This is our first official FCS Football predictions for the website and we will bring you predictions of the top FCS games each week right here on Thursday & Friday each week. We will predict all the Week 0 games due to the small amount of FCS games. You can find more detailed previews of some of the biggest games each week on our YouTube channel and each Thursday on our weekly FCS Preview Show.
#10 Stephen F. Austin vs Jacksonville State (2:30pm/CT; ESPN)
Jacksonville State may have won last year’s matchup over the Lumberjacks, but much has changed since last October when these two teams met on Burgess-Snow Field. The Gamecocks have lost multiple starters to the transfer portal this offseason and Rich Rodriguez will not name a starting quarterback until kickoff tomorrow in Montgomery. Rodriguez added another layer to this game after accusing Stephen F. Austin of spying on the spring game and practices for the Gamecocks.
Zion Webb, Aaron McLaughlin, and Te’Sean Smoot have competed for the QB1 position for the Gamecocks this offseason. All-ASUN wide receiver PJ Wells will be an important piece for the offense this weekend and could be a huge target for whoever is named the starting quarterback. The Gamecocks defense will be led by a trio of All-Conference players in DE Jaylen Swain, LB Markail Benton, and CB Marco Baker II. There are major question marks for the Gamecocks in their final FCS season, but a Top-10 win this weekend could be an excellent start for the Rich Rodriguez era.
The expectations surrounding the Stephen F. Austin program are at an all-time high after being ranked as a preseason FCS Top-10 program. Quarterback Trae Self and FCS All-American wide receiver Xavier Gipson form one of the most deadly duos in the country, while Miles Reed returns to lead the rushing attack. The defense returns multiple All-Conference pieces, but defensive end BJ Thompson will be an important player to watch this weekend after a breakout 2021 season. Myles Heard and Jeremiah Walker will lead a secondary that aims to disrupt a revamped Jacksonville State passing attack in the new offense under Rich Rodriguez.
The Lumberjacks lost four games last season by less than 20 total points and I expect Colby Carthel to have his team ready to execute on a high level early in Montgomery. The added motivation from Rodriguez’s accusations and the close lose to the Gamecocks last season may too much to overcome for a team with as many questions as Jacksonville State has entering the season.
Prediction: Stephen F. Austin (34-23)
Morehead State at #23 Mercer (6pm/CT; ESPN+)
Mercer was one of the at-large bubble teams last season and the expectations are much higher surrounding the Bears entering the 2022 season. The Bears return 15 starters from last season, including some of their top contributors on the defensive side of the ball. Lance Wise, Solomon Zubairu, and Chris Hill will all be major impact players on the defensive side of the ball for Mercer. The Bears must find a way to replace Fred Davis at the RB spot, but Brandon Marshall returns after being the 2nd leading rusher in 2021.
Morehead State put together a strong 7-4 season and a 2nd place finish in the PFL last season. The Eagles landed 8 All-Conference selections this preseason, but may be overmatched by a very talented Mercer team this weekend. I expect Mercer to run the football well and utilize a dominant defense this weekend to pull away for a convincing win over the Eagles in the season opener.
Prediction: Mercer (31-10)
Howard vs Alabama State (6pm/CT; ESPN)
The Eddie Robinson Jr. era begins in Atlanta, GA for Alabama State as they look to end the MEAC dominance in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge against Howard. The MEAC leads the overall series 11-4 against the SWAC and have won the previous two games in the series. The debut of former 4-star Auburn quarterback Dematrius Davis is a major storyline surrounding this matchup. The Hornets were extremely active in the transfer portal this offseason and will field a revamped wide receiver unit to complement Davis at the QB position, while Jacory Merritt returns to bolster the rushing attack for Alabama State.
Howard enters Year 3 under Larry Scott and the Bison look to rebound from a tough 3-8 season. The Bison offense should be one of the biggest strengths of this team as Antoine Murray and Kasey Hawthorne both return at the WR position, while Quinton Williams will look to take the next step as the lead signal caller for the Bison. DL Darrian Brokenburr and DB Kenny Gallop Jr. will be the leaders on the defensive side of the ball, which will need to be better in 2022 if the Bison expect to compete in the MEAC.
