Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Teams that surprise with early season
success can prove to be fleeting.
After a few cupcake wins, people start to say how this season is going to
be different. And then there's a crash and burn.
Arrive at the final weekend of October, however, and a surprising FCS team is
showing it has staying power.
Such upstarts believe they are right where they should be. And with so many
FCS teams competitive in recent seasons, we all probably have to stop
subscribing to the perceived pecking order within a conference race and
recognize what's happening right in front of our eyes.
With November calling, eight of the 13 FCS conferences have a team sitting in
first place that finished with a losing record last year. It's pretty
remarkable, reflecting the competitive landscape of college football.
Two of the eight first-place teams coming off losing seasons hold outright
leads in their conference races, Princeton in the Ivy League and Southeastern
Louisiana in the Southland Conference. It's the first time Princeton can say
that since the Clinton Administration's first term.
The Tigers (4-2, 3-0) were 1-9 in each of the last two seasons, but they
apparently kept the faith while coach Bob Surace started his tenure in such
poor fashion. The defense (Caraun Reid and Mike Catapano up front and Andrew
Starks at linebacker) was expected to be fast and punishing this season, but
the offense has found its way along, too, with various unheralded players,
especially after Chuck Dibilio, a 1,000-yard rusher last season, was lost to a
stroke in the offseason.
Southeastern Louisiana (3-4, 3-0) finished 3-8 last season, but has a new
attitude under first-year coach Ron Roberts, who has led the Lions to their
first 3-0 conference start since 1974 (yes, the Gerald Ford presidency). Their
hold on first might be tenuous, though, because their next three games are
against the three teams picked highest in the conference's preseason poll
(again, it's all perception, not necessarily reality anymore).
It's wild that Southeastern Louisiana has outscored opponents 83-67 in three
conference wins yet been outscored 168-33 in four non-conference defeats. The
Lions feature an NFL-bound cornerback in Robert Alford, but not many household
names even for the Southland Conference. Senior quarterback Nathan Stanley won
the top job away from the incumbent and the running game (70.3 yards per game)
ranks 116th in the FCS.
The other six "surprise" teams are tied for their conference lead.
In CAA Football, Villanova (6-2, 4-1), which was 2-9 last season, is tied for
first with New Hampshire and sparked by a superb running game, emerging
quarterback John Robertson and a physical defense.
Southern Illinois (5-3, 4-1) is coming off two straight losing seasons,
including 4-7 last year, but being tied with Indiana State for first place in
the Missouri Valley Conference would not have seemed so foreign just a couple
Lafayette (5-2, 2-0) is a similar team from the Patriot League - accustomed to
success before suffering through back-to-back losing seasons, including 4-7
last year. The Leopards are tied with Lehigh and Colgate for first place.
UT Martin (6-2, 4-1), only 5-6 last season, was clearly a sleeping giant with
veteran quarterback Derek Carr returning this season. The Skyhawks share the
Ohio Valley Conference lead with Eastern Kentucky.
Butler (6-2, 5-0) won the 2009 Pioneer Football League title, only to go 4-7
in 2010 and 5-6 last season. The addition of Illinois State transfer
quarterback Matt Lancaster reflects how teams can improve quickly, and the
Bulldogs have tied defending co-champion Drake atop the standings.
North Carolina Central (5-2, 4-0) is one of the more stunning surprises,
playing in only its second season in the MEAC and coming off a 2-9 (1-7
conference) debut. But coach Henry Frazier has turned the Eagles into an
explosive group, which is averaging 40 points in its wins.
They are tied with Bethune-Cookman for the MEAC lead and head to Daytona
Beach, Fla., on Saturday thinking more business than pleasure.
WHAT WE KNOW, WHAT WE THINK WE KNOW
The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at http://tinyurl.com/88q2k7t.
Also, once again this season, In the FCS Huddle is projecting the potential
FCS playoff field. The projections are a long-range look at the season - not
based off current records or rankings - and can be found at
Additions have been made in the last week to the Walter Payton, Buck Buchanan
and Jerry Rice award watch lists. The FCS Awards section can be found at
AROUND THE NATION
Big Sky: All three unbeaten teams in conference play are on the road: No. 1
Eastern Washington at Southern Utah, No. 11 Cal Poly at Sacramento State
and No. 13 Northern Arizona at Northern Colorado ... Love that mountain air:
Big Sky kickers have combined to make 111-of-143 field goal attempts for a
77.6-percent success rate, which edges the Missouri Valley Conference (77
percent) for the FCS lead ... The conference's best kicker, Portland State
All-America kicker Zack Brown, returned to action last weekend after missing
five games due to a knee injury ... Northern Colorado standout linebacker
Clarence Bumpas is done for the remainder of the season after having surgery
Monday on a ruptured pectoral muscle.
