College Sports Journal FCS Top 25 after Week 8 – October 23, 2018

UND’s Brady Oliveira makes an acrobatic catch in the fourth quarter to set up a Fighting Hawks touchdown as Sacramento State’s Malcolm Thomas (9) and Ernest Jenkins defend Saturday at the Alerus Center. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Another week in the FCS, another set of upsets. The only consistent is North Dakota State. Every other team is vulnerable at this point in the season.

Wofford picked up a big win to reassert itself as the top dog in the Southern Conference.

The worst loss of the week was Maine in the CAA. The Black Bears came into their game against William & Mary unbeaten in conference play only to fall to the Tribe. As tightly packed as the CAA is, and with Maine’s remaining schedule, this was a game they had to have.

South Dakota State lost again this week and really does not have a signature win under its belt so far this season. They could find themselves playing on the first weekend of the playoffs unless they run the table the rest of the way.

1. North Dakota State (7-0 overall, 4-0 MVFC)
Last Week: Beat Illinois State 28-14
This Week: at South Dakota

North Dakota State has proved they can play any type of game and still win. The Bison moved to 7-0 with an easy win over Illinois State last week. Lance Dunn ran for three touchdowns on 19 carries to lead the Bison. North Dakota State’s depth advantage continues to show as they can stay fresh and pull away from teams at the end of the game. This week, the Bison travel to South Dakota to take on the Coyotes.

2. Kennesaw State (6-1, 2-0 Big South)
Last Week: OFF
This Week: at Charleston Southern

Kennesaw State starts the more difficult portion of their schedule following their bye week. Over the next three weeks they play the three teams right behind them in the Big South standings and then finish with a huge game against Jacksonville State at SunTrust Park in Atlanta. This week the Owls take on Charleston Southern. This is a winnable game for the Owls before they take on Monmouth and Campbell.

3. James Madison (5-2 overall, 3-1 CAA)
Last Week: OFF
This week: vs. Stony Brook

James Madison had its bye week at the right time. The offense had been struggling to put up points, especially in the red zone, and the defense had shown some holes. The Dukes took the bye week to get back to basics before heading through the gauntlet of their remaining schedule. This week the Dukes host Stony Brook for homecoming. This is a statement game for JMU to show they are still the force they want to be, or if they are going to have a down year.

4. UC Davis (6-1, 4-0 Big Sky)
Last Week: beat Cal Poly 52-10
This Week: at Montana

UC Davis cruised to an easy victory over Cal Poly last week. Jake Maier only threw for 200 yards in the game, but he threw five touchdowns. The Aggies ran for 232 yards to show that they are more than just a passing offense. The Aggies may have the most explosive defense in the entire FCS. This week they travel to the hostile atmosphere of Washington-Grizzly Stadium to take on a Montana team desperate to stay in the FCS playoff picture.

5. Weber State (5-2, 3-1 Big Sky)
Last Week: beat Montana State 34-24
This Week: at North Dakota

Weber State used a balanced offense to distance themselves from Montana State in a ten point win last week. The Wildcats held Troy Anderson to just 9 of 22 passing for 53 yards and picked him off twice. There is no doubt that Weber State has the best defense in the Big Sky. Just last week they shut down Eastern Washington’s offense as well. This week the Wildcats travel to North Dakota in a non conference contest. A win here would look great on the Wildcats playoff resume.

6. Eastern Washington (5-2, 3-1 Big Sky)
Last Week: OFF
This week: vs. Idaho

Eastern Washington took the week off the lick their wounds from a loss to Weber State and hopefully heal up on the injury front. There is still no time table on the return of quarterback Gage Gubrud. THe Eagles host Idaho this week in their return to the FCS. This is a game that Eastern Washington should, and needs, to win to keep their hopes alive for a playoff seed.

7. South Dakota State (4-2 overall, 2-2 MVFC)
Last Week: Lost to Northern Iowa 24-9
This week at Illinois State

South Dakota State could not generate any consistent offense in their loss at Northern Iowa. Despite that, the Jackrabbits were still within a score on their last drive when Taryn Christion threw his second interception of the game, this one returned for a touchdown. The Jackrabbits now travel to Illinois State is what has become a very important game for both teams. The loser will have three conference losses and will be playing in the first weekend of the playoffs, if they make it.

Courtesy Daily Gazette

8. Towson (6-1, 4-0 CAA)
Last Week: beat Albany 56-28
This Week: at Delaware

Towson easily outpaced Albany in a game that pitted the top and bottom of the CAA in a game last week. Tom Flacco threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more to carry the Tiger offense as he has all season. The schedule gets tougher from here, with all four remaining opponents ranked in the top 25 coming into last week. Even if the Tigers drop one of those games, they will still have a great shot at a playoff seed.

