The final weekend of the FCS regular season is nearly upon us and the selection committee will be closely watching all the action. As the last set of games is just a few days away, the voters also came together to release their final regular season Top 25 of the year. Here’s where the polls stand going into the all-important Week 12...
The Top 25
#1 South Dakota State (10-1) - Last Week: #1
South Dakota State finishes the regular season with only one loss and they spun off ten straight wins after that lone defeat in Week 1. The Jacks closed things out last weekend by taking down Illinois State 31-7. Mark Gronowski completed 20 of his 28 passes for 238 yards and a score. The defense was lights out as they allowed just 100 total yards to the Redbirds and gave up just one touchdown. It’s really good way to go into the playoffs if you’re John Stiegelmeier’s bunch and, pending what happens with Sacramento State in the final week here, there’s a really good chance SDSU finishes at the top seed overall in the tournament. That would mean the road to Frisco goes through Brookings.
#2 Sacramento State (10-0) - Last Week: #2
The Hornets are just one win away from perfection and a Top 2 spot in the playoffs. Last Friday night they put a beatdown on Portland State thanks to yet another 100-yard game by running back Cameron Skattebo. Asher O’Hara and Jake Dunniway did their thing again for a combined 214 yards and two touchdowns through the air while the Sac State D forced two turnovers and held the Vikings to 145 yards passing. With just one game left this weekend... a big one against red-hot UC Davis... Sacramento State is eying its third Big Sky title since 2019. A win would guarantee them a share of it and, if Montana State loses, they’ll get it outright. Lots to play for in the “Causeway Classic” this Saturday.
#3 Montana State (9-1) - Last Week: #3
The “Brawl of the Wild” is right around the corner and Montana State is heading into it off the heels of a record-setting performance against Cal Poly last weekend. The ‘Cats set a new school mark with an astonishing 554 rush yards and over half of those came form a guy who isn’t even a running back. Receiver Marqui Johnson torched the Mustangs for 242 rushing yards and four touchdowns while Garrett Coon put up another 100 behind him. MSU boasts the second best rushing attack in the nation, averaging 316.6 yards per contest. The real kicker is, they’re doing that without star running back Isaiah Ifanse who has yet to suit up this season. The Bobcats will be playing for at least a portion of the Big Sky crown this weekend as Montana (and ESPN’s “GameDay”) comes to town.
#4 North Dakota State (8-2) - Last Week: #4
It wasn’t the prettiest of wins but North Dakota State got it done against Southern Illinois in Carbondale last Saturday. Despite giving up a late touchdown, the Bison held on to get their eighth win of the season. Cam Miller didn’t throw much but he didn’t need to as NDSU ran for 149 yards and two scores. They did lose standout fullback Hunter Luepke, though, and if he can’t come back for the playoffs that’ll be big. Matt Entz’s team keeps winning games but they haven’t looked quite as convincing as normal and Saturday’s in-state bout with North Dakota will be no easy task. The Bison can’t win the MVC this year but they can position themselves nicely in the bracket with a win this weekend.
#5 Incarnate Word (10-1) - Last Week: #6
The Cardinals got a bye week and still even moved up a spot in spite of not playing. The finale this weekend against Northwestern State will be important, not only for UIW’s chance at Southland title (although they’ll need help from Nicholls on Thursday night), but also for their hopes of grabbing a seed.
#6 Holy Cross (10-0) - Last Week: #5
The Crusaders are one of the few unbeaten teams remaining, although Bryant gave them a bit of a scare last Saturday. The Bulldogs kept the score within a touchdown; not something that is common for Holy Cross this season, but ultimately Matthew Sluka and company got it done to improve to 10-0. Peter Oliver ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns, Sluka threw for two more scores and the defense bottled up Bryant for a mere 56 yards on the ground while forcing two takeaways. The Patriot League auto-bid is already Holy Cross’ and now it’s time to look ahead to a possible bye in the playoffs. If they can take care of business against Georgetown this weekend, they should have enough to get one.
#7 Weber State (8-2) - Last Week: #7
Weber State got back on the right track after last week’s tough loss to Sac State and put the boots to Idaho State over the weekend. The Wildcats put up 455 yards of total offense and forced three turnovers against a reeling ISU team and put themselves squarely back into the thick of the playoff conversation. Bronson Barron threw for 226 yards and two scores while Ty MacPherson picked up his ninth touchdown of the season. Jay Hill’s group still looks like a bona fide playoff contender and will have one more regular season game against Northern Arizona to get ready.
#8 William & Mary: (9-1) - Last Week: #8
Villanova proved to be no match for the Tribe last Saturday and now W&M is a win away from grabbing a share of the CAA championship (they’ll get it to themselves if New Hampshire loses). Darius Wilson had one of his sharpest games of the season, throwing for 211 yards and three touchdowns against the Wildcats. Bronson Yoder put together his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game and his sixth overall. The Tribe defense stepped up in a big way and held ‘Nova to a 33% conversion rate on third down (4-of-12). A huge game against Richmond awaits this weekend.
