Here is a quick look at Saturday’s games involving Top Ten FCS teams and teams from the Missouri Valley Football Conference:
TOP TEN MATCHUPS
No. 4 UC Davis (2-1) at No. 1 North Dakota State (3-0)
During NDSU’s Division I-leading 24-game winning streak (since Nov. 11, 2017), it ranks No. 1 in the FCS in third-down conversion percentage both offensively (51.7) and defensively (26.9). The Bison offense was just 4 of 10 on third downs last week, snapping a streak of eight straight games in which they converted at least 50 percent – longest by an FCS team since Colgate in 2012 (eight games)
Trey Lance is the only FCS player with at least 500 passing yards and 200 rushing yards this season. His 79.6 completion percentage is the highest by any FCS player through the first three games of a season (minimum 40 attempts) since 2014, when Stephen F. Austin’s Joe Minden was at 82.9 percent.
The Bison are 24-4 all-time at home against FCS opponents ranked in the Top 10. That includes eight wins in a row since 2017 by an average of 24.6 points.
UC Davis’ Jake Maier ranks No. 1 in the FCS in passing yards over the last two seasons with 4,852. He’s passed for 350+ yards in back-to-back games – both wins – and the Aggies are 10-1 when he reaches that total.
No. 2 James Madison (2-1) at Chattanooga (1-2)
Although this is the first meeting between the two programs, JMU has previously played at Chattanooga’s home of Finley Stadium, beating Montana 31-21 in the 2004 FCS national championship game – the first of the Dukes’ two titles.
Ben DiNucci is coming off a 4-TD, 0-INT game against Morgan State last week. In the Dukes’ 11 wins over the last two seasons, he has 20 TDs vs. 5 INTs. In their five losses, he’s thrown 2 TDs vs. 8 INTs.
Southern Utah (1-2) at No. 3 South Dakota State (2-1)
SDSU’s Cade Johnson has the most scrimmage yards (340) among the four FCS players to have both 100+ rushing yards (101) and 100+ receiving yards (239) in 2019. He’s the only wide receiver of the quartet, which includes RBs Niko Duffey (Alcorn St.), Javon Williams Jr. (S. Illinois) and Alex Ramsey (VMI).
The Jackrabbits have the FCS’ fourth-highest scoring average (39.0) in the last three seasons (since 2017), going 23-0 when scoring at least 27 points and 0-7 when below that total.
No. 18 Villanova (3-0) at No. 5 Towson (3-0)
Towson has its highest national ranking since finishing No. 2 after a loss to North Dakota State in the 2013 FCS championship game. The Tigers are an even 30-30 since the start of 2014 but are 10-5 since the start of last season.
The Towson defense is tied with Central Connecticut State and Gardner-Webb for the FCS high with seven INTs.
New Villanova QB Daniel Smith, a graduate transfer from Campbell, has the most rushing yards (2,012) and rushing TDs (27) since 2017 among active signal callers.
No. 7 Kennesaw State (2-1) at Missouri State (0-2)
Kennesaw State has rushed for a touchdown in 41 straight games, the second-longest active streak in the FCS behind North Dakota State (57). Missouri State’s defense has given up a rushing touchdown in nine consecutive games, allowing a total of 25 in that span.
The Owls are coming off their 10th game of scoring 40 or more points since the start of last season. The only Division I teams with more 40-point games in that span are all in the FBS – Alabama (13), Oklahoma (13), Clemson (11) and Ohio State (11).
Norfolk State (1-2) at No. 8 Montana State (2-1)
In Montana State’s 34-14 win over Western Illinois last Saturday, Logan Jones’ 87-yard TD run matched the longest rush in the FCS this season and Jered Padmos’ 76-yard punt tied for the longest in 2019.
DE Bryce Sterk ranks second in the FCS in sacks per game (1.67) and is tied for sixth in tackles for loss per game (2.2). Since joining the Bobcats as a 2018 Washington transfer, he has 13.5 sacks and 23.5 TFLs in his first 16 games.
