There are 297 feet* of snow in Buffalo, record lows all over America and I’m wearing gloves while filing this from the FBSchedules South Carolina Bureau, but it’s Week 13, football fans! Those of you who read this piece on a regular basis know that I usually take this space to opine on the ACC and SEC, but I promised a special episode, dear readers, and I shall deliver!
We’ll take a look at the three top FCS games to see this weekend — outside of the ones that seemingly every SEC school has scheduled for this week, of course — and unveil a special feature shortly thereafter. Before we do, it’s trivia time!
Week 13 Trivia (answer at the end of the column): This Saturday is November 22nd. Though the day is more famous for other events, which American city was “born” on this day?
Three Big Things, FCS Edition
In lieu of our usual Three Big Things, we take you to three FCS games you need to see this week. All times are Eastern and rankings courtesy of The Sports Network’s FCS Top 25 poll.
Yale (8-1, 5-1 Ivy) at #19 Harvard (9-0, 6-0 Ivy)
12:30pm | NBCSN
Info guide: Gameday will be on hand for this one, and both schools could hoist the Ivy League hardware. Harvard simply needs a victory, while Yale could tie Harvard with a win. If Princeton loses to Dartmouth, there would be a three-way tie in this scenario, with Dartmouth joining the Bulldogs and Crimson. Yale has won just twice in the seven previous meetings where they could leave the field with the title. This will be the 131st edition of The Game, with Yale holding an eight-victory advantage (with eight ties). The game is sold out.
Yale: QB Morgan Roberts (222-323, 2925 yards, 21 TD, 7 INT)
RB Tyler Varga (203 carries, 1296 yards, 20 TD)
WR Grant Wallace (71 receptions, 1012 yards, 5 TD)
Harvard: RB Paul Stanton (125 carries, 881 yards, 10 TD)
WR Andrew Fischer (1034 all-purpose yards, 2 TD)
DE Zack Hodges (20 tackles, 7 TFL, 6 sacks)
Liberty (7-4, 3-1 Big South) at #2 Coastal Carolina (11-0, 4-0 Big South)
1:00pm | ESPN3
Info guide: When looking at the history of Big South champions, you will see these names on that list. A lot. The conference did not crown an actual champion until 2002, but these schools’ names appear a total of 12 times on the list of outright or co-champions. They have shared the regular-season title in three of the four seasons in which an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs, though Liberty has been to the playoffs exactly zero times, due to Coastal holding the tiebreaker in each instance. The Flames seek a victory over their rival and a first-ever playoff apperance, while the Chanticleers try for a fifth playoff spot since 2006 on the friendly turf of Brooks Stadium.
Liberty: RB D.J. Abnar (219 carries, 1044 yards, 13 TD)
QB Josh Woodrum (battling injuries; 176-279, 19 TD, 7 INT; 66 carries, 334 yards, 8 TD)
WR Darrin Peterson (72 catches, 1101 yards, 11 TD)
Coastal Carolina: QB Alex Ross (225-335, 2850 yards, 18 TD, 6 INT; 116 carries, 559 yards, 6 TD)
RB De’Angelo Henderson (182 carries, 1205 yards, 17 TD)
LB Quinn Backus (89 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles)
#12 Montana State (8-3, 6-1 Big Sky) at #13 Montana (7-4, 5-2 Big Sky)
5:10pm | ROOT Sports
Info guide: These schools first played in 1897, and have played over 100 times since. This game decides the Great Divide Trophy, and probably playoff seeding. Montana State has just five wins over the homestanding Grizzlies since 1985, though, and the Bobcats own a decided advantage in the Big Sky standings. MSU could claim at least a share of the title with a victory, and while the Grizzlies could also find their way to the top of the standings, they would need some help in doing so.
