Photo: SEMO Athletics

Week 3 FCS Football Preview & Predictions

We predict the top FCS football games on the Week 3 slate right here. You can find more information on the biggest games each week on our FCS Preview Show.

2023 Predictions Record: 16-5

2022 Predictions Record: 115-35

Towson (0-2) @ Morgan State (1-1)

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

Towson will look to bounce back after back-to-back losses to open the season. The Tigers have struggled offensively over the first two weeks of the season and quarterback Nathan Kent (328 Passing Yards; 1 TD) will need to take a step forward this weekend. Wide receivers Da’Kendall James (128 Receiving Yards) and Lukkas Londono (114 Receiving Yards) have shown flashes but will need to step up in a big way against Morgan State’s defense. The defensive line has been a bright spot defensively for the Tigers, led by Jesus Gibbs (2 TFLs; 1 Sack) and Ernie Smith (2 TFLs; 2 Sacks). 

Morgan State opened the season with an upset against Richmond and a competitive performance against Akron last weekend. The defense has been elite this season, allowing only 267 yards per game and 17 points per game. Linebacker Erick Hunter (3.5 TFLs; 2.5 Sacks) and All-American defensive lineman Elijah Williams (4 TFLs; 2 Sacks) can completely change the game each week. The Bears have struggled offensively but found their rhythm behind quarterback Duce Taylor (2 Passing TDs) against Akron. Running backs J.J. Davis and Jabriel Johnson will need to establish the rushing game against a Towson defense that has allowed over 180 yards per game on the ground. 

The Bears could make a statement this weekend and enter the FCS top 25 with a second win over a CAA team. Towson seems to be a year or two away from competing at a high level under new head coach Pete Shinnick. I expect the Morgan State defense to continue their dominance and Duce Taylor will make enough plays to win the Battle for Greater Baltimore. 

Prediction: Morgan State (20-10)

Southern Utah (0-2) @ No. 16 UC Davis (1-1)

Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

Southern Utah enters at 0-2 but played back-to-back FBS opponents to start the season. The offense will be led by All-Conference quarterback Justin Miller (358 Passing Yards; 2 TDs) and the dynamic duo of wide receivers Isaiah Wooden and Zach Mitchell. The Thunderbirds have struggled to establish the run this season, which is something that will be important to watch on Saturday night. The rushing defense has been impressive this season, allowing only 90.5 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. 

UC Davis will look to build momentum before conference play begins next weekend against Eastern Washington. Quarterback Miles Hastings (290 Passing Yards; 1 TD) will need to protect the football after throwing three interceptions in the first two games. Running back Lan Larison (164 Rushing Yards; 3 TDs) has been explosive this season and could be the key in this matchup. The secondary is the strength of the defense behind All-American Rex Connors (10 Tackles) and sophomore Lamont Shamburger (11 Tackles; 2 TFLs). 

Both quarterbacks have underperformed this season and this matchup could be determined by which player makes the fewest mistakes. I trust the UC Davis rushing attack to be the x-factor this weekend, while the defense forces some crucial turnovers to win this game on Saturday night. 

Prediction: UC Davis (34-24)

No. 6 Holy Cross (1-1) @ Yale (0-0)

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

Yale enters the season as the preseason favorite in the Ivy League. Quarterback Nolan Grooms will be the star of the offense, who led the Bulldogs in both passing (1,660) and rushing yards (745) last season. Wide receivers David Pantelis (518 Receiving Yards) and Mason Tipton (386 Receiving Yards) will be key pieces against a talented Holy Cross secondary. The defense returns six All-Conference selections from a unit that allowed only two teams to score over 21 points last season. Linebacker Hamilton Moore (63 Tackles; 4 INTs) and Wande Owens (63 Tackles; 6 TFLs) are two players to watch in this matchup.

The Crusaders enter this matchup at 1-1 after a competitive, 31-28, loss to Boston College. Quarterback Matthew Sluka (320 Passing Yards; 4 Total TDs) and his connection with wide receiver Jalen Coker (189 Receiving Yards; 1 TD) has been one of the best in the FCS over the past three seasons. Running back Jordan Fuller (229 Rushing Yards; 6 TDs) is putting together a breakout season with back-to-back impressive performances. All-American linebacker Jacob Dobbs (34 Tackles; 3 QBHs) is a force on the defensive side of the ball and will be key in slowing down the Yale rushing attack. 

