(Stats Perform) – Apologies to the Bayou Classic – Grambling State vs. Southern – and the Magic City Classic – Alabama A&M vs. Alabama State. Southeastern Louisiana at Southern Illinois, your Top 25 game is quite enticing.
The over-maligned FCS spring season has gotten it right with many excellent games late in the regular season.
The trio of aforementioned games? The schedule is so good on Saturday that they didn’t even make the weekly list of five must-see games.
Here are the Week 10 must-see games (all times ET; TV coverage subject to change):
CAA: No. 7 Delaware (4-0, 3-0) at No. 10 Villanova (2-1), 1 p.m. (FloSports)
The “Battle of the Blue” dates to 1895, although most meetings have come in the last 50 years (Villanova has won eight in a row for a 31-21-1 series lead). Delaware surely warrants the CAA’s automatic playoff bid with a win over its rival; ‘Nova needs a win or it probably won’t be in the 16-team field. The visiting Blue Hens have one of the FCS’ stingier defenses, ranking second in points allowed per game (9.5) and yards allowed per game (197.8), and they’re tied for second in turnover margin (plus-9). Dejoun Lee is averaging 166.3 all-purpose yards per game and has scored two touchdowns in three of the four games. ‘Nova has committed only one turnover this season and has gone four straight games against Delaware without one. Quarterback Daniel Smith led the FCS in total touchdowns (48) in 2019, but has produced just three this spring. Justin Covington has made up much of the difference with six rushing TDs on just 21 carries in the last two games.
Southern: The Citadel (2-8, 2-5) at No. 15 VMI (5-1), 1:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
As if the “Military Classic of the South” wasn’t special enough, Cinderella story VMI is attempting to earn its first Southern Conference title since 1977 and a playoff bid for the first time. The Keydets trail in the series 42-31-2, but ended a 12-game losing streak to The Citadel in the 75th all-time meeting in 2019. Since all-time passing leader Reece Udinski was lost to an ACL tear last month, Seth Morgan has made two starts, completing 76.3 percent of his passes (61 of 80) and accounting for 808 yards of total offense. Of course, it helps to have 6-foot-4 target Jakob Herres, the FCS receptions leader (56). Since the calendar turned to April, The Citadel’s once 0-8 squad has beaten the SoCon’s preseason favorites, Wofford and Furman. In the wins, QB Jaylan Adams directed a triple option offense that ran the ball on 118 of 126 offensive plays.
CAA: No. 11 Richmond (3-0) at No. 1 James Madison (4-0, 2-0), 2 p.m. (NBC SWA+/FloSports)
First place in the CAA South Division is on the line and for James Madison a potential top overall playoff seed. It’s also possible Richmond could miss out on the postseason without a first-time win over a No. 1-ranked opponent (0-4 all-time, including losses to the Dukes in 2008 and ’17). Spiders QB Joe Mancuso (CAA-high 250.7 yards of total offense per game) spreads the ball to various offensive weapons, and their 34-minute, 27-second time of possession ranks sixth in the FCS. The key matchup is the Spiders’ run defense, which allows a mere 55 yards per game, against the deep JMU rushing attack, which averages 259 yards behind senior leaders Percy Agyei-Obese and Jawon Hamilton, and saw Kaelon Black go for 141 yards on 19 carries in the Dukes’ last game on March 27. Ethan Ratke has kicked a field goal in his last 17 games, and his next one would be the 65th of his career and a new CAA record. The Dukes have inched ahead 19-18 in the all-time series on the strength of four straight wins.
Patriot: Holy Cross (2-0) at Bucknell (2-1), 2 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Like the Northeast Conference this past Sunday, the Patriot League is deciding an automatic playoff bid with its first conference championship game. Holy Cross has captured seven league titles – all outright, including in 2019 – while Bucknell has won only the 1996 title and never advanced to the playoffs. After consecutive cancellations, Holy Cross will play for the first time in three weeks, while Bucknell had two games during that time. The visiting Crusaders go pass and run with QBs Connor Degenhardt and Matthew Sluka, respectively. Bucknell defenders will be in pursuit, having combined for 10 sacks as well as 23 tackles for 96 yards in losses, with the unit allowing just 41.3 rushing yards per game (No. 3 in the FCS). Linebacker Simeon Page has a share of the school record with 25.5 career sacks. Incredibly, the road team has won the last seven meetings since 2013.
Missouri Valley: No. 4 South Dakota State (4-1) at No. 2 North Dakota State (6-1, 5-1), 3:30 p.m. (NBC ND/MidCoSN/ESPN+)
At stake are the Dakota Marker trophy, a share of the MVFC title, which would be NDSU’s 10th straight with a win, and the conference’s automatic bid to the playoffs. Also in the 13th straight meeting in which both teams are nationally ranked, NDSU brings in a 32-game home winning streak, while SDSU can claim to being the only team to beat the Bison more than once (2016 and ’17) since 2011, the first of their eight FCS championship seasons. The winning team has had a higher time of possession in the last 16 meetings since 2008 – 12 NDSU wins and four by SDSU – so the conference’s top two rushing attacks will seek to control the clock. The Bison have come to rely on Hunter Luepke (295 yards and four TDs in their last two games) and the Jackrabbits have spread eight performances of at least 88 rushing yards between QB Mark Gronowski (two) and RBs Pierre Strong Jr. (three), Isaiah Davis (two) and Jordan Meachum (one). SDSU hasn’t played since March 20 due to cancellations and postponements.