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Pivotal FCS conference games in 2018

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - When most of the FBS matchups and big intersectional meetings are over, FCS fans look forward to the conference schedule for the most intense and meaningful games of the regular season.

Emotions are heightened to another level because conference titles and postseason bids can be on the line.

Here's a look at pivotal conference games in the FCS, but, make no mistake, the list could go on and on with possibilities:

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Big Sky

Biggest: Eastern Washington at Weber State (Oct. 13)

Seven different Big Sky teams have qualified for the FCS playoffs in the last two seasons, but these two have advanced the furthest - EWU to the 2016 semifinals and Weber State to last year's quarterfinals.

Pretty Special As Well: Southern Utah at Northern Arizona (Sept. 22), Eastern Washington at Montana State (Sept. 29) and Montana State at Montana (Nov. 17)

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Big South

Biggest: Kennesaw State at Monmouth (Nov. 10)

The Big South schedule worked out perfectly on the final Saturday of the regular season last year, when Kennesaw and Monmouth met in a de facto title game. The buzz surrounding the veteran Owls is high this offseason, but Monmouth returns 16 starters from its first playoff team.

Pretty Special As Well: Campbell at Monmouth (Oct. 20), Kennesaw State at Charleston Southern (Oct. 27) and Charleston Southern at Monmouth (Nov. 3)

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CAA Football

Biggest: James Madison at Villanova (Oct. 13)

In the middle of a tough stretch of conference games, the Dukes visit a reloaded Villanova squad that seeks to open up the title race. The Dukes have won 18 straight conference games.

Pretty Special As Well: Elon at Delaware (Oct. 13), James Madison at New Hampshire (Nov. 3) and Richmond at William & Mary (Nov. 17)

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Ivy League

Biggest: Harvard vs. Yale in Boston (Nov. 17)

The 135th playing of "The Game" will be held at Fenway Park. It marks the 50th anniversary of the epic 1968 meeting, which famously ended in a 29-29 tie (or as some say, "Harvard Beats Yale 29-29").

Pretty Special As Well: Princeton at Columbia (Sept. 29), Yale at Columbia (Oct. 27) and Harvard at Penn (Nov. 10)

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MEAC

Biggest: North Carolina A&T at North Carolina Central (Nov. 17)

The Aggie-Eagle Classic is the most intense game in the MEAC. In the last four seasons, each program has staked claim to three conference titles.

Pretty Special As Well: Howard at North Carolina Central (Oct. 6), North Carolina A&T at Bethune-Cookman (Oct. 20) and Bethune-Cookman vs. Florida A&M in Orlando, Florida (Nov. 17)

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Missouri Valley

Biggest: South Dakota State at North Dakota State (Sept. 29)

In NDSU's glorious seven-year run (a record-tying six national titles), the Jackrabbits are the only team to beat the Bison twice - in each of the last two regular seasons.

Pretty Special As Well: North Dakota State at Northern Iowa (Oct. 6), Western Illinois at Illinois State (Oct. 6) and South Dakota at South Dakota State (Nov. 17)

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Northeast

Biggest: Duquesne at Central Connecticut State (Nov. 17)

There are plenty of key games prior to this season-ender, but last year's meeting determined the NEC's playoff bid. CCSU rallied to win when Duquesne melted down in the fourth quarter.

Pretty Special As Well: Central Connecticut State at Bryant (Oct. 13), Duquesne at Saint Francis (Oct. 20) and Central Connecticut State at Saint Francis (Nov. 10)

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Ohio Valley

Biggest: Austin Peay at Jacksonville State (Sept. 29)

There's been talk of upstart Austin Peay taking the next step and Jacksonville State going backward. But ending the Gamecocks' 33-game conference streak on the road is easier said than done.

Pretty Special As Well: Tennessee State at Austin Peay (Oct. 6), Eastern Illinois at Jacksonville State (Oct. 13) and Jacksonville State at Tennessee State (Nov. 10)

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Patriot League

Biggest: Colgate at Lehigh (Nov. 10)

These rivals shared the league title last season, but Lehigh advanced to the playoffs because of its head-to-head win. Colgate, though, was the only Patriot team to finish the season with a winning record.

Pretty Special As Well: Holy Cross at Colgate (Sept. 1), Fordham at Lehigh (Oct. 13) and Lehigh at Lafayette (Nov. 17)

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Pioneer League

Biggest: Dayton at San Diego (Oct. 13)

San Diego has won 21 straight PFL games since a 13-12 loss to Dayton in 2015. Veteran quarterbacks Alex Jeske of Dayton and Anthony Lawrence of USD were freshman starters in that game.

Pretty Special As Well: Drake at Jacksonville (Sept. 29), Butler at Valparaiso (Oct. 13) and San Diego at Drake (Nov. 3)

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Southern

Biggest: Wofford at Samford (Nov. 3)

Samford was the only team to hand SoCon champ Wofford a conference loss last season. The last two meetings have been decided by a combined five points, and many key participants are back this season.

Pretty Special As Well: The Citadel at Wofford (Sept. 1), Samford at Furman (Oct. 20) and The Citadel at Western Carolina (Nov. 3)

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Southland

Biggest: Sam Houston State at Nicholls (Sept. 22)

Four of the eight conference matchups involving last year's top five teams are in September. Nicholls, coming off its first playoff appearance in 12 years, seeks to end an 11-game losing streak against Sam Houston.

Pretty Special As Well: Nicholls at McNeese (Sept. 15), Central Arkansas at Sam Houston State (Sept. 29) and McNeese at Southeastern Louisiana (Nov. 3)

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SWAC

Biggest: Grambling State vs. Southern in New Orleans (Nov. 24)

Three straight wins has given Grambling State a 23-21 lead in the Bayou Classic. With the SWAC discontinuing the conference championship game and the seven-game regular season deciding the bid to the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, there won't be any margin for error Thanksgiving weekend.

Pretty Special As Well: Grambling State at Alcorn State (Oct. 20), Jackson State at Southern (Oct. 27) and Alabama A&M vs. Alabama State in Birmingham, Alabama (Oct. 27)

Updated May 30, 2018

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