethune-Cookman, Penn @ Harvard, Stetson @ Valparaiso, Davidson @ Morehead State, Marist @ Dayton, Cornell @ Dartmouth, Bryant @ Lindenwood, Elon @ Richmond, Utah Tech @ Austin Peay, Wofford @ The Citadel, Presbyterian @ Drake, Gardner-Webb @ Tennessee Tech, Eastern Washington @ Montana State, Idaho @ Weber State, Northern Colorado @ Northern Arizona, Northern Iowa @ Missouri State, Tarleton State @ Abilene Christian, Virginia-Lynchburg @ Kennesaw State, Samford @ Mercer, Prairie View A&M @ Southern, Alabama State @ Mississippi Valley State, North Carolina Central @ Howard, St. Thomas @ San Diego, Southeastern Louisiana @ Texas A&M-Commerce, Cal Poly @ Sacramento State, Eastern Kentucky @ Central Arkansas, Southern Utah @ Stephen F. Austin, UC Davis @ Idaho State, Lincoln (CA) @ Florida A&M, Houston Christian @ McNeese, Montana @ Portland State
SUNDAY - Alcorn State @ Texas Southern
Incarnate Word @ Northwestern State (CANCELED)