This weeks national FCS rankings has a common thread amongst many of its teams: squads that rebounded from ugly losses a week ago. Despite all the shuffling, only one team drops out this week and one climbs back in. We’re almost at the midway point of the season and here’s what things look like in the polls with Week 6 right around the corner...
The Top 25
#1 North Dakota State (4-1) - Last Week: #1
The Bison, as per usual, hold onto the top spot this week. NDSU outpaced Youngstown State last weekend 27-14 thanks to another big day by Hunter Luepke. The star fullback is up to eight touchdowns this fall and has scored at least one in each of North Dakota State's five games. Not only is the run game a killer but so is the fact that the Bison are nearly impossible to stop on fourth down. They converted both of their fourth down tries against the Penguins and the results speak for themselves. The only bad news? Tight end Noah Gindorff is done for the year after having ankle surgery. NDSU will now get ready for a date with Indiana State.
#2 South Dakota State (4-1) - Last Week: #2
Western Illinois was really no issue for the Jacks. Isaiah Davis ran for 199 yards and two touchdowns while Jaxon Janke hauled in nine passes. SDSU held the ball for over 41 minutes in an absolutely dominant showing by the defense. The Leathernecks only ran for 19 yards all afternoon. All of that is a recipe for success and right now the Jackrabbits are looking like one of the toughest teams in the entire country. They'll take on in-state rival South Dakota this Saturday.
#3 Montana (5-0) - Last Week: #3
The Griz beat Idaho State but it was not necessarily the score line many expected. Montana escaped Pocatello with a 28-20 victory and remains unbeaten on the season but the normally surgical offense turned the ball over three times. The defense allowed 14 unanswered in the fourth quarter and nearly 400 yards. All's well that ends well, however, and at the end of the day, UM is still one of the few undefeated teams left. They'll look to stay that way after their off week when Idaho rolls into town on October 15.
#4 Montana State (4-1) - Last Week: #4
Injuries continue to mount for Montana State and yet it doesn't seem to matter. The Bobcats have been missing some running back talent for a while now but last week starting QB Tommy Mellott did not play either as a result of an injury he suffered a week prior and yet MSU still manhandled UC Davis with relative ease. Sean Chambers was a man possessed as he ran for 203 yards, passed for 227 more and had five total touchdowns. Those numbers earned him FCS Player of the Week honors. The 'Cats racked up 552 total yards of offense as they trounced the Aggies 41-24 in front of a national audience last Saturday night. Idaho State comes to town this week as MSU looks to go 5-0 against FCS competition.
#5 Sacramento State (4-0) - Last Week: #5
Another week, another dominant win for the Hornets. The Big Sky opener against Cal Poly went very well for Sac State as they scored over 40 points for the second straight game. The Mustangs, like most everyone else, couldn't seem to stop the tandem of Asher O’Hara and Jake Dunniway. On top of that, running back Cameron Skattebo had a big day with 84 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. The Hornets only punted twice all night and walked out with a 49-21 thumping. They'll welcome in Northern Colorado this weekend.
#6 Delaware (5-0) - Last Week: #6
Delaware just keeps piling on wins. Last week they dispatched Towson and, even though it wasn't the typical off-the-charts day for Nolan Henderson, the Blue Hens are still one of the best teams right now. Henderson is up to 16 touchdowns and 1,472 pass yards this season. Kyron Crumby had a big day rushing with 100 yards and a score. They've now won five in a row and are 3-0 in CAA action. At this pace Delaware will not only reach the playoffs as the conference’s auto bid but will likely be seeded. Up next is a road trip to take on William & Mary.
#7 Weber State (4-0) - Last Week: #8
Weber State didn’t play last weekend but the undefeated Wildcats will stay put in the Top 10. A big game with Eastern Washington is ahead.
#8 Jackson State (4-0) - Last Week: #9
No game for JSU last week. Deion Sanders’ team has their sights on Alabama State as they’ll look to go 5-0.
#9 Holy Cross (5-0) - Last Week: #10
Perhaps it didn't look as easy as some of their prior wins but Holy Cross is still unbeaten at 5-0 after a 30-21 victory over Harvard. That's now two Ivies that have fallen victim to the Crusaders. Matthew Sluka is slinging the ball around right now with a season high 300-yard game against the Crimson. He’s now up to 1,176 yards on the year and 11 touchdowns. Holy Cross also has four road games in their rear view mirror with the latter half of their slate consisting of four home contests. That bodes well as they host Bucknell this weekend.
