In the FCS Huddle: Seasons that may be changing

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Updated: 10/02/2013 1:41 pm

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - You are what your record says it is.

Actually, that may not be totally true.

Indeed, the results on the scoreboard total up the wins and losses, but with so many teams across the FCS, there's bound to be some whose season won't be the same in October, and then November, as it was through September.

Maybe the schedule is about to get tougher, maybe it will lighten up for some. Maybe the talent is there, maybe some teams are overachieving.

But what their records are today just may not reflect what they will be soon.

Better Than the Record

Appalachian State (1-3) - All that talent just didn't get up and leave when veteran coach Jerry Moore was shown the door. New coach Scott Satterfield may not be taking solace in the fact his team's losses are against opponents with a combined 11-1 record, but it's true nevertheless.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-4) - The winless record doesn't make a lot of sense for a veteran squad that won the SWAC title last season. Saturday's trip to Jackson State, last year's conference runner-up, doesn't help the cause. Or is it exactly what the Golden Lions need to get the rest of their season headed in the right direction?

Central Arkansas (2-2) - Unbeaten at home since adding the gray-and-purple stripes in 2011, the 14th-ranked Bears play five of their final eight games on the Estes Stadium turf. Their three final road games are against Southland teams perceived to be in the lower tier of the conference.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2-2) - The Mocs' two losses are to teams that are in the Top 25 (UT Martin and Georgia Southern). But for the Mocs to be thinking FCS playoffs, they need a four-game winning streak in October because they will be facing perhaps the toughest November schedule of any FCS team.

Eastern Washington (2-2) - Few would doubt a team with a No. 6 national ranking, and the Eagles have performed admirably against a non-conference schedule that offered the prospect of a 1-3 start. The first three Big Sky Conference games are manageable, but defensive coordinator John Graham's unit has to put it together more (a pass rush, anybody?).

Florida A&M (1-3) - At least the Rattlers haven't played a MEAC game yet. The difficult three-game run of Tennessee State, Samford and Ohio State is over, so the next three-game run of Morgan State, Savannah State and Howard must sound inviting to quarterback Damien Fleming, who hasn't been nearly as good as a year ago.

Southeastern Louisiana (2-2) - After getting its doors blown off in non- conference action a year ago, the Lions are doing quite well in their buildup to Southland Conference play, including a win at Samford. One of the problems, though, is their conference is quite strong this season.

Southern Illinois (2-3) - Having had tight losses to Illinois, Eastern Illinois and Youngstown State, the Salukis may be primed for an upset of a Top 10 team (South Dakota State, Northern Iowa and North Dakota State) over the next three weeks. Unfortunately, that 2-3 record might mean quarterback Korey Faulkner and Co. will need two upsets to make something out of the season.

Wofford (2-2) - Look, a third Southern Conference team - surely a trend. True, the blowout at Baylor was worse than expected, but a rainstorm could be blamed for the 3-0 hiccup versus defensively strong Gardner-Webb. With a 2-0 start in SoCon games, the Terriers are the team to beat for the automatic bid to the playoffs.

Tougher Days Ahead?

Coastal Carolina (5-0) - The ninth-ranked Chanticleers have benefited from playing "name" opponents who are having mostly down seasons. It's not to say they won't win the Big South title behind their terrific offense, but they will want to sweep Gardner-Webb and Liberty after their bye this weekend.

Mercer (4-0) - There will be some leaks to a defense ranking No. 1 in the FCS in yards allowed (241.5 ypg) when the schedule toughens (San Diego and Jacksonville). But give credit to coach Bobby Lamb and his team for getting in position to have a possible winning season.

Sacred Heart (5-0) - What helps the upstart Pioneers is the Northeast Conference is down this season. But they can't expect their FCS-best plus-14 turnover margin to continue at the same rate.

South Dakota State (3-2) - They may be No. 7 in the national rankings, but the last two weeks make the close wins over North Dakota and Southeastern Louisiana - decent, but not great teams - a little more noticeable. The Jackrabbits better hope other Missouri Valley Conference coaches don't figure out what North Dakota State does to halt running back Zach Zenner.