#9 Samford: (9-1) - Last Week: #10
What a week for the Bulldogs. Samford locked up its first SoCon title since 2013 with an impressive 35-24 victory over Chattanooga on the road. Michael Hiers tossed four touchdowns, ran for another and didn’t throw any picks (again) against a really good Mocs defense. DJ Rias led the team with 100 receiving yards and the defense snagged two interceptions. Not many people pegged Samford to be in this position with a game to go. With the league’s auto-bid under their belt, the Bulldogs are looking to put an exclamation point on things this weekend when they face Mercer.
#10 Jackson State (10-0) - Last Week: #9
Deion Sanders has the Tigers playing phenomenal ball this year and last weekend was just the latest example. Shedeur Sanders threw four more touchdowns against Alabama A&M, bringing his season total up to 31 and tying him for third in that category among FCS quarterbacks. Standout freshman Travis Hunter picked up his first collegiate touchdown and the defense forced three turnovers. Jackson State is, expectedly, a shoo-in for the SWAC championship game and they’re likely a favorite to win it and advance to the Celebration Bowl against MEAC champ North Carolina Central. Immediately ahead, though, is a date with Alcorn State.
#11 Richmond (8-2) - Last Week: #12
There was some worry that Reece Udinski might miss the game against Delaware but he ended up playing and it was probably the difference maker for the Spiders. Udinski threw for 301 yards and although he didn’t find the end zone with any of his passes, he moved the ball well enough to give Richmond its chance at the end. Kicker Jake Larson and punter Andrew Lopez teamed up for five made field goals on the day, none more important than Larson’s 38-yard game winner with under ten seconds to play. The Spiders still have a shot at the CAA title but need a win this weekend against William & Mary.
#12 Furman (8-2) - Last Week: #13
The Paladins picked up a big win in a place that isn’t easy to do so; Macon. Furman bullied Mercer thanks to Joshua Harris’s big receiving day in which he racked up 146 yards and touchdown on five catches. Quarterback Tyler Huff threw for 293 yards and led the offense in rushing with 93. In a game that was turnover-free, Huff’s play made all the difference as he averaged nearly 10 yards per completion. The Paladins probably have enough now to get into the playoffs but a win over Wofford this weekend would guarantee them a spot.
#13 Montana (7-3) - Last Week: #16
For the second week in a row Montana didn’t merely look unstoppable on offense, they simply were. The Grizzlies thumped Eastern Washington 63-7 in their home finale and once again running back Nick Ostmo was a major reason why. Ostmo ran for 146 yards and broke the chalk three times against the Eagles, making 367 total yards and five scores for the sophomore over the last two weeks. The bad news, however, is that UM may have lost quarterback Lucas Johnson before their huge battle with Montana State. If Johnson can’t go this weekend they’ll likely lean on freshman Daniel Britt and that could get interesting in a hostile environment.
#14 Elon (8-3) - Last Week: #18
The Phoenix ended their 2022 regular season strong by making light work of Hampton. Jalen Hampton had another big day with 177 rush yards on 24 carries and added three touchdowns to his resume. Hampton now has over 1,000 rush yards on the year and 10 scores. Matthew McKay threw for 199 yards and two scores and punter Jeff Yurk only needed to make three appearances. With a bye to close their campaign, it’s probably safe to assume Elon can look forward to the playoffs in a couple weeks.
#15 Chattanooga (7-3) - Last Week: #11
It was a rough showing for the Mocs as Samford came in and handed them their third loss of the year. Preston Hutchinson threw two picks and no touchdowns while the defense surrendered nearly 500 total yards to Bulldogs. If there was one bright spot, as usual it was running back Ailym Ford who ran for 144 yards and two scores. Ford’s performance, though, couldn’t get it done and now Chattanooga can’t win the SoCon crown like many thought they might this year. The Mocs’ only hope of hearing their name called on Selection Sunday now is by picking up a win against Western Carolina on Saturday.
#16 North Dakota (7-3) - Last Week: #19
North Dakota kept their playoff hopes afloat with a solid win over South Dakota and now they have an all-important finale with NDSU to decide if they get in or not. Against the Coyotes, quarterback Tommy Schuster tossed for 243 yards and three touchdowns with Bo Belquist accounted for two of those scores. The Hawks controlled the clock for nearly 37 minutes and only gave up six points in the second half. UND needs a win this weekend against North Dakota State to make the postseason cut and Fargo is never an easy trip.
#17 Southeast Missouri State (8-2) - Last Week: #20
Eastern Illinois scored first but after that it was all Redhawks. Geno Hess ran for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns to again carry the load for the SEMO offense and, because of him the team still has a chance at the OVC title. Hess is tied for third in the subdivision with 15 rushing scores. With just one game left against a lowly Murray State team, the Redhawks should be in prime position for the playoffs one way or another. If UT Martin also wins, though, things will get interesting on Selection Sunday.
