FCS Roundtable: Mid-Season Stars and Top Week 6 Match-Ups


The Championship Subdivision is already midway to its postseason, with many teams having five games under their belt. October Saturdays begin to separate those with genuine worthiness to spend January in Texas from those who will spend Thanksgiving at home. The Walter Payton Award watch list has also been amended for the first time to reflect the top offensive performers thus far, and the same for the Buck Buchanan Award on the defensive end.

Some of those featured are in the spotlight of this week’s FCS Roundtable. For outstanding Championship Subdivision coverage, visit all the contributors’ home sites linked below.

Ben Moore, PantherTalk.com and SBNation Atlanta

– With the season midway through, who has been the biggest star of the FCS in your mind?

I’m going to cheat a little and pick a tandem of talented runners in Portland St. Cory McAffrey & Connor Kavanaugh. They have combined for 281 yards per game and 14 TDs for the nation’s #3 rushing attack.

– What are you anticipating in the season’s second half? Which teams will rise, and which will falter?

Three things I’m looking for in the second half:
-Can anyone slow Georgia Southern? After fumbling four times vs. Samford on the road, the Eagles have blasted teams. They battle App State on October 29th in Boone which may be one of their only possible losses before heading to Tuscaloosa battling the Crimson Tide.

-Will Villanova rise up? They are 1-4 and 0-2 in CAA play heading into Saturday’s tilt at New Hampshire. This is a team that wanted to be included in the Big East football conversation. Do the ‘Nova upperclassmen have a final push in them?

-Will Old Dominion continue to impress? The Monarch are 4-1 with an impressive thumping of UMass last Saturday. The next 2 out of 3 games are on the road and it’s never easy to win on the road in arguably FCS’ strongest league.

Your predictions for these big Week 6 games:

– Montana State at Portland State: Portland State in a shoot out of contrasting offenses.

– Indiana State at Northern Iowa: Indiana State. The Sycamores are for real.

– Maine at James Madison: JMU at home. Dukes get it done.

– Richmond at Towson: Spiders win on the road. Not easy to do in the CAA.

– William & Mary at Delaware (with both at 3-2, is this must-win for the CAA favorites?): Yes. This is a must win. Loser falls 2 full games back in the loss column with only 5 to play.

– Another game that’s on your radar?: Furman hosting Samford. The Paladins have quietly move to 4-1 and may sneak into that 3rd slot in the SoCon race. Move to 5-1 and 3-0 in conference before heading to Statesboro the following week would impress me.

Joe Suhoski, VBR Productions and CAA Analyst SaturdayBlitz.com

Three players from the Colonial Athletic Association stand out among their peers. Massachusetts running back Jonathan Hernandez leads the conference with 519 yards on the ground through only four games. Defensively, New Hampshire linebacker Matt Evans leads the conference with 63 total tackles through only four games, including an astonishing 24 in an overtime win over Lehigh.

But the star of the CAA has been Evans’ teammate, quarterback Kevin Decker. Replacing starter RJ Toman after his graduation, Decker is averaging 310 yards of total offense per game along with ten touchdowns against four interceptions. In two of his four games Decker has passed for more than 300 yards. His production has been needed as New Hampshire’s defense has allowed more than 40 points per game after it surrendered less than 17 per game in 2010. Without Decker at the helm, the Wildcats would not have reached a 3-1 record.

James Madison looks to be the team to beat in the CAA. Their defense has been outstanding and their stellar rushing attacking is getting an All-CAA performance from running back Dae’Quan Scott. Having already defeated William and Mary as well as Richmond and with its only loss to North Carolina, the Dukes are in good shape to reach the playoffs.

A team that might struggle the rest of the way is Chattanooga. Already with three losses in five games, the Mocs have yet to take on #1 Georgia Southern or #4 Wofford in conference games. More damaging than their last two losses is the way in which they lost – Appalachian State scored two defensive touchdowns to win 14-12 while The Citadel scored four unanswered touchdowns to win 28-27. These losses in consecutive weeks would be deflating to most teams, so it is imperative for the team to re-group as it travels to Statesboro to take on GSU.