Holy Cross defeated Yale, 38-14, in this matchup last season. The Crusaders seem to have all the pieces to be a real national championship contender this season, while Yale enters as an unknown due to this being the first game of the season. Sluka’s playmaking ability will be the difference, while the Holy Cross front seven should be talented enough to slow down the Yale rushing attack.

Prediction: Holy Cross (31-20)

Central Arkansas (1-1) @ No. 2 North Dakota State (2-0)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m ET (ESPN+)

The Bears were extremely competitive against Oklahoma State in Week 1 before blowing out Texas College last weekend. Central Arkansas will aim to establish the rushing attack in this matchup behind one of the deepest running back rooms in the country. Running back ShunDerrick Powell (158 Rushing Yards; 2 TDs) and Kylin James (129 Rushing Yards; 2 TDs) have both averaged over 9.0 yards per carry this season, while Darius Hale is another name to watch for the Bears. This weekend will be a major test for the front seven, which is headlined by All-American David Walker (9 Tackles; 1.5 TFLs). 

North Dakota State has started the season with dominant defensive performances over Eastern Washington and Maine. The Bison are allowing 8.5 points per game and only 281 yards per game. Safety Cole Wisniewski (14 Tackles; 3 INTs) has emerged as the leader of the defense for the Bison. The rushing attack continues to be dominant as the Bison have averaged over 300 yards per game over the first two games. Quarterbacks Cole Payton (206 Rushing Yards; 3 TDs) and Cam Miller (151 Rushing Yards; 3 TDs) are a dynamic duo with their legs while TaMerik Williams established himself as the No. 1 running back.

This matchup will be defined by which team can establish the rushing attack on Saturday afternoon. North Dakota State is more versatile in their rushing offense with Payton and Miller, which could give the Bears issues in this game. This will be a great test for the Bison front seven, but I expect North Dakota State to continue their dominance this weekend. 

Prediction: North Dakota State (35-17)

Western Carolina (1-1) @ Eastern Kentucky (0-2)

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

Eastern Kentucky has faced one of the most difficult opening schedules in the FCS with back-to-back FBS games. The Colonels will be led by quarterback Parker McKinney (396 Passing Yards; 2 TDs), who surpassed 10,000 career passing yards last weekend against Kentucky. Eastern Kentucky must establish more consistency in the rushing attack, which has struggled over the first two weeks. The secondary has been a concern for the Colonels after allowing over 360 yards per game. Linebacker Logan Blake (20 Tackles; 2 TFLs) and All-American defensive back Franky West are two key players to watch in this matchup.

Western Carolina enters this game as one of the hottest teams in the country after an upset of No. 8 Samford in Week 2. The Catamounts dominated the time of possession against the Bulldogs behind one of the most efficient offensive performances of the season. Quarterback Cole Gonzales (380 Passing Yards; 2 TDs) and running back Desmond Reid (181 Rushing Yards; 2 TDs) are a dynamic sophomore duo for the Catamounts. The defense has shown massive improvements over the first two games, led by cornerbacks CJ Williams (10 Tackles; 1 TFL) and Rod Gattison (9 Tackles; 2 TFLs).

This game could a massive postseason implications, including being the deciding factor on which team could receive an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs. The Catamounts seem to have found a defensive identity to match the explosive offense under head coach Kerwin Bell. Western Carolina will have enough offensive weapons to win this important out-of-conference matchup over the Colonels. 

Prediction: Western Carolina (34-31)

No. 19 Southeastern Louisiana (0-2) @ Eastern Washington (0-2)

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

The Lions started the season with back-to-back FBS opponents and will face another road test this weekend. Expect this offense to rotate quarterbacks as Eli Sawyer (168 Passing Yards) and Zachary Clement (307 Passing Yards; 2 TDs) battle to establish themselves as QB1. The wide receiver core needed new players to step up this season and Darius Lewis (10 Receptions; 106 Yards) has emerged as the next leader of the room. The defense has struggled to stop the run as the Lions are allowing 273 yards per game and over seven yards per carry this season. Defensive back Ian Goodly (26 Tackles; 1.5 TFLs) leads the defense, but the Lions need more consistent play from the defensive line this weekend.

