After some what of a down week of game action across the board on all levels, the competition between ranked teams ramps backs up this week. While many eyes will be on the battle of highly ranked teams on the FBS level in Georgia-Notre Dame and Auburn-Texas A&M, there's a huge battle between ranked foes that will be taking place on the FCS level as well.
No. 1 North Dakota State vs. No. 4 UC Davis (Sat., Sept. 21, 2:30 pm EST)
The best battle of the weekend takes place in the Fargo Dome as the Bison of North Dakota State are attempting to extend a 24-game winning streak. Led by All-American linebacker Jabril Cox, the teams defense has been stingy thus far, but they haven't faced an aerial attack like they will see from UC Davis on Saturday.
An explosive offense led by quarterback Jake Maier, he enters the contest fresh off of a 41-13 victory over Lehigh -- as he finished 38-of-49 for 389 yards and four touchdowns. The strong arm signal-caller is already on a bunch of NFL radars, but an impressive performance possibly combined with a victory will squarely put him on the map in the eyes of many evaluators. Keep an eye on the reigning Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week as he's trying to deliver a loss to the Bison for the first time since 2017.
Prospects to Watch
North Dakota State
LB - Jabril Cox (6-3, 230, R-Jr.)
The athletic redshirt junior leads the list of a very talented FCS group this season. After facing questions on if he would enter the draft last season, he returns for his third season leading the Bison defense. Fresh off of another National Championship victory, Cox also took home Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year award.
Cox recorded a team leading 91 tackles last season that also included 9.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, four interceptions. The rangy athletic outside linebacker projects best on the weak-side , which is the new position that he has transitioned to this season after starting at SAM linebacker in 2018.
As a former high school quarterback and do-it-all option on defense his smarts, instincts, and awareness for the game are overflowing, which makes him a strong candidate to remain atop this list through season's end.
Guard - Zach Johnson (6-6, 315, R-Sr.)
After playing 30 straight games at right tackle, dating back to 2017, Johnson has made the transition inside to right guard. a move that was best for the team, but everyone knows that the reigning first-team All-American selection is arguably the teams most piece on offense.
His long flow hair is the first thing that you will notice about him, but his mean streak is what has many scouts keeping an eye on his progress throughout the season. Johnson still has to learn how to consistently anchor as he continues to grow and develop along the interior.
QB - Jake Maier (6-0, 200)
It has been a winding journey for Maier as he started his collegiate career at Sacred Heart (2015) before transferring to Long Beach City College. There, he wound up posting prolific numbers as he engineered one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The first-year signal caller threw for 3,689 yards and 38 touchdowns to only eight interceptions.
Wanting to accept a tougher challenge, he transferred again, this time to UC Davis. His first season with the Aggies (2017) was an instant hit as he started all 11 games. In those contest during his sophomore campaign, Maier went on finish the year with 3,669 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He also would set a new single-season program record of completed passes (306) and 300-yard games in a season (nine).
Following that up with an even better junior season, the second-year starter amassed 3,932 passing yards and 34 touchdowns, which helped him become the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year.