When the going gets tough, the tough road trip. Fall is the perfect time of year for the..."/> When the going gets tough, the tough road trip. Fall is the perfect time of year for the..."/>

FCS Roundtable: Top FCS Road Trips, What to Watch in Week 8


When the going gets tough, the tough road trip. Fall is the perfect time of year for the great American tradition of rounding up some buddies, packing the car with them and some cases of beer, and trekking down the interstate. And no autumn road trip is complete without a stop of a college football game. The FCS Roundtable gives some road trip recommendations, from the middle of the country, along the Atlantic and down South. With the playoff race heating up, the panel also has the match-ups most worth following in Week 8.

Have a favorite FCS destination of your own? Sound off in the comments section, and be sure to visit each of the panelists’ sites for great FCS coverage throughout the season.

Ben Moore, PantherTalk.com & SBNation Atlanta

I’ve been told Foreman Field at ODU [which has sold out every home game since the Monarch began play in 2009] is a formidable venue. I’ve been to several games at Jacksonville State and I believe that the upgrades are very impressive at Burgess-Snow Stadium.

Recapping Week 7:

-Impressive Individual Performance of the Week: Towson Freshman RB Terrance West – West went 148 yards and 2 TDs on only 16 carries in their 33-30 CAA win vs. Old Dominion.

-Team Performance: Liberty over Coastal Carolina. The Flames rolled at home to take an early edge in the Big South race.

What I’m watching in Week 8:

-Samford at App State: Could the Bulldogs spring an upset on the road?
-Towson at William & Mary: Can the Tigers continue its CAA roll?
-Jacksonville State at Kentucky: There’s no way that they could take down another SEC team…could they? JSU has found their identity and will be bringing an SEC caliber RB in Washaun Ealey. This game could get UK coach Joker Phillips fired if the boys in blue lose.

Joe Suhoski, VBR Productions & SaturdayBlitz.com CAA Columnist

In Old Dominion’s final game of 2010 they traveled to North Carolina Central University. Recognizing this would be the last game for ODU for ten months, I drove from Baltimore to Durham to take in the game. I came away more than impressed with everyone associated with the NCCU, from the game day staff to the fans to the band. Despite the stands being a little more than half full, there was enough cheering for both sides in ODU’s 33-21 victory. It was a festive atmosphere even though the Eagles never held a lead in the game, and the game was more fun than I would have expected as a visiting fan.

In terms of playoff atmosphere, I attended the December game between Georgia Southern and Delaware. The tailgating was spectacular and the game atmosphere was electric. It helped that the Eagles’ fans traveled surprisingly well considering the distance from Georgia to Delaware. Georgia Southern never went away until late in the fourth quarter, despite how loud the stadium was getting. The stadium was exceptionally loud when the Hens needed a big play on defense. Being a neutral fan I just wanted to see a good game with a good atmosphere, and that’s what Delaware delivered.

In Week 7 play of the CAA, Towson impressed me the most. They were down eleven points with just over three minutes remaining but scored two touchdowns to come away with the win. In electric atmosphere against ODU, the Tigers maintained their composure and made plays when needed. William and Mary finally displayed its potential as a defensive unit, holding high-flying New Hampshire to just 10 points. The Wildcats had been averaging 45 points in their previous four games.

It deserves note that following this past week’s game, a record nine CAA teams were voted to the Top 25 in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS poll. The last two weeks the CAA had tied its own record with eight teams in the poll, so the conference broke its own record. The top of the SoCon may be the strongest in the country stronger but it’s hard to debate that there’s a deeper conference in the FCS.

One team that deserves special recognition is Norfolk State. The Spartans are 6-1 (4-0 in the MEAC) with their loss coming at West Virginia. They’ve averaged 26 points in their last five games (all wins), three of which were on the road. Norfolk State is led by quarterback Chris Walley, who has completed 72% of his passes for 1,660 yards and TD-INT ratio of 11-2. Receivers Xavier Boyce (45 catches, 545 yards, four touchdowns) and Victor Hairston (37/429/5) are performing at an All-MEAC level.

Looking at Week 8, the Spartans have a chance to earn their sixth straight win as they host Bethune-Cookman. The Wildcats are 3-3 but are winless on the road thus far. The marquee matchup in the CAA takes place in Williamsburg, VA, where the Tribe hosts the Towson Tigers. Towson is undefeated against FCS opponents while the Tribe may have gotten the boost they needed with a win over UNH. In the Big Sky, Montana State puts its six-game winning streak on the line at Northern Colorado. The Bobcats should be able to lock up a pretty high seed in the playoffs if it continues to excel at its current pace.