9. Wofford (5-2, 4-1 Southern)
Last Week: beat East Tennessee State 30-17
This Week: vs. Mercer

Wofford bounced back from its first conference loss by easily defeating previously SoCon unbeaten East Tennessee State. The Terriers got 121 yards and two touchdowns from Lennox McAfee on just 12 carries in the win. Overall the Terriers ran for 295 yards in the game and only allowed 39 rushing yards on defense. This week, Wofford hosts an improved Mercer team. A win here puts the Terriers in the driver’s seat for the SoCon title.

10. Elon (5-2, 3-1 CAA)
Last Week: beat Richmond 38-28
This Week: vs. Rhode Island

Elon and Richmond played a back and forth contest before Elon finally separated in the fourth quarter to secure the win. The Phoenix were without QB Davis Cheek who is lost for the year and RB Malcolm Summers who is week to week in the win. Jalen Green only threw the ball 11 times in the game, but accumulated 205 yards and two touchdowns. Jaylan Thomas ran for 150 yards and touchdown in place of Summers. Thomas also added score through the air. This week, the other CAA walking wounded, Rhode Island comes to Elon in a pivotal CAA matchup.

Courtesy Boston Globe

11. Princeton (6-0, 3-0 Ivy)
Last Week: Beat Harvard 29-21
This Week: vs. Cornell

Princeton didn’t get to the 40 point mark this week, but they had enough to beat Harvard by a touchdown this week. The Tigers keep rolling on both sides of the ball. Princeton was led on offense by wide receiver Jesper Horsted with ten catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. This week, the Tigers host Cornell in a game they should easily win.

12. Stony Brook (6-2, 4-1 CAA)
Last Week: Beat Rhode Island 52-14
This Week: at James Madison

Stony Brook easily outpaced Rhode Island in a blowout win. The Seawolves were led by the Long Island Express running back duo of Donald Liotine and Jordan Gowins. The pair combined for 236 yards and three touchdowns on the game. The Seawolves will need more from quarterback Joe Carbone this week at James Madison. If the Dukes can key on only one aspect of the offense, they will eat the Seawolves alive. In last year’s second round loss at JMU, Carbone threw 5 interceptions, more than he had all season coming into that game.

13. Colgate (6-0, 3-0 Patriot)
Last Week: OFF
This Week: vs. Georgetown

Colgate went into their off week having allowed just 23 points against on the season. The Raiders have the stingiest defense in the country statistically. It will be interesting to see them play some top flight teams in the playoffs. For this week, Colgate looks to continue their touchdown free streak against Georgetown.

14. Illinois State (5-2, 2-2 MVFC)
Last Week: lost to North Dakota State 28-14
This Week: vs. South Dakota State

Illinois State was never in the game in their loss to North Dakota State. It took the Redbirds the whole first half to find their footing, but by then they were down 21 points. That is not a recipe for success against the Bison. This week, the Redbirds host South Dakota State in a very important matchup. The winner will still have an outside shot at a seed. The loser will play the first week of the playoffs, if they make it.

15. Jacksonville State (5-2, 4-1 OVC)
Last Week: lost to Southeast Missouri State 37-14
This Week: at Murray State

Jacksonville State saw its impressive 36 game conference winning streak come to an end in a lopsided loss at Southeast Missouri State. The Gamecocks could never get on track, turning the ball over 5 times in the game. No matter how good a team is, its difficult to overcome a minus five turnover differential. It doesn’t get any easier for the Gamecocks this week as they travel to OVC leader Murray State looking to punch their ticket for the automatic bid.

16. Central Arkansas (5-2, 4-1 Southland)
Last Week: beat Northwestern State 38-17
This Week: at McNeese State

Central Arkansas easily beat Northwestern State last week behind five touchdown passes from Luke Hales. With three straight wins, the Bears have kept themselves in the hunt for the Southland title and a playoff spot. This week they travel to play McNeese State in a game where the loser could potentially see their playoff hopes start to slip away. A win here for the Bears would allow them to control their own destiny toward the Southland title as they host Incarnate Word in two weeks.

Courtesy Argus-Leader

17. Northern Iowa (4-3, 3-1 MVFC)
Last Week: beat South Dakota State 24-9
This Week: at Western Illinois.

Northern Iowa use an opportunistic defense and a solid offense to defeat South Dakota State. The Panthers picked off Taryn Christion twice in the game including with 30 seconds left that turned into a touchdown for Xavior Williams to seal the victory. At 3-1 in the conference, the Panthers are in good shape for a playoff berth. Wins in their next four games would definitely slot them into the playoffs with a chance to host a playoff game at the UNI dome. The Panthers travel to Western Illinois this weekend to take on a Leatherneck team that must win their last four games to just get to the playoff bubble.

