We predict the top FCS football games on the Week 2 slate right here. You can find more information on the biggest games each week on our FCS Preview Show.
2023 Predictions Record: 11-3
2022 Predictions Record: 115-35
Arkansas Pine-Bluff (0-1) vs. Tennessee State (0-1)
Kickoff: 6 p.m. (HBCU GO)
Arkansas Pine-Bluff replaces Jackson State in the Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis, Tennessee. The Golden Lions were competitive in the first half against Tulsa after an impressive defensive performance. Linebackers Timon Akins (7 Tackles; 1.5 TFLs) and Rico Dozier (7 Tackles; 1 TFL) led the defense last week, while defensive back Laprel Boyd earned a spot on the PFF Team of the Week for his performance. Johness Davis (82 Rushing Yards) and Michael Jamerson are a dynamic duo at running back, which will be a focus point for this offensive attack. Quarterback Mekhi Hagens will need to be explosive and show consistency in throwing the ball down the field against Tennessee State’s talented secondary.
Tennessee State made history as the first HBCU program to face Notre Dame when the Tigers traveled to South Bend last week. Deveon Bryant and Draylen Ellis will split time at quarterback according to head coach Eddie George. Will the two-quarterback system work or will someone emerge as the leader of this offense? The defense showed potential against the Fighting Irish behind impressive performances from Jeremiah Josephs (9 Tackles) and Monroe Beard III (7 Tackles). All-Conference defensive tackle Jalen Bell (2 TFLs) could be the x-factor after a dominant performance in his Tennessee State debut.
This matchup has all the makings of a defensive battle, which could lead to a physical, low-scoring game. I give a slight advantage to the Tennessee State defense due to the experience at multiple key positions, which should give the offense some chances to utilize a short field and escape with a close win.
Prediction: Tennessee State (17-7)
Maine (0-1) @ No. 2 North Dakota State (1-0)
Kickoff: 2:30 pm/CT (ESPN+)
Maine opened the 2023 season with a competitive game against Florida International. Freshman running back Tristen Kenan had a breakout performance after leading the team with 108 rushing yards and one touchdown in his debut. The Black Bears have multiple new pieces defensively, but the unit held the Panthers to only 13 rushing yards and 3-for-12 on third-down attempts. Defensive lineman Izaiah Henderson is a player to watch this weekend after an impressive performance last week, while linebacker Darius McKenzie led the Black Bears with six tackles.
The Bison made a statement with a dominant 35-10 win over Eastern Washington in Week 1. The offensive gameplan has not changed as the Bison rolled up over 330 yards rushing against the Eagles, including 93 yards and one touchdown from running back TaMerik Williams. A major question entering this matchup will be the potential rotation between quarterbacks after Cole Payton and Cam Miller saw action last weekend. Payton exploded for 104 rushing yards, while Cam Miller totaled 257 yards and three touchdowns. The linebacker group is deep this season, led by Nick Kubitz and Logan Kopp, who will be tasked with slowing down the Maine rushing attack.
North Dakota State answered many preseason questions last week and this should be the perfect opportunity to make another statement before conference play begins in two weeks. The Black Bears will have to find a way to slow down the North Dakota State rushing attack, but I expect the Bison to dominate the line of scrimmage on the way to a dominant win.
Prediction: North Dakota State (38-14)
No. 10 Incarnate Word (0-1) @ Northern Colorado (0-1)
Kickoff: 3 pm/CT (ESPN+)
Incarnate Word struggled in the second half in a 28-14 loss to UTEP last week. Quarterback Zach Calzada (245 Passing Yards; 1 TD) will lead the offensive attack after a solid performance in his season debut. The Cardinals will need to do a better job establishing the rushing attack against the Bears behind running backs Tre Siggers and Jarrell Wiley. Defending the run was a major concern for the Cardinals last week as UTEP finished the game with 329 rushing yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry. The Incarnate Word defensive front will be the key in this matchup as Steven Parker (5 Tackles; 1 Sack) and Darren Brown will need to have big games on Saturday.
Northern Colorado fell to Abilene Christian, 31-11, in the first game of the Ed Lamb era. The offense struggled to find consistency all game, which will be something to watch this weekend. Running back David Afari (56 Rushing Yards) showed potential in last week’s matchup and will be a name to watch against the Cardinals. All-American David Hoage did not see any action last week and his availability this week is still unknown. Linebacker Tizell Lewis (8 Tackles) and defensive lineman Joe Brown (6 Tackles) are some names to watch defensively for the Bears.
Establishing the rushing attack in this matchup will be the key after both programs struggled to defend the run last week. The Cardinals have the deeper running back room entering this matchup, along with multiple experienced pieces in the front seven that should give them the edge on Saturday.
Prediction: Incarnate Word (37-24)
No. 18 North Carolina Central (1-0) @ North Carolina A&T (0-1)
Kickoff: 6 pm/CT (FloSports)
North Carolina A&T will host the 101st Aggie-Eagle Classic on Saturday night as the Aggies aim to avenge a 28-13 loss last season. The offense enters this matchup with questions surrounding the quarterback position after the Aggies only attempted eight passes last week against UAB. Eli Brickhandler is projected to make his second consecutive start, but the Aggies could turn towards true freshman KJ White if the offense struggles early. The defense will have some new pieces, but All-American Karon Prunty and linebacker BJ Turner (14 Tackles; 2.5 TFLs) will be players to watch against the Eagles.