Idaho State (1-1) at No. 9 Northern Iowa (1-1)
UNI defeated Southern Utah 34-14 in the Big Sky-MVFC Challenge last Saturday as Mark Farley became the 10th coach in FCS history to reach 150 career wins. The winningest coach in MVFC history has a 91-24 record (.791) inside the UNI-Dome.
The Panthers have scored in all six trips to their opponents’ red zone, making them 50 of 55 (.909) since the start of the 2018 season. Only Davidson (.943), Mercer (.923) and Elon (.911) have produced points at a higher rate in that time among FCS schools.
North Alabama (1-2) at No. 10 Jacksonville State (2-1)
Jacksonville State outscored Eastern Washington 21-0 in the fourth quarter of a 49-45 victory last Saturday. The Eagles’ plus-35 point differential in the fourth quarter this season (42 scored, 7 allowed) ranks second in the FCS to Central Arkansas (+41).
Safety Marlon Bridges had a 67-yard INT return for a touchdown against Eastern Washington. It was his third career pick-six, tying him with four others for the most among active FCS players.
MISSOURI VALLEY MATCHUPS
Northern Arizona (2-1) at (15) Illinois State (2-1)
Northern Arizona senior Case Cookus has 82 career touchdown passes, second most of any active player in the FCS or FBS behind Washington State’s Gage Gubrud. Cookus passed for 380 yards and 3 TDs with zero INTs in a 2017 home win over Illinois State.
Illinois State’s Brady Davis has completed under 50 percent of his pass attempts in four straight games (35-of-85 overall, 41.2 percent). Oddly, the Redbirds are 5-1 when he is under 50 percent but 3-4 when he’s completed at least 50 percent.
South Dakota (0-3) at Northern Colorado (0-3)
South Dakota has lost eight of its last nine games, allowing the most TDs (54) and points per game (44.0) in the FCS during that time (since last Oct. 10). The Coyotes enter this week looking to avoid becoming the first MVFC team to allow 50+ points in three straight games since Missouri State in 2015.
Austin Simmons set the South Dakota school record with 537 passing yards against Houston Baptist last Saturday even though the team’s leading receiver, Kody Case, did not play. Five Coyotes set career highs for receiving yards: Caleb Vander Esch (103), Randy Baker (102), Brett Samson (77), Connor Herrmann (76) and Drew Greenhaw (56).
Eastern Illinois (0-3) at Indiana State (1-2)
Indiana State is one of two FCS teams to play multiple games this season and have multiple players averaging 10 or more tackles: Jonas Griffith (10.7), who surpassed 300 career stops last Saturday, and Clayton Glasco (10.3). UNI has three players averaging double-digit tackles.
The Sycamores’ four lost fumbles in 14 games over the last two seasons are tied for the second-fewest among FCS teams to have played more than 10 games. They have thrown just seven INTs in that span, tied with North Dakota State for fewest among MVFC teams, even though Ryan Boyle has four this year.
Southern Illinois (2-1) at Arkansas State (1-2)
Southern Illinois has won back-to-back games, the same number of victories it had in its previous 16 games combined. The Salukis haven’t won three in a row in a single season since starting 3-0 in 2014.
D.J. Davis is 18 yards shy of becoming the first Saluki to rush for 2,000 yards in his career since Deji Karim did it in 2009 before going on to the NFL. Davis is coming off his eighth career 100-yard game, tied for 10th most among active FCS players. He’s averaged 121.8 rush yards in his last six non-conference games.
Tennessee Tech (2-1) at Western Illinois (0-3)
When these teams last met, Western Illinois won 41-14 in the 2017 season opener as it held Tennessee Tech to zero yards on 21 carries. It remains the only time this decade that the Golden Eagles failed to finish with a positive rushing yardage total.
Western Illinois is off to its worst since opening 0-3 in 1990 and is hoping to avoid its first 0-4 start since 1967. The only MVFC team to begin 0-4 in the last five years was Indiana State in 2017 en route to an 0-11 season.