#10 Incarnate Word (4-1) - Last Week: #11
UIW is back on the winning track thanks to a 48-20 victory over McNeese. Lindsay Scott Jr. was unstoppable as ever with seven total touchdowns (three rushing and four passing) while receiver Taylor Grimes was on the receiving end of three of those TD passes. The Cardinals offense is one of the best in the nation and flexed their muscles for 550 yards against the Cowboys last week. There was still a few turnovers but with Scott and company putting up video game numbers they weren't costly in the long run. It was just the bounce back UIW needed as they now get ready for Lamar.
#11 Chattanooga (4-1) - Last Week: #12
The name of the game last week for the Mocs was respond and they did just that. Chattanooga left behind the sour taste of the shutout loss to Illinois two weeks back by erasing a 13-point hole and defeating SoCon rival ETSU. Ailym Ford rushed for over 100 yards and had two touchdowns while Preston Hutchinson threw another. It wasn't a perfect win by any stretch but it was perfect for what the Mocs needed. Chattanooga is unbeaten versus FCS opponents and are still looking like the team to beat in the SoCon. This weekend will be a welcomed bye before they take on VMI.
#12 Mercer (4-1) - Last Week: #13
Wofford was no match for the Bears and Drew Cronic’s team did exactly what they were supposed to against a lesser opponent in the Terriers. Fred Payton completed 80% of his passes (25 attempts) while four different rushers got touchdowns. Mercer is averaging nearly 37 points per game with an offense that’s clipping at a 435-yard per contest pace. The defense is playing lights out also with three straight games of allowing less than 20 points. The SoCon may very well run through Macon this season. Western Carolina will be the next challenge this weekend.
#13 Samford: (4-1) - Last Week: #16
The Bulldogs continue to rise after their third straight win. Furman gave them a game but ultimately Samford came out on top. Michael Hiers is now over 1,000 yards passing this season and Jaylan Thomas put himself on the radar in a big way with a 100-yard game and three touchdowns against the Paladins. Noah Martin and Isaiah Richardson have been tackling machines as of late with a combined 67 so far this season. Not many expected the Bulldogs to be vying for a SoCon title this year but here they are in the Top 15. They’ll have a date with Wofford this weekend.
#14 Elon (4-1) - Last Week: #23
Elon is a team to be taken seriously. If the win over William & Mary wasn’t enough to take notice of the Phoenix, the upset of Richmond this last week should be. Not only did they take down a then-#17 team, but they’re still undefeated against FCS competition. Matthew McKay threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns, his third game of the season in which he’s thrown for three TDs. Jalen Hampton almost hit 100 yards rushing and his lone score was the one that sealed it in double overtime. Elon is now 2-0 in the conference and has an important game against Towson this weekend.
#15 Villanova (3-2) - Last Week: #14
‘Nova hasn’t been having quite the year they envisioned so far this fall but they at least got back in the win column with a decisive victory over Maine last weekend. Receiver Jaaron Hayek had himself a day against the Black Bears with four of his five catches going for touchdowns. He averaged over 31 yards per reception and accounted for half of quarterback Connor Watkins’ 255 passing yards. The only real reason the Wildcats fall a spot this week is because teams ahead of them had more quality wins. That’s not take away from the big day Villanova had though. They’ll get a bye now but Richmond is waiting when they come back.
#16 William & Mary: (4-1) - Last Week: #18
The Tribe erased the sour taste in their mouth from the Elon loss by laying a 17-point victory on Stony Brook over the weekend. Darius Wilson still didn’t have a great day passing (176 yards and an interception) but running back Malachi Imoh picked up the slack and ran for 128 yards and three touchdowns. The defense also showed out and surrendered just 159 total yards and 12 first downs to the Seawolves. Now that they’re back to their winning ways, William & Mary will need to really hone in this week as a huge game with Delaware is on the docket for Saturday.
#17 Southern Illinois: (3-2) - Last Week: #19
Illinois State made the Salukis earn every bit of their 19-14 win but, on a day where the areal attack fell silent, the ground game came alive. Romeir Elliot led SIU with 74 yards and a touchdown while Javon Williams Jr. and quarterback Nic Baker ran for the other two. The defense buckled down to hold the Redbirds to a mere 80 rush yards. A win is a win and Southern Illinois has three in a row now, all but saving their once 0-2 season from going up in flames. They’ll take on a spiraling Missouri State squad this weekend as they look for their third straight MVC victory.
#18 UT Martin (3-2) - Last Week: #15
Yes, the Skyhawks fall three spots this week despite a win over Tennessee Tech. It’s through no fault of their own, though, and this team is still heading in the right direction. Dresser Winn still has only one interception this season and is tied for the second best among FCS quarterbacks in that department. UT Martin is now winners of two straight and they are undefeated in Ohio Valley play. If they can avoid and upset to winless Murray State this weekend then the Skyhawks should climb back up in next week’s polls.
