FCS teams are vying for playoff positioning and seeds as November draws nearer and this year’s postseason could be as loaded as we’ve seen. The SoCon now has four teams in the Top 25 while the Big Sky and MVC are still holding strong at the top. The CAA is represented by a flurry of its programs as well. Here’s what the rankings look like as Week 9 approaches...
The Top 25
#1 South Dakota State (7-1) - Last Week: #1
The Jacks had to battle back from a 14-point deficit twice in the first half against North Dakota without star running back Isaiah Davis but Mark Gronowski put the game on his shoulders and accounted for five total touchdowns. By the end SDSU won comfortably 49-35 but there’s some injury concerns mounting as standout linebacker Adam Bock went down. South Dakota State will retain its top spot for now but they’ll need their studs back as playoff time gets ever closer. The good news is they’ll return home this weekend to host Indiana State in what should be a winnable game.
#2 Sacramento State (7-0) - Last Week: #2
Sacramento State continues to prove why they’re unquestionably a Top 3 team. It may have took until the early hours of Sunday morning but the Hornets got by Big Sky foe Montana in overtime to pick up a huge win. Jake Dunniway had an off night with three interceptions, the most he’s thrown in a single game all year, but Cameron Skattebo and Asher O’Hara picked up the slack. Skattebo notched his third consecutive 100-yard game and is now up to 850 on the year while O’Hara now has 13 rushing touchdowns. Now one of the few unbeaten teams left, Sac State will welcome in an up-and-coming Idaho group this Saturday.
#3 Montana State (7-1) - Last Week: #3
It was not the most conventional of wins but somehow, some way Montana State withstood red-hot Weber State last weekend to remain undefeated in FCS play. Sean Chambers was out but it hardly mattered as Tommy Mellott authored over 400 yards of offense on his own and had four touchdowns to boot. The MSU offense did a good job of keeping the ball out of Bronson Barron’s hands as they held possession for nearly 38 minutes. Brent Vigen has to be happy that his team is heading into the bye week now sitting at the top of the conference with one of their harder games in the rear view. The week off could give MSU the chance it needs to get some injured players back as well.
#4 North Dakota State (5-2) - Last Week: #4
The Bison took a week off and have got to be itching to get back on the gridiron after suffering that loss to SDSU two weeks ago. North Dakota State hosts Illinois State this weekend.
#5-T Weber State (6-1) - Last Week: #5
The Wildcats suffered their first defeat of the season and, although they’re still well in the playoff hunt, Weber State undoubtedly wants that one back. Long snapper Grant Sands had a historically awful day, sending four snaps through the end zone for safeties. In a game that comes out to be a five-point margin, it’s even worse. Bronson Barron didn’t even complete 50% of his throws but did have a touchdown to Ty MacPherson. If there was one bright spot, it was Weber State’s return game. They took a kick and a punt to the house to go up big early but ultimately they couldn’t hold on. Jay Hill will need to refocus the team as a disgruntled Montana team comes in this Saturday.
#5-T Holy Cross (7-0) - Last Week: #6
2Q | 1:17@devinhaskins_3 blocking punts— Holy Cross Football (@HCrossFB) October 22, 2022
That's FOUR STRAIGHT GAMES with a blocked punt by Dev - and two in a row with a touchdown!
7https://t.co/MgPh5aUmh2@ESPN | @PatriotLeagueTV | #GoCrossGo pic.twitter.com/8how6AkaL5
Lafayette came to play against the Crusaders last week but ultimately Holy Cross did just enough to escape with the win to stay undefeated. Matthew Kane came up with a huge fourth down sack to preserve the win but for what feels like the first time all year, the Crusaders seemed beatable. Matthew Sluka couldn’t get much going in the passing game and the usually-reliable Derek Ng missed a late field goal that could have changed the game. All that matters, however, is the victory and now Holy Cross has seven of them this season. A huge game against Fordham is around the corner but if they can fix the miscues and get it done here, it certainly seems like they could run the table.
#7 Chattanooga (6-1) - Last Week: #10
The SoCon will be a battle to the end this season but Chattanooga got a huge leg up in that battle by beating Mercer last week. The Mocs held the high-powered Bears to just 21 points, their lowest output of the season. Preston Hutchinson threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns while Ailym Ford ran for 123 more and another score. The defense forced six turnovers and held Mercer to just 64 yards on the ground. Now Chattanooga will turn around to face a tough Furman group.
#8 Incarnate Word (7-1) - Last Week: #8
The Cardinals obliterated NAIA’s Faulkner to no one’s surprise last week. Lindsay Scott Jr. kept up his stellar play with five more touchdowns and 302 yards through the air while five different receivers all found the end zone. In the end UIW stormed out with a 70-0 shutout but there really isn’t a ton to be gleaned from a win like this so they won’t move up much in the rankings. It was business as usual but now things get a little more interesting as Incarnate Word travels this weekend to take on a Texas A&M-Commerce team that’s had a really good first FCS season.