Southern Utah (4-1) - Three road wins have boosted the Thunderbirds to their first 4-1 start since 1997. But the schedule has been manageable - they don't face Cal Poly and Montana in Big Sky play - so let's not jump on the bandwagon just yet.

William & Mary (3-1) - It's fortunate the Tribe have been efficient and defensively strong because the rest of their CAA Football schedule is brutal - seven opponents who have been ranked in the Top 25 in at least one of the last two weeks.

Yale (2-0) - The quick start after last year's 2-8 campaign has been impressive, but the Bulldogs are up against it in the coming weeks with games against nationally ranked Cal Poly and Fordham, and a visit to Penn.

Youngstown State (4-1) - The Penguins are right where they need to be because there's a tough stretch ahead over the final three weeks of the regular season (Northern Iowa, North Dakota State and South Dakota State). But you have to wonder if a non-conference schedule that included Dayton, Morehead State and Duquense challenged them enough as the Penguins chase their first playoff berth since 2006.

POINTS AT A PREMIUM

Top-ranked North Dakota State has had the best defense in the FCS for three seasons running now, but fourth-ranked Northern Iowa is certainly flexing its muscles as well this season.

The two 4-0 Missouri Valley powers, who square off Saturday at NDSU's Fargodome, rank No. 1 and 3 in the nation in scoring defense, with the Bison allowing just 7.8 points per game (and zero to two FCS opponents) and Northern Iowa 11.8 ppg. Each team has allowed just one rushing touchdown.

It's an assignment that UNI coach Mark Farley embraces.

"I love the challenge," he said. "The better the team, the more bigger the challenge. So you try to find a way. You try to do the best you can and prepare your players to try to overcome odds. So that's the challenge, that's fun, that's why I do this.

"Now the stress of this. Shoot, you've got to go play 'em."

AROUND THE NATION

Besides Northern Iowa-North Dakota State, the other FCS game matching unbeaten teams is No. 13 Lehigh (4-0) at No. 12 Fordham (5-0). The game doesn't count toward the Patriot League standings, but the winner will take a big step toward earning an at-large playoff bid ... A week after Eastern Illinois senior Jimmy Garoppolo became the 30th quarterback in FCS history to surpass 10,000 career passing yards, Montana State's DeNarius McGhee (9,768) and Davidson's Jonathan Carkhuff (9,718) have a chance to reach the milestone on Saturday. Montana State hosts Northern Arizona in Big Sky Conference and Davidson visits Dayton in the Pioneer Football League ... Speaking of No. 5 Eastern Illinois, its early season results may be the most impressive in the FCS. But the Panthers are tied for last in the FCS in committing 11.2 penalties per game. That needs to change ... The frequent flyer mileage game of the week is Yale at Cal Poly ... The depth of CAA Football always gives it intriguing conference matchups. On Saturday, New Hampshire-Towson, William & Mary-Villanova and Delaware-Maine provide a nice menu ... The annual Governor's Cup meeting between Rhode Island and Brown is the 1,000th game in the visiting Rams' history ... Start-up program Charlotte (3-2) is in the midst of a four-in-five-game stretch against Big South Conference opponents. It started with a 45-21 win at Presbyterian last Saturday ... Charleston Southern (5-0) will play 13 games in the regular season after adding a trip to Colorado on Oct. 19. On Saturday, first-year coach Jamey Chadwell is set to play the Division II North Greenville program that he guided from 2009-11 ... The youngest player in Division I football is Columbia offensive lineman Kendall Pace (17 years, one month old) ... Having played only three games, unbeaten North Carolina A&T is a bit overlooked this season, but Saturday's game against surging South Carolina State in the Georgia Dome will help shape the direction of the MEAC race ... Georgia Southern center Manrey Saint-Amour had 14 knockdowns in last Saturday's win against Chattanooga ... The other FBS-bound program from the Southern Conference, Appalachian State, has freshmen leading the conference in scoring (Marcus Cox, 12 points per game), tackles per game (John Law, 12.5) and punting average (Bentlee Critcher, 45.4) ... New Walter Payton Award nominee Kyle Harbridge of Saint Francis (Pa.) needs 155 rushing yards to set a new Red Flash career record. They visit Central Connecticut State on Saturday ... Since losing by one point to Division II Merrimack, defending Northeast Conference champion Wagner (1-4) has lost its last three games by a combined 113 points ... Only three of the eight Southland Conference teams are in action Saturday. No. 11 McNeese State visits No. 14 Central Arkansas and Southeastern Louisiana hosts Incarnate Word, which will be playing a Southland schedule next season ... Murray State isn't actually the hotbed for defense, but the Racers (3-2) have forced 12 turnovers this season and have a chance to be at least an early season contender in the Ohio Valley Conference race ... Grambling State is averaging a whopping 119 penalty yards per game through five losses.

