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FCS Football: Week 3 Storylines, Preview, How to Watch

Big non-conference matchups are abound and the Ivy League starts its season this week in the FCS.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Bucknell at Yale Photo by Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The FCS season rolls on this weekend and fans will have another full slate of games with exacting non-conference matchups to consume. For a lot of teams around the country, this is the last chance to tune things up before league-play begins. Some squads are desperate need of a win, others are already sitting pretty just two games in.

Week 3 is here.

Yale Kicks Off Season with #6 Holy Cross

Mid-September means one thing in the FCS; the Ivy League is back. Last year’s Ivy co-champs kick off their season on Saturday. Yale (0-0) won eight games in 2022, only losing twice. One of those losses, however, was to the very team they line up against this weekend. Holy Cross (1-1) drubbed the Bulldogs 38-14 last year in Worcester. Now the game moves to New Haven but Yale will have a tall order to avoid the same result.

Holy Cross nearly took down Boston College last weekend because quarterback Matthew Sluka kept them in it. The dual-threat Sluka threw for nearly as many yards (130) as he ran for (131) against the Eagles bit it wasn't quite enough to get the job done.

Yale's D will need to have answers for Sluka both through the air and on the ground because if they don't it will be a long day. DB Wande Owens and linebacker Hamilton Moore will play a major role in controlling the Holy Cross attack. Each notched 63 tackles a year ago to lead the Bulldogs defense.

Expect Owens to square up with Crusaders standout receiver Jalen Coker. Coker caught five passes for 53 yards against Boston College last weekend to lead the team.

On the ground, Moore will have the task of slowing down running back Jordan Fuller along with Sluka. Fuller put up 109 yards and two touchdowns a week ago.

Yale's own offense will be led by senior quarterback Nolan Grooms. Grooms had a productive year in 2022, throwing for 1,660 yards and 14 touchdowns whilst running for 724 yards and six more scores.

This is where Holy Cross linebacker Jacob Dobbs will come in. The All-American has already put up crazy numbers this season, registering 34 total tackles in just two games. He's on pace for a monster senior year and he'll play a big part in keeping Grooms at bay.

Holy Cross needs a bounce back and, as odd as it may be to say in September, can ill-afford a second loss if it wants to keep its hopes for a playoff seed alive. Two-loss teams do get seeds, but two-loss teams from the Patriot League typically don't. Yale, meanwhile, wants to begin its quest for another Ivy League title on the right foot.

The Crusaders and the Bulldogs kick off at 12:00 PM (ET) on ESPN+.

#2 NDSU Hosts Central Arkansas

Central Arkansas v Ole Miss Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Central Arkansas (1-1) gears up for a big road test at North Dakota State (2-0). The Bison have looked very solid in their first two games, winning each easily. UCA, meanwhile, hasn't looked bad either. The Bears hung around with Oklahoma State in Week 1 before decimating NAIA Texas College last Saturday. Now it's time to see how well they hold up against a team like NDSU.

The Bison, while still using Cam Miller as the primary signal-caller on offense, have really found something in his fellow QB Cole Payton as well. Payton has torn it up rushing the ball this season, toting it 14 times for 206 yards. The electric sophomore has run for at leat 100 yards in each of his games so far.

Central Arkansas will look to stop Payton with a tough defense that’s led by junior DE David Walker. Walker was one of the best defenders in the FCS in 2022, finishing with 22 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. Walker was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award and took home ASUN Defensive Player of the Year honors. He will need to make plays on the line against Miller and Payton, though, if UCA wants any chance at the upset.

North Dakota State will also have plenty of playmakers outside of the quarterbacks for the Bears defense to worry about. Receiver Zach Mathis is averaging 14.4 yards per catch while tight end Joe Stoffel already has two touchdowns under his belt on just seven catches.

On the other side, UCA’s offense will be guided by senior quarterback Will McElvain. McElvain transferred in from UNI and started all 11 games for the Bears last fall. This year, he’s completed 30 of his 45 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns.

Running backs ShunDerrick Powell and Darius Hale will also be guys to watch. Powell, who came over from North Alabama, leads Central Arkansas in rushing with 169 yards and two scores while Hale has 109 yards and TD.

UCA is staring down a mighty big task this weekend but if they’re to be a contender in the United Athletic Conference like many think they can be, these are the type of games where they can prove themselves. The Bison are going to be tough, as always, and it feels like they’re shaking off last season’s championship well so far. This certainly isn’t a “must win” for the Bears but even keeping this game competitive will go a long ways in the team’s confidence moving forward.

ESPN+ will carry the contest at 3:30 PM (ET) on Saturday.

#15 Southern Illinois Clashes with #13 SEMO

Perhaps the most pivotal FCS game this week will go down in Cape Girardeau with Southeast Missouri State (1-1) hosting a red hot Southern Illinois (2-0) team. The Redhawks have already found themselves on two different ends of a blowout, losing in Week 1 by 45 to Kansas State then blasting Lindenwood last weekend. The Salukis are riding in high after pulling off a big win against FBS Northern Illinois last Saturday and are looking to show that their undefeated start is no fluke.

It’s time for the “War of the Wheel”.

Quarterback play will be big in this one. SEMO’s Paxton DeLaurent needs a repeat of what he did last week and not what he did at Kansas State. DeLaurent tossed three touchdowns and no picks against the Lions and that wasn’t even a full day’s work. He will have guys like Damoriea Vick and Ryan Flournoy on the outside to throw to. The pair accounted for 200 of DeLaurent’s 267 passing yards last Saturday.

