Week 9 Preview: "The Rivalry", NEC Championship, de facto OVC and Big South Championships

April 7, 2021 by Staff

Selection Sunday (April 18) is less than two weeks away and there's still a lot of important football left to be played to determine the field for the NCAA Playoffs that begin April 24.

One automatic qualifier will be determined this Sunday when Duquesne hosts Sacred Heart for the Northeast Conference title. Another will be decided on Sunday when OVC leaders Murray State and Jacksonville State clash at Murray. And Kennesaw State visits Monmouth with the Big South title to be claimed.

The Patriot League, which is the only other conference that will determine its CAA rep via a title game, will have its championship bout next Saturday (April 17).

The SWAC also holds a championship game, but does so on May 1st as it does not participate in the national playoff.

Duquesne and Sacred Heart met in the season opener for both schools on March 7th. That game was also held at Duquesne with the Dukes prevailing 30-27. With just one returning starter from the 2019 Dukes' offense, Duquesne built a 27-12 lead in that game and held off a late rally by the Pioneers. The oddsmakers and the Congrove Computer Rankings favored Duquesne in that contest by a slim margin. The sportsbooks have yet to release odds for this week's game, but the computer has flipped sides and gives visiting Sacred Heart a minuscule 0.91-point advantage.

College football's most-played game takes place this week when Lehigh visits Lafayette for the 156th edition of "The Rivalry". The Leopards lead the series over the Mountain Hawks 79-71-5 with, but Lehigh has won 4 of the last 5 and 9 of the last 12. The game has been played every season since 1884 with only one dormant year in 1896. The teams played as many as 3 times in a season in the early years.

Looking at the conference standings, Weber State (4-0) has a 1-game lead on Eastern Washington (4-1) in the Big Sky and those teams are not scheduled to meet in the regular season. Big Sky teams are playing a conference-only schedule. The Congrove Computer Rankings have Weber State at No. 6 and EWU at No. 19. The FCS Committee released its Top 10 last Thursday (April 1) and had Weber tied for 5th while Eastern Washington was un-ranked. The Wildcats host Idaho State (2-3) this week as a 16.04-point computer pick, while the Eagles entertain Idaho (2-2) as a 7.99-point favorite.

The Big South is paced by Kennesaw State (4-0, 2-0 Big South) and Monmouth (2-0, 2-0). The Owls are ranked 4th while the Hawks are perched at No. 3 as the preseason computer favorite to win the conference with Kennesaw predicted to land an at-large berth. These two teams will meet at Monmouth on Saturday in a de facto conference championship game with the computer favoring the Hawks by a 6.52-pont margin. It's the last game currently scheduled for Kennesaw. while Monmouth is slated to visit Robert Morris (0-2 overall, 0-1 Big South) next week.

In the Colonial, Albany was a preseason at-large recipient of an at-large bid, but the Great Danes have now opted out of the season after a 1-3 start by an injury-plagued squad. Delaware (3-0, 3-0 CAA) is now expected to land the at-large selection with James Madison (4-0, 2-0 CAA) still expected to land the automatic bid. JMU was ranked first by the committee. However, the Dukes currently have no games left on the schedule and have had both halves of a planned home-and-home series with Richmond scrapped by Covid issues. The Spiders are also undefeated at 3-0 overall and in conference play. This week, Delaware goes out-of-conference to face rival Delaware State as an 11.67-point computer choice, while Richmond is actually a 6.40-point computer underdog at William & Mary (1-2, 1-2). Next week, Delaware has a big game at Villanova as the Wildcats (2-1, 2-1) trail the Blue Hens by a single game.

The two independents, Dixie State and Tarleton State), are ineligible for the playoffs.

A handful of teams went rogue from their conference and are masquerading as independents (Montana, Portland State, South Carolina State, Howard, and Delaware State). A trio of those teams are ineligible for not having enough games to be considered (Portland State has 1 game, Montana 2, and Howard 2). Schedule weakness will likely DQ Delaware State and South Carolina State, even though both schools are currently 2-1. Montana hosts D2 Central Washington this Saturday as a 26.95-point pick, and then hosts Portland State next week..

The Missouri Valley Football Conference currently sits in a 4-way tie between North Dakota State (5-1, 4-1), South Dakota State (4-1,4-1) North Dakota.(4-1, 4-1) and Missouri State (4-4, 4-1). The Bison have rebounded from an early upset loss to Southern Illinois and own the tie-breaker with North Dakota. This week, North Dakota State visits Northern Iowa (3-3, 3-3) as a 17.06-point computer pick. South Dakota State was scheduled to host South Dakota as an 18.42-point selection, but that game was canceled due to Covid issues within the USD program. South Dakota has since decided to call it quits for the season.

NDSU and SDSU face-off next week in Fargo. North Dakota is off this week and visits Youngstown State next week. The computer's preseason selections for tourney advancement were NDSU as champ and Northern Iowa as an at-large. Now, you can forget the Panthers.

In the Ohio Valley Conference, Southeast Missouri State was the computer's preseason favorite to win the conference but sits at 3-4 overall and 3-3 in league play. Austin Peay was an-large pick and still has a shot, despite a 4-5 over-all record, because the Governors are the only team that both Jacksonville State and Murray State have lost to this spring and they are now 4-2 in the extended part of the season. Also, the 0-3 Fall record came against two FBS teams and a solid Central Arkansas squad. On Saturday, APU is a 19.14-point road favorite over Eastern Illinois, while conference leaders Murray State (5-1, 5-1) and Jacksonville State (8-2, 5-1) clash this Sunday with the visiting Gamecocks listed as a 5.39-point computer favorite in the de facto conference championship game. Will the loser get an at-large bid, or will the committee take APU?

