Takeaways from FCS Week 6
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - Nearing the midway point of the regular season, the FCS conference races are full of intrigue and surprise teams.
Elon may not be considered a surprise in CAA Football, but the Phoenix had to take down James Madison's 20-game conference winning streak to forge a first-place tie with Maine, Towson and Rhode Island. Those four teams were picked fifth, eighth, 10th and 12th, respectively, in the conference's preseason poll.
Surprising Florida A&M sits alone in first in the MEAC, while Idaho State (Big Sky), ETSU (Southern) and Incarnate Word (Southland) are at least tied in the loss column in their conference standings.
Their continued success was part of the Week 6 storylines. Here are 10 other takeaways:
- The big upsets of the day created some questions for the losing teams. Portland State 22, No. 14 Montana 20 - will the Grizzlies be haunted on Selection Sunday? Northern Arizona 28, No. 6 Weber State 24 - will the Wildcats have a strong enough resume in the end? No. 10 Elon 27, No. 2 James Madison 24 - did the Dukes blow home-field advantage throughout the playoffs? Alabama State 28, Alcorn State 25 (5 OTs) - with upcoming crossover games ahead against Grambling State and Prairie View A&M, will this loss cost Alcorn a fifth straight East Division title?
- Who's No. 2? A handful of teams could stake claim following James Madison's loss to Elon, which has some say in it, although it would be a big jump from No. 10. A week after standing up strong against FCS champ and top-ranked North Dakota State, No. 3 South Dakota State didn't quite fire on all cylinders in beating Indiana State 54-51 in overtime. No. 4 Kennesaw State hasn't quite played the schedule of a No. 2 team, although most people know the defending Big South champ is strong. No. 5 Eastern Washington appears to be on a mission after last year's playoff snub.
- Duquesne suffered a crucial loss in the Northeast Conference, 21-20 to Bryant, just two days after an even bigger loss, the death of sophomore running back Marquis "Jaylen" Brown as the result of his jumping from a 16th floor window in a campus dorm room. Junior wide receiver Kellon Taylor wore Brown's No. 40 jersey to honor his friend and teammate. He caught a career-high eight receptions for 52 yards.
- Two senior quarterbacks had mind-boggling offensive days. Samford's Devlin Hodges set or tied six school records and established Southern Conference marks for passing yards (562) and yards of total offense (586) while throwing touchdowns to six difference receivers in a 66-28 rout of Western Carolina. Not to be outdone, Idaho State's Tanner Gueller threw for 492 yards (on just 19 completions) and eight touchdowns, adding 81 yards on the ground for 573 total yards, in a 62-28 pasting of Idaho.
- Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere was excellent in filling in for All-American Gage Gubrud, who is sidelined indefinitely with a foot injury, in the No. 5 Eagles' 55-17 rout of Southern Utah. Coach Aaron Best scaled back the offense a bit and Barriere was even more electric with his feet (two touchdowns, including on an 85-yarder) than his arm. The Eagles (5-1, 3-0) next have a key Big Sky game at Weber State, which needs the win badly after a loss to Northern Arizona.
- The Ivy League doesn't have FBS opponents to put a dent into its nonconference record, but the Ancient Eight has something going with a 15-5 record (.750) outside the league. Columbia, Princeton and Penn finished 3-0 outside the league, while Dartmouth seeks the same mark next Saturday against Sacred Heart in one of the league's final four nonconference games.
- The most critiqued team in the FCS, Sam Houston State, is a different team with redshirt freshman Ty Brock behind center. In the No. 17 Bearkats' 54-21 win over Stephen F. Austin that was their eighth straight in the "Battle of the Piney Woods," Brock threw for two touchdowns, rushed for one and was on the receiving end of a 32-yard score. The Bearkats (3-2) play four of their final six regular-season games on the road, but one has to think the Southland Conference squad is bound for the FCS playoffs for an eighth consecutive season.
- Oh yes, the other team that tends to be a punching bag on social media, No. 8 Jacksonville State, just keeps rolling along in the Ohio Valley Conference. A 56-7 road win at Eastern Kentucky might have been the team's best of the season. That's 35 straight conference wins, four shy of the all-time FCS record with five conference games to go.
- No. 9 McNeese collected its 500th all-time win, but it was a 24-21 struggle past Abilene Christian. Chris Livings returned from missing two games to post five sacks and B.J. Blunt totaled 20 tackles for the DWA (Defense With Attitude). The Cowboys (5-1, 4-0) sit atop a competitive Southland Conference race.
- While all four unbeaten teams - No. 1 North Dakota State (5-0), No. 21 Colgate (5-0), Dartmouth (4-0) and Princeton (4-0) won once again, a trio of teams, New Hampshire, Savannah State and South Carolina State, earned their first wins. That leaves eight winless teams: Tennessee Tech (0-6), Delaware State (0-5), Fordham (0-5) and Mississippi Valley State (0-4), which each has a first-year coach, plus Northern Colorado (0-6), Southern Utah (0-5), Valparaiso (0-5) and VMI (0-5).
Updated October 7, 2018