The Bison may not enter the season with a ton of hype due to their struggles in 2021, but Howard had the 2nd most Bluebloods All-Conference selections in the MEAC and return most of their top contributors from last season. Alabama State still has major question marks at multiple positions and if the Bison can put pressure on a young offensive unit for the Hornets to score early it may allow Howard to take an early lead in this game. I trust Williams to take the next step at the QB spot and the depth a running back may prove to be too much for the Hornets in Atlanta.
Prediction: Howard (24-20)
Austin Peay at Western Kentucky (11am/CT; CBSSN)
Austin Peay experienced a mass exodus of talent curtiosity of the transfer portal, but head coach Scotty Walden has been vocal about his confidence in his team entering the 2022 season. The Governors have to find a way to replace most of their top contributors from a talented secondary last season, which makes this matchup an extremely difficult one for Austin Peay. Western Kentucky led the country last season in Passing Yards Per Game (433.7) and ranked 2nd in Scoring Offense (44.2).
The offense for Austin Peay still will feature some key pieces from last season including All-Conference WR Drae McCray. The Governors also landed All-Conference RB Josh Samuel from Jacksonville State and he is expected to be an immediate contributor for the Austin Peay offense. The biggest question for Austin Peay’s offense will be the development of the offensive line and whether some young pieces can develop quickly on the defensive line. Austin Peay could be a sleeper in the ASUN this season, but this matchup does not seem to be upset material and I expect Western Kentucky to find a way to win comfortably this weekend against the Governors.
Prediction: Western Kentucky (49-21)
Idaho State at UNLV (2:30pm/CT; CBSSN)
Idaho State will enter Year 1 of the Charlie Ragle era and not many experts are giving Bengals a chance to pull off the FBS upset in Ragle’s first game as head coach. UNLV will also look to bounce back over the FCS after losing to Eastern Washington in overtime last season in one of the multiple FCS over FBS upsets in the 2021 season. The offensive line could be a bright spot for the Bengals as All-Conference center Terron Carey returns to anchor the unit in 2022. Tyler Vander Waal is back at the QB1 spot for Idaho State and will look to replicate his Big Sky Newcomer of the Year season from Spring of 2021 after missing most of last season with an injury. There are some positive things to look forward to for Idaho State, but pulling off the upset this weekend will be an extremely difficult task in Las Vegas.
Prediction: UNLV (35-17)
Duquesne at Florida State (4pm/CT; ACC Network)
Florida State may never overlook another FCS opponent after the hail mary loss to Jacksonville State last season in Tallahassee. The talent gap may be much larger this weekend against Duquesne and I do not think the Seminoles will allow the Dukes to hang around this weekend. The Duquesne offense returns multiple top contributors from last season including All-Conference QB Darius Perrantes and RB Billy Lucas. The defense will be led by returning LB Todd Hill and DB Jeremiah Josephs, but I would imagine the Dukes will aim to compete early and escape Tallahassee without any significant injuries and a large payday from the Seminoles.
Prediction: Florida State (58-14)
Florida A&M at North Carolina (7:15pm/CT; ACC Network)
There may not be another game this weekend with as many storylines as the one kicking off at 7:15pm in Chapel Hill, NC. The Rattlers have over 20 players that were ruled academically ineligible, including 2021 Buck Buchanan Award winner Isaiah Land. Willie Simmons told Pete Thamel of ESPN that the players almost boycotted the game due to the situation, but will now travel to Chapel Hill with a very limited roster including only seven eligible offensive lineman.
Former 4-star Drake Maye will replace Sam Howell at the QB position at North Carolina, but will still have All-Conference WR Josh Downs as a major target this season. The defensive line will feature multiple 5-star players, which is headlined by Desmond Evans and Keeshawn Silver at the defensive end position. Storm Duck and former 5-star Tony Grimes will be the starting cornerbacks for an extremely talented Tar Heels secondary, which should present a major challenge for new Florida A&M QB Jeremy Moussa.
Florida A&M was already at a major disadvantage going into this matchup, but with the latest update this game could easily get out of hand for the Rattlers and the main goal is to leave Chapel Hill without any major injuries. The $450K payout from the Tar Heels may be the only positive this weekend for Florida A&M.