In the FCS Huddle: Big South makes big move

Philadelphia, PA ( – It appears as though some teams have
been left off the bottom of the Big South Conference football standings.

Entering Week 9 of the FCS season, there’s no team listed with a losing record.

It’s not a misprint, however.

The Big South has had only two conference games heading into the first full
weekend of the conference schedule. The conference has enjoyed its best season
ever out-of-conference, leading to all six teams incredibly being above .500 so
deep into the season.

Coastal Carolina is 7-0 overall and 1-0 in the Big South. Presbyterian is 4-3
and 1-1. Charleston Southern is 5-2 and 0-1. Monmouth (5-1), Liberty (4-3) and
Gardner-Webb (4-3) will play their first conference games this weekend.

Big South teams have a 21-5 record against non-conference FCS opponents, which
has surpassed the conference’s regular-season record of 16 wins, set last year
before it grew to 18 following Coastal Carolina’s two wins in the national
playoffs. Liberty owns the Big South’s lone win against an FBS opponent,
beating Appalachian State two weeks ago.

The success of Big South teams, Liberty coach Turner Gill says, speaks of the
quality of coaches across the conference. It’s a crop that arguably is the best
in the conference’s history.

“I think the numbers kind of simply speak for themself,” added Coastal coach
Joe Moglia. “If you look at any team, literally look at any team in terms of
our schedules that are within conference, everyone of those is gonna be a real
game, any one of those is going to wind up going either way.

“That was certainly true of ours in the Presbyterian game for a good portion of
the game,” he added, speaking of a 40-28 win in which his team, the preseason
Big South favorite, was matched against the team picked last in the poll. “A
break here or there, it could have been a different result. We understand that
that’s probably the way it’s going to be the rest of the season.”

The Big South originated with football in 2002 as a mere four-school
conference. Its membership later increased to seven and the conference was
awarded an automatic bid to the playoffs for its champion in 2010.

The conference fell to six schools last year after Stony Brook departed for the
Colonial Athletic Association. This year, VMI left to return to the Southern
Conference, but Monmouth joined after departing the Northeast Conference.
Kennesaw State will come aboard next year for its first season of football,
which will bring the conference back to seven schools.

Since the addition of the automatic qualifier was announced in 2008, the Big
South has continued to raise its national stature, putting emphasis on such
elements as recruiting, facilities and the level of non-conference scheduling.

Big South teams have defeated four FBS opponents since 2010 and they have five
wins in the playoffs over the last three seasons, including both Coastal
Carolina and Stony Brook in 2012 when two Big South teams advanced to the
playoffs for the first time. Five Big South players have been selected over the
last three NFL drafts. Previously, only four had been selected.

“I think there’s been a commitment made by all the schools that are in the Big
South to improve their programs, their facilities to try to get to a point
where you can compete on a national level. We’ve got some great administrators
in this league,” said Presbyterian sixth-year coach Harold Nichols, the dean of
Big South coaches.

“Every week is such a grind to prepare when you get in here. And I think what
we’ve been able to do outside the conference against outside FCS competition,
that’s been something that’s been an emphasis placed on us by the conference.
If we’re gonna be able to be relevant on a national stage, strength of schedule
is important, and you’ve got to be successful on the field and perform on
Saturday afternoons.”

The Big South is hoping to have multiple playoff bids for the second time. Only
one is guaranteed, of course, so a lot will depend on where teams stand record-
wise after beating up on each other during the conference schedule.

Coastal Carolina, which has made playoff appearances in four different seasons,
has separated itself as the Big South’s top program, reaching the national
quarterfinals a year ago and rising as high as No. 3 in the national polls this
season. Liberty and Charleston Southern also have been nationally ranked this

And all six teams enter the weekend with a winning record.


Many people have viewed Idaho State’s game at Northern Colorado on Saturday as
its best opportunity to end a road losing streak that is eight years and 48
games long.

That was even before people realized Idaho State (4-3, 2-1 Big Sky) is
much-improved this season. Now there’s expectation to the streak ending.

The Bengals haven’t won on the road since they were victorious at Northern
Colorado, 41-13, on Oct. 7, 2006.

