The current FCS conference races and playoff push is as tight as it's been in years and this week’s Top 25 rankings put that on full display. Only a select few teams are still unbeaten but several have just one loss. It’s getting harder and harder to say for certain who belongs where but this is what the pollsters came up with as we head into Week 11...
The Top 25
#1 South Dakota State (9-1) - Last Week: #1
The Jackrabbits got all they could handle from a desperate UNI team last weekend but ultimately prevailed thanks to a late field goal by Hunter Dustman. Now SDSU only has one game left thanks to the schedule makers who gave them a bye in Week 12 and that game is against Illinois State. It’s hard to see the Jacks relinquishing their top spot by season’s end but they’ll still have to take care of business against the Redbirds this Saturday. Things in that final week will be out of their control but if South Dakota State does what it’s supposed to this weekend, then they should be the best in the land when the playoffs start and the bracket should run straight through Brookings.
#2 Sacramento State (9-0) - Last Week: #2
There seems to be no test too great for Sacramento State this season. Not only are the Hornets just one of three 9-0 teams left, they’ve also successfully navigated the toughest stretch of their schedule without a defeat. The most recent triumph was an exciting 33-30 win over Weber State on the road. Asher O’Hara put the team on his back as he ran for 81 yards and two scores whilst throwing for 162 more and another touchdown. Tight end Marshel Martin came up big with two TD catches and the defense made some key stops when they absolutely needed to. This week Sac State will take on Portland State on Friday night in their final road game of the regular season and perhaps of the year if the committee deems them worthy of a Top 2 seed.
#3 Montana State (8-1) - Last Week: #3
Northern Arizona put a mighty scare into the Bobcats and their fans last Saturday afternoon but when the chips were down, quarterback Tommy Mellott delivered. As if his 119 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground weren’t impressive enough, Mellott made perhaps the throw of the season for MSU on a late third down to get the ‘Cats into field goal range. From there Blake Glessner took care of the rest and Montana State escaped Flagstaff with a record that is still unblemished against FCS competition. With a playoff spot well in hand, the Bobcats turn their eyes towards a struggling Cal Poly squad this weekend with some things to correct. If MSU does what it’s supposed to against the Mustangs, it will position itself nicely going into the all-important “Brawl of the Wild” in a couple weeks.
#4 North Dakota State (7-2) - Last Week: #4
The trip to Western Illinois was strictly business and NDSU played as such against the Leathernecks. Cam Miller only had three pass attempts but that’s all he needed as the Bison ground game returned to its normal, crushing form. TaMerik Williams and TK Marshall both ran for over 100 yards and each found the end zone twice. Hunter Luepke picked up his ninth touchdown of the season and in all North Dakota State ran for 453 yards and seven touchdowns. It was the kind of win that Matt Entz and company have needed for a few weeks now as doubts were beginning to swirl that perhaps this team wasn’t the same dominant force fans are used to this time of year. They’ll look for another big day against Southern Illinois this weekend.
#5 Holy Cross (9-0) - Last Week: #6
Holy Cross became the second team to clinch an auto-bid to the postseason last week with their 42-14 drubbing of Lehigh. The win gave Bob Chesney’s team its fourth straight Patriot League title and ensured that it will remain unbeaten with just two games to go. The Crusaders got a big day on the ground thanks to quarterback Matthew Sluka and running backs Peter Oliver and Jordan Fuller. Oliver and Sluka each rushed for over 100 yards while Fuller broke the chalk three times. Bryant comes to town this Saturday for the last home game of the regular season but Holy Cross seems well on its way to a perfect 11-0 record this year.
#6 Incarnate Word (9-1) - Last Week: #7
Lindsay Scott Jr. is a sight to behold and is unquestionably the best slinger in the subdivision right now. Houston Christian found that out the hard way as Scott threw an astonishing seven touchdowns in the first half of last week’s game. He’s now up to 45 on the year and leads Fordham’s Tim DeMorat by two for the top spot in that category. Incarnate Word dropped 49 points on the Huskies in the second quarter alone and rolled out to a 73-20 win when all was said and done. There’s no debate that the Cardinals have one of the best offenses in the country, the only question now is how well will that offense match up in the playoffs? They get a bye now before facing Northwestern State in the finale on November 19.
#7 Weber State (7-2) - Last Week: #5
Although Weber State has a very talented team, they picked up a nasty habit as of late in leaving costly points on the field. A few weeks ago they lost eight to Montana State via bad snaps for safeties and last Saturday they lost two more the same way against Sacramento State. Pair that with a failed two-point try and that’s the four-point swing that could have made the difference in the narrow loss to the Hornets. Bronson Barron threw for two touchdowns and ran for another but the defense gave up 431 total yards and four scores. The Wildcats should still be able to get it right for a playoff berth but a seed may be slipping away. Idaho State makes a visit this Saturday.