Big South: Liberty (3-4, 2-0) hopes to complete a perfect month when it visits
stubborn Coastal Carolina. The Flames have won 17 straight October games
dating to an Oct. 18, 2006 loss to Lafayette. Their last conference loss in
October was in 2006 ... It's been a difficult season for Gardner-Webb against
an overly ambitious schedule, but junior linebacker Tanner Burch leads the
conference in tackles per game (12.9). He is 10 stops shy of 100.
CAA Football: Amid plenty of off-the-field turmoil, Towson (3-4, 2-2) begins a
difficult four-game stretch at Villanova on Saturday. The defending conference
champion Tigers have to win four straight games to be playoff-eligible ...
James Madison coach Mickey Matthews has called quarterback Justin Thorpe the
best in his 14 seasons, but he benched the redshirt junior for true freshman
Michael Birdsong. The Dukes host Georgia State on Saturday ... Delaware could
still be without linebacker and leading tackler Paul Worrilow (knee injury)
against Old Dominion in a key conference game for both ranked teams.
Ivy: When Jeff Jack (1,007) went over 1,000 career rushing yards, it made Penn
the third team with three active players in the century club, joining Brandon
Colavita (1,416) and Billy Ragone (1,312). James Madison and The Citadel are
the other two teams ... The Harvard at Dartmouth game could be an elimination
game in the league title race. Both teams are 2-1, along with Penn, as they
MEAC: The MEAC is the only FCS conference with more interceptions thrown (82)
than touchdown passes (80). And this despite Florida A&M's Damien Fleming
throwing for 15 touchdowns with only four interceptions ... Defending champion
Norfolk State has dropped six straight games after opening the season with two
wins, including one at Liberty. Scoring has been the problem (16.9 ppg) as the
Spartans still lead the conference in total defense (292.1 ypg).
Missouri Valley: Co-leader Indiana State, on a four-game win streak, has never
been in first place this late in a conference season. A home game against
struggling South Dakota suggests the Sycamores will keep it going ... No
Missouri Valley team had ever scored 100-yard touchdowns in consecutive weeks
until Southern Illinois' Bryan Presume had a 100-yard fumble recovery against
Northern Iowa on Oct. 13 and Anthony Thompson returned an interception 100
yards at Youngstown State last Saturday. The opportunistic team also has
returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in three straight games ... Illinois
State heads to Northern Iowa for a crucial game regarding its playoff chances.
Quarterback Matt Brown will seek to build on his new MVFC-record 9.232 career
Northeast: Saturday's difficult home game against Monmouth is huge for
Duquesne (5-2, 3-1), which has to at least keep pace with Albany and Wagner
before meeting each one next month ... The big play waiting to happen? Albany
star running back Drew Smith threw four passes last season and each went for a
touchdown, but this season the FCS' leading scorer (15 TDs) has yet to throw
an option pass ... Six running backs in the league are on pace for 1,000-yard
Ohio Valley: As the national leader in average yards and points per game per
team (413 yards and 30.2 points), the OVC is rightfully calling itself the
Offensive Valley Conference ... Coming off a bye, Eastern Illinois (4-3, 3-1)
and its passing attack should be exceptionally dangerous for co-leading
Eastern Kentucky (6-2, 4-1). EIU, though, is 0-3 on the road ... With 8,932
career passing yards, Murray State senior quarterback Casey Brockman is 97
yards shy of passing former Morehead State signal-caller Chris Swartz as the
OVC's all-time leader.
Patriot: No. 8 Lehigh has a bye this weekend. The Mountain Hawks share the
longest winning streak in the FCS at eight with Cal Poly and have won 17
straight regular-season games. If they win their final three games - at Holy
Cross, versus Colgate and at Lafayette - they will break the league record for
consecutive league wins (Holy Cross, 19 from 1988-92) ... Georgetown
cornerback Jeremy Moore is tied for the FCS lead with five interceptions and
leads in interceptions per game (0.71). Last year's national leader was from
the Patriot League, Bucknell's Bryce Robertson, who had 13 picks.
Pioneer: Morehead State's Zach Lewis is the program's new all-time passing
yards leader (9,122). In contrast, the Eagles will face a running-style
quarterback on Saturday in Campbell's Dakota Wolf, who has 401 rushing yards
in five games ... In four league games, Marist senior Mike Rios is averaging
29.3 yards on 16 receptions, including five touchdowns.