North Carolina Central opened the season with a 47-21 win over Winston-Salem State. All-American Davius Richard (236 Passing Yards; 4 Total TDs) had a dominant game against the Aggies last season and showed instant chemistry with wide receiver Quentin McCall (93 Receiving Yards; 1 TD) last week. Running back Latrell Collier (72 Rushing Yards; 1 TD) could be a name to watch against the Aggies. There are still questions surrounding the defensive line for the Eagles and who will emerge as the leading pass rusher. The secondary is a strength entering this matchup behind Jason Chambers and All-American Khalil Baker.
Rivalry games are always unpredictable, but the Eagles enter this matchup at almost every position on the field. The Aggies rushing attack could keep this close early, but quarterback uncertainty is not a recipe for success against the Eagles. Davius Richard and North Carolina Central should have enough firepower to pull away late in this one.
Prediction: North Carolina Central (28-16)
No. 8 Samford (1-0) @ Western Carolina (0-1)
Kickoff: 1:30 pm/CT (ESPN+)
Samford had a dominant performance in a 69-14 win against Shorter last week. Quarterback Michael Hiers (375 Passing Yards; 5 TDs) is the key to an explosive offensive attack for the Bulldogs. All-American Chandler Smith (84 Receiving Yards; 2 TDs) returned for the Bulldogs, but wide receivers Ty King and Qadir Ismail are some other names to watch in this matchup. Linebacker Noah Martin (8 Tackles; 2 TFLs), Josiah Cotton (6 Tackles; 2 TFLs), and the Bulldogs defense will face an extremely difficult task against the Western Carolina offense.
Western Carolina faced a difficult task against Arkansas in their Week 1 matchup. Cole Gonzales looked like the most efficient quarterback for the Catamounts, while Charlie Dean finished the game with three interceptions. Running back Desmond Reid will be tasked with establishing the rushing attack, while two names to watch at wide receiver will be Censere Lee and Corey Washington. The defense will be the x-factor this weekend against the Bulldogs as the Catamounts look to improve after allowing over 31 points per game last season.
Everybody should expect offensive fireworks this weekend in this matchup of two explosive offenses. The Bulldogs enter with a massive advantage at quarterback with Hiers, but both defenses will have something to prove on Saturday afternoon. I trust Hiers and the Bulldogs to make enough plays to escape E.J. Whitmire Stadium with an impressive conference victory.
Prediction: Samford (45-35)
No. 12 Weber State (1-0) @ No. 21 Northern Iowa (0-1)
Kickoff: 4 pm/CT (ESPN+)
Northern Iowa held Iowa State to only 250 total yards in a 30-9 loss in Week 1. Quarterback Theo Day is the biggest piece to this offensive attack and will need to have a big game against an extremely talented Weber State secondary. Tye Edwards has emerged as the leader in the running back room and could be a key player this weekend to establish some balance offensively. The secondary is the strength of the defense for the Panthers behind Brodrick Calhoun (7 Tackles) and Woo Governor (5 Tackles; 1 TFL).
Weber State defeated Central Washington, 35-10, to begin the Mickey Mental era. The Wildcats were led by running back Damon Bankston (119 Rushing Yards; 2 TDs) and he will be a key piece in taking the pressure off quarterback Kylan Weisser. All-American linebacker Winston Reid (12 Tackles; 3.5 TFLs) continued his dominance last week, while defensive end Brayden Wilson (7 Tackles; 3 TFLs) had a breakout performance. Abraham Williams (116 Return Yards; 1 TD) is an x-factor on special teams after returning his fifth kickoff for a touchdown last week.
The Panthers are 18-4 in home openers under head coach Mark Farley. Quarterback Theo Day should give Northern Iowa a large advantage in this game, but the dynamic rushing attack of the Wildcats should keep this game interesting. I expect the UNI defense to make key plays down the stretch and lead the Panthers to an upset over the Wildcats.
Prediction: Northern Iowa (24-21)
No. 3 Montana State (1-0) @ No. 1 South Dakota State (1-0)
Kickoff: 6 pm/CT (ESPN+)
The Bobcats enter this game with a lot to prove after a disappointing loss to the Jackrabbits in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs last season. Montana State will bring one of the most explosive rushing attacks in the country into Brookings, led by quarterbacks Tommy Mellott and Sean Chambers. The running back room has plenty of talent and the Bobcats will rotate multiple bodies throughout the game on Saturday. The front seven will need to have a dominant game, led by linebacker Danny Uliulakepa and defensive lineman Kenneth Eiden IV.
South Dakota State cruised to a 45-7 win over Western Oregon, but have their first true test of the season this week against the Bobcats. A balanced offensive attack will be led by quarterback Mark Gronowski and running backs Isaiah Davis and Amar Johnson. Gronowski still has three of his top weapons from last season, including wide receiver Jaxon Janke and tight end Zach Heins. Despite the absence of All-American Adam Bock, the Jackrabbits have one of the deepest linebacker cores in the country behind Saiveon Williamson (8 Tackles; 1.5 TFLs) and Jason Freeman. The biggest question mark entering this game will be the defensive tackle position after the departure of All-Americans Caleb Sanders and Reece Winkelman.
The Jackrabbits enter the season with very few questions and arguably the most talented roster in the country. I give South Dakota State an advantage at the quarterback position due to Gronowski’s ability to be an efficient passer, which should give the Jackrabbits an edge this Saturday night. Both teams will establish the rushing game, but I expect Gronowski and the South Dakota State wide receiving core to be the difference in this huge Week 2 matchup.
Prediction: South Dakota State (24-16)
AUDIO: Week 2 FCS Football Preview