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Takeaways from FCS Week 8

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - It's easy to say Sam Houston State or Montana State or fill-in-the-blank team blew its chance for an FCS playoff bid on Saturday, but here's the thing: just about everybody is losing.

Well, not top-ranked North Dakota State. We won't make that mistake again.

Jacksonville State even lost in the Ohio Valley Conference. Yeah, what in the name of Jimmy Garoppolo is going on?

The thing is, the FCS is taking on a weird look. There's concern of only one playoff bid in the Southern Conference, only two in the Southland, only three in the Missouri Valley.

Plus, the parity may impact at-large bids in a big way on Selection Sunday, Nov. 18. A 6-5 at-large team may get into the 24-team field; a seven-win team with a sub-Division I win on the resume may slip in, too.

Amid all the chaos, here are 10 takeaways from Week 8:

- North Dakota State? Yeah, wow, the Bison (7-0) keep thundering toward home-field advantage in the playoffs. The reigning FCS champions' 28-14 win over No. 8 Illinois State wasn't as close as the score suggests, and, truthfully, neither is the rest of the FCS unless a top opponent - say, James Madison - gets it right on the Bison's wrong day. The meaty part of the Missouri Valley schedule is behind the Bison and they're motivated with a record FCS title out there for them.

- Southland fans must love the wide-open feel to the title race in their conference, but the damaging losses with playoff resumes have been piling up. It wasn't too long ago that four playoffs bids - which would be a high for the conference - seemed likely. But after Nicholls was stunned at Abilene Christian last week, No. 14 Sam Houston State lost at Lamar and No. 6 McNeese, coming off a bye, was pounded by UIW 45-17 as freshman Jon Copeland accounted for four touchdowns in the biggest win of the Cardinals' 10-year history. Five teams are separated by one game in the standings.

- Don't think the smaller conferences are any clearer. If you're looking for clarity in the Northeast Conference title race, then you've come to the wrong season. Sacred Heart (4-3, 2-0) is the surprise leader after beating defending champ Central Connecticut State 28-25 on the road. The upset followed the Pioneers' three straight losses to Ivy League opponents, including 42-0 to Dartmouth last weekend. Coach Mark Nofri's team will play three of its final four games at home, hoping to hold off CCSU, Bryant and Duquesne, which are all 2-1 in the tight race.

- No game seems to pass without Devlin Hodges setting a record. Samford's 38-25 win at Furman was particularly big as the senior became the Southern Conference's all-time leader in passing yards (13,377) and the all-time FCS leader in completions (1,198). He completed 40 of 52 passes for 402 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions as the Bulldogs (4-4, 3-2) won their third straight conference game.

- Speaking of quarterbacks, no San Diego game in the Pioneer Football League seems to pass without senior Anthony Lawrence dominating. The Toreros (5-2, 4-0) continue to repeat last season, earning their fourth straight league win, 42-13 at Butler, following a 1-2 nonconference start. Lawrence threw for 27 touchdowns against only one interception in PFL games a year ago. This season, he's passed for 16 TDs and no picks in four league games.

- No conference has ever placed more than five teams in a single playoff - in fact, only the CAA and Missouri Valley have done it - and dreams of six in the CAA might have died with Maine and Rhode Island suffering their third losses. It was a rough Saturday for the New England teams as New Hampshire's 38-14 loss to No. 24 Delaware clinched a losing season for a program that has been to 14 straight playoffs.

- The struggles of Patriot League teams the last two seasons (15-53 against nonleague opponents) have been puzzling because it's the fourth and fifth years of scholarships across the league. Georgetown of all teams is tied for first place with No. 17 Colgate, both 3-0 in the league. The Hoyas, under coach Rob Sgarlata, are the only Patriot program that doesn't offer scholarships and entered the season on a 15-game league losing streak.

- The Citadel hung on to beat VMI 34-32 in the "Military Classic of the South." The significance of the two schools far outweighs the result - in fact, shouldn't ESPN's "College GameDay" have been there? VMI's two-point conversion failed after it pulled within the two points in the final minute. Reece Udinski completed a school-record 48 passes in the Keydets 24th straight loss.

- The big news was No. 2 South Dakota State falling to No. 25 Northern Iowa 24-9 in the Missouri Valley Conference, but not to be lost in the upset (yeah, but barely) was Jackrabbits junior Chase Vinatieri kicking a 57-yard field goal - the longest of the FCS season. Adam Vinatieri's nephew is an excellent 32 of 42 (76.2 percent) in his career.

- Let's just say No. 3 Kennesaw State (6-1, 2-0 Big South) No. 4 James Madison (5-2, 3-1 CAA), No. 9 Eastern Washington (5-2, 3-1 Big Sky), No. 17 Colgate (6-0, 3-0 Patriot) and No. 20 Nicholls (4-3, 3-2 Southland) got it right on Saturday. They had byes.

Updated October 21, 2018

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