#8 William & Mary: (8-1) - Last Week: #8
Bronson Yoder stepped up in a big way for the Tribe last week and his 115 rushing yards were enough to help William & Mary get by Hampton and earn its eighth win of the year. Darius Wilson struggled throwing, adding another interception to his six now this fall but the defense answered the bell by forcing two takeaways of their own and holding the Pirates to just three third down conversions. Wins don’t have to pretty and what matters is that at least a portion of the CAA title seems to be heading the way of W&M barring the results of this weekend’s contest against big game with Villanova.
#9 Jackson State (9-0) - Last Week: #9
Another week another big Jackson State win. The Tigers bullied Texas Southern en route to a 41-14 victory. Shedeur Sanders threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns while running back Sy’veon Wilkerson ran for 214 yards and two more scores. It was another vintage performance from the JSU offense and the defense wasn’t too shabby either, giving up just 132 passing yards. If there’s one area that head coach Deion Sanders isn’t happy about, it’s the penalties. Jackson State was flagged 13 times for 113 yards last weekend. If that gets cleaned up... and probably even if it doesn’t... JSU should have a pretty clear path to the SWAC title game. Alabama A&M is up next.
#10 Samford: (8-1) - Last Week: #10
Samford just keeps on rolling through the SoCon schedule taking down their latest victims, VMI, 34-15. The Bulldogs rallied to score 27 points in the second half against the Keydets and picked up their sixth conference win of the year. Michael Hiers threw four touchdowns and receiver Chandler Smith hauled in 10 passes for 134 yards and two scores. Samford has still not lost to an FCS opponent this season and has positioned themselves to pick up at least a share of the SoCon title with a win this weekend over Chattanooga. They can win it outright and secure the league’s auto-bid if they win and Furman loses.
#11 Chattanooga (7-2) - Last Week: #11
The Mocs needed a bounce back and they got it with a 10-point win over The Citadel last Saturday. Ailym Ford did the bulk of the work with 29 carries for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns and he led the team in receiving with 67 yards. Kameron Brown nabbed his fifth interception of the season (that’s half of Chattanooga’s total picks this fall) to move him into a tie for second in the country in that category. The Mocs are now 5-1 in conference play with their only loss coming to Furman. They still have a chance to snag at least a portion of the league crown but they need a win this weekend against Samford to do so.
#12 Richmond (7-2) - Last Week: #14
The CAA is going to be a photo finish and Richmond did its part to keep pace last weekend by handing New Hampshire its first conference loss of the year. Reece Udinksi threw three touchdowns but got injured and likely won’t be able to suit up this Saturday; a big blow to the offense. Still, the Spiders were able to get it done against a very tough UNH squad. The defense held the Wildcats to just 2-of-12 on third down (16.7%) and a mere 11 rushing yards. They’ll need another showing like that this weekend against Delaware, especially if Udinski can’t go. A win over the Blue Hens would all but lock up a playoff spot and keep the Spiders hopes of a CAA title share alive.
#13 Furman (7-2) - Last Week: #13
The Paladins got a week off as they prepare for their big showdown with Mercer on Saturday.
#14 Mercer (7-2) - Last Week: #12
No game for the Bears last week. Mercer has a huge game this weekend with SoCon leader Furman.
#15 Idaho (6-3) - Last Week: #15
Jason Eck has done a tremendous job in his first season as Idaho’s head man and last week was another example. The Vandals put their close loss to Sac State squarely in the rear view mirror and thwacked Eastern Washington 48-16. The duo of Gevani McCoy and Hayden Hatten has been as dynamite as it gets this fall as the pair hooked up for 146 yards and four more touchdowns against the Eagles. Hatten is now tied with Incarnate Word’s Taylor Grimes for most receiving touchdowns in the FCS at 12 thanks to the big performance. Idaho is eyeing its first playoff appearance in nearly three decades and has a big one with UC Davis this weekend.
#16 Montana (6-3) - Last Week: #16
Montana took out three weeks worth of frustrations on Cal Poly last Saturday night in the snow in Missoula and drubbed the Mustangs 57-0. Lucas Johnson was back under center and it made a world of difference for UM’s offense who was held to just 119 yards against Weber State two weeks ago. This time they put up nearly 700 yards behind the monster performance from running back Nick Ostmo who ran for 221 and two scores. The Griz picked up 37 first downs and outgained the Mustangs 412 yards to 41 on the ground. There’s still work to be done but things have to feel a lot better now that the three-game losing streak is snapped. Up next is one last home game against Eastern Washington.
#17 Delaware (7-2) - Last Week: #18
Nolan Henderson and the Blue Hens seem to have put their recent struggles behind them as they were in fine form against Monmouth. Henderson threw four touchdowns in the first half against the Hawks, five total and completed nearly 80% of his passes. The offense put up 42 points in the opening 30 minutes and never looked back, returning to the electric play style fans are used to seeing. The defense held Monmouth to 90 passing yards and thwarted all three of the Hawks’ fourth down tries. If this really is Delaware getting back to its old ways, it’s happening at precisely the right time as a Richmond makes a visit this weekend.