SoCon: Chattanooga's hope for a playoff berth is basically on the line against
No. 2 Georgia Southern. The Mocs (4-3, 3-1) have come on strong under coach
Russ Huesman with three straight wins, but they probably need to win out and
take the conference title because one of their wins is against Division II
Glenville State and another loss would leave them at six Division I wins at
best ... The battle for the Old Mountain Jug is hardly a heated rivalry as
Appalachian State is looking to retain it against Western Carolina for the
26th time in the last 28 seasons. Of course, WCU's cause is helped by the fact
first-year head coach Mark Speir and four of his assistants played or coached
at ASU under Jerry Moore.
Southland: No 5 Sam Houston State has three of the conference's top five in
passes defended, cornerback Dax Swanson and safeties Darnell Taylor and Robert
Shaw ... Nicholls went eight straight seasons without a 1,000-yard passer, but
under second-year coach Charlie Stubbs, the Colonels have done it in two
straight seasons, including Landry Klann (1,090) this season ... The
conference imposed one-game suspensions this weekend for Sam Houston State
linebacker Darius Taylor and Southeastern Louisiana defensive back Kevin
Roberts for illegal hits in their teams' games Oct. 13.
SWAC: The 75th annual Magic City Classic could be decided on the ground as
Alabama A&M's Kaderius Lacey and Alabama State's Isaiah Crowell rank 1-2 in
the conference in rushing. Crowell also has rushed for 10 touchdowns to lead
the conference ... Arkansas-Pine Bluff doesn't just have a comfortable two-
game lead in the West Division, it finishes the season against the four
SWAC teams with the worst records - a combined 6-22. Brandon Thurmond has
fueled the defense with an FCS-high 9.5 sacks ... Senior defensive tackle
Robert Simpson's 15 tackles for loss have helped Mississippi Valley State to a
stunning No. 3 national ranking in total defense (282.6 ypg).
Extra Point: Defending FCS champion North Dakota State is well on its way to
leading the nation in scoring defense for a second straight season, but the
Bison also rank third in scoring offense at 41.3 points per game. Impressive
Last Week's Record: 39-17 (.696)
Season Record: 393-122 (.763)
All Times ET
Thursday, Oct. 25
X-Delaware State (4-3, 3-1 MEAC) at Morgan State (3-4, 2-2), 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 27
X-Butler (6-2, 5-0 Pioneer) at Davidson (1-6, 1-3), noon
No. 20 Delaware (5-2, 2-2 CAA) at X-No. 6 Old Dominion (6-1, 3-1), noon
X-Monmouth (3-4, 2-2 NEC) at Duquesne (5-2, 3-1), noon
X-No. 12 New Hampshire (6-2, 4-1 CAA) at Rhode Island (0-7, 0-4), noon
Eastern Illinois (4-3, 3-1 OVC) at X-No. 18 Eastern Kentucky (6-2, 4-1), noon
St. Francis, Pa. (3-5, 2-3 NEC) at X-Central Connecticut State (1-6, 1-3),
X-Yale (2-4, 1-2 Ivy) at Columbia (1-5, 0-3), 12:30 p.m.
Princeton (4-2, 3-0 Ivy) at X-Cornell (3-3, 1-2), 12:30 p.m.
X-Colgate (4-3, 2-0 Patriot) at Bucknell (1-6, 0-3), 1 p.m.
X-Fordham (4-3) at Holy Cross (1-6), 1 p.m.
Campbell (1-6, 0-4 Pioneer) at X-Morehead State (1-6, 0-4), 1 p.m.
X-No. 24 Albany (6-1, 4-0 NEC) at Sacred Heart (2-5, 1-3), 1 p.m.
X-Brown (4-2, 1-2 Ivy) at Penn (2-4, 2-1), 1 p.m.
X-No. 10 Stony Brook (7-1, 3-0) at Presbyterian (2-6, 0-3), 1 p.m.
Robert Morris (2-5, 1-3 NEC) at X-Wagner (4-3, 4-1), 1 p.m.
Howard (5-2, 4-1 MEAC) at X-South Carolina State (3-5, 2-3), 1:30 p.m.
Edward Waters (3-5) at X-Charleston Southern (3-4), 1:30 p.m.
The Citadel (4-3, 3-2 SoCon) at X-No. 7 Wofford (6-1, 4-1), 1:30 p.m.
VMI (2-5, 1-2 Big South) at X-Gardner-Webb (1-6, 0-2), 1:30 p.m.