Montana State: QB Dakota Prukop (152-227, 2279 yards, 17 TD, 6 INT; 159 carries, 932 yards, 13 TD)
RB Anthony Knight (114 carries, 493 yards, 12 TD)
LB Alex Singleton (111 tackles, 13 TFL, sack, FF)
Montana: RB Jordan Canada (161 carries, 892 yards, 8 TD)
QB Jordan Johnson (164-293, 2092 yards, 17 TD, 4 INT)
DE Zack Wagenmann (62 tackles, 17.5 TFL, 12.5 sacks)
And now, after reader Jinzo has mentioned the Mountain West several times in our comments section, I am proud to unveil the first-ever (and probably only-ever) Clear Your Schedule that covers the Mountain West Conference! (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
Air Force (8-2, 5-2 MWC) at San Diego State (5-5, 3-3 MWC)
9:30pm Friday | CBS Sports Network
- A mirror image: Air Force was 2-8 through ten games last season. This year, they are 8-2. Per the AFA sports information department, that ties a record set by the school in 1958. The 1958 club won nine games after having won three the year prior.
- Matching up well: San Diego State seems to be a good fit for stopping Air Force’s primary strength: the running game. The Aztecs rank third in the conference in rushing defense, surrendering just shy of 151 yards per game. The Falcons are second in the circuit in rushing, toting the rock for 288.4 yards per game. They have scored 26 touchdowns on the ground. Of note, Air Force managed fewer than 100 rushing yards against the conference’s best (Utah State, 77 yards) and worst (UNLV, 33 yards) run defenses, losing to Utah State and defeating UNLV.
- We’re goin’ streaking: San Diego State has four straight wins against Air Force, along with seven straight against service academies. The Aztecs are also looking to become bowl-eligible for a fifth consecutive season. Only Stanford has an equally active bowl streak among schools in the Golden State.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: The Aztecs absolutely must limit turnovers to win this game. QB Quinn Kaehler has 9 picks and has made some ill-advised throws.
San Jose State (3-7, 2-4 MWC) at Utah State (8-3, 5-1 MWC)
9:30pm Friday | ESPN2
- No Chuckie, (mostly) no problem: Utah State announced nearly two months ago that star senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton would miss the remainder of the season due to a knee injury. Sophomore Darell Garretson has admirably filled in this year, just as he did after Keeton was befallen last year. Garretson has completed 91-of-135 passes for 1140 yards, finding the end zone eight times against just three picks. However, he has hardly played himself over the last four games, due to a wrist injury. Freshman Kent Myers has completed 43-of-57 passes for 531 yards in the Aggies’ last four games — all wins — and has thrown four touchdowns and just one pick.
- You’ve won four, we’ve lost four: While we just mentioned the Aggies’ four-game winning streak, the Spartans have lost four in a row. Navy, Colorado State, Fresno State and Hawai’i have clipped San Jose State by a 130-86 margin.
- Looking out for #1: San Jose State ranks at the top of the FBS standings in pass defense. Spartan opponents throw for just 127.2 yards per game, and have only thrown for five touchdowns this season. SJSU has allowed greater than 152 yards passing in just two games (290 against Colorado State and 207 against Fresno State).
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Considering how Utah State is rolling — even with a 3rd-string QB — it’s hard to see SJSU’s skid ending here.
New Mexico (3-7, 1-5 MWC) at #22 Colorado State (9-1, 5-1 MWC)
1:30pm | ROOT Sports
- Flavor of the month: Colorado State coach Jim McElwain has proven to be quite the popular name in coach-search circles, and with good reason (despite that pesky $7.5 million buyout that everyone seems to forget). The Rams are 9-1 for the first time in 20 years and just the fourth time in school history. CSU is also in the top twenty in passing offense (13th) and total offense (19th).
- Gaining ground: The Lobos have struggled this year, but can lay claim to the fourth-best rushing offense in the FBS. New Mexico carries for 318-plus yards per game, including the highest total Utah State has surrendered this season (246) in a loss last week. The Lobos have met or exceeded that 246-yard total in all but two games this season, including a season-high 505-yard mark against Boise State two weeks ago.
- Ruling Ram: Quarterback Garrett Grayson passed former Seahawk quarterback Kelly Stouffer to become CSU’s all-time leading passer earlier this season. Grayson has completed 622 of his 1004 passes as a Ram, throwing for 8208 yards and 58 scores. He threw for just 134 yards in the season-opener against Colorado, but has thrown for 236 yards or greater in every other game this season.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: The Rams are still playing for the “non-power-five” spot among the nation’s elite, and look to eclipse the Lobos in this one.