#18 Elon (7-3) - Last Week: #19
There was never any doubt against Albany as Elon ran out to a convincing 27-3 win in their last home game of the regular season. Matthew McKay had a quiet day passing but Jalen Hampton picked up the slack on the ground and ran for two touchdowns. The defense played perhaps its best game of the year by racking up a whopping 10 sacks and forcing three turnovers. The Great Danes looked helpless in the run game and didn’t have much more success through the air. With no game in Week 12, the Phoenix have just one more chance to prove their playoff worthiness this weekend against Hampton.
.@ElonFootball's defense recorded 10 sacks, matching the most by any FCS team this season, and posted a 27-3 win over UAlbany for its sixth straight home victory #CAAFB | @NCAA_FCS pic.twitter.com/kDAboh0m2Z— CAA Football (@CAAFootball) November 6, 2022
#19 North Dakota (6-3) - Last Week: #21
Every game is a must-win for the Hawks right now and they got a expectedly decisive one against Indiana State last weekend. Tyler Hoosman picked up his 11th and 12th rushing scores of the season while quarterback Tommy Schuster threw two more of his own and, more importantly, avoided any interceptions. UND only had to punt three times against the Sycamores and held the ball for over 35 minutes. Now South Dakota comes in for another important MVC bout and once again the Hawks cannot afford to lose.
#20 Southeast Missouri State (7-2) - Last Week: #22
SEMO rises two spots this week thanks to a dominant shutout win over Tennessee State. The Redhawks ran for over 300 yards behind another big performance from Geno Hess who rushed for 136 and three touchdowns. Hess now has 12 scores and over 1,000 rushing yards on the year. Southeast Missouri State is still undefeated in the OVC but so is conference mate UT Martin so nothing is a lock just yet. Still, the Redhawks are set up nicely as they prep for a date with Eastern Illinois this weekend.
#21 New Hampshire (6-3) - Last Week: #17
New Hampshire suffered its first CAA loss of the year and will fall four spots because of it. They were able to score points against Richmond, just not enough as they allowed 40. Dylan Laube was held to under 30 rushing yards and that still led the team effort in that department. The Spiders controlled the clock for nearly 37 minutes and UNH only picked up 12 first downs all afternoon. The Wildcats can still make the playoffs and could even still grab a share of the CAA championship but they likely need to win out to have a hope at either accomplishment. This Saturday will prove to be another big test as they welcome in Rhode Island.
#22 Rhode Island (6-3) - Last Week: #23
Every time it seems like the Rams are dead in the water, they fight back to stay relevant in the playoff push. After a tough loss to William & Mary just two weeks ago, Rhode Island bounced back by narrowly escaping Maine at home. When they needed it, the URI offense put together a beautiful long minute drive to put the game on ice against the Black Bears. Marques DeShields ran for 100 yards for the fifth straight game and sixth time this season while Kasim Hill added another touchdown to his resume. They’ll look to keep it going against New Hampshire this weekend.
#23 Fordham (7-2) - Last Week: #24
Fordham’s prolific offense continues to make life hell on opposing defenses and did so again to the tune of 546 yards against Bucknell. Tim DeMorat threw for five more touchdowns bringing his season total up to 43. Fotis Kokosioulis is seven yards away from becoming the second FCS receiver to break 1,000 yards this season and he’s up to ten touchdowns now. The Bison stood no chance and now the Rams are 7-2 with their playoff hopes still very much in tact. They will need to stay focused with Lafayette coming to town this Saturday but it should be little issue for the scariest offense in the country.
#24 Princeton (8-0) - Last Week: #25
Princeton still rules the Ivy League roost and made that clear with another win over Dartmouth. Dylan Classi caught eight passes for 107 yards and Blake Stenstrom threw for 264 yards. The Tigers got off to a fast start before going cold in the second half but did just enough to hang on for the victory. They have one last road game this season coming up on Saturday when they head to Yale. Princeton controls its own destiny in the conference race and, if they can beat the Bulldogs this weekend then they’ll be that much closer to another league crown.
#25 Southeastern Louisiana (6-3) - Last Week: NR
Don’t look now but the Lions are back in the rankings after a three-week hiatus. SLU beat Lamar 47-31 thanks to a big offensive performance. Cephus Johnson and Eli Sawyer teamed up for 323 passing yards and three touchdowns while Maurice Massey hauled in 10 throws for 150 yards and two scores. Punter Austin Dunlap only needed to make one appearance and the defense forced two takeaways. The Lions need to keep piling up the wins but with that all-important victory over Incarnate Word under their belt, they still control their fate in the Southland. Now for a showdown with Northwestern State.
UT Martin (5-4) - Last Week: #20
It was a tough week for the Skyhawks as Kennesaw State came in and pushed them around and for the first time this fall UT Martin drops out of the Top 25. Dresser Winn had a day he’d just as soon forget after throwing five interceptions, three of which went to the same player in KSU’s Chance Gamble. Zak Wallace did rush for 101 yards but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Skyhawks fell 44-27. The good news is, if UT Martin can win out then it can still claim the OVC’s auto-bid (pending some help from Southeast Missouri State). As of now, though, it seems an at-large selection probably won’t happen. They’ll face Tennessee State this Saturday.