18. McNeese State (5-2, 4-1 Southland)
Last Week: lost to Incarnate Word 45-17
This Week: vs Central Arkansas

The bye week did not cure the lackluster play for McNeese State. Instead of eeking out a win over a lesser opponent, this time the Cowboys were blown out by Incarnate Word and were down 28-3 at the half. The Cowboys don’t have any time to lick their wounds as Central Arkansas comes to town this weekend. A win here puts McNeese back in the playoff discussion, a loss will probably keep them from making the field.

19. Dartmouth (6-0, 3-0 Ivy)
Last Week: beat Columbia 28-12
This Week: vs. Harvard

Dartmouth continued its unbeaten start to the season by easily dispatching Columbia. The Big Green held an eight point lead entering the fourth quarter before putting two touchdowns on the board to put the game out of reach. Dartmouth hosts Harvard this week in what should be its toughest game today. Get through that unscathed, and it will set up a huge matchup between unbeaten teams at Princeton next week.

20. Delaware (5-2, 3-1 CAA)
Last Week: beat New Hampshire 38-14
This Week: vs. Towson

Delaware has won three straight CAA games after dropping its non-conference game against North Dakota State. The Blue Hens have been led by Troy Reeder on defense while the offense worked itself into form. Under center, Pat Kehoe is not throwing for big yardage numbers, but he is protecting the football well and throwing opportunistic touchdowns when the team needs a play to be made. This week Delaware hosts Towson. A win here will solidify the Blue Hens as a serious playoff contender, whereas a loss will place them squarely on the bubble.

Courtesy Jamestown Sun

21. North Dakota (5-2, Independent)
Last Week: beat Sacramento State 41-15
This Week: vs. Weber State

North Dakota is independent this season as they transfer to the MVFC next season. The Fighting Haws are still playing a Big Sky schedule this season. Last week, they easily dispatched Sacramento State. The task gets much more difficult this week when Weber State brings its stingy defense to town. If the Fighting Hawks can beat Weber, they could set themselves up for a potential seed in the playoffs. A loss does not kill their chances, but they would like to take care of business and put a strong win on their resume.

22. Idaho State (4-3, 3-1 Big Sky)
Last Week: lost to Liberty 48-41
This Week: vs. Montana State

Idaho State put up a solid fight against Liberty in a loss last week. Its never easy to travel across the country and win a game, and the Bengals came up just short. Tanner Gellar threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns in the loss and has shown himself to be one of the top quarterbacks in the quarterback goldmine that is the Big Sky Conference. The Bengals probably need to win out to make the playoffs. This week they host Montana State, another team needing to win out to make the playoffs.

23. Nicholls State (4-3, 3-2 Southland)
Last Week: OFF
This Week: vs. Incarnate Word

Nicholls State has been one of the more inconsistent teams in the FCS this year. They boast a big FBS win against Kansas but they also have a head scratching loss against Abilene Christian. The Colonels are hanging on the fringe of the playoff race and may not make it even if they win out. This week is their last game against a team with a winning record when they host Incarnate Word. A win keeps them in the bubble conversation, and a loss extinguishes all chances are a playoff bid.

24. Rhode Island (4-3, 2-2 CAA)
Last Week: lost to Stony Brook 52-14
This Week: vs. William & Mary

Rhode Island’s injuries may have finally caught up with them. After storming out of the game 4-1, the Rams have lost the last two games without JuJuan Lawson under center. Last week, the Rams were blown out by Stony Brook. Rhody will need to run the table the rest of the way to earn a playoff spot. This week William & Mary comes to town in a game they should win. After that, the Rams travel to Elon and James Madison on back to back weeks.

25. East Tennessee State (6-2, 4-1 Southern)
Last Week: lost to Wofford 30-17
This Week: vs. Western Carolina

East Tennessee State suffered its first conference loss of the season to Wofford last week. The Buccaneers fell behind 17-0 early in the second quarter and was never able to mount a comeback. The loss dropped the Buccaneers out of the potential automatic qualifier spot in the SoCon. That means they will most likely need to run the table over their last three games to secure a playoff berth, starting this week when Western Carolina comes to town.

Others receiving votes: North Carolina A&T, Chattanooga, Murray State, Southeast Missouri State, Maine, Florida A&M