WHAT WE KNOW, WHAT WE THINK WE KNOW

The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at http://tinyurl.com/88q2k7t.

Also, once again this season, In the FCS Huddle is projecting the potential FCS playoff field. The projections, updated most Sundays, are a long-range look at the season - not based off current records or rankings - and can be found at http://www.sportsnetwork.com/fcs/FCS_Bracket.pdf.

WEEK 6 PICKS

Week 5 Record: 39-21 (.650)

Season Record: 277-84 (.767)

Saturday, Oct. 5

North Greenville (4-0) at X-Charleston Southern (5-0), 11 a.m.

Valparaiso (1-3, 1-0 Pioneer) at X-Marist (2-2, 1-0), noon

No. 19 New Hampshire (1-2, 0-0 CAA) at X-No. 3 Towson (5-0, 1-0), noon

X-No. 25 Gardner-Webb (4-1) at Charlotte (3-2), noon

No. 13 Lehigh (4-0) at X-No. 12 Fordham (5-0), noon

West Liberty (2-2) at X-Duquesne (1-2), 12:10 p.m.

Colgate (0-4) at X-Cornell (1-1), 12:30 p.m.

Columbia (0-2, 0-0 Ivy) at X-Princeton (1-1, 0-0), 1 p.m.

X-Florida A&M (1-3, 0-0 MEAC) at Morgan State (0-5, 0-1), 1 p.m.

X-Morehead State (1-4, 1-1 Pioneer) at Campbell (1-3, 0-1), 1 p.m.

Savannah State (1-4, 0-1 MEAC) at X-Norfolk State (1-3, 1-0), 1 p.m.

William & Mary (3-1, 1-0 CAA) at X-No. 20 Villanova (2-2, 1-0), 1 p.m.

Davidson (0-4, 0-1 Pioneer) at X-Dayton (2-2, 0-1), 1 p.m.

X-Saint Francis (Pa.) (1-3, 0-0 NEC) at Central Connecticut State (1-4, 0-0), 1 p.m.

Wagner (1-4, 0-1 NEC) at X-Sacred Heart (5-0, 0-0), 1 p.m.

Robert Morris (2-2) at X-Monmouth (2-3), 1 p.m.

X-North Carolina Central (2-2, 0-0 MEAC) at Howard (1-3, 0-1), 1 p.m.

Dartmouth (1-1, 0-0 Ivy) at X-Penn (1-1, 0-0), 1 p.m.

X-Harvard (2-0) at Holy Cross (2-3), 1 p.m.

Stetson (1-3, 0-1 Pioneer) at X-Butler (3-2, 1-0), 1 p.m.

Elon (1-4, 0-1 SoCon) at X-Furman (2-2, 1-0), 1:30 p.m.

Albany (1-4, 0-1 CAA) at X-James Madison (3-2, 0-1), 1:30 p.m.

Presbyterian (1-3) at X-No. 17 Wofford (2-2), 1:30 p.m.

X-Appalachian State (1-3, 1-0 SoCon) at The Citadel (1-4, 1-2), 2 p.m.

X-No. 21 Bethune-Cookman (3-1, 0-0 MEAC) at Delaware State (1-3, 1-0), 2 p.m.

X-Jacksonville (2-3, 0-1 Pioneer) at Drake (1-3, 0-1), 2 p.m.