In the big games this weekend, DeNarius McGhee & Montana State should handle Portland State. Northern Iowa at home should be too much for Indiana State to overcome. The JMU Dukes’ defense will be able to slow down Pushaun Brown and the Maine Black Bears. If quarterback Grant Enders returns for Towson this week, he should be able to guide the Tigers past Richmond. The game between the Tribe and the Blue Hens is absolutely a must-win game; the loser must win out to have to be assured of its playoff spot. There are too many factors coming into this game to assuredly predict a winner, but it says here that Delaware comes out on top.

Kyle Roth, Bison Illustrated and Bison Sports Blog

The season’s biggest star for me right now, at least in my microcosm of the MVFC, has to be Indiana State’s Shakir Bell. Roundtable frequenters will recall that I’ve been buying Sycamore stock since this offseason, largely in part of a serious man-crush on QB Ronnie Fouch, but Bell has been flat-out ridiculous in the last few games, starting with the Sycs’ dismantling of Western Kentucky on the road and culminating at South Dakota State on Saturday. Through five games, Bell has 803 yards on the ground and 8 TDs, and the way his partner has been playing at QB, I expect this weekend’s game with UNI to be chock-full of excitement.

In a wider scope, it’s hard not to love Chris Lum, QB for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Lum leads one of the FCS’s most explosive offenses and currently ranks first in total individual offense nationally. He’s helped Lehigh to a top-10 spot in most major polls, and with PFL play starting up, Lum doesn’t look to be losing any steam.

In the second half, it’s tough to see an opponent that really breaks away, but with Wofford having played Appalachian State and taking on Georgia Southern this weekend, it’s tough to see who else they play that could handle their wishbone offense and stringent defense. If they beat Georgia Southern, I firmly expect them to win the SoCon title.


Montana State at Portland State: The Bobcats get a win closer to that big matchup vs. Montana that should decide the BSC champ.

Indiana State at Northern Iowa: The Sycamores allowed 28 points to a reeling SDSU squad, so expect Rennie and company to do some damage that the Panthers’ D shouldn’t allow likewise to their ISU counterparts. This one goes to UNI.

Maine at James Madison: Maine’s win over Delaware earned them some respect and showed that they’re a team on the rise, but JMU is my CAA favorite for a reason. They win at home.

Richmond at Towson: I love Towson’s defense and Richmond is on a slide. What a turnaround for that program so far this season.

William and Mary at Delaware: It’s getting close to must-win for the Blue Hens, who probably didn’t see a loss to Maine on their radar.

Russell Varner, SouthernPigskin.com

The biggest star of the FCS, or at least the SoCon, hasn’t really come on until the past few weeks. But boy, was it worth the wait. If you haven’t heard of Chris Forcier’s ridiculous run recently, let me get you up to speed. The transfer from UCLA has completed 49 of 63 passes (77.8% completion rate), 703 yards, 12 touchdowns, zero interceptions, at one point completed 20 consecutive passes and has a passing efficiency rating of 234.37. The next closest player in that category? Brock Jensen of North Dakota State with 173.92. And if you are curious about the low passing yards total, keep in mind this is a team that loves to run the ball far more than it loves to pass. For the longest time, Paladin fans had been waiting to see Forcier reach his full potential. I think it’s safe to say we are seeing it now. Insert corny ‘May the Forcier be with you’ line here.

In the second half of this year, I cannot wait to see the race for the SoCon title. Georgia Southern has looked fantastic this season, sporting one of the nation’s top offenses and defense. Wofford, in case you somehow missed it, had a great showing against App State, a team that had their number in recent seasons, and will host the Eagles later this year in a game that could decide the conference champion. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Mountaineers as well. The team has looked nothing like the champion we have grown accustomed to watching year in and year out. The D has been solid at times, but somewhat inconsistent due to suspensions. The big worry is the offense. DeAndre Presley, the all-everything Payton Award-favorite coming into the season, has not played well lately. Period. He is well off his pace in previous years, does not look as comfortable in the pocket and, after throwing seven picks all of last year, has four already in 2011.

And now, for predications, everyone’s favorite part of these columns.

– Montana State at Portland State: Montana State by 10

– Indiana State at Northern Iowa: Northern Iowa by 9

– Maine at James Madison: JMU by 6

– Richmond at Towson: Richmond by 7

– William & Mary at Delaware: William & Mary keeps their CAA conference dreams alive with a 3 point victory

– Chattanooga at Georgia Southern: Georgia Southern by 14