“Saturday’s game at Northern Colorado is an opportunity for us just to continue
and evolve, keep moving forward,” coach Mike Kramer said. “The fact we’ve lost
so many road games for so long is something we don’t really talk about because
it doesn’t have anything to do with this team. So to us, we’re literally on a
three-game road losing streak and a one-game road losing streak in the
conference. Everything is nonconsequential to us.”

Kramer, in his fourth season at Idaho State, has been rewarded with a contract
extension after fixing many of the program’s problems off the field. But Big
Sky passing yardage leader Justin Arias, rushing and touchdown leader Xavier
Finney and the Bengals have made many on-the-field upgrades as well.

Northern Colorado has a 2-5 record, but is 2-1 at home this season.


The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at

The FCS Awards package can be found at


Last Week’s Record: 38-15 (.717)

This Season’s Record: 414-106 (.796)

X-Predicted Winner

Saturday, Oct. 25

Top 25

The Big Sky could see some Top 10 upsets when No. 2 Eastern Washington visits
Northern Arizona and No. 7 Montana drops in on Cal Poly. The third unbeaten
team in conference play, No. 10 Montana State, sits idle this weekend.

Mercer (5-3, 1-3 Southern) at X-No. 15 Chattanooga (4-3, 3-0), noon. These new
conference opponents haven’t met since 1941. While Mercer’s team speed could
trouble Chattanooga, the Mocs realize this is a game they can’t afford to give
away, considering their remaining SoCon schedule afterward. The dual-threat
quarterback matchup is solid – Mercer’s John Russ versus Chattanooga’s Jacob

Delaware (4-3, 2-1 CAA) at X-No. 18 William & Mary (4-3, 1-2), 12:30 p.m. An
encouraging September has been followed by a disappointing October for both
teams, but the winner will remain a legitimate FCS playoff contender. In odd
twists, Delaware has struggled to stop the run but William & Mary has struggled
to rush the ball consistently, while the visiting Blue Hens aren’t passing the
ball real well but the Tribe aren’t stopping the pass, either.

X-No. 12 Fordham (6-1, 2-0 Patriot) at Lehigh (1-5, 0-1), 12:30 p.m. With so
many passing options, Fordham quarterback Michael Nebrich (329 passing yards
per game, 21 touchdown passes) figures to pick apart a struggling Lehigh
defense. Lehigh, which owns a 23-3 series lead, will try to build on its first
win of the season – 31-14 against Cornell – when running back Rich Sodeke and
defensive end Tim Newton earned Patriot League offensive and defensive players
of the week, respectively.

FCS Game of the Week: No. 21 Harvard (5-0, 2-0 Ivy) at X-Princeton (3-2, 2-0),
1 p.m. If a running back has a big day, he figures to be a difference maker
because Princeton ranks No. 1 in rushing defense (61 ypg) in the FCS and
Harvard (88.6 ypg) ranks fifth. Princeton QB Quinn Epperly (58.3 percent, three
touchdowns) seeks a return to being the 2013 Ivy League offensive player of the
year. Princeton has won the last two meetings, including 51-48 in triple
overtime last season.

Saint Francis (2-5, 0-2 NEC) at X-No. 24 Sacred Heart (6-1, 2-0), 1 p.m. After
reaching the national rankings for the first time in program history, Sacred
Heart hopes to put up a roadblock for SFU running back Khairi Dickson, whose
175.4 rushing yards per game lead the FCS. The Pioneers surrender only 71.9
rushing yards per game and have allowed only two touchdowns on the ground.
Sacred Heart quarterback RJ Noel should have a productive game considering
SFU’s five Division I opponents have averaged 46 points.

No. 14 Bethune-Cookman (6-1, 3-0 MEAC) at X-South Carolina State (4-3, 2-1),
1:30 p.m. Since 2008, the MEAC title has been won by either Bethune or SCSU
with one exception (2011, Norfolk State). The host Bulldogs, one of six one-
loss teams in the MEAC standings behind Bethune, had a bye last weekend in
leading up to this pivotal matchup, and some might say the Wildcats did as
well in playing winless Savannah State. Quarterback Quentin Williams sat out
the game, with backup Larry Brihm running an efficient offense. With a subpar
passing attack, the Bulldogs need running back Jalel Simmons and his offensive
linemen to solve Bethune’s stout run defense.

