FCS predictions: Conferences chasing Top 25

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - CAA Football and the Missouri Valley Football Conference are doing so well in the STATS FCS Top 25 - claiming 13 spots - that it's impacting other conferences negatively.

Only eight of the 13 conferences are represented in the national media poll, which is three fewer than how last season ended and down two from how this season began.

Here's who's on the outside hoping to bust in the Top 25:

Big South - There are candidates. Two-time defending champ Charleston Southern (2-2) is only three spots away from returning to the rankings, but unless the Buccaneers beat Indiana on Saturday, they'll need to build back up. Upstart Monmouth (4-1) doesn't have the strength of schedule, but it will in the coming weeks if it keeps winning. Third-year program Kennesaw State (3-1) always seems to be a favorite with voters, but FBS-transitioning Liberty (3-2) isn't.

Ivy League - There's a lot of sorting out going on because Columbia, Dartmouth and Yale are all 3-0, while perennial powers Harvard and Penn and last year's co-champ Princeton each has an unexpected loss.

Northeast - Saint Francis (3-1) bolstered its cause with a nonconference win at Liberty last week, moving within five spots of the rankings. But the NEC always struggles to get a team in, so the Red Flash's Oct. 21 matchup with the other defending co-champ, Duquesne (3-1), is pivotal. Duquesne has a weak strength of schedule, but it also plays Liberty next month.

Patriot - Lehigh, Fordham and Holy Cross have all appeared in the rankings this season, but with all seven teams in the league having dropped below .500, this might be a lost cause unless the eventual league champ does some damage in the FCS playoffs and returns in the final poll.

Pioneer - No team is as strong as San Diego was last season, when it earned the first playoff win in league history and finished No. 19 in the final ranking. The Toreros are 3-2 this season.

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WEEK 6 FCS TOP 25 PICKS

All Times ET

X - Predicted Winner

Week 4 Record: 10-9 (.526); Season Record: 81-17 (.827)

Saturday, Oct. 7

X-No. 2 North Dakota State (4-0, 1-0 Missouri Valley) at Indiana State (0-4, 0-1), 1 p.m. - The Bison have the longest road winning streak (10 games) in the FCS.

Delaware State (0-4, 0-2 MEAC) at X-No. 16 North Carolina A&T (5-0, 2-0), 1 p.m. - A&T coach Rod Broadway should send a thank-you note to Mike Houston at James Madison because the Dukes' open week will allow the Aggies to stand alone at 6-0.

X-Maine (1-2, 0-2 CAA) at No. 12 Villanova (3-2, 1-1), 1 p.m. - The Villanova injuries have been ridiculous, but redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Schetelich was excellent in a relief role last week.

X-No. 20 Samford (3-2, 1-1 Southern) at VMI (0-5, 0-2), 1:30 p.m. - Really cool: Samford QB Devlin Hodges faces his younger brother Duncan, VMI's redshirt freshman signal caller.

No. 22 Western Carolina (4-1, 2-0 Southern) at X-No. 5 Wofford (4-0, 2-0), 1:30 p.m. - The Terriers' running game will seek to control the clock and keep Western's explosive offense on the sideline.

Mercer (2-3, 1-2 Southern) at X-No. 17 The Citadel (3-1, 1-1), 2 p.m. - Since Mercer joined the Southern Conference in 2014, The Citadel has won all three meetings by a combined five points.

William & Mary (2-2, 0-1 CAA) at X-No. 18 Elon (4-1, 2-0), 2 p.m. - OK, it's time to see how Elon reacts in a game it's supposed to win.

X-No. 9 Sam Houston State (3-1, 1-1 Southland) vs. Stephen F. Austin (2-3, 2-1) at NRG Stadium in Houston, 2 p.m. - The Bearkats are seeking the first seven-game winning streak in the "Battle of the Piney Woods."

No. 24 Albany (3-2, 1-1 CAA) at X-No. 14 Richmond (2-2, 0-1), 3 p.m. - Spiders quarterback Kyle Lauletta is first in the FCS in passing yards per game (417.5).

X-No. 3 Youngstown State (3-1, 1-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 7 South Dakota (4-0, 1-0), 3 p.m. - The Penguins probably need to win the STATS FCS Game of the Week considering they're in an incredibly rugged stretch of South Dakota State (a win), USD, North Dakota State, Northern Iowa and Illinois State.

Murray State (1-4, 0-1 Ohio Valley) at X-No. 25 UT Martin (3-2, 1-1), 3 p.m. - While Murray holds a 35-20-1 series lead, UT Martin has won six straight meetings and 11 of the last 12.

X-No. 4 Jacksonville State (3-1, 1-0 Ohio Valley) at Austin Peay (3-2, 2-0), 5 p.m. - With a win, coach John Grass' Gamecocks will tie the record for consecutive OVC wins (26), set by Eastern Kentucky from 1992-95.

X-No. 21 Grambling State (4-1, 1-0 SWAC) vs. Prairie View A&M (2-2, 2-0) at Cotton Bowl in Dallas, 5 p.m. - Defense has been Prairie View's shortcoming under coach Willie Simmons, but the Panthers rank No. 1 in the SWAC in total defense as they take on Grambling's 1-2 offensive punch of Devante Kincade and Martez Carter.

X-No. 15 Western Illinois (3-1, 0-1 Missouri Valley) at Northern Iowa (2-2, 1-0), 5 p.m. - Not surprisingly, WIU linebacker Brett Taylor, the MVFC's leading tackler the last two seasons, has taken the conference lead again following last week's 28-tackle performance.

Delaware (2-2, 0-1 CAA) at X-No. 23 Stony Brook (4-1, 3-0), 6 p.m. - At long last, Stony Brook's quarterback position appears settled with redshirt junior Joe Carbone.

X-No. 6 Central Arkansas (3-1, 2-0 Southland) at Houston Baptist (1-3, 0-2), 7 p.m. - Only one of UCA's final seven opponents currently has a winning record (4-1 McNeese).

No. 11 Illinois State (4-0) at X-Northern Arizona (2-2), 7 p.m. - The Lumberjacks sit 20 spots out of the STATS FCS Top 25. The final game of the Big Sky/MVFC Challenge Series (the MVFC leads 5-2) is a chance to make a statement.

Southern Illinois (2-2, 0-1 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 8 South Dakota State (3-1, 0-1), 7 p.m. - Jackrabbits senior Jake Wieneke's next touchdown reception will be his 50th and move him into a four-way tie for fourth place all-time in the FCS, including with Jerry Rice.

X-No. 10 Eastern Washington (3-2, 2-0 Big Sky) at UC Davis (3-2, 1-1), 9 p.m. - Improving the ground game was a preseason goal, but with quarterback Gage Gubrud running less, the Eagles are slightly behind last year's average at 126.2 rushing yards per game.

Updated October 5, 2017

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