FCS predictions: Best season-ending rivalries

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - Conference championships and playoff bids will be determined across the FCS this week, but there's also a lot of fulfillment gained in just beating an archrival.

Oh yes, bragging rights.

Longevity helps rivalries and they are even better at the end the regular season because the hostilities build for months.

The five best season-ending rivalries:

Harvard vs. Yale - Reaches its 134th meeting Saturday (Yale leads 66-59-8). When it's called "The Game," nothing is bigger.

Montana vs. Montana State - 117th meeting (Montana leads 75-38-5). "The Brawl of the Wild" brings out the most trash-talking in the FCS.

Lehigh vs. Lafayette - 153rd meeting (Lafayette leads 78-69-5). This is college football's most-played rivalry. They needed Yankee Stadium to celebrate 150.

Grambling State vs. Southern (Nov. 25) - 69th meeting (Southern leads 36-32). The series became the "Bayou Classic" in 1974 and Grambling leads 22-21 since then. National TV coverage has made this the biggest rivalry among historically black colleges.

Richmond vs. William & Mary - 128th meeting (William & Mary leads 62-60-5). Only three other FCS series are older than the "Oldest Rivalry in the South," whose winner claims the Capital Cup.

Among the best of the rest season-ending rivalries:

Bethune-Cookman vs. Florida A&M ("Florida Classic" - Florida A&M leads 49-2-1); North Carolina A&T vs. North Carolina Central (N.C. A&T leads 49-34-5); Hampton vs. Howard ("The Real HU" - Hampton leads 51-41-1); South Dakota vs. South Dakota State ("South Dakota Showdown Series" - SDSU leads 53-52-7); Stephen F. Austin vs. Northwestern State ("Battle for Chief Caddo" - Northwestern State leads 44-26-3); Delaware vs. Villanova ("Battle of the Blue" - Villanova leads 28-21-1); Nicholls vs. Northwestern State ("River Bell Classic" - series tied 13-13); UC Davis vs. Sacramento State ("Causeway Classic" - UC Davis leads 45-19); and Eastern Washington vs. Portland State ("The Dam Cup" - Portland State leads 20-18-1).

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WEEK 12 FCS TOP 25 PICKS

All Times ET

X - Predicted Winner

Week 11 Record: 20-2 (.909); Season Record: 169-45 (.790)

Thursday, Nov. 16

Tennessee State (6-4, 2-4 Ohio Valley) at X-No. 2 Jacksonville State (9-1, 7-0), 7 p.m. - With the OVC title and automatic bid in their pocket, the Gamecocks go for a four-year sweep of the conference. Tennessee State last beat the Gamecocks at Burgess Snow Field in 2013.

X-No. 25 Nicholls (8-2, 7-1 Southland) at Southeastern Louisiana (5-5, 5-3), 7 p.m. - The Colonels feel a tough road win will punch a ticket to the playoffs.

Saturday, Nov. 18

X-No. 1 James Madison (10-0, 7-0 CAA) at No. 11 Elon (8-2, 6-1), noon - Elon, whose only FCS playoff appearance was in 2009, can earn a share of its first FCS conference title by upsetting the defending FCS champion, which has won a Division I-leading 22 straight games.

No. 10 Stony Brook (8-2, 6-1 CAA) at X-Maine (4-5, 3-4), noon - The host Black Bears hung tough with UMass last week, but don't have a signature win this season. CAA rushing leader Josh Mack seeks to provide one.

X-No. 16 New Hampshire (7-3, 5-2 CAA) at Albany (3-7, 1-6), 1 p.m. - UNH, seeking a 14th straight appearance in the FCS playoffs, has allowed only 15 points per game against its last four opponents, including two from the Top 10.

X-No. 4 North Dakota State (9-1, 6-1 Missouri Valley) at No. 21 Illinois State (6-4, 4-3), 1 p.m. - Malachi Broadnax, meet the Bison defense.

North Carolina Central (7-3, 5-2 MEAC) at X-No. 8 North Carolina A&T (10-0, 7-0), 1 p.m. - The Aggies are headed to the Celebration Bowl, but they desperately want to end a three-game losing streak to N.C. Central.

Monmouth (9-1, 4-0 Big South) at X-No. 22 Kennesaw State (9-1, 4-0), 2 p.m. - Let's face it, the STATS FCS Game of the Week can go either way.

Houston Baptist (1-9, 0-8 Southland) at X-No. 5 Sam Houston State (9-1, 7-1), 2 p.m. - Counting their meeting in HBU's startup campaign in 2013, Sam Houston State has outscored the Huskies 265-30.

Southern Illinois (4-6, 2-5 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 9 Western Illinois (7-3, 4-3), 2 p.m. - Halftime is productive: The Leathernecks have outscored opponents by eight points in the first half and by 124 in the second half.

No. 6 South Dakota State (8-2, 5-2 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 15 South Dakota (7-3, 4-3), 3 p.m. - SDSU has won all five meetings since the series resumed in 2012, but the host Coyotes, having lost three of four since a 6-0 start, are likely playing for their playoff lives.

No. 20 Furman (7-3, 6-1 Southern) at X-No. 17 Samford (7-3, 5-2), 3:30 p.m. - This may be a play-in game to the playoffs. Samford quarterback Devlin Hodges is No. 5 in the FCS in passing yards per game (328.2), while Furman's P.J. Blazejowski is No. 1 in passing efficiency (185.66) and No. 2 in yards per completion (17.81).

Abilene Christian (2-8, 2-6 Southland) at X-No. 3 Central Arkansas (9-1, 8-0), 4 p.m. - UCA, on a nine-game winning streak, is finishing with a flourish, winning its last four games by an average of 33 points.

No. 7 Wofford (9-1) at X-South Carolina (7-3), 4 p.m. - A loss likely won't drop the Southern Conference champ from securing one of the eight playoff seeds.

Idaho State (4-6, 2-5 Big Sky) at X-No. 12 Weber State (8-2, 6-1), 4 p.m. - Weber State opponents have scored only eight touchdowns in 27 times reaching the red zone.

No. 23 Northern Arizona (7-3, 6-1 Big Sky) at X-No. 14 Southern Utah (8-2, 6-1), 4:30 p.m. - In coach Jerome Souers' final season, NAU could gain the Big Sky's automatic playoff bid with a win yet perhaps be left out of the field with a loss.

Indiana State (0-10, 0-7 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 24 Northern Iowa (6-4, 5-2), 5 p.m. - How a team pushes for the playoffs: Over the last 17 seasons, UNI coach Mark Farley is 51-9 in November.

Portland State (0-10, 0-7 Big Sky) at X-No. 18 Eastern Washington (6-4, 5-2), 6:05 p.m. - No FCS team with a winning record has as bad a turnover margin as the Eagles - negative-10.

X-No. 19 McNeese (8-2, 6-2 Southland) at Lamar (2-8, 1-7), 8 p.m. - McNeese's defense has allowed only three rushing touchdowns and a miniscule 2.10 yards per carry.

Updated November 16, 2017

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