College Sports Journal FCS Top 25 after Week 4 – September 25, 2018

The top two teams, North Dakota State and James Madison each won easily and continue to cement themselves as the top two teams in the nation. South Dakota State gets the opportunity to insert themselves into that discussion when they travel to Fargo this weekend.

Week Four saw an FCS team easily beat an FBS opponent as Illinois State went into Colorado State and won by 16 points.

However, it was a bad week if your school’s name started with “Sam.” Both Samford and Sam Houston State suffered big time conference losses, all but eliminating them from playoff discussion.

Stony Brook and Weber State continue to climb up the rankings as each continues to win and prove the critics wrong.

Montana showed that they are back in the picture in a shootout win against Sacramento State.

1. North Dakota State (3-0 overall, 0-0 MVFC)
Last Week: Beat Delaware 38-10
This Week: vs. South Dakota State

A lot of people around the country wanted to see how Delaware would match up against North Dakota State. The verdict was in quickly, they didn’t. The Bison overwhelmed the Blue Hens with a 28-0 first quarter. Easton Stick reminded the nation that the Bison are not just a rushing team, throwing for 280 yards and 2 touchdowns. This week is the biggest game of the FCS regular season, the battle for the Dakota Marker. The Jackrabbits have won the Marker two straight years, but the Bison are going to be hungry to take it back and not lose three straight regular season games to their rivals from the South.

2. James Madison (3-1 overall, 1-0 CAA)
Last Week: beat William & Mary 51-0
This week: at Richmond

James Madison’s defense tormented William & Mary quarterback Shonn Mitchell relentlessly in the Dukes 51-0 domination of the tribe. Mitchell had white jerseys in his backfield on nearly every play. It was apparent that the Dukes just out paced the Tribe from a talent standpoint in all phases of the game. James Madison rolled to an easy victory that their fan base would tell you should have been even wider had the Dukes not made some of the mistakes on the offensive side of the ball. There is time for Mike Houston to clean that up, but the Dukes jump right into a rivalry game down I64 against Richmond. The Spiders are not what they used to be, but anything can happen in a rivalry game, but expect the Dukes to win this one fairly easily as well.

3. South Dakota State (2-0 overall, 0-0 MVFC)
Last Week: OFF
This week at North Dakota State

South Dakota State had their bye in the right spot on the schedule. Instead of having one week to prepare for the top ranked Bison, the Jackrabbits had two weeks. They will need all the prep time they can get. The Jackrabbits’ offense has been humming along in their first two games of the season. This week, Jabril Cox and the rest of the Bison defense will be ready for whatever Taryn Christion can throw at them. Similarly, Christian Rozeboom and the Jackrabbit defense will be ready for what Easton Stick and company have in store. This should be a great matchup between two top games. If Christion can get going

4. Kennesaw State (3-1, 0-0 Big South)
Last Week: Beat DII Clark Atlanta 70-13
This Week: vs. Samford

Kennesaw State ran over their Division II opponent last week as was expected. This week, Chandler Burks and the rest of the Owls welcome Samford to Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Samford will be desperate for a win after their disastrous 1-3 start. Burks will look to keep the clock moving with the strong run game to keep Devlin Hodges off the field. THe Owls jump into league play next week before finishing up against Jacksonville State. Kennesaw will need a win here to keep their hope of a top five seed alive.

5. Eastern Washington (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky)
Last Week: beat Cal Poly 70-13
This week: at Montana State

Eastern Washington did what they were supposed to do in blowing out a lesser conference opponent, Cal Poly. The Eagles thumbed their nose at any detractors who thought they couldn’t run the ball to the tune of 441 yards on the ground. If the Eagles can continue to balance a strong run game with their incredible pass game, they can compete with any team in the country. This week, the Eagles take on Montana State in a tough conference road game. A big win here will set EWU on a path toward the conference title and playoff seed.

6. Weber State (3-1, 2-0 Big Sky)
Last Week: Beat Northern Colorado 45-28
This Week: at Northern Arizona

Weber State gave fans pause after struggling in their opening game loss to Utah, throwing for 13 yards and only gaining 59 total in the game. The Wildcats have righted the ship since then and look like contenders for the Big Sky title. This week, Weber easily beat Northern Colorado with a dominant second half outburst. This week, the Wildcats travel to the elevation of Flagstaff, Arizona to take on Northern Arizona. The Wildcats can’t look ahead to their game the next week against Eastern Washington. The Lumberjacks wont roll over, so Weber has to be ready to go in a tough Big Sky conference.

7. Wofford (2-1, 2-0 Southern)
Last Week: OFF
This Week: at Gardner-Webb

After a bye week, Wofford should be refreshed to dominate Gardner-Webb this week. The Southern Conference is stronger than anticipated this year, but Wofford should still be considered the favorite. As long as they handle their business this week, they will get a chance to prove their conference supremacy against Chattanooga next week.

