At the start of the week, it was going seem a little more like a football season this weekend as the FCS had 20 games scheduled between Friday and Sunday. Unfortunately, winter weather has forced 7 games to be moved and Covid has likely canceled another. The schedule, as of 4:45 p.m. ET on Friday, has been pared down to 12 games.
The following games were affected by Covid issues, playing field conditions and/or weather:
VMI at Chattanooga - Covid issues at UTC - canceled for now
Western Illinois at South Dakota - Covid issues with WIU - moved to April 17
Sam Houston State at Incarnate Word - weather - moved to April 17
Illinois State at Missouri State - weather - moved to April 17
Jacksonville State at Tennessee State - field conditions - moved to March 7
Eastern Illinois at Tennessee-Martin - weather - moved to March 7
NW State, La. at Lamar - weather - moved to March 27.
Murray State at Southeast Missouri State - weather - moved to March 7.
Still left on the docket, defending national champion North Dakota State plays on Sunday while runner-up James Madison hits the gridiron on Saturday. Both are huge favorites against out-manned opposition.
The Bison open at home against Youngstown State as a 25-point pick by the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com. North Dakota State's current 38-game winning streak is the third longest in Division I history and the longest in FCS history surpassing the record 33-game Bison winning streak from 2012-14. The Bison are on a school-record 29-game home winning streak, which is tied for sixth longest in FCS history. It is the longest active home winning streak in Division I and a new Missouri Valley Football Conference record, topping NDSU's 26-game home winning streak from 2012-15.
Matt Entz is 17-0 as head coach of the Bison who have lost QB Trey Lance to the NFL draft. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, Lance had a TD-to-INT radio of 28-0. He declared for the draft 3 days after NDSU's lone game of the fall season, a 39-28 win over Central Arkansas in which he threw his first and only INT while accounting for 4 TD's (2 passing, 2 rushing). Senior Zeb Noland is listed first on the depth chart at QB for Sunday's game. Attendance will be capped at 50% of capacity at the Fargodome which amounts to 9,500 (masks required).
Meanwhile, the Penguins will be playing their first game under new head coach Doug Phillips who was hired in February of 2020 after Bo Pelini took the DC job at LSU.
Two of NDSU's closest contenders for the MVFC title will face-off on Friday when South Dakota State visits Northern Iowa. Oddsmakers have installed the Jackrabbits as a 3.5-pont favorite while the computer takes the homestanding Panthers by 4.28. SDSU is 6th in this week's computer rankings while Northern Iowa is No. 3.
No. 21 Nicholls State goes for a three-peat of Southland Conference titles this season, but the Colonels will start with a tune-up game versus D2 school Lincoln University of Jefferson City, Missouri. The computer likes Nicholls by 33.52 points over the Blue Tigers who were 1-10 a year ago.
On Saturday, 2nd-ranked James Madison begins its quest for its third national championship and first since 2016. The Dukes host Morehead State as a 41.5-point betting choice and a 36.44-point computer favorite.
MOVED TO APRIL 17 - 4th-ranked Illinois State is a 28.17-point computer choice against a surprisingly low spread of 5-1/2 at a Missouri State program that is in the throes of a 10-game losing streak. Bobby Petrino continues his first season as head coach of the Bears after going 0-3 in the fall with a loss to Oklahoma (48-0) and a pair of setbacks to Central Arkansas (20-27 and 24-33). That's the same Petrino who had previous stints with Arkansas, Western Kentucky and Louisville and is 119-56 all-time.
There are four games on Sunday, including the much-anticipated debut of the start-studded coaching staff at Jackson State. Deion Sanders leads a group that includes OC Jason Phillips, tight ends coach T.C. Taylor and former NFL assistant Jeff Weeks. The Tigers are preseason-projected to finish 1-4 in the SWAC and 2-4 overall, but something tells us that Jackson State could be a big surprise. The opening game is against NAIA member Edward Waters so look for this one to get ugly in a hurry.