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Pivotal conference games fill FCS weekend

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - Elon ended James Madison's record 20-game CAA winning streak last Saturday and didn't even have 24 hours to bask in one of the bigger wins in program history.

The Phoenix had to begin to prepare for another difficult road game, this time against Delaware.

"Obviously, there's a big bounce-back factor here this week coming off a win like that," second-year coach Curt Cignetti said, "where we have to be a humble and hungry and really have an edge in our preparation for this game against Delaware, who is a tremendous football team."

The grind of the conference schedule is being felt across the FCS. Everywhere one turns, it seems a conference leader has a pivotal game this week.

The following games will help shape conference title races on an important Saturday:

Big Sky - The co-leaders head to the road against ranked opponents. No. 4 Eastern Washington (5-1, 3-0), likely with backup quarterback Eric Barriere at the controls again, visits No. 13 Weber State (3-2, 1-1), a defending co-champ. Idaho State (4-1, 3-0) heads to No. 14 UC Davis (4-1, 2-0), which is even with the Bengals and Eastern Washington in the loss column.

CAA - There's a logjam in the CAA, including four 2-0 teams. No. 5 Elon (4-1, 2-0) hopes to survive the trip to Delaware (3-2, 1-1), whose playoff goal would be in jeopardy without a win. No. 21 Maine (3-2, 2-0) is at No. 21 Rhode Island (4-1, 2-0), and both teams have had quarterback injuries.

MEAC - The first-place battle between Florida A&M (4-2, 3-0) and No. 10 North Carolina A&T (5-1, 2-0) is the STATS FCS Game of the Week. The Aggies had to deal with Hurricane Michael this week and traveled to North Carolina on Friday.

Missouri Valley - No. 1 North Dakota State (5-1, 2-0) shouldn't have a problem at Western Illinois (2-3, 1-1), but the Bison are stepping outdoors for the first time and the host Leathernecks are a talented team that's been saddled with a brutally tough schedule. The other co-leader, No. 24 South Dakota (3-2, 2-0), hosts Northern Iowa (2-3, 1-1), which is only two spots behind the Coyotes in votes for the national media poll.

Northeast - Bryant (4-1, 2-0) is the only current NEC program not to appear in the playoffs since the conference gained an automatic bid in 2010. A win over defending champion Central Connecticut State (3-3, 1-0) would go a long way into changing that, but the Blue Devils come to town looking to move into first place.

Ohio Valley - With a 35-game conference win streak, it's not surprising Jacksonville State (4-1, 3-0) has grabbed early control of the title race. But Murray State (2-3, 2-0) also is unbeaten in conference play and is seeking to add a home win against Tennessee State (2-2, 1-1) to its key victories over UT Martin and Eastern Illinois.

Patriot - Drake (3-1, 2-0) is probably the chief threat to San Diego (3-2, 2-0), but Dayton (3-3, 2-1) pays a visit as the most recent PFL team to beat the Toreros, who have since won 21 league games in a row since the 2015 loss.

Southern - The co-leaders don't have it easy, each going to the road against an opponent which had an extra week of preparation. No. 23 ETSU (5-1, 3-0) is visiting The Citadel (1-3, 1-2) and No. 6 Wofford (4-1, 3-0) heads to Furman (1-3, 1-1), which was a playoff team last year.

SWAC - In the East Division, the co-leaders meet as Alcorn State (4-2, 2-1), which has won the last four titles, traveling to Alabama A&M (3-3, 2-1). In the West Division, Prairie View A&M (3-3, 2-0) will be in the driver's seat if it beats Southern (2-3, 1-1).

Updated October 12, 2018

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