8. Elon (1-1, 0-0 CAA)
Last Week: beat Charleston Southern 31-22
This Week: vs. New Hampshire

Elon picked up a hard fought road win against a game Charleston Southern team. As usual, the Phoenix offense was led by Davis Cheek and Malcolm Summers. Cheek went 19 of 26 for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the ground, Summers was again a workhorse, racking up 150 yards on 29 carries. Elon trailed by nine at the half but put together a 21 point third quarter to put the game away. This week, the Phoenix host a struggling New Hampshire team. This is a game Elon must win to prove to the nation they belong in the top ten discussion.

9. Illinois State (3-0, 0-0 MVFC)
Last Week: beat FBS Colorado State 35-19
This Week: at Missouri State

Illinois State dominated their FBS opponent, Colorado State last week. The Redbirds served notice that North and South Dakota State are not the only Valley teams to be feared. Illinois State went 3-0 in their non conference schedule and will start league play this week against Missouri State. There are no pushovers in the Valley, so the Redbirds have to be ready to play. No doubt, though, that the fan base has their eyes on the last two games of October when they play North Dakota State and South Dakota State in back to back weeks.

10. Maine (2-1, 1-0 CAA)
Last Week: Lost to FBS Central Michigan 17-5
This Week: at Yale

Maine never got any traction in their loss at Central Michigan. The Black Bears would have liked to have a little better showing against another FBS opponent, but the experience gained may be beneficial to the team in the long run. The Black Bears defense played well overall and is the strength of the team. They will lean on the defense to keep them in games as they work through the CAA schedule. Losing quarterback Chris Ferguson could be a big blow to Maine. He suffered a separated shoulder in the game. His status moving forward has not yet been disclosed. The Black Bears travel to take on Ivy League member Yale before jumping in to CAA competition.

11. Jacksonville State (2-1, 1-0 OVC)
Last Week: Beat Tennessee Tech 48-20
This Week: vs. Austin Peay
Jacksonville State handled their business against an inferior conference opponent in easily defeating Tennessee Tech. The Gamecocks had a balanced offense, running for 302 yards and passing for 242. This week will be one of the tougher tests of the season for Jacksonville State. Austin Peay comes to town hoping to end the Gamecocks conference winning streak. The Governors suffered a blowout loss against UT Martin and will be looking to get back on track against the top dog in the conference. It should be a good game, but the Gamecocks should come out on top.

12. Central Arkansas (2-1, 1-0 Southland)
Last Week: OFF
This Week: at Sam Houston State

Central Arkansas had their bye last week. This week, they travel to Huntsville, Texas where they will face a desperate Sam Houston team looking to stay in the Southland race. Central Arkansas won the conference title last year on the backs of their home win against Sam Houston. If they want to keep pace with McNeese State in the Southland, this week’s road game is a must win.

13. Stony Brook (3-1, 1-0 CAA)
Last Week: Beat Richmond 36-10
This Week: vs. Villanova

Stony Brook easily handled Richmond last week, led by Jordan Gowins on the ground. Gowins ran for 192 yards and two touchdowns to earn CAA Offensive Player of the Week honors. Stony Brook has ridden its top two backs so far early in this season. Against Richmond, Donald Liotine was overshadowed by Gowins but still ran for 133 yards himself. Because the run game has been so strong, Joe Carbone has not had to win games with his arm. Carbone is a smart efficient quarterback, but if Stony Brook has to throw to win, they may be in trouble. THat theory may be tested this week when Villanova comes in to Stony Brook in a marquee CAA matchup.

14. UC Davis (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky)
Last Week: beat Idaho 41-22
This Week: OFF

In a conference full of exception quarterbacks, Jake Maier sometimes gets lost in the discussion. However, Maier continues to put up good numbers week after week. This week against Idaho. Maier threw for 256 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He has had to spread the ball around more than he thought as teams continuously double team All FCS receiver Keelan Doss. UC Davis is one of the surprises of the FCS. They get this week off before heading to Northern Colorado next week

15. North Carolina A&T (3-1, 0-1 MEAC)
Last Week: lost to Morgan State 16-13
This week: vs. South Carolina State

The Aggies poor start finally caught up to them against Morgan State. In the first three games, the Aggies got out of the gates slow but were able to find ways to win the games. Lamar Reynard, who had not lost a game in his career as a starter, struggled again, completing just 4 or 15 passes for 33 yards and two interceptions. Reynard was again replaced by Kylil Carter. Any talk of A&T being able to match up with the best teams in the country has gone out the window with this inexplicable loss. This week, the Aggies will need to get right back at it against South Carolina State and right the ship.

