10 takeaways from FCS Week 8
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - The calm before the storm (next Saturday's big schedule) was anything but that in Week 8 of the FCS season.
Eighth-ranked Furman, picked off. No. 9 Nicholls, shut out. The two ranked Ohio Valley Conference teams, Jacksonville State and Austin Peay, go down. Add in the usual topsy-turvy conference races and the FCS lived up to, well, everything we expect out of the FCS.
Here are 10 takeaways from Week 8 of the FCS season:
- Sam Houston State's incredible success throughout the decade has been built on high-scoring offenses, but this season the defense has fueled the Bearkats to a first-place tie with UIW (which they beat) in the Southland Conference. The points and yardage allowed this season have been bettered only by the 2011 squad, the first of two straight national finalists. The Bearkats forced three turnovers and allowed only 271 yards in dropping No. 9 Nicholls 17-0 for their 97th win since 2010, which is second-most in the FCS to North Dakota State.
- Speaking of NDSU and shutouts, the top-ranked Bison limited Missouri State to 185 yards in blanking Missouri State 22-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Their 28th straight win also was the program's 12th shutout of the decade, matching South Carolina State for the FCS high. The Bison (7-0, 3-0) next travel to third-ranked South Dakota State (6-1, 3-0) in the biggest matchup of a great schedule. North Dakota State holds the Dakota Marker trophy, but SDSU had it with wins in the previous two seasons. Their 34-21 triumph in Brookings on Nov. 4, 2017 was the Bison's last loss.
- The STATS FCS Game of the Week was a beatdown, No. 15 Sacramento State routing No. 5 Montana 49-22. It gave the Hornets a three-game, 15-day sweep of Eastern Washington, Montana State and now the Griz, with quarterback Kevin Thomson accounting for at least five touchdowns in each game. The transformation under first-year coach Troy Taylor has been amazing. The Hornets are tied atop the Big Sky standings with No. 4 Weber State, and both teams have lost only to FBS opponents.
- Sophomore slump? Weber State running back Josh Davis, the 2018 STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award recipient as national freshman of the year, has received fewer touches in his second season, but he surpassed his six-game rushing total with a school-record 328 yards in the Wildcats' 51-28 win over Northern Arizona. He scored four touchdowns, including on 54- and 44-yard runs. Case Cookus' fourth TD pass pulled NAU within 30-28 to open the fourth quarter, but coach Jay Hill's 'Cats ended on a 21-0 run.
- Chattanooga was picked fourth and fifth in the Southern Conference's two preseason polls, but first-year coach Rusty Wright has his alma mater sitting all alone in first place heading toward the final Saturday of October. Freshman running back Ailym Ford has been a workhorse with at least 30 carries in each SoCon win, and he had his first 200-yard performance, along with two touchdowns, when the Mocs slipped past ETSU 16-13. They have only faced the lower tier of the standings, so No. 8 Furman, which was stunned by The Citadel 27-10, and surging Wofford also have control of their destiny in the race.
- The OVC hasn't been the place for great title races in recent seasons because of Jacksonville State's dominance, but it's all different this year, especially after Southeast Missouri's 24-21 road over the Gamecocks. The Gamecocks (5-3, 2-2) suffered only one OVC loss in claiming five straight outright titles, but with a second defeat they're looking up in the standings to unbeaten UT Martin (5-2, 4-0) as well as Austin Peay, Eastern Kentucky and SEMO. UT Martin has to go through SEMO, Jacksonville State and Austin Peay in the next three weeks. Head coach Jason Simpson's next win will set a school mark at 86.
- Perhaps the transfer of the year is Villanova getting quarterback Daniel Smith (26 total touchdowns in seven games) from Campbell as a graduate transfer with eligibility through the 2020 season. But Campbell has done well to regroup at the position with true freshman Hajj-Malik Williams. He's averaging 272.2 yards of total offense and has accounted for 13 TDs during the Camels' second all-time five-game winning streak, which includes a 31-16 victory over Hampton. He caught a touchdown in addition to throwing two to Jalen Ramsey, also a true freshman.
- Collision course I? They're both rolling at 5-0 and if they avoid getting picked off over the next two weeks, No. 17 Princeton and No. 21 Dartmouth will meet in a battle of unbeatens on Nov. 9 at Yankee Stadium. Princeton scored 51 first-half points and Kevin Davidson finished with five touchdown passes in a 65-22 whipping of Brown - the most points ever scored against the Bears and the Tigers' 15th straight win. Dartmouth may have an even more-complete team than the Tigers, making it 17 wins in the last 18 games with a 49-7 rout of Marist. Incredibly, the Big Green have outscored opponents 77-0 in the first quarter and allowed only 13 points in the first three quarters.
- Collision course II? The two most recent Northeast Conference representatives in the FCS playoffs, Central Connecticut State and Duquesne, may decide this year's bid on Nov. 23 in Pittsburgh - the final Saturday of the regular season. Both teams have road wins over Sacred Heart, with Duquesne beating its fellow 2018 NEC co-champ 20-6 on the strength of its defense. No. 25 CCSU celebrated its first national ranking since 2006 by pounding Bryant 52-14. The two powers have to share room atop the standings because Robert Morris has ended a 14-game NEC losing streak with a 2-0 start in conference for the first time since 2011.
- The storm is coming. In addition to the North Dakota State-South Dakota State matchup, some of the other big ones next Saturday are Weber State-UC Davis and Eastern Washington-Montana (Big Sky), Towson-James Madison (CAA), Chattanooga-Wofford (SoCon), Sam Houston State-Central Arkansas (Southland), UT Martin-Southeast Missouri (Ohio Valley), San Diego-Dayton (Pioneer), Harvard-Princeton (Ivy League), Southern-Alcorn State (SWAC) and South Carolina State-Bethune-Cookman (MEAC).
Updated October 20, 2019