#9 Jackson State (7-0) - Last Week: #9
Jackson State reached outside the confines of the SWAC last week to face a good Campbell team but still the results were the same. Sy'Veon Wilkerson ran for over 100 yards and Shedeur Sanders completed 23 of his 31 throws for 233 yards and a score. The scoreline wasn't quite what fans are used to seeing with JSU but in the end they still won and are 7-0. With one of their harder games behind them now, it appears as though the Tigers could go unbeaten on their way to the SWAC Championship game. Up next is Southern and College GameDay will be in town for it.
#10 William & Mary: (6-1) - Last Week: #12
The Tribe put on a clinic in efficiency against Towson and enter the Top 10 for the first time this year. Of their nine offensive drives (not counting ones to end a half), William & Mary scored on seven of them and only punted twice. They didn’t even win the time of possession battle but still dropped 44 points to comfortably beat the Tigers. Malachi Imoh averaged 11.8 yards per carry and Darius Wilson threw two touchdowns. All in all it was another nice showing and now they’ll host Rhode Island in a big one.
#11 Montana (5-2) - Last Week: #7
After starting the season strong with five straight wins, Montana has now lost two in a row to Big Sky opponents. Sac State rallied in the closing stages to topple the Griz in overtime and now UM almost has no chance of competing for a conference title. Lucas Johnson went down with an injury and backup signal-caller Kris Brown had to fill in. The vaunted Grizzlies defense surrendered the most yards they have all season to the Hornets but still did author four takeaways. Going 1-for-4 on fourth down was killer, though, and proved to be the eventual difference. Montana’s road doesn’t get any easier as they hit the road again this week to face a mad Weber State team.
#12 Delaware (6-1) - Last Week: #13
Morgan State gave Delaware just what it needed in terms of a regrouping game. After an extra week to sit with the sour taste of their loss to William & Mary in their mouth, the Blue Hens took out their frustrations on the Bears. Nolan Henderson threw for 206 yards and 11 different ball carriers combined for 200 rush yards. The UD defense gave up only 158 total yards and grabbed three picks. Now Ryan Carty’s team will look to get their CAA record back on track when they take on an Elon team that’s getting desperate.
#13 Samford: (6-1) - Last Week: #15
While most of the SoCon eyes were on Mercer and Chattanooga last week, Samford was taking care of business against ETSU in a high-scoring affair. Michael Hiers threw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns, bringing his season passing yards up to 1,891 and earning him the FCS National Player of the Week honors. Kendall Watson had himself a big day catching the ball with a season-high 11 receptions for 146 yards. Even kicker Zach Williams was lights out, going 7-for-7 on his PATs and 2-for-2 on field goals. The defense did give up a lot on the other side but in the end Samford won it 55-45. Now they’ll prep for The Citadel.
#14 Idaho (5-2) - Last Week: #17
For the first time since 2019, Idaho has five wins but unlike that year, they still have four games to go. Jason Eck has done a tremendous job in his first year as head coach as his Vandals dismantled Portland State 56-21. Gevani McCoy tossed four touchdowns while Anthony Woods ran for 130 yards and a score. The defense nabbed three interceptions and held the Vikings at bay all afternoon. Going into 2022 not many gave Idaho a shot at making a run at the playoffs but here they are. They’re still undefeated against FCS competition as they get ready for a huge test on the road against Sacramento State this weekend.
#15 Southeast Missouri State (6-1) - Last Week: #16
One team that’s consistently risen in the rankings all season has been SEMO and they’ll do so again this week. The Redhawks gave Northwestern State a beatdown last weekend as Geno Hess ran wild for 207 yards and three scores. Paxton DeLaurent averaged 8.4 yards per pass and authored another three scores in what turned out to be a dominant 51-16 victory. Southeast Missouri State still hasn’t lost since Week 1 when FBS Iowa State got the better of them and now they go into a matchup with Eastern Kentucky with a major head of steam.
#16 Mercer (6-2) - Last Week: #11
The Bears picked a bad time to have an unusually bad day. Fred Payton, who had just thrown one interception all season going in, had three last Saturday against Chattanooga. Payton was also the leading rusher for his team with 32 yards; half of Mercer's total on the ground. Normally they boast one of the most potent offenses and stingiest defenses but against the Mocs it was all the opposite and now they've suffered their first FCS loss of the year. The Bears are still on track to reach the playoffs but now a conference championship is difficult. They'll look for a bounce back against VMI this weekend.