#19 Southeastern Louisiana (3-2) - Last Week: #21
There might have been some worries that the big upset win over Incarnate Word a couple weeks ago would lead to a letdown last weekend but the Lions put those concerns to rest with a beatdown over the Racers. Eli Sawyer is now splitting reps with Cephus Johnson and the two had the offense humming in the 48-14 win. Jessie Britt ran for two scores and the defense was great on third down. The only glaring issue right now is the penalties. If they can clean those up then the Lions should be alright. FCS newbies Texas A&M-Commerce is next up.
#20 Missouri State (2-3) - Last Week: #7
The Bears will take a big slide this week after dropping an important one to North Dakota in Grand Forks last Saturday. Missouri State, once 2-0, has now lost three straight. Defensively they had no answers for the Hawks as they gave up 515 yards and six touchdowns. Jason Shelley still played well and had the offense moving but the issues on the other side were too much to overcome. Just a few weeks ago the Bears were regarded by many to be one of the better teams in the whole country and, while they still might be, they aren’t playing like it right now. They’ll have a chance to get things right as they come back home to face a good Southern Illinois team this Saturday.
#21 Southeast Missouri State (3-1) - Last Week: #24
Not many folks thought the Ohio Valley would send two teams to the postseason this year but if they do, it looks like it’ll be because of the Redhawks. SEMO has now won four straight games and is undefeated against FCS opponents after a win over Lindenwood. Paxton DeLaurent is sixth best among quarterbacks in the subdivision with 1,427 yards passing. Geno Hess had a mammoth 276-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Lions last weekend. Johnny King caught eight passes for 126 yards and a score as well. Not many teams are hotter than these guys right now with Tennessee Tech on deck.
What a turn of events for the Redhawks. Bryce Norman intercepts a pass and Geno Hess then busts loose for a 84-yard touchdown, the longest of his career.— SEMO Football (@SEMOfootball) October 1, 2022
#24 SEMO 35, LU 14 | 4th Qtr, 12:16 pic.twitter.com/9pQr9XhwL4
#22 North Dakota (3-2) - Last Week: NR
UND’s time as unranked team was short-lived thanks to a surprising win over Missouri State. The Hawks dropped 48 points on the Bears and controlled the ball for the majority of the game, keeping the dynamic Jason Shelley-led offense off the field. Maybe the loss to Southern Illinois was nothing more than an off day because North Dakota looks good right now. Tommy Schuster tossed two touchdowns, Tyler Hoosman ran for 147 yards and receiver Garett Maag had 104 yards through the air. Youngstown State is right around the corner.
#23 Richmond (3-2) - Last Week: #17
The Spiders learned the hard way that l Elon is not a pushover this year. They fell to the Phoenix in double OT despite another solid outing from Reece Udinski. Losses in the CAA will be killer this season and Richmond pays for this one with a six-spot slip in the rankings. It was a tight game but the 322 passing yards given up by the defense and a costly fumble turned out to be the difference. Hope of a playoff spot is far from gone but the Spiders’ path to a conference title got a whole lot tougher. They’ll have a week off before a huge game with Villanova.
#24 Eastern Washington (1-3) - Last Week: #20
The Eagles are off to a bumpy start to 2022 but it doesn’t necessarily come as a big surprise. EWU has had one of the harder schedules in the country thus far and Sunday’s loss to Florida in Gainesville was the peak of it. Aaron Best still has a really good team over in Cheney but they’re already 0-1 in Big Sky play and have not won a game since the season opener against Tennessee State last month. The season can still be saved but they need to start this week with a very formidable Weber State team.
#25 Eastern Kentucky (3-2) - Last Week: #25
The Colonels will hold steady at #25 this week after a narrow win over Southern Utah. Parker McKinney had a another big day passing and now has over 1,500 yards on the season. He ran for three touchdowns against the Thunderbirds and helped spark his offense that dropped 511 yards. The defense came up with a big red zone stop late when they needed to have it. There’s still plenty to work on but Eastern Kentucky will have time to make adjustments for Sam Houston as they’ll have a bye this weekend.
Austin Peay (4-2) - Last Week: #22
Just when the Governors were picking up a lot of steam, Central Arkansas dropped a hammer on them in Conway. The Bears forced two turnovers and held the normally effective Mike DiLiello in check. Despite having possession for over 35 minutes, Austin Peay’s offense left with several empty trips. The defense allowed six second-half touchdowns in an all-around ugly performance. For now they fall back out of the Top 25 but a bye week could be just what this team needs before taking on a struggling Murray State team.