Boise State (8-2, 5-1 MWC) at Wyoming (4-6, 2-4 MWC)
10:15pm | ESPN2
- Bohl-ing you over: One of the more recognizable faces on either sideline Saturday night will belong to Wyoming coach Craig Bohl. Bohl’s North Dakota State teams won three consecutive national titles at the FCS level over the last three seasons, before he left to take the job in Laramie. Bohl was 104-32 at North Dakota State, winning 49 of his team’s 73 Missouri Valley Conference contests. Just two of those losses came over his last three seasons leading the Bison.
- Catchin’ Cowboy: Wyoming wideout Dominic Rufran will be trying to set a conference and school record on Saturday. One pass reception would extend his consecutive-games streak with a catch to 48, which would give him the top spot. Wyoming’s sports information department also mentions that Rufran would pass Malcom Floyd for sixth overall in receiving yards in Wyoming history. Rufran has 37 grabs for 495 yards in 2014.
- Blemishless Broncos: Boise has never lost to Wyoming in eight outings between the two. The Broncos have won the last four contests by a total score of 190-41.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: It’s never all that easy to win in Laramie, but not much appears to stand in the way of the Broncos going to 9-0 against WYO.
Fresno State (4-6, 3-3 MWC) at Nevada (6-4, 3-3 MWC)
10:30pm | ESPNU
- Not as it seems: One look at Fresno State’s overall and conference records, and one might be led to think them to be pedestrian. However, if Fresno wins their remaining games (this one and Hawai’i next week), they will win the Western Division of the Mountain West. The Bulldogs and Nevada are tied atop the division with San Diego State, and Fresno holds the tiebreaker over the Aztecs.
- Opposite directions: These two schools got to this point by taking quite different paths. Fresno has lost three of their last four, while Nevada has won three of their last four. Fresno lost at UNLV and Boise, while falling to Wyoming at home. The Bulldogs beat San Jose State 38-24 last week to stop their skid. Meanwhile, Nevada has wins at BYU and Hawai’i and at home against San Diego State before an overtime loss at Air Force last week.
- A bonus trivia question: Nevada’s Cody Fajardo is one of two players to eclipse 9000 yards passing (9324) and 3000 yards rushing (3130) in NCAA FBS history. Can you name the other player to complete that feat? (you may want to click here to help you think a bit)
That other player was Colin Kaepernick, who also played at Nevada. Kaepernick threw for 10,098 yards and rushed for 4112.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Nevada’s the hotter team, they’re playing in Reno and they have Cody Fajardo. That may be too much for Fresno to overcome.
UNLV (2-9, 1-5 MWC) at Hawai‘i (3-8, 2-4 MWC)
11:00pm | Oceanic TWC/MWN
- Universal struggles: This game features two teams with three combined victories against FBS teams. UNLV’s only victory against an FBS opponent came in a 30-27 overtime decision against Fresno State. Hawai’i, meanwhile, has defeated Wyoming and San Jose State.
- Quarterback battle: This game matches the fourth and seventh-ranked players in the conference in total offense. UNLV’s Blake Decker (fourth) is 200-for-349 passing for 2528 yards and 10 touchdowns. Decker averages 258.5 yards per game. Hawaii’s Ikaika Woolsey (seventh) is 173-for-354 passing, throwing for 2060 yards and nine scores. Woolsey averages 203 total yards per game.
- Fabulous first year: UNLV’s sports information department mentions that freshman wideout Devonte Byrd (56 catches, 821 yards) is second among freshman FBS receivers. Only Bowling Green’s Roger Lewis (62 catches, 858 yards) has turned in a better performance among first-year pass catchers.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: UNLV has won twice in 11 trips to Hawai’i. The Rebels are 0-6 away from Las Vegas this season.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: This Saturday is November 22nd. Though the day is more famous for other events, which American city was “born” on this day?
Denver was founded on this day in 1858 as Denver City, Kansas Territory.
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