#17 Richmond (5-2) - Last Week: #19
Richmond put the boots to Hampton in a big way to earn their fifth win of the season. Reece Udinski threw three touchdowns bringing his season total up to 17 and tying him for seventh best in that category at the FCS level. Jakob Herres caught seven passes for 109 yards and a score while linebacker Tristan Wheeler grabbed an interception. By the time the dust had settled, the Spiders were on the right side of a 41-10 thumping and have re-entered the playoff conversation. Now they’ll look to keep it going against Maine on Saturday.
#18 Rhode Island (5-2) - Last Week: #22
Monmouth came to play but Rhode Island took it in a shootout that went to seven overtime periods and will jump in this week’s poll. Rams quarterback Kasim Hill had an up-and-down day as he threw three touchdowns but also three picks in the win. Marques DeShields had a career day with 161 rushing yards on 28 attempts and two scores. Receiver Ed Lee finished the day with 120 yards on four catches and a touchdown of his own. URI flexed its offensive muscles and got just the win it needed to get themselves back into the postseason discussion. A huge one with William & Mary is now on deck.
#19 New Hampshire (6-2) - Last Week: #25
UNH continues to prove it belongs in the CAA race and this week’s 40-22 win over Elon was perhaps the most impressive yet. The Wildcats racked up 460 yards of offense thanks in large part to the play of QB Max Brosmer who was responsible for over half of that production. Brosmer tossed two touchdowns and didn’t take any sacks. Running back Dylan Laube rushed for 147 yards with a season-long 77-yard scoring run in there. Perhaps most impressive, however, was the defense that held the dymanic Matthew McKay to under 200 passing yards and kept Jalen Hampton under 100. Now UNH will get a week off to get ready for Richmond.
#20 Southern Illinois: (5-3) - Last Week: #14
The five-game win streak finally snaps thanks to a rough outing in South Dakota. The Salukis didn't quite have enough in the tank to get by the Coyotes as the offense turned it over twice and the defense surrendered over 200 rushing yards. Nic Baker still threw two touchdowns but also had a really untimely interception in there. SIU will take a dip this week and can ill-afford to lose many more as November approaches. Up next is a UNI team that's won two in a row.
#21 UT Martin (4-3) - Last Week: #18
The Skyhawks had a rough of it but it was to be expected when playing FBS Tennessee. Yes, the Vols won big but there was plenty to be happy about for UT Martin and this loss won’t damn them much in the rankings either. Dresser Winn had a solid day passing with 301 yards and two touchdowns and Colton Dowell racked up over 100 yards receiving for the fourth time this year. A very winnable game against Houston Christian is next up on the docket and if the Skyhawks can take that one then their season will be back on track.
#22 Fordham (6-1) - Last Week: #23
Fordham had a bye last week and it couldn’t have come at a better time as they get ready for their biggest game of the season against Patriot League frontrunner Holy Cross this weekend.
#23 North Dakota (4-3) - Last Week: #20
Things looked good early but ultimately South Dakota State proved to be too much for the Hawks. The rushing attack came up with three scores but quarterback Tommy Schuster had a rough day with two interceptions and a fumble. The defense actually held the Jacks ground game in check but they gave up too much through the air. Because of the loss, UND will fall three spots in the rankings. There’s time for North Dakota to turn things around but it won’t be easy as NDSU and South Dakota are still on the schedule. Even this weekend’s game against Abilene Christian won’t be a cakewalk.
#24 Furman (6-2) - Last Week: NR
Travis Blackshear 41-yard INT return for the TD! pic.twitter.com/tANoRa47Y5— Furman Football (@PaladinFootball) October 22, 2022
The Paladins will make their first appearance in the Top 25 this year after yet another big win over VMI last Saturday. Furman outgained the Keydets on the ground 244 yards to 48 and scored touchdowns on both offense and defense. Quarterback Tyler Huff is now at 1,100 pass yards on the year and has nine touchdowns. Nine different ball carriers got a touch against VMI and three of them found the end zone. The SoCon could get flipped on its head this weekend if Furman can take down Chattanooga.
#25 Austin Peay (5-2) - Last Week: #24
No game for the Govs last weekend. Austin Peay is preparing to host Jacksonville State on Saturday.
Elon (5-3) - Last Week: #21
A few weeks ago it seemed like Elon was a lock to be a playoff team but now they’ve dropped two straight and things aren’t looking so good as they tumble out of the Top 25. New Hampshire had all the answers while the Phoenix had virtually none last week. Matthew McKay was held to under 200 passing yards for just the second time all year while Jalen Hampton couldn’t get much going on the ground either. The Elon defense gave up the most points it has this year and didn’t force any turnovers in the loss. They’ll need to get things right and do it quickly as Delaware comes to town on Saturday.