Holy Cross was the computer's favorite in the Patriot League with no team expected to garner an at-large bid. The Crusaders are 2-0 and lead the North division while Bucknell is also 2-0 and tops the South. Those two will meet next week for the conference championship with the site still to be determined. Holy Cross was set to visit Colgate this week as a 3.15-point computer pick, but the Raiders announced on Wednesday that they are done with the season. Bucknell will still host Fordham on Saturday as a 0.17-point underdog.

San Diego was the Pioneer League favorite and the Toreros were humming along until Davidson went out west this past Saturday and scored the 31-25 upset. Now, it's the Wildcats who are sitting pretty at 4-0, while San Diego (3-1) and surprising Valparaiso (3-1) trail. Davidson visits Prebyterian this week as a 10.43-point pick, then closes at home against winless Stetson. Valpo is an 11.07-point underdog at Morehead State on Saturday.

Furman was the SoCon favorite and Wofford was projected to receive an at-large bid. Both of those predictions are out the window as the Paladins are 3-3 and the Terriers are 1-4. Wofford announced on Monday that it is opting out of the remainder of the season. VMI (5-1) and ETSU (4-1) share the SoCon lead and the Bucs have the tie-breaker after going to Lexington this past Saturday and ending the Keydets' undefeated season. But ETSU does not have this thing sewn-up as the computer has the Bucs on the wrong end of a 2.54-point projection at Mercer this week while VMI is idle. It would seem to us that Mercer (4-2) is out of the running as outright champ as they lose the tie-breaker to VMI.

Sam Houston State (4-0) leads the Southland Conference, followed by Incarnate Word (3-1) and those schools could have a d fact championship game next week in San Antonio. This week, the Bearkats are a 9.58-point home favorite over an unpredictable McNeese State squad while UIW is an 8.48-point home pick over Northwestern State.

In the SWAC, Arkansas-Pine Bluff is 3-0 in the West while Prairie View A&M is 2-0. Both are idle this week. The East is topped by Jackson State (3-2, 2-1) with Alabama A&M (0-0, 1-0) trailing, but the Bulldogs are a 4.76-point computer road choice over Deion Sanders' Tigers on Saturday. The computer's preason picks as division winners were Alabama A&M and Prairie View A&M with Prairie View winning the championship.

Upsets

The computer's upset picks are 10-8 straight up and 12-6 against the spread over the last 3 weeks.

This week's upset picks:
- Robert Morris by 4.74 over CHARLESTON SOUTHERN (-7)
- MONMOUTH by 6.52 over Kennesaw State (-7)
- Youngstown State by 11.19 over MISSOURI STATE (-3)
- Northern Arizona by 0.23 over SOUTHERN UTAH (-3.5)
- MOREHEAD STATE by 11.07 over Valparaiso (-2)
- WILLIAM & MARY by 6.40 over Richmond (-7.5)
- Sacred Heart by 0.91 over DUQUESNE (-3)

Latest Opt-Outs

On Monday, Western Illinois and Wofford each announced its decision to forego the remainder of the season. In the case of both schools, that means each will not play its final two games.

On Tuesday, New Hampshire made the same announcement.

Wofford (1-4) was scheduled to travel to Western Carolina this week and Furman next week. The decision by Wofford means Western Carolina's season is over and the Catamounts finish 1-5 for the Spring and 1-8 for the 2020-21 season.

Western Illinois (1-5) was scheduled to visit Southern Illinois on Saturday and South Dakota next week. Both games have been deemed a "no contest" by the MVFC. But SIU Director of Athletics Liz Jarnigan said she is looking to find a potential replacement game that could take place before the playoff announcement. As for South Dakota (1-3), the Coyotes had to cancel this week's game at South Dakota State due to covid issues which marks the third straight cancellation for the school. As of late Monday night, there was no comment on the USD website regarding whether or not it would try to schedule another game next week.

New Hampshire (0-1) managed to play only its season opener at home against Albany on March 5. The Wildcats had to cancel their next three contests against Delaware, Villanova and Rhode Island for Covid issues within its own program. UNH was scheduled to host Stony Brook this Saturday and visit Maine next week in its two final games which have both been canceled. CAA Football Commissioner Joe D’Antonio said in a statement that "the Conference will announce any scheduling adjustments as necessary.”

Maine (2-2) was next to call it quits, announcing its opt-out decision on Wednesday morning. The cancellation of the Black Bears' game at Rhode Island was mutual between the two schools as they've both been dealing with Covid issues.

Rhode Island (2-1) effectively opted out of the rest of the season by announcing it was shutting down its program and canceling next week's game vs. Stony Brook.

The decisions by New Hampshire and Rhode Island also bring an end to the season for Stony Brook (1-3).

South Dakota has given up its fight to the virus and shut down the program, the school announced on Wednesday. The Coyotes finish 1-3 after completing their first four games and having their last four canceled.

Colgate (0-2) also joined the abandonment list on Wednesday.

Here is a list of the other teams that opted-out since the season began:
- Albany (1-3)
- Cal Poly (0-3)
- Chattanooga (3-2)
- Illinois State (1-3)

These Two Schools Schedule More Football

While other schools are opting-out, Southern Illinois and Southeastern Louisiana are adding on. The two schools agreed to play a non-conference game next Saturday, April 17th in Carbondale. The Salukis are 4-3 and idle this week after Western Illinois opted-out of the remainder of the season. The Lions are 3-2 and visit Nicholls State this week.

RELATED TO THIS ARTICLE: Complete schedule and picks, Odds