16. Villanova (3-1, 0-1 CAA)
Last Week: Beat Bucknell 49-7
This Week: at Stony Brook

Villanova did what they needed to do last week, bouncing back after a tough loss to Towson by blowing out Bucknell. The Wildcats are considered one of the teams most likely to challenge James Madison for conference supremacy. To maintain that thought process, Villanova will need to go into Stony Brook this weekend and come away with a win. This should be one of the better games on the FCS slate, but not many people will be talking about it Saturday morning

17. McNeese State (3-1, 2-0 Southland)
Last Week: lost to FBS BYU 30-3
This Week: vs. Stephen F Austin

McNeese was unable to pull the upset against a nationally ranked FBS team, BYU. This week, the Cowboys get back in to Southland play looking to cement their status as the top dog in the conference, having already won their first two games. McNeese has three straight games against the bottom half of the Southland Conference teams before they host Central Arkansas in late October. The Cowboys went 9-2 last year and were left out of the playoff picture, so they will not take any team lightly.

18. Montana (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky)
Last Week: beat Sacramento State 41-34
This Week: at Cal Poly

Montana won a shootout against a game Sacramento State team last week on the back of Dalton Snead who threw for 234 yards and a touchdown, while running for 206 yards on just 16 carries adding in another three touchdowns. If Snead can continue to play well, the Grizzlies are going to be a tough matchup for any Big Sky opponent. This week, they travel to Cal Poly in a game they should win easily.

19. Rhode Island (2-1, 2-0 CAA)
Last Week: OFF
This Week: at Harvard

After their surprising 2-1 start to the season, Rhode Island went into their bye week with a lot of confidence last weekend. This week, they have a tough match against Harvard of the Ivy League. This is a game the Rams will need to win to solidify themselves as a playoff contender. So far this year JuJuan Lawson is the early clubhouse leader for CAA Offensive Player of the year. If he continues to play at his high level, the Rams should be able to go in and beat Harvard.

20. Chattanooga (4-0, 2-0 Southern)
Last Week: Beat Samford 27-20
This Week: at East Tennessee State

Chattanooga is the only 4-0 team in the country. Last week they beat Samford by a touchdown, surpassing their 2017 win total of 3. The Moccasins are looking to return to the playoffs after their down year last year. Chattanooga is led by quarterback Nick Tiano who threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns against Samford. Tiano was not extremely efficient, completion only 16 of 35 passes. This week the Mocs travel to East Tennessee State and should get to 3-0 to start conference play.

21. Nicholls State (2-2, 1-1 Southland)
Last Week: beat Sam Houston 27-7
This Week: vs.Lamar

Nicholls State concluded their difficult four week start to the season win a convincing win over Sam Houston State. At 2-2 Nicholls kept themselves in the playoff discussion, while most likely ending any hope the Bearkats had to make the field this year. This week, Nicholls plays against an inferior opponent, Lamar. The Colonels should easily win this game to get to 2-1 in conference play.

22. Towson (2-1, 1-0 CAA)
Last Week: OFF
This Week: vs. The Citadel

Towson announced itself as a contender in the CAA two weeks ago with a shootout win at Villanova. The Tigers are led by quarterback Tim Flacco, the younger brother of the Baltimore Ravens signal caller. The Tigers face The Citadel this week before jumping back into CAA play next week against Stony Brook. Towson has to be an outside contender for a playoff spot at this point.

23. Colgate (3-0, 2-0 Patriot)
Last Week: beat Lafayette 45-0
This Week: at William & Mary

Colgate blew out league foe Lafayette 45-0 last week. The Raiders have only given up 20 points through three games this season. If the defense continues to be that stingy, it will be very difficult for any Patriot league team to defeat them. Colgate is in the driver’s seat for the auto bid from the Patriot League. This week, they go out of conference to play at CAA member William & Mary in a winnable game for the Raiders.

24. Princeton (2-0, 0-0 Ivy)
Last Week: Beat Monmouth 51-9
This Week: at Columbia

Princeton has started its season off with a bang, scoring 50 points in each of its first two game. Alongside the 50 point outbursts, the Tigers have only allowed a total of 16 points. The Tigers travel to Columbia this weekend to open Ivy League play. Princeton is a major contender in a tightly bunched top of the Ivy League.

25. Northern Iowa (1-2, 0-0 MVFC)
Last Week: beat Hampton 44-0
This Week: at Indiana State

Northern Iowa had a bit of a slow start to the season against tough opponents before righting themselves and easily beating Hampton last week. The Panthers have yet to play a game inside the Missouri Valley and are an outside contender for a playoff spot as of right now. They dropped a tough contest against Montana in week one that could be the difference in them making or missing the playoffs. The Panthers need to handle their business this week before the Bison come to town next week.

Others receiving votes: Montana State, Sam Houston State, Western Carolina

Dropped out: Sam Houston State, Samford, Austin Peay, Furman