FCS review: Different take on Sam Houston?

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - It will be interesting to see what the NCAA Division I FCS selection committee thinks of the potential playoff field later this week.

What the rest of us think doesn't matter.

On Thursday, the selection committee will release the first of three weekly Top 10 rankings - much like what happens on the FBS level. It's a new feature of the committee leading into Selection Sunday on Nov. 20. The first rankings will be aired on ESPNU's "CFB Daily," which begins at 4 p.m. ET.

Sam Houston State is top-ranked in the STATS FCS Top 25 and in other leading FCS polls. But the Bearkats, playing in a relatively down Southland Conference, are lacking a high strength of schedule, so the committee may not have them atop its first rankings.The STATS postseason projection has had the Bearkats as the fourth seed in recent weeks, behind North Dakota State, Eastern Washington and Jacksonville State.

In support of Sam Houston, it's handled every challenge with relative ease and hasn't trailed in a game this season. Plus, two of its final three games would be considered excellent wins - McNeese and Southland co-leader Central Arkansas.

SECOND AND 10

Ten more observations from the FCS weekend:

1.) If it seems like there is not a lot of movement near the top of the STATS FCS Top 25, well, there hasn't been much recently. In an October which had five Saturdays of action, a Top 10 team lost only five times, and two of them had to because they were in a matchup against another Top 10 team. Another game was a No. 8-versus-No. 15 loss. The only Top 10 teams to lose to an unranked team occurred on the road - Montana at Northern Arizona last weekend and South Dakota State falling 38-17 to Illinois State this weekend.

2.) So the team of the week lost. But why shouldn't Samford be the team of the week after it rolled up 627 yards and made SEC member Mississippi State work for a 56-41 win? Sophomore Devlin Hodges completed 42 passes for a career-high 468 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions. "I'm just really proud of our football team," coach Chris Hatcher said. "We came in and we fought extremely hard on a very hot afternoon. We ran out of gas a couple of times, but somehow the guys filled their tank back up." Up next for the Bulldogs (6-2, 4-1): Back into the Southern Conference at unbeaten The Citadel.

3.) New Hampshire answered the call with a 43-14 rout of No. 22 Stony Brook. The perennial playoff qualifier out of CAA Football didn't have a win over a team that had a winning record last week, but it changed after the Wildcats defense resembled the typical Stony Brook performance, forcing five turnovers. The 'Cats have a bye next weekend before hosting Albany and going to rival Maine as they seek a 13th straight playoff appearance.

4.) Eastern Washington senior wide receiver Cooper Kupp's eight receptions in a 35-16 win over Montana raised him to 378 in his career, just 17 shy of Terrell Hudgins' FCS all-time record of 395 from 2006-09. Kupp already owns the FCS career records for receiving yards (5,770) and touchdown receptions with 67.

5.) Southern's Lenard Tillery became the SWAC's all-time rushing leader, gaining 195 yards in a 41-33 win over Alcorn State to push his career total to 4,132. The West Division has so dominated the East Division in inter-divisional matchups - winning 15 of the 20 games - that the West winner might be unbeaten (co-leaders Grambling State and Southern are 5-0) and the East winner could have four losses (co-leaders Alcorn State and Jackson State are 3-3) when they meet in the conference championship game on Dec. 3 in Houston.

6.) The versatility of Princeton's Jon Lovett went to a new level in a 56-7 Ivy League win at Cornell. Playing his usual "slash" role, he set the school record with seven touchdowns - four passing, two rushing and one receiving. He was 10 of 11 for 194 yards, rushed six times for 47 yards and caught two passes for 19 yards.

7.) Lehigh's offense has been relentless during a seven-game winning streak, including 632 yards and 58 points against Fordham on Saturday. With a win over Bucknell next weekend, the Mountain Hawks (7-2) will clinch their first Patriot League title since 2011 and an automatic bid to the playoffs. At-large bids appear unlikely for Fordham and Colgate, last year's playoff qualifiers.

8.) Just as Lehigh is in control of the Patriot League bid, Saint Francis can say the same in the Northeast Conference following a 38-17 triumph at Sacred Heart. Quarterback Zack Drayer and wide receiver Kamron Lewis connected for the final three touchdowns of the game and the Red Flash (6-3) moved to 4-0 in the NEC for the first time.

9.) The Ohio Valley Conference surely has dropped to a one-bid conference with Eastern Illinois and Tennessee State losing in back-to-back weeks. Unless, that is, UT Martin (5-4, 4-1) can win out and steal the automatic bid from Jacksonville State, the two-time defending champ. The Gamecocks (7-1, 4-0) are playing one fewer conference game than UT Martin because they're not meeting Tennessee State, which played an extra non-conference game this season. If the Skyhawks win out, they could go 7-1 and have at least an extra win over the Gamecocks.

10.) Hello, again. If there was one team Western Illinois probably didn't want to lose against this season, it was South Dakota. Bob Nielson, the 2015 Missouri Valley Football Conference coach of the year, left the Leathernecks program after last season to take over at South Dakota. It looked bad for the visiting Leathernecks when they trailed by 17 points, but they rallied for a 35-34 win and left the Coyotes (4-4) in dire playoff position heading into November.

A LOOK AHEAD

Next Saturday's big matchup will come from the CAA as the Top 10 as James Madison visits rival Richmond. Also, it's pass-versus-run with Eastern Washington visiting Cal Poly in the Big Sky and defense-versus-defense with Youngstown State going to North Dakota State in the Missouri Valley.

Other pivotal conference matchups: Big Sky, North Dakota at Northern Colorado; CAA, Villanova at Maine; Ivy, Penn at Princeton; MEAC, South Carolina State at North Carolina A&T; Northeast, Duquesne at Wagner; Patriot, Bucknell at Lehigh and Colgate at Fordham; Southern, Samford at The Citadel; Southland, McNeese at top-ranked Sam Houston State; and SWAC, Alcorn State at Prairie View A&M.

Updated November 2, 2016

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