College Sports Journal FCS Top 25 after Week 3 – September 18, 2018

Week three was a wild week in the FCS. The top three teams, North Dakota State, James Madison and South Dakota State all solidified themselves with blowout wins. The rest of the division was carnage with 12 of last week’s FCS top 25 teams losing. 5 more teams in last week’s rankings did not play either because of a scheduled week off or a cancellation due to Hurricane Florence. All of that leads to a lot of movement in this week’s poll.

The most impressive, and important win of the week belongs to McNeese State. The Cowboys easily defeated Southland rival Nicholls State, loudly announcing their presence in the run for a playoff seed.

Two other teams came away with losses to FBS teams, but were impressive in those games. Rhode Island matched Connecticut score for score, coming up just one score short in a 56-49 shootout. Wofford travelled to the high altitude of Laramie, Wyoming and came within 17 seconds of upsetting their FBS opponent.

The most disappointing loss had to be Samford. The Bulldogs were riding a high after nearly knocking off Florida State. Instead of taking the momentum of that great performance, Samford laid an egg at home and lost to Mercer, putting the Bulldogs in a dangerous situation when it comes to the playoff picture.

Sam Houston State had its impressive 21 game home winning streak stopped by North Dakota. The longest home winning streak in the nation now belongs to James Madison, who last lost a home game in 2015, before Mike Houston set foot on campus.

1. North Dakota State (2-0 overall, 0-0 MVFC)
Last Week: Beat North Alabama 38-7
This Week: vs. Delaware

The Bison handle their business in a workman like 38-7 win over North Alabama. North Dakota State got balanced contribution from the run game and pass game. But if you ask Bison fans, the highlight may have been the first appearance of QB Trey Lance, who should take over for Easton Stick upon his graduation. Lance electrified the crowd with a 44 yard touchdown run. Coach Chris Klieman is taking advantage of the new redshirt rules allowing Lance to get a taste of game action before redshirting him for 2018. This week the Bison welcome CAA member Delaware to the Fargodome.

2. James Madison (2-1 overall, 0-0 CAA)
Last Week: beat Robert Morris 73-7
This week: vs. William & Mary

The Dukes were able to play a full four quarters after moving their game from Saturday to Thursday due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Florence. The schedule change didn’t matter as James Madison romped over Robert Morris, building a 52-0 lead before halftime. quarterback Ben DiNucci accounted for 5 first half touchdowns, but the play of the game may have been running back Marcus Marshall’s 81 yard run to open the second half. Marshall broke 5 tackles on his way to the end zone. James Madison will host William and Mary this weekend in Jimmye Laycock’s last trip to Harrisonburg as Tribe coach.

3. South Dakota State (2-0 overall, 0-0 MVFC)
Last Week: beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 90-6
This week OFF

The Jackrabbits scored at least 20 points in each quarter of their 90-6 destruction of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. South Dakota State threw for 557 yards, using 3 quarterbacks who each threw at least one touchdown pass. Seven different receivers caught touchdown passes for the Jackrabbits. Isaac Wallace added 192 yards on the ground on just 5 carries. The Jackrabbits have this week off before they travel north to the Fargodome to try to defend the Dakota Marker in what will be the game of the early season. All of the FCS will have eyes on that game.

4. North Carolina A&T (3-0, 0-0 MEAC)
Last Week: OFF
This week: vs. Morgan State

The Aggies had last week off, and it is probably a good thing. Hurricane Florence tore through North Carolina forcing the cancellation or postponement of multiple games across the mid-Atlantic region. This week the Aggies will Host Morgan State in their MEAC opener. This is a game North Carolina A&T should win handily as they look for another MEAC title and Celebration Bowl invitation.

5. Eastern Washington (2-1, 0-0 Big Sky)
Last Week: lost to FBS Washington State 59-24
This week: vs. Cal Poly

Eastern Washington went to Pullman hoping to repeat their 2016 upset of the Cougars, but it was not in the cards this year. Gardner Minshew overwhelmed the Eagles with 470 passing yards and 2 touchdowns as Washington State easily outpaced their in state opponent. The positive takeaway for Eastern Washington is that they got touchdown catches from three players not named Nsimba Webster. The Eagles will need to lean on that depth as they get into their Big Sky schedule.

6. Kennesaw State (2-1, 0-0 Big South)
Last Week: Beat Alabama State 62-13
This Week: vs. DII Clark Atlanta

Kennesaw State easily rolled over Alabama State last week, building a 42-6 halftime lead and cruising through the second half to a 62-13 victory. Chandler Burks completed all four of his passes and ran for 3 touchdowns. The Owls gave carries to 17 different players in the victory. This week they face a Division II opponent where they should have more of the same opportunities to give their depth players some live game reps.