Norfolk State (2-6, 0-5 MEAC) at X-North Carolina A&T (3-4, 1-3), 1:30 p.m.
X-Marist (2-5, 1-3 Pioneer) at Valparaiso (0-7, 0-4), 2 p.m.
Tennessee Tech (2-5, 0-4 OVC) at X-No. 21 Tennessee State (7-1, 3-1), 2 p.m.
X-Western Illinois (3-4, 1-3 Missouri Valley) at Missouri State (2-6, 2-3), 2
Savannah State (1-6, 0-4 MEAC) at X-Hampton (1-5, 1-3), 2 p.m.
South Dakota (1-6, 0-4 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 15 Indiana State (6-2, 4-1),
X-No. 1 Eastern Washington (6-1, 5-0 Big Sky) at Southern Utah (3-5, 2-3), 3
Furman (2-6, 1-4 SoCon) at X-Elon (3-4, 1-3), 3 p.m.
X-No. 22 Youngstown State (4-3, 1-3 Missouri Valley) at South Dakota State
(5-2, 3-1), 3 p.m.
Idaho State (1-6, 0-4 Big Sky) at X-Montana (3-5, 1-4), 3:30 p.m.
Mississippi Valley State (2-5, 2-3 SWAC) at X-Arkansas-Pine Bluff (5-2, 4-1),
X-Liberty (3-4, 2-0 Big South) at Coastal Carolina (3-4, 1-1), 3:30 p.m.
No. 23 Towson (3-4, 2-2 CAA) at X-No. 19 Villanova (6-2, 4-1), 3:30 p.m.
Maine (2-5, 1-3 CAA) at X-William & Mary (2-5, 1-3), 3:30 p.m.
X-Alabama A&M (6-1, 5-1 SWAC) at Alabama State (4-3, 4-2) in Birmingham, Ala.,
Southern Illinois (5-3, 4-1 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 3 North Dakota State
(6-1, 3-1), 3:30 p.m.
Georgia State (1-7) at X-No. 9 James Madison (5-2, 3-1 CAA), 3:30 p.m.
X-No. 16 Appalachian State (5-3, 3-2 SoCon) at Western Carolina (1-7, 0-6),
X-No. 13 Northern Arizona (6-1, 4-0 Big Sky) at Northern Colorado (2-5, 1-3),
X-No. 5 Sam Houston State (5-2, 3-1 Southland) at Lamar (3-5, 0-3), 4 p.m.
Game of the Week: North Carolina Central (5-2, 4-0 MEAC) at X-Bethune-Cookman
(5-2, 4-0), 4 p.m. The Wildcats have been here before; the Eagles have not.
X-Murray State (3-4, 2-2 OVC) at Jacksonville State (4-3, 3-2), 4 p.m.
North Dakota (4-4, 2-3 Big Sky) at X-No. 4 Montana State (6-1, 3-1), 4:05 p.m.
Grambling State (1-6, 0-5 SWAC) at X-Texas Southern (1-6, 1-4), 5 p.m.
Southern (3-4, 2-3 SWAC) at X-Prairie View A&M (2-5, 2-3) in Shreveport, La.,
X-Harvard (5-1, 2-1 Ivy) at Dartmouth (4-2, 2-1), 5 p.m.
Portland State (2-5, 1-3 Big Sky) at X-UC Davis (3-5, 2-3), 5 p.m.
No. 17 Illinois State (6-2, 3-2 Missouri Valley) at X-Northern Iowa (2-5,
1-3), 5 p.m.
X-Southeast Missouri State (2-5, 1-3 OVC) at Austin Peay (0-7, 0-5), 5 p.m.
Georgetown (3-5, 0-2 Patriot) at X-Lafayette (5-2, 2-0), 6 p.m.
X-No. 2 Georgia Southern (6-1, 5-1 SoCon) at Chattanooga (4-3, 3-1), 6 p.m.
Nicholls (1-5, 0-3 Southland) at X-Northwestern State (3-4, 1-2), 7 p.m.
X-No. 14 Central Arkansas (6-2, 4-1 Southland) at Southeastern Louisiana (3-4,
3-0), 8 p.m.
X-Stephen F. Austin (3-4, 2-1 Southland) at McNeese State (4-3, 1-3), 8 p.m.
Dayton (4-4, 3-2 Pioneer) at X-San Diego (4-3, 3-1), 9 p.m.
X-No. 11 Cal Poly (7-0, 5-0 Big Sky) at Sacramento State (5-3, 3-2), 9:05 p.m.
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