X-No. 23 Northern Iowa (3-4, 1-2 Missouri Valley) at Western Illinois (3-5,
1-3), 2 p.m. With four losses by a combined 15 points, UNI may have to sweep
its final five conference games to qualify for the FCS playoffs (a 7-5 finish
may still be worthy). The Panthers’ pass rush will try to force WIU QB Trenton
Norvell into mistakes. The Panthers would make a mistake if they don’t put the
ball in the hands of senior running back David Johnson.

Southeast Missouri State (4-4, 2-2 OVC) at X-No. 19 Eastern Kentucky (6-1,
3-1), 3 p.m. The Colonels have owned their series with SEMO, winning three
straight meetings and nine of the last 10 to push their lead to 21-3. But they
also must still be reeling from allowing 29 fourth-quarter points to Tennessee
Tech in their first loss of the season last Saturday. They hope two
quarterbacks (Jared McClain and Bennie Coley) will be better than one (SEMO’s
Kyle Snyder, who is coming off his worst game).

X-No. 1 North Dakota State (7-0, 3-0 Missouri Valley) at South Dakota (2-5,
0-3), 3 p.m. It’s first place versus last place in the Missouri Valley, so
NDSU’s FCS-record 31-game winning streak will increase again in its first
trip to the DakotaDome in 12 years. The Bison should dominant in the trenches
as USD has only collected one sack and allowed 23 in seven games. Having a
healthy wide receiver Zach Vraa spreads the field for the Bison running game.

No. 17 Youngstown State (5-2, 2-1 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 13 South Dakota
State (5-2, 2-1), 3 p.m. Having only seven turnovers is impressive enough, but
even bigger is the fact the Penguins have yet to surrender a point off a
turnover. The ‘Guins offense is in the hands of a freshman quarterback, Hunter
Wells, who was solid in a win over Southern Illinois last week. Interceptions
(10) have been a problem for SDSU quarterback Zach Lujan, but his 1-2 passing
options of Jason Schneider and Jake Wieneke are terrific. Saturday’s Homecoming
is coach John Stiegelmeier’s 200th game as SDSU’s coach (116-83).

Stony Brook (4-4, 3-1 CAA) at X-No. 3 New Hampshire (5-1, 3-0), 3 p.m. This is
a dangerous game for UNH even after having a bye. The visiting Seawolves have
been incredibly good on defense, ranking first in the FCS in total defense
(220.5 ypg), second in scoring defense (11 ppg), second in third-down
conversion percentage defense (.235), second in red zone defense (.500), third
in rushing defense (74 ypg) and fifth in passing defense (146.5 ypg). That’s
North Dakota State-esque. A potential great one-on-one matchup: UNH All-America
wide receiver R.J. Harris shadowed by Stony Brook senior cornerback Davonte

X-No. 16 Richmond (5-2, 2-1 CAA) at Elon (1-6, 0-3), 3 p.m. Richmond is riding
a three-game winning streak and who the starting quarterback is might not
matter. The Spiders have four players who have caught between 33 and 38 passes,
and Preseason All-American Stephen Barnette is only fourth in that group. Plus,
the team’s 325.3 passing yards per game rank first in the CAA and fifth

Colgate (4-3) at X-No. 25 Albany (5-2), 3:30 p.m. The Raiders couldn’t stop the
Ivy League rushing leader (Yale’s Tyler Varga) as their four-game winning
streak ended, and now they have the task of stopping CAA rushing leader Omar
Osbourne (115.7 ypg). The Great Danes have yet to lose a fumble while posting
an absurd plus-17 turnover ratio.

Morgan State (4-3) at X-No. 5 Villanova (6-1), 3:30 p.m. This first-ever
matchup appeared much easier for ‘Nova when it was scheduled in the spring. The
Bears’ three losses are by a combined seven points. Still, the Wildcats are
heavily favored, looking to run the ball with backs Kevin Monangai and Gary
Underwood and quarterback John Robertson, who already is a five-time CAA
offensive player of the week.