7. Weber State (2-1, 1-0 Big Sky)
Last Week: Beat South Dakota 27-10
This Week: vs. Northern Colorado

Weber State easily defeated a tough opponent in South Dakota last week, holding Austin Simmons to just 210 yards passing while picking him off twice. The Wildcats defense was its calling card last year and they have performed admirably so far this year. This week, they looked more like the team that shared the Big Sky title last year than the team that got humiliated by FBS Utah in their first game. Weber hosts Northern Colorado this week and will look to continue their strong momentum up the rankings.

8. Maine (2-0, 1-0 CAA)
Last Week: OFF
This Week: at FBS Central Michigan

Maine will look to win its second straight game against an FBS opponent when they travel to Central Michigan this week. The Black Bears had this past week off after defeating Western Kentucky. To beat a second straight FBS opponent, Maine will need an even better performance from QB Chris Ferguson. The Black Bears finish their non conference schedule against a tough Yale team this week, so there is no time to breath before CAA play starts.

9. Elon (1-1, 0-0 CAA)
Last Week: Postponed at William & Mary
This Week: at Charleston Southern

Elon had its CAA opening game against William & Mary postponed due to Hurricane Florence. There has been no indication of when the game will be rescheduled. It would be in the best interest of Elon to get the game rescheduled as it is a winnable game and they will need all the wins they can get in a tight CAA playoff race. This week, the Phoenix head to Charleston Southern to face the Buccaneers in a non conference game. This game is an important game for Elon to win so they can enhance their playoff resume.

10. Jacksonville State (1-1, 0-0 OVC)
Last Week: OFF
This Week: vs. Tennessee Tech
Jacksonville State is coming off its second by week of the season. The Gamecocks jump into Ohio Valley competition this week against Tennessee Tech. This is a game JSU should win easily against one of the weaker teams in the conference. This will be a good opportunity for Zerrick Cooper to get even more comfortable in the offense.

11. Stony Brook (2-1, 0-0 CAA)
Last Week: Beat Fordham 28-6
This Week: vs. Richmond

Stony Brook handily defeated in state foe Fordham, losing its shutout with 2:14 remaining in the game. The Seawolves dominated the Rams on the ground running for 311 yards in the contest including 100 yards days from both Jordan Gowins (160 yards) and Donald Liotine (106 yards). The schedule gets serious for Stony Brook this week when they welcome in CAA rival Richmond. You can say this about quite a few games in the CAA, but this is an important game for both teams as they both have playoff aspirations.

12. Central Arkansas (2-1, 1-0 Southland)
Last Week: Beat Southeast Louisiana 33-25
This Week: OFF

Central Arkansas withstood a lightning delay of over and hour and a strong comeback attempt by Southeastern Louisiana before ultimately pulling out the win. The defending Southland champs started conference play 1-0 heading into their bye week. The Bears do not play Nicholls State this season, but they have road games at both Sam Houston State and McNeese State. The Bears travel to Huntsville next week after this week’s bye.

13. McNeese State (3-0, 2-0 Southland)
Last Week: Beat Nicholls State 20-10
This Week: at FBS BYU

McNeese defeated Nicholls State with a strong defensive effort. The Cowboys were left out of the playoff field despite a 9-2 record in 2017, so they will be looking to win the Southland to take the decision out of the committee’s hands. After their game against BYU, McNeese has a favorable schedule that could lead time to a 10-1 overall record and a potential seed in the playoffs. Having already beaten Nicholls and avoiding Sam Houston, the Cowboys just have to contend with Central Arkansas who they get at home in October.

14. Wofford (2-1, 2-0 Southern)
Last Week: lost to FBS Wyoming 17-14
This Week: OFF

Wofford came within a whisker of defeating Wyoming in Laramie on Saturday. The Terriers allowed a touchdown with just 17 seconds left on the clock in their upset but. The strong performance against an FBS team did show that the Terriers may be the team to beat again in the Southern Conference. Wofford’s unique offense presents trouble for opposing defenses who do not see it all the time.

15. Sam Houston State (1-1, 0-0 Southland)
Last Week: lost to North Dakota 24-23
This Week: at Nicholls State

Sam Houston had its 21 game home win streak snapped by North Dakota last week. The Fighting Hawks score the go ahead points with just under 5 minutes left on the clock and the Bearkats were unable to respond. Its clear this Sam Houston team is not as talented as the previous few years, but they don’t have time to lick their wounds as they travel to Nicholls State in a huge Southland Conference matchup that could determine which team makes the field in November, and which team watches from their couch.

16. Illinois State (2-0, 0-0 MVFC)
Last Week: OFF
This Week: at FBS Colorado State

Illinois State has allowed only 10 point through their first two games of the season. Granted, the Redbirds have played significantly inferior opponents. This week, they get their first test of the season against an FBS opponent before jumping into conference play. The Redbirds need to gather wins early. They have a brutal middle portion of the schedule where they play North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Northern Iowa in consecutive weeks.

