College Sports Journal announces their Preseason FCS Top 25 of the 2020 season.
Of our preseason poll last year, only 6 of the top 10 teams made the playoffs. 13 of the full 25 played past Thanksgiving. It’s 2020, the year of complete chaos.
Lets cut through some of the chaos and take a look through the College Sports Journal Preseason Top 25.
- North Dakota State Bison
Is there any doubt who would be here to start the year? Coming off a third straight national title, 37 game winning streak and first 16-0 season in FCS history, the Bison are back on top. Defending Payton Award winner Trey Lance is the odds-on favorite to repeat the award.
- James Madison Dukes
The Dukes were the runner up for the second time in three seasons. There are a number of holes to fill on both sides of the ball. But there are a number of returning players and new recruits ready to step into larger roles this year to help the Dukes pick up right where they left off.
- Northern Iowa Panthers
Many people expect Northern Iowa to be the biggest challenger to North Dakota State in the Missouri Valley and maybe even the entire FCS. The Panthers have the pieces to be the best defense in the FCS. But the offense is going to need to be much better than how they finished the year last season.
- Weber State Wildcats
Weber State should have another strong team in what promises to be a strong Big Sky conference. The Wildcats have an above average defense and a solid offense which is led by RB Josh Davis. Weber State will be looking to get past the semis and on to Frisco this season.
- Villanova Wildcats
Villanova has weathered the injury bug for many years. Is this the year they stay healthy? Wildcat faithful sure hope so because this team is loaded and ready to challenge James Madison for the CAA title. Daniel Smith could challenge Trey Lance for the Payton Award.
- Montana State Bobcats
The Bobcats made a strong run to the semifinals last year but fell short against North Dakota State. Coach Randy Choate has been building a strong program over the last few years. Because of that, Montana State should be able to withstand the loss off all-everything Troy Anderson
- South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Had J’Bore Gibbs not been injured against North Dakota State, the Jackrabbits may have seen a different fate at the end of last season. Gibbs is back to lead a potent offense. How will the defense fare after the graduation of Christian Rozeboom? That is the question.
- Central Arkansas Bears
Again projected to be the top team in the Southland Conference, Central Arkansas returns one of the best quarterbacks in the FCS, Breylin Smith. The Bears don’t grab a lot of headlines but they have a shot to make some real noise in the FCS this year.
- Illinois State Redbirds
James Robinson nearly beat North Dakota State in the quarterfinals all by himself, but he couldn’t do it alone. Robinson has graduated, but the Redbirds return a strong team and fourth Valley team in the preseason poll. They’ll have to pull off a big win at some point.
- Sacramento State Hornets
Last year’s version of UC Davis, Sacramento State hopes to backup a strong 2019 season with an equally strong 2020. The Hornets return Payton Award finalist quarterback Kevin Thomson in an attempt to win another Big Sky title which they shared last year.
- Austin Peay Governors
We may have witnessed a changing of the guard in the Ohio Valley Conference last year with Austin Peay wresting the title from Jacksonville State. Mark Hudspeth is building a strong program in Clarksville, not just a one hit wonder team. The Governors could cause trouble for some of the big boys this year.
- Kennesaw State Owls
Kennesaw State was able to keep humming after their original draft class moved on. The Owls and coach Brian Bohannon will be the favorites in the Big South again and could wind up with a national seed if they continue to take advantage of their schedule.
- Albany Great Danes
Albany came out of nowhere to make the playoffs in 2019. The offense should be high powered in 2020, led by Sophomore signal caller Jeff Undercuffler. The defense needs to improve over 2019 if the Great Danes are going to make more noise than they did last year.
- Furman Paladins
Furman fell short of the SoCon title last year, losing to rival Wofford to close the regular season. The Paladins should be the favorite in the conference this year, but will get strong challenges from Wofford and The Citadel.
- North Carolina A&T Aggies
The Aggies have a vice grip on the Celebration Bowl having won it 4 out of the five times. After this year, A&T heads to the Big South where they will finally be able to test their mettle in the FCS playoffs. Look for them to win the MEAC as a parting gift.
- Montana Grizzlies
Montana returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. The Grizzlies welcomed Bobby Hauck back at head coach and he paid immediate dividends. A four year losing streak to rival Montana State sticks in the craw of Girz fans. That is a hump they will need to get over before trying to regain playoff success.
- Nicholls Colonels
Chase Fourcade, the Colonels all time quarterback, has graduated, but the offense still has stud running back Julien Gums. Nicholls wont be the favorite for the Southland title but they should be in the playoff picture all year.
- New Hampshire Wildcats
Ricky Santos did a fine job as interim head coach while Sean McDonnell dealt with some health issues. But this year, McDonnell will be back on the sidelines for the Wildcats. This may be one of the teams that returns to the playoffs after a few year absence. The defense is strong and the offense should be good enough to keep them in most games.
- Delaware Blue Hens
Delaware had a tough season in 2019, but with a couple of excellent recruiting classes under their belt, the Blue Hens should compete for a playoff spot this year. They get a test right off the bat in 2020 when they travel to James Madison week one.
- Yale Bulldogs
Yale will be the favorite to win the Ivy League again this year. They’ll receive a stiff challenge from Dartmouth and Princeton.
- Sam Houston State Bearkats
A top five team for the last decade, Sam Houston State missed the playoffs last year with a 7-5 record. The Bearkats were on track to make the field until they lost at home to Northwestern State in the next to last week of the season. The defense has improved and the offense should be good as well. Look for the Bearkats to compete for the Southland title.
- Florida A&M Rattlers
Much like their MEAC rival, NC A&T, the Rattlers will be changing conferences. FAMU and the Marching 100 will move to the SWAC after this year. The Rattlers should have another strong year in 2020.
- Southeast Missouri State Redhawks
SEMO won a share of the Ohio Valley title last year. The Redhawks will be looking for their third straight trip to the playoffs in 2020. There will be stiff competition in the Ohio Valley from Austin Peay and a Jacksonville State team looking for a bounce back. But don’t count out Southeast Missouri State.
- Eastern Kentucky Colonels
Eastern Kentucky stayed in the playoff picture all year in 2019 falling short of the field. The Colonels will be improved this year, and they should remain in the playoff picture all year. How they fare against Austin Peay, Southeast Missouri State and Jacksonville State will dictate their 2020 fate.
- Wofford Terriers
Wofford won the Southern Conference last year, but they didn’t start strong. They were able to bounce back, but they will have to have a better start in 2020 if they are going to repeat the conference title.
College Sports Journal Preseason FCS Top 25
- North Dakota State
- James Madison
- Northern Iowa
- Weber State
- Montana State
- South Dakota State
- Central Arkansas
- Illinois State
- Sacramento State
- Austin Peay
- Kennesaw State
- North Carolina A&T
- New Hampshire
- Sam Houston State
- Florida A&M
- Southeast Missouri State
- Eastern Kentucky
Others Receiving Votes (alphabetical order): Central Connecticut State, Dartmouth, Eastern Washington, Elon, Monmouth, San Diego, Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Illinois, The Citadel
Jamie is a proud 2002 graduate of James Madison University. He’s witnessed the growth of the program from no one in the stands in 1998, to the hiring of Mickey Matthews, to the 2004 National Championship, to the 2008 team, to the struggles in the early 2010s, and finally the rebuild under Mike Houston. He also allegedly really enjoys Washington, DC-based Stanley Cup winners.
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