Eastern Washington has also had a brutal start to the season with matchups against No. 2 North Dakota State and Fresno State. Quarterback Kekoa Visperas (500 Passing Yards; 3 TDs) has played well this season and developed a strong connection with wide receiver Efton Chism III (17 Receptions; 150 Yards). The defensive front has done an excellent job of creating negative plays with 12 tackles for loss and four sacks in the first two games. Linebackers Ben Allen (15 Tackles; 3 TFLs) and Adam Cohen (13 Tackles) will be two players to watch this weekend against the Lions. 

This matchup is one of the most interesting on the Week 3 slate as both played difficult schedules over the first two weeks of the season. A cross-country road trip to Cheney, WA will be difficult for the Lions. The emergence of Visperas for the Eagles should be the difference this weekend as the Lions have multiple new starters in the secondary, but I expect this to be one of the most competitive games this weekend.

Prediction: Eastern Washington (27-21)

No. 10 Incarnate Word (1-1) @ Abilene Christian (2-0)

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

Abilene Christian has continued to build momentum in 2023 after a much-improved 2022 season. Quarterback Maverick McIvor (533 Passing Yards; 5 TDs) has taken a step forward in his game, while wide receiver Blayne Taylor (211 Receiving Yards; 1 TD) established himself as the No. 1 target. The secondary has played well this season, allowing only 168.5 yards per game and only one touchdown through the air. The question mark has been the rushing defense, which could be the x-factor for the Wildcats in this matchup.

Incarnate Word exploded for a 42-7 win over Northern Colorado last weekend. The Cardinals will need quarterback Zach Calzada (627 Passing Yards; 5 Total TDs) to continue to find his rhythm this weekend. Wide receiver Caleb Chapman (188 Receiving Yards; 2 TDs) is a potential breakout star for the Cardinals offense. Defensive end Steven Parker (5 TFLs; 2.5 Sacks) has been dominant this season, while Tylan Foster (20 Tackles) emerged as the leader for the linebacker core. 

This matchup could have potential playoff implications for both teams down the stretch. The battle between McIvor and Calzada will be one of the most interesting quarterback battles in the FCS this weekend.

Prediction: Incarnate Word (41-37)

No. 15 Southern Illinois (2-0) @ No. 13 Southeast Missouri State (1-1)

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

Southern Illinois is another team that is on the rise after back-to-back wins over Austin Peay and Northern Illinois. Quarterback Nic Baker (363 Passing Yards; 3 TDs) has looked impressive this season while completing five or more passes to four different wide receivers. Running back Ro Elliot (101 Rushing Yards; 2 TDs) needs to have a huge game this weekend as the Salukis must match the SEMO rushing attack. The defense has been dominant against the run, as the Salukis have only allowed 51 rushing yards per game and only 1.8 yards per carry. Defensive back PJ Jules (17 Tackles; 3 PBUs) and defensive lineman Colin Bohanek (14 Tackles; 3.5 TFLs) are two players to watch for the Salukis. 

Southeast Missouri State notched a dominant win over Lindenwood last weekend in their FCS opener. All-American Geno Hess (111 Rushing Yards; 2 TDs) has established himself as one of the best running backs in the entire country. He will face one of his biggest challenges this season against the rushing defense of the Salukis. Quarterback Paxton DeLaurent (480 Passing Yards; 3 TDs) has continued to take a step forward as a passer this season. Wide receivers Ryan Flournoy (20 Receptions; 195 Yards) and Damoriea Vick (2 Receiving TDs) are going to test the Southern Illinois secondary on Saturday night. Defensively, the secondary has been impressive with four interceptions and only three passing touchdowns allowed over the first two games. 

Three of the last five meetings between these programs have been decided by less than five points, including a 34-31 victory for SEMO last season. Hess has shown the ability to step in the biggest games for the Redhawks, while DeLaurent will be able to make a handful of plays off the play-action attack. The Redhawks will find a way to escape with a close win this weekend.

Prediction: Southeast Missouri State (38-35)

AUDIO: Week 3 FCS Football Preview

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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