Kyle Roth, Bison Illustrated & Bison Sports Blog

One venue I walked away extremely impressed with was that of Montana State. We had the opportunity to travel there last season in the second round of the FCS playoffs and couldn’t believe the scenery. The stadium itself is set overlooking the Rocky Mountains and the fans were tremendous. Easily the most enjoyable road trip I’ve yet been on to an FCS venue.

One place that has thwarted NDSU the past few years and that ties in nicely to this week’s game is Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, home to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits and the location of the rivalry game this Saturday. The Bison haven’t won there since 1999 and infamously lost there in 2007 after a 10-win season that saw victories over FBS opponents Minnesota and Central Michigan (whom the Bison defeated 44-14). The Jacks have been in the position of having nothing to play for and getting up for the Dakota Marker game, so this weekend’s game should be a slug match despite the lack of success the Jacks have had in 2011.

Toughest for opponents has to belong to Southern Illinois – the Salukis have lost just four games at home in the last eight years, including a loss to NDSU two weeks ago in Carbondale.

I came away from Week 7 very impressed by the play of Bison sophomore QB Brock Jensen, who broke an NDSU record for consecutive pass completions with a 15-15 first half, bolstered by Jensen completing his final 4 passes the week before. This guy threw for just 45% last season, and one of the knocks on him was his ability to function in a West Coast offense that is predicated on accuracy. He’s now passing at 71% on the season, higher than any other passers in the top ten in national passing efficiency. Elsewhere, Northern Iowa’s defense left me nodding in approval as they forced SDSU QB Austin Sumner to throw four interceptions. Granted, when a team like SDSU throws over 40 times a game with a freshman QB, that’s going to happen, but the NDSU-UNI game continues to gather steam as we draw ever closer to October 29th.

Biggest game on the radar for me is that NDSU-SDSU game, the only real rivalry NDSU enjoys across all sports right now. Elsewhere…

Jacksonville State @ Kentucky – One of the few remaining prospects for an FCS-FBS upset

Indiana State @ Illinois State – Illinois State could surge and steal 3rd place in the MVFC.

Chattanooga @ Elon – the Phoenix have surprised me thus far and could make a bid for a dark-horse at-large bid from the SoCon.

Sam Houston State @ McNeese St. – Single most-losable game left on the undefeated SHSU schedule.

Eastern Washington @ Sacramento State – both teams still have a chance to score an at-large bid from the Big Sky, and neither can afford a loss. One of these teams will be eliminated from the playoffs after this weekend and the other will still need to fight for their lives in the coming weeks.

Russell Varner, SouthernPigskin.com

In the SoCon, there are three “must visit” stadiums: the Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium, Georgia Southern’s Paulson Stadium and Appalachian State’s Kidd Brewer Stadium. Johnson Hagood is one of the more picturesque stadiums in the conference and the Bulldog faithful are some of the more dedicated ones in the conference. If nothing else, going just to see the entrance of the cadets is something that will leave you with chills. Paulson and Kidd Brewer are two of the loudest and rowdiest stadiums in the country with fans that can compare with many FBS teams. The atmosphere is like what one would experience at Oregon’s Autzen Stadium, Wisconsin’s Camp Randall and the like – rambunctious, noisy and very difficult to play in. Paulson has more tradition than Kidd Brewer, but “the Rock” has undergone major renovations lately and, in my opinion, watching football in the snow during a cold winter day just feels right. You won’t go wrong with either of these stadiums, which are 1A and 1B in terms of difficulty to win at.

As for who impressed me in Week 7:

  • ASU QB Jamal Jackson: Jackson made the most of his opportunity and then some. With starter DeAndre Presley out with a shoulder injury, Jackson came in and tore the Citadel defense apart, completing 21 of 27 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns and orchestrating the Mountaineer offense with dangerous efficiency, at least for the first half and last drive of the game.
  • Georgia Southern: These guys just keep winning, usually by blowouts (apart from the UTC game). Darn near impossible to stop on offense, almost impenetrable on D. This team looks legit.
  • UTC BQ Terrell Robinson: The freshman has done a fantastic job taking B.J. Coleman’s place following his injury. After nearly leading the Mocs to a comeback last week against the aforementioned Eagles, he led the new look Mocs in their dismantling of Western Carolina, scoring three times as the Mocs won 51-7. Looks like Chattanooga may have found a winner here.

Two SoCon games have grabbed my attention for this weekend:

  • Wofford vs. Furman: Can the Paladins upset the Terriers and put a major hitch in their conference championship hopes in this classic rivalry game?
  • Samford vs. Appalachian State: Samford has been surprisingly good this season, led by QB Dustin Taliaferro, RB Fabian Truss and WR Kelsey Pope. Can Jamal Jackson repeat or even top his outstanding debut last week?