Lorman, MS – November 19: Jackson State DB Jalin Hughes (Photo by Zach McKinnell, The Bluebloods)

Lorman, MS – November 19: Jackson State DB Jalin Hughes (Photo by Zach McKinnell, The Bluebloods)

Week 0 FCS Football Preview & Predictions

We predict the top FCS football games on the Week 0 slate right here. You can find more information on the biggest games each week on our FCS Preview Show.

2023 Predictions Record: 0-0

2022 Predictions Record: 115-35

Fordham @ UAlbany (6 pm/CT; FloSports)

Fordham will be tasked with replacing All-American quarterback Tim DeMorat, but the new QB1 will have plenty of weapons to utilize this weekend. All-American wide receiver MJ Wright (1,156 Receiving Yards; 11 TDs) and Mekai Felton (525 Receiving Yards) will lead the receiving core for the Rams. Running back Julius Loughridge (965 Rushing Yards; 8 TDs) steps into a larger role, while Utah transfer Ricky Parks could develop into a major weapon. Defensively, All-American linebacker James Conway (127 Tackles; 11 TFLs) and defensive back Stephen Williams II (3 INTs; 12 PBUs) will lead the Rams’ defense.

UAlbany lost five of their eight games by less than 10 points, including a 48-45 loss to Fordham in Week 3 last season. Jerry Rice Award finalist Reese Poffenbarger (2,999 Passing Yards; 24 TDs) is primed to take a massive step forward after his stellar true freshman season. Poffenbarger will have plenty of weapons as all three of his top wide receivers return, including Roy Alexander (610 Receiving Yards) and Julian Hicks (6 Receiving TDs). The defensive front could surprise people behind Anton Juncaj (12 TFLs; 4.5 Sacks), Elijah Hills (9.5 TFLs; 4 Sacks), and AJ Simon (10.5 TFLs; 5 Sacks). 

This game should be full of offensive fireworks. I believe Poffenbarger’s development combined with a talented defensive line will be enough to pull off the upset at home this weekend. 

Prediction: UAlbany (45-41)

North Alabama v. No. 19 Mercer (2:30 pm/CT; ESPN)

Mercer enters the season with high expectations as the Bears aim to make the first FCS playoff appearance in school history. Quarterback Carter Peevy steps back into the QB1 role and will look to build on his breakout spring season. The Bears will be led by one of the best wide receiver duos in the country as FCS All-Americans Ty James (1,105 Receiving Yards; 13 TDs) and Devron Harper (1,878 Total Yards; 16 TDs) both return. Defensively, the Bears return All-American safety Lance Wise (58 Tackles; 2 INTs) and four other All-Conference selections. 

The Brent Dearmon era at North Alabama will begin on Saturday. Questions remain surrounding the quarterback position but the Lions have three talented options, including returning starter Noah Walters and Florida Atlantic transfer TJ Smith. Running back Parker Driggers and Demarcus Lacey form a talented running back duo for the Lions. Takairee Kenebrew (649 Receiving Yards; 8 TDs) will lead the receiving core, which should take a step forward this season. The defensive line will be a strength for the Lions behind All-Conference performers Philip Ossai (7.5 TFLs; 2 Sacks) and Kam’ron Green (5.5 TFLs; 4 Sacks). 

Mercer’s offensive firepower will be enough to pull away in the second half. The Lions should be able to keep this close early, but the Bears are too deep on both sides of the ball. 

Prediction: Mercer (38-21)

No. 21 Jackson State v. South Carolina State (6:30 pm/CT; ABC)

South Carolina State approaches the end of an era as head coach Buddy Pough announced he will retire at the end of the season. Quarterback Corey Fields Jr. (1,409 Passing Yards; 14 TDs) will look for wide receivers Jordan Smith and Rakim White to step into a larger role after the departure of Shaq Davis to the NFL. Former MEAC Defensive Player of the Year Jeblonski Green and All-Conference standout Patrick Godbolt both return on the defensive line for the Bulldogs. Linebacker Aaron Smith will step into a major leadership role, while Jaylen Davis and Malcolm Magee will lead a new-look secondary.

 Jackson State will enter the T.C. Taylor era on Saturday night as the Tigers look to avenge the 2021 Celebration Bowl loss against the Bulldogs. A question mark remains at quarterback, but Virginia Tech transfer Jason Brown and Syracuse transfer Jacobian Morgan appear to be the favorites to take the first snaps this weekend. All-Conference tight end DJ Stevens is a familiar face as the Tigers will have a new group of wide receivers for the Tigers. The defensive tackle position is a bright spot defensively behind Devonta Davis (13.5 TFLs; 5 Sacks) and Jeremiah Williams (32 tackles; 3 Sacks). Delaware State transfer Esaias Guthrie and cornerback Ke’Vric Wiggins will lead the secondary for the Tigers.

This game is full of unknowns as both programs will have new coordinators on each side of the ball. Jackson State will have enough skill position talent to avoid an upset on Saturday night, but I expect a defensive struggle throughout this game on Saturday night. 

Prediction: Jackson State (23-20)

AUDIO: Week 0 FCS Football Preview

RELATED: Top 10 FCS Players To Watch In Week 0

Follow @The Bluebloods on Twitter for ongoing coverage of FCS football news, notes, and opinions. You can also follow Zach McKinnell on Twitter @zachmckinnell

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