Charleston Southern (5-2, 0-1 Big South) at X-No. 4 Coastal Carolina (7-0,
1-0), 3:30 p.m. A loss by CSU at home to Presbyterian last Saturday took steam
out of this matchup, but the visiting Buccaneers beat Coastal last season to
hand the Chanticleers their only loss in their last 24 regular-season games
against FCS opponents. But this one is at Coastal, the new house of horrors in
the FCS. The Chants have won 11 straight home games, and only one of those
games has been closer than 21 points. This matchup is a contrast of the Bucs’
ball control style and the Chants’ quick-strike ability.

X-No. 2 Eastern Washington (7-1, 4-0 Big Sky) at Northern Arizona (4-3, 2-1),
3:35 p.m. EWU’s conference win streak is at 14 straight (the Eagles also beat
two other Big Sky schools in what were non-conference games). Quarterback
Jordan West faces a stern test against the NAU passing defense, so the Eagles
need to keep converting third downs to silence the home dome crowd. An NAU
upset makes the Lumberjacks’ season. It’s quite possible.

Tennessee Tech (3-4, 2-2 OVC) at X-No. 6 Jacksonville State (5-1, 3-0), 4 p.m.
Tech has the speed (quarterback Darian Stone and running back/return man
Ladarius Vanlier) to trouble Jacksonville State, but the preseason Ohio Valley
favorite Gamecocks have turned up their play within the conference schedule. In
OVC games, they rank second in both scoring defense and total defense. Not
surprisingly, junior cornerback Jermaine Hough has been playing at a high
level, while senior linebacker Ben Endress has stepped up to lead the team in

X-No. 8 Southeastern Louisiana (6-2, 4-0 Southland) at Stephen F. Austin (5-2,
2-1), 4 p.m. SFA running back Gus Johnson (986 yards, 8.5 yards per carry and
an FCS-high 16 TDs on the ground) appears to be stealing top Southland honors
away from Southeastern quarterback Bryan Bennett. Coach Clint Conque has done a
terrific job in his first season with the Lumberjacks, but they still need a
signature win. Place-kicker Ryan Adams is 13-for-14 on field-goal attempts,
with a long of 55 yards, for the defending champion Lions, who have won 14
straight Southland games

Missouri State (4-3, 1-2 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 9 Illinois State (6-0, 3-0),
7 p.m. Quarterback Kierra Harris and the visiting Bears have played well on the
road, but Illinois State has won nine straight home games. Having won their
last two games on Nick Aussieker’s late field goals, the Redbirds are seeking
their first 7-0 start since 1932.

X-No. 11 McNeese State (4-2, 2-1 Southland) at Incarnate Word (1-6, 1-3), 7
p.m. McNeese quarterback Daniel Sams has been red-hot, which has overshadowed
the fact true freshman Ryan Ross has joined a terrific rushing attack (270.5
ypg). The Cowboys have the top-ranked defense in the Southland, while new
member Incarnate Word is last offensively.

No. 22 Indiana State (4-3, 1-2 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 20 Southern Illinois
(5-3, 2-2), 7 p.m. With both teams on two-game losing streaks, this is
basically (not mathematically) an elimination game for a Missouri Valley
playoff spot. SIU figures to mount a running game and Indiana State doesn’t, so
the Salukis’ pass rushers will get after Sycamores QB Mike Perish.

No. 7 Montana (5-2, 3-0 Big Sky) at X-Cal Poly (4-3, 3-1), 9:05 p.m. The last
time Montana visited San Luis Obispo in 2010, it was upset as the top-ranked
team in the nation. Cal Poly’s triple option has raised its production during a
three-game winning streak and leads the FCS in rushing offense (337.1 ypg).
While the Mustangs have rushed for 25 touchdowns, the Zack Wagenmann-led
Grizzlies defense has surrendered only six on the ground.

Non-Ranked Conference

The largest crowd of the season will be at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama,
when Alabama A&M and Alabama State meet in the 73rd Magic City Classic. The
rivalry game draws around 60,000 fans annually.

X-Campbell (4-3, 4-0 Pioneer) at Marist (1-6, 1-3), noon

X-Maine (2-5, 1-3 CAA) at Rhode Island (0-7, 0-3), noon

Cornell (0-5, 0-2 Ivy) at X-Brown (2-3, 0-2), 12:30 p.m.

