There should be no asterisk on this past spring season. Sam Houston earned every inch of their national championship, a thrilling 23-21 win over South Dakota State that came to down to the wire.
After a stop and start spring season, we are looking forward to a full and “normal” fall season in the FCS.
Will the Bearkats be back in Frisco in January? Time will tell.
The College Sports Journal staff has compiled the College Sports Journal’s Preseason Top 25 and the results are below. We will drop a new top 25 each week during the season.
Team (first place votes), total points [175 max)
- Sam Houston Bearkats (4) 170
The Bearkats return nearly completely intact from the team that won it all in the spring. They should be the favorite. Jaquez Ezzard is the most electric player in the FCS. I’ll enjoy watching him this fall!
- South Dakota State Jackrabbits (1) 162
The Jackrabbits were one defensive stand from a title with a backup quarterback. This team is loaded but has a quarterback question with Gronowski out for the year. If that is solved, they’re a title contender again.
- North Dakota State Bison 159
The Bison had one of the worst quarterback situations in the spring and still nearly knocked off Sam Houston. This is still NDSU, and they are still very good. They will make some noise again this season.
- James Madison Dukes (1) 156
The Dukes held and blew a 24-3 lead over Sam Houston in the semis in the spring. With a nearly intact roster and many players returning from injury, James Madison again has title aspirations.
- Delaware Blue Hens (1) 147
The Blue Hens looked to be “back” by making a run to the semis in the spring. Nolan Henderson is the quarterback Delaware has been waiting on for a decade. It should be a strong season in Newark.
- Weber State Wildcats 137
The Wildcats struggled in the spring. But they were breaking in a true freshman quarterback. With a strong roster and one of the best home field advantages in the FCS, Weber will be looking to repeat as Big Sky champions. A huge home date early against James Madison is a big test for both teams.
- Southern Illinois Salukis 123
The Salukis had a strong spring and announced their presence by dominating and blowing out North Dakota State. They’ll look to back up that season and this ranking in the fall.
- North Dakota Fighting Hawks 114
The Fighting Hawks kept their impressive home win streak rolling in the spring. But they were a different team on the road. Now in the MVFC, lets see if they can hold up against a tough road schedule this season
- Montana Grizzlies 104
The Griz opted to play just two games in the spring against much lesser competition. This team has semifinal talent, but will the rust and loss of star RB Marcus Knight get to them early in the year?
- Monmouth Hawks 103
The Hawks have overtaken Kennesaw State as the top team in the Big South and gave Sam Houston everything it could handle in the playoffs. This is one of the more talented offenses in the FCS and could surprise people this year.
- Montana State Bobcats 102
When we last saw the Bobcats, they were losing to NDSU in the semifinals in the 2019 championship game. New coach Brent Vigen (previously of NDSU by way of Wyoming) will look to build on that success.
- Eastern Washington Eagles 84
The Eagles have all of their tougher games at home on the inferno and arguably the best quarterback in the FCS in Eric Barriere. This looks like a playoff team as long as the lines play better than they did in the spring.
- Central Arkansas Bears 81
The Bears chose to play a full fall schedule last year instead of wait to the spring. The results were mixed, but this is still a good team with arguably the best 1-2 punch at wide receiver in the FCS in Hudson and Winningham.
- Jacksonville State Gamecocks 80
The Gamecocks have lacked discipline for years. They have a question at quarterback and no longer have a weaker OVC schedule to fall back on. The schedule is tough for JSU. Lets see if they’re up to the task.
- Virginia Military Institute Keydets 69
VMI was the surprise team of the spring. They Keydets won their first Southern Conference title and had one of the best offensive players in the country, WE Jakob Herres along with Eddie Robinson Award winning coach Scott Wachenheim. Can they back it up this fall?
- Villanova Wildcats 65
The Wildcats had an uneven spring but were a solid playoff team in 2019. Daniel Smith is the best quarterback in the CAA and there is talent all over the field. They’ll need to put it all together in a tough CAA.
- Southeastern Louisiana Lions 55
The Lions have one of the most explosive offenses in the FCS, led by Payton Award winner QB Cole Kelley. If they can find some defense, this team can really make some noise in the FCS. They should easily win the depleted Southland this year.
- Chattanooga Mocs 53
The Mocs started the spring 3-0, lost to Mercer and then shut it down. This looks like a team that can contend for a tightly packed Southern Conference.
- North Carolina A&T Aggies 52
The Aggies leave the MEAC for the Big South and an opportunity at the playoffs this year. RB Jah-Maine Martin is one of the best in the FCS. A proud Aggie fan base has high expectations for this season.
- Austin Peay Governors 50
The Governors were very up and down throughout the fall and spring. At times they looked like a top 15 team, at other times they looked like an also ran. They should be the favorite in a weaker OVC this season.
- Northern Iowa Panthers 37
The Panthers have one of the best defenses in the FCS. The problem is that they have one of the worst offenses. There is some question of how they will fare in a tough MVFC. They’ll probably still battle for a playoff spot. But it wont be easy.
- Murray State Racers 36
Coach Dean Hood had the Racers playing good football in the spring. They’ll hope to build off that momentum and become a contender in the OVC.
- Alcorn State Braves 23
The Braves have won the last two SWAC championships, losing each time to North Carolina A&T in the Celebration Bowl. The SWAC is much deeper this year with improved teams and two new members. If the Braves repeat, they’ll finish much higher than this initial ranking of 23.
- Kennesaw State Owls 18
Have the Owls been passed by in the Big South after dominating it for a couple years? It sure seems like there has been a drop off. But it’s a testament to the improvement of the conference that KSU is the third team listed, but still ranked.
- UC Davis Aggies 15
The Aggies nearly beat EWU in the 2018 playoffs. That is the level they are hoping to return to after an average 3-2 spring. Dan Hawkins always has a competitive team. This is one of the Big Sky teams that could go either way.
Others receiving votes: Alabama A&M 12, Sacramento State 11, Nicholls 9, East Tennessee State 8, Samford 7, Princeton 7, Florida A&M 6, Holy Cross 5, Davidson 5, Richmond 4, Missouri State 4, Yale 3, New Hampshire 1
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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