The Salukis will counter with a very good passing attack of their own. Nic Baker didn’t do anything flashy last week but he didn’t turn the ball over and that proved to be a key difference maker in SIU’s upset win. Baker has been with the team for a long time (since 2018) and he’s been the steady hand. He has 7,026 passing yards and 58 total touchdowns on his career.

When SEMO isn’t throwing it, they will likely be calling on star running back Geno Hess to carry the rock. Hess was the best running back in the entire FCS in 2022 with 1,691 yards and 21 scores. He’s a bruiser that only needs a little bit of daylight to break free and SIU will need to be disciplined in plugging gaps.

That’s where linebacker Colin Bohanek comes into play. The junior has recorded 3.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage this season and has 14 total stops. He and fellow linebacker Zach Burrola will have their hands full with Hess on Saturday and how well they match up with him could very well determine the outcome.

This game could serve as the springboard to SIU returning to postseason relevance once more. If they manage to get by the defending OVC champions then they’ll be 3-0 with an FBS win in there along with two quality FCS wins. SEMO is the favorite the Big South-OVC again and they’ll need to show they come by that honestly here. Both teams are fighting to climb the rankings and with each already in the Top 15, this shapes up to be a good one.

The Redhawks and Salukis will begin at 7:00 PM (ET) Saturday night on ESPN+.

#8 Sac State Meets Stanford in Troy Taylor Revenge Game

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Sacramento State at Fresno State Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One of the biggest coaching departures in the FCS last season was that of former-Sacramento State head man Troy Taylor. Taylor made his jump to the Pac-12 (soon ACC) to take the torch at Stanford. This weekend those two worlds will collide when the Cardinal (1-1) host the Hornets (2-0).

Sac State looks a lot different than it did when Taylor was at the helm. New head coach Andy Thompson doesn’t have the likes of Jake Dunniway, Asher O’Hara, Cameron Skattebo or Marte Mapu to work with anymore. What he does have, though, is Kaiden Bennet.

Sac State’s new quarterback has been productive so far in this young season, throwing for 397 yards and three touchdowns over the first two games. Bennett, who served as a backup over the last couple seasons, has also rushed for three scores.

Sacramento State is hoping it will have All-American tight end Marshel Martin this weekend after he missed last week’s game with an injury he suffered in Week 1. Martin is one of the best tight ends in the nation with over 2,000 receiving yards on his decorated career. He hauled in 12 touchdowns a year ago and has been instrumental in the Hornets success over the last several years.

If Martin can’t go, Bennett will turn to his other playmakers like senior running back Marcus Fulcher who’s ran for over 70 yards in each of the first two games. Fulcher has three touchdowns this season also.

If Sac State wants to pull the upset here, though, they’ll need a big night from their defense as well. Linebackers Armon Bailey and Brock Mather have been a force so far this year with 25 combined stops and 2.5 tackles for loss. Defensive lineman DeShawn Lynch has already accounted for two sacks, too.

Running through Texas A&M-Commerce and Nichols is one thing. Upending a P5 team is something else, especially when that P5 team is coached by a familiar face. Things didn’t end ugly for Taylor in Sacramento at all but that doesn’t mean both sides still don’t want this one badly. It’ll be exciting to see what one of the best FCS teams in the land can do against its old coach and his Pac-12 squad.

Sac State and Stanford will go off at 8:00 PM (ET) on the Pac-12 Network,

Other Week 3 FCS Games

THURSDAY - Bethune-Cookman @ Miami (FL)

FRIDAY - Rhode Island @ Maine

SATURDAY - Cornell @ Lehigh, North Dakota @ Boise State, LIU @ Baylor, Central Connecticut State @ Kent State, Columbia @ Lafayette, Stonehill @ Georgetown, Campbell @ Monmouth, St. Thomas @ Harvard, Wagner @ Sacred Heart, Taylor @ Dayton, Davidson @ Marist, Penn @ Colgate, Robert Morris @ Youngstown State, Weber State @ Utah, VMI @ North Carolina State, Norfolk State @ Temple, Indiana State @ Ball State, Lamar @ South Dakota, Illinois State @ Eastern Illinois, Stetson @ Montana State, Florida Memorial @ Grambling, Drake vs. South Dakota State (Minneapolis, MN), Hampton @ Howard, Delaware State @ Richmond, Brown @ Bryant, Idaho @ California, Southeastern Louisiana @ Eastern Washington, Utah Tech @ Northern Arizona, William & Mary @ Charleston Southern, Princeton @ San Diego, North American @ Portland State, Miles College @ Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Furman @ Kennesaw State, Northern Colorado @ Washington State, North Carolina Central @ UCLA, Towson @ Morgan State, Wabash @ Butler, Virginia-Lynchburg @ Merrimack, The Citadel @ Chattanooga, Western Carolina @ Eastern Kentucky, West Florida @ Florida A&M, St. Francis @ Delaware, Presbyterian @ Wofford, Northern Iowa @ Idaho State, North Carolina A&T @ Elon, Gardner-Webb @ Tennessee State, Dartmouth @ New Hampshire, Villanova @ UCF, Mississippi Valley State @ Delta State, Alabama A&M @ Southern, Prairie View A&M @ SMU, Texas Southern @ Rice, Tarleton State @ Texas Tech, Stony Brook @ Arkansas State, Stephen F. Austin @ Northwestern State, Lindenwood @ Western Illinois, Samford @ Auburn, North Alabama @ Tennessee Tech, Murray State @ Middle Tennessee, McNeese @ Alcorn State, Houston Christian @ UT Martin, East Tennessee State @ Austin Peay, Duquesne @ Coastal Carolina, Ferris State @ Montana, Lincoln (CA) @ Cal Poly, Incarnate Word @ Abilene Christian, Jackson State @ Texas State, Southern Utah @ UC Davis