Mississippi Valley State (0-4, 0-2 SWAC) at X-Alabama A&M (2-3, 2-1), 2 p.m.

Abilene Christian (3-2) at X-Pittsburg State (4-0), 3 p.m.

Missouri State (1-4, 1-0 Missouri Valley) at X-South Dakota (1-3, 0-1), 3 p.m.

Warner (0-5) at X-Alcorn State (3-2), 3 p.m.

No. 16 Georgia Southern (3-1, 1-1 SoCon) at X-Samford (3-2, 1-0), 3 p.m.

Jacksonville State (4-1, 0-1 OVC) at X-No. 22 UT Martin (3-1, 1-0), 3 p.m.

Southern Illinois (2-3, 0-1 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 7 South Dakota State (3-2, 0-1), 3 p.m.

X-Western Illinois (3-2, 1-0 Missouri Valley) at Illinois State (1-3, 0-1), 3 p.m.

X-Youngstown State (4-1, 1-0 Missouri Valley) at Indiana State (1-3, 0-0), 3:05 p.m.

UC Davis (1-4, 1-0 Big Sky) at X-Southern Utah (4-1, 1-0), 3:05 p.m.

X-No. 24 Delaware (4-1, 1-0 CAA) at No. 23 Maine (4-1, 1-0), 3:30 p.m.

Game of the Week: No. 4 Northern Iowa (4-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 1 North Dakota State (4-0, 1-0), 3:30 p.m. A Bison win here and it just might be smooth sailing toward the No. 1 seed in the FCS playoffs.

Bucknell (1-2, 0-0 Patriot) at X-Lafayette (0-3, 0-0), 3:30 p.m.

Portland State (3-2, 0-1 Big Sky) at X-No. 10 Montana (3-1, 0-1), 3:30 p.m.

No. 11 McNeese State (4-1, 0-0 Southland) at X-No. 14 Central Arkansas (2-2, 0-0), 4 p.m.

X-North Carolina A&T (3-0, 1-0 MEAC) vs. South Carolina State (3-2, 1-0) at Georgia Dome in Atlanta, 4 p.m.

Mercer (4-0, 1-0 Pioneer) at X-San Diego (2-2, 1-0), 4 p.m.

North Dakota (1-3, 0-1 Big Sky) at X-Idaho State (2-2, 0-1), 4 p.m.

Tennessee Tech (3-2, 0-1 OVC) at X-Murray State (3-2, 1-0), 4 p.m.

No. 15 Northern Arizona (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky) at X-No. 8 Montana State (3-2, 1-0), 4:35 p.m.

Yale (2-0) at X-No. 18 Cal Poly (2-2), 5:05 p.m.

Western Carolina (1-4, 0-2 SoCon) at X-Chattanooga (2-2, 0-1), 6 p.m.

Liberty (3-2) at X-Old Dominion (3-2), 6 p.m.

Austin Peay (0-4, 0-0 OVC) at X-Eastern Kentucky (2-3, 0-1), 6 p.m.

Bryant (3-1) at X-Stony Brook (1-3), 6 p.m.

X-Rhode Island (2-3) at Brown (1-1), 6 p.m.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-4, 0-2 SWAC) at X-Jackson State (3-2, 3-0), 7 p.m.

X-Alabama State (3-2, 3-1 SWAC) at Texas Southern (0-4, 0-3), 7 p.m.

Southeast Missouri State (0-4, 0-1 OVC) at X-Tennessee State (4-1, 1-0), 7 p.m.

Grambling State (0-5, 0-2 SWAC) vs. X-Prairie View A&M (3-2, 2-1) at Cotton Bowl at Fair Park in Dallas, 7 p.m.

Weber State (1-4, 0-1 Big Sky) at X-No. 6 Eastern Washington (2-2, 0-0), 7:05 p.m.

Incarnate Word (3-2) at X-Southeastern Louisiana (2-2), 8 p.m.

Northern Colorado (1-4, 0-1 Big Sky) at X-Sacramento State (2-3, 1-0), 9 p.m.

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