Valparaiso (2-5, 0-3 Pioneer) at X-Morehead State (2-5, 1-3), 1 p.m.

X-Stetson (2-5, 0-3 Pioneer) at Davidson (1-7, 0-4), 1 p.m.

Robert Morris (1-6, 1-1 NEC) at X-Bryant (5-1, 1-0), 1 p.m.

Florida A&M (2-5, 2-1 MEAC) at X-North Carolina A&T (6-2, 3-1), 1 p.m.

X-Wagner (3-3, 1-0 NEC) at Central Connecticut State (2-5, 0-2), 1 p.m.

X-Jacksonville (6-1) at Limestone (2-5), 1 p.m.

Penn (1-4, 1-1 Ivy) at X-Yale (4-1, 1-1), 1:30 p.m.

X-Dartmouth (4-1, 2-0 Ivy) at Columbia (0-5, 0-2), 1:30 p.m.

X-Samford (3-3, 2-2 Southern) at Furman (2-5, 1-1), 1:30 p.m.

VMI (1-7, 0-3 Southern) at X-Wofford (4-3, 2-1), 1:30 p.m.

X-Monmouth (5-1, 0-0 Big South) at Presbyterian (4-3, 1-1), 2 p.m.

Savannah State (0-7, 0-4 MEAC) at X-North Carolina Central (3-4, 2-1), 2 p.m.

The Citadel (2-5, 0-2 Southern) at X-Western Carolina (5-2, 3-0), 2 p.m.

X-Bucknell (5-1, 1-0 Patriot) at Georgetown (2-5, 0-2), 2 p.m.

Butler (3-4, 1-3 Pioneer) at X-Drake (4-3, 3-1), 2 p.m.

X-Alcorn State (6-2, 4-1 SWAC) at Prairie View A&M (3-4, 3-3), 2 p.m.

Hampton (1-6, 0-3 MEAC) at X-Delaware State (2-6, 2-2), 2 p.m.

Tennessee State (4-4, 1-3 OVC) at X-Eastern Illinois (2-5, 2-1), 2:30 p.m.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-5, 0-4 SWAC) at X-Texas Southern (5-2, 3-2), 3 p.m.

Austin Peay (1-6, 1-2 OVC) at X-UT Martin (3-5, 2-3), 3 p.m.

North Dakota (3-4, 1-2 Big Sky) at X-Southern Utah (1-7, 1-3), 3:05 p.m.

Portland State (2-5, 1-2 Big Sky) at X-Weber State (0-7, 0-3), 3:05 p.m.

Gardner-Webb (4-3, 0-0 Big South) at X-Liberty (4-3, 0-0), 3:30 p.m.

Holy Cross (2-6, 0-2 Patriot) at X-Lafayette (3-4, 1-1), 3:30 p.m.

Alabama A&M (2-5, 1-3 SWAC) vs. X-Alabama State (4-3, 3-2) at Legion Field in
Birmingham, Alabama, 3:30 p.m.

X-Idaho State (4-3, 2-1 Big Sky) at Northern Colorado (2-5, 1-3), 3:35 p.m.

Abilene Christian (4-4, 2-2 Southland) at X-Sam Houston State (3-4, 2-1), 4

X-Southern (4-3, 3-1 SWAC) at Jackson State (3-4, 1-3), 7 p.m.

Northwestern State (4-3, 2-1 Southland) at X-Central Arkansas (4-4, 3-1), 7

X-Nicholls (0-8, 0-4 Southland) at Houston Baptist (1-6, 0-4), 8 p.m.

Dayton (5-1, 3-0 Pioneer) at X-San Diego (5-1, 3-1), 9 p.m.

Non-Ranked Non-Conference

After losing its first two CAA games, James Madison will be hard-pressed to
gain the conference’s automatic bid, but the Dukes have since handed Albany its
only loss and beaten Towson by 55 points. With quarterback Vad Lee playing so
well, the Dukes are hoping they are on a run to at least an at-large bid.

Alderson-Broaddus (5-2) at X-Duquesne (4-3), noon

X-James Madison (4-3) at Charlotte (3-4), noon

Kentucky Wesleyan (4-3) at X-Murray State (2-5), 4 p.m.