17. Villanova (2-1, 0-1 CAA)
Last Week: lost to Towson 45-35
This Week: vs. Bucknell

Villanova was humbled by Towns last week in a home loss. The usually tough defensive Wildcats gave up 45 points to a Tom Flacco led Tigers offense. In the first two weeks, Villanova was thought of as a serious contender in the CAA. They may still be, but it will take a couple big wins down the stretch to keep them in the conversation. Outside of getting James Madison at home, the rest of their games against the projected top of the CAA are all on the road. This week the Wildcats welcome in Bucknell in what should be an easy win.

18. Samford (1-2, 0-1 Southern)
Last Week: Lost to Mercer
This week: at Chattanooga

After nearly pulling off the biggest upset of the season over Florida State, Samford laid an egg at home against an improving Mercer team. Devlin Hodges and Kelvin McKnight both still had good games, but Mercer was able to outpace the Bulldogs and pick up a huge win. Samford travels to Chattanooga this weekend to play a team who has started 3-0 and has playoff aspirations. This is as close to an early season must win as it gets for Samford. A 1-3 start to the season will be difficult to recover from and grab a playoff bid with the number of quality teams in the FCS this season.

19. Rhode Island (2-1, 2-0 CAA)
Last Week: lost to FBS Connecticut 56-49
This Week: OFF

JuJuan Lawson continued his torrid start to the season, throwing for 351 yards and four touchdowns, while adding 85 yards and two touchdowns on the ground as the Rams came up just short in a shootout against Connecticut. If Lawson continues to play this way, he will find himself in the Walter Payton Award conversation. The Rams get a much deserved week off this week, but at the pace they have been playing, they may wish they could get right back out on the field.

20. UC Davis (2-0, 0-0 Big Sky)
Last Week: lost to FBS Stanford 30-10
This Week: vs. Idaho

UC Davis played well against Stanford, but fell to the Cardinal 30-10. Keelan Doss left no doubt that he could play with any team in the country, hauling in 13 passes for 106 yards. The Aggies can definitely take some positive messages from how they played against a nationally ranked FBS team. The will need to turn those positive messages in to positive action in Big Sky play, starting this week against Idaho in the Vandals return to the Big Sky and FCS

21. Nicholls State (1-2, 0-1 Southland)
Last Week: Lost to McNeese State 20-10
This Week: vs. Sam Houston State

Nicholls State was beaten easily by McNeese State in their Southland Conference opener last week. Chase Fourcade led the way again for the Colonels, but was never able to catch up to McNeese after the Cowboys got out to a 14-0 early lead. The Colonels will get a chance to re-insert themselves in to the Southland conversation if they can beat Sam Houston State this week. A loss here may exclude Nicholls from a playoff berth down the road, so taking care of business at home is of utmost importance.

22. Montana (2-1, 0-0 Big Sky)
Last Week: lost to Western Illinois 31-27
This Week: vs Sacramento State

If you ask Bobby Hauck and the rest of the Grizzlies, they will tell you they let one get away against Western Illinois. Montana led the game 27-17 late in the game, but mad a series of mistakes that ultimately led to a loss. On the Grizzlies last three possessions, they allowed a punt to be returned for a touchdown, fumbled, and then Dalton Sneed threw an interception that ended the Grizzlies chance for victory. This week, the Griz welcome in Sacramento State in an intriguing Big Sky matchup.

23. Austin Peay (2-1, 0-0 OVC)
Last Week: Beat Morehead State 78-40
This Week: at UT Martin

Austin Peay thoroughly dominated Morehead State last week, but Coach Will Healy would tell you that the Governors gave up too many points. Austin Peay has playoff aspirations this year after being left out in 2017. Coach Healy has changed the mindset of the Austin Peay faithful. What was once a team that opponents counted as a win in their schedule, the Governors surprised the FCS by going 8-4 in 2017. Just being in the conversation is not good enough this year, Austin Peay wants a playoff berth and will need to beat UT Martin to solidify its stance that they belong in the playoffs.

24. Colgate (2-0, 1-0 Patriot)
Last Week: Cancelled at Furman
This Week: vs. Lafayette

Colgate is the favorite in what is sure to be a one bid Patriot league. The Raiders have already defeated CAA member New Hampshire in non-conference play and could have used a win at Furman to give itself some playoff cushion should they falter at some point in Patriot League play. But Hurricane Florence had other intentions, forcing the cancellation. THe Raiders play Lafayette this week in a game they should and need to win.

25. Furman (0-2 0-0 Southern)
Last Week: Cancelled vs Colgate
This week: at East Tennessee State

No one expected Furman to beat Clemson in week one, but most were expecting them to play a competitive game against Elon in week two. Elon wound up blowing out the Paladins. Furman needed a strong bounce back game against Colgate last week, but the game was cancelled due to Hurricane Florence. This week the Paladins take on East Tennessee State in a must win. A loss here would all but end any playoff aspirations for Furman.

Others receiving votes: Sacramento State, North Dakota, UT Chattanooga

Dropped out: South Dakota, Northern Arizona, Yale