Here is a look at Heitert's touchdown. pic.twitter.com/W2fNooyR0U— SEMO Football (@SEMOfootball) November 12, 2022
#18 New Hampshire (7-3) - Last Week: #21
UNH keeps fighting and is still very much in contention for the CAA title after a narrow win over Rhode Island. Max Brosmer led a huge touchdown drive late in the game to secure the victory with under a minute to go. Dylan Laube had a tough time getting traction on the ground with just 41 yards and no receiver got over 100 yards but Brosmer was the hero of the day with 316 passing yards and two scores. The Wildcats now turn their attention to the finale against Maine where, if they win, they can get a share of the conference championship.
#19 Mercer (7-3) - Last Week: #14
Mercer has to be experiencing very bad deja vu right now as they head into the last week with seven wins. Last year the Bears came up just short to ETSU and missed the postseason at that seven-win mark and now they’re in a similar spot after dropping one to Furman. Mercer ran for just 53 yards against the Paladins and, while Fred Payton did throw two touchdowns, the rest of the offense fell quiet on a day they could ill-afford to. Now the Bears have a tall task in front of them with league champion Samford on the docket.
#20 Delaware (7-3) - Last Week: #17
Like several teams that had promising starts to their campaign, the Blue Hens are now in jeopardy of missing the playoffs after another ugly loss. Nolan Henderson threw two interceptions while Quincy Watson led the rushing attack with 62 yards. The defense didn’t give up any touchdowns but Richmond still kicked five field goals including a late one to hand Delaware its third loss. Now it feels like they need to win this weekend at Villanova or the season may be over; an odd thing to say after the team started 6-1.
#21-T Fordham (8-2) - Last Week: #23
Fordham is doing all they can to show their worthiness of a rare Patriot League at-large selection and they looked really good doing so against Lafayette. Tim DeMorat had yet another monster day with 482 passing yards and four touchdowns. He still leads the FCS with 47 touchdowns and is the only signal caller with over 4,000 yards this season. Just as it has been for most of the season this fall, it will have to be another day at the office for the Rams offense this week against Colgate.
#21-T Idaho (7-3) - Last Week: #15
UC Davis rained on Idaho’s parade to the tune of 250 rush yards and now the Vandals find themselves in a tight spot going into the final week. Gevani McCoy did everything he could, throwing two touchdowns and rushing for two more, but it wasn’t enough. Idaho couldn’t get much of a run game going and had a hard time keeping the chains moving on third and fourth down. If the Vandals can pick up an expected win this Saturday against Idaho State then all will be forgiven and they should make the playoffs.
#23 Southeastern Louisiana (7-3) - Last Week: #25
The Lions kept their hopes for a Southland championship alive by beating Northwestern State. SLU scored 23 points before finally allowing a meaningless touchdown late in the third. Eli Sawyer threw for 182 yards and a score, Jessie Britt ran for 120 yards on 18 totes and Gage Larvadain averaged almost 20 yards per catch. While the offense did struggle with some fumble issues but there was still no sweat against the Demons. If the Lions can take down Nicholls on Thursday night then the Southland title will be theirs thanks to their win over Incarnate Word.
#24 UC Davis (6-4) - Last Week: NR
No team in the country is hotter right now than UC Davis. Once left for dead at 1-4 at the start of October, the Aggies have reeled off five straight wins including a dominant one over Idaho last Saturday evening in Moscow. Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. ran the ball 31 times for 173 yards and three touchdowns. On a day where Miles Hastings had zero passing touchdowns, Gilliam’s performance came up huge and for the fifth time in a row the Aggies offense put up over 40 points. If they can pull off an upset against #2 Sacramento State in the “Causeway Classic” this weekend then they’re almost for sure in.
#25 UT Martin (6-4) - Last Week: NR
UT Martin only was out of the Top 25 for a week and, thanks to a much-needed win over Tennessee State, they’re back in. Dresser Winn shook off his rough game from two weeks back and threw for 182 yards and a score. Zak Wallace also got back on track, rushing for 115 yards. The Skyhawks probably won’t qualify for the playoffs as an at large team so they’ll need to win the OVC and to do that they need to get by Eastern Illinois this Saturday. If SEMO also wins then things would actually come down to coin flip but if not, they’ll be in business.
Rhode Island (6-4) - Last Week: #22
Last season URI got left out in the cold when the playoffs came around and it sure looks like they will again this year. The loss to New Hampshire was rough, especially seeing as the Rams had a lead late and lost it. The pass defense struggled, giving up over 300 yards to UNH. Kasim Hill and the offense held their own but ultimately it wasn’t in the cards. They’ll have one last game this Saturday against Albany but it’s probably too little too late.
Princeton (8-1) - Last Week: #24
The Tigers suffered their first loss of the year thanks to a potent Yale rushing attack that gashed Princeton for nearly 300 yards. Blake Stenstrom threw three touchdowns but also tossed two costly interceptions. The Bulldogs were too effective on third down, going 11-for-18, and it left the Tigers’ defense gassed. Princeton can still claim a portion of the Ivy League title this weekend against Penn but a lot will also hinge on what happens in the big Yale-Harvard matchup.