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Top 4 FCS Squads Prove Rankings in Week 1

The four top teams in the country made it very clear why they’re ranked the way they are to start this season.

Northwestern State v Montana Photo by Tommy Martino/University of Montana via Getty Images

Week 1 of FCS action is all but in the books and there was plenty to take away from the performances from around the country. Some teams were likely thought too highly of when the rankings came out a couple weeks ago (see #9 Southern Illinois’ dismal performance against Incarnate Word) and some teams were probably greatly underestimated by the pollsters.

The rankings are an ever-changing entity that will get clearer as the year goes on. Right now a lot of what we see in the Top 25 likely isn’t all that accurate to who these teams really are. There are four, though, that are different... the four at the very top. Based off what they did this weekend, they are all right where they belong.

#1 Bison Steamroll Drake 56-14

It’s no surprise that the Bison are #1 and they likely will continue to be after their blowout season opener over Drake. NDSU put up 56 points on the Bulldogs in Fargo and dropped nearly 400 yards of total offense. Cam Miller shined as he tossed two touchdowns and Hunter Luepke made the most of his three carries, rumbling for 53 yards and a score. The Bison offense did what they do best, smother the opposition with their impossible-to-stop run game.

Defensively they forced two turnovers, a fumble recovery that went for six by Will Mostaert and an interception by Marques Sigle. Drake was able to muster up just 228 yards and their offense only found the end zone once (and that was on the opening drive).

Matt Entz has his team looking like their strong, usual selves. Yes, it wasn’t the highest quality of wins but in a game against a lesser opponent, NDSU did exactly what it was supposed to do: put up big time numbers and run them out of the building. Up next the Bison will face North Carolina A&T.

FBS Iowa Struggles Greatly Against #2 South Dakota State

South Dakota State v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

The Jacks may have left Iowa City with a loss on Saturday but make no mistake, they were not losers. South Dakota State’s defense put up an otherworldly performance against the Big Ten’s Hawkeyes in the 7-3 loss. Those seven points that Iowa got came by way of two safeties and a field goal. SDSU’s defense didn’t surrender a touchdown and held the Hawkeyes to just 166 total yards.

The offense, despite only putting up three points, showed poise on the big stage and didn’t turn the ball over. Yes, they struggled to move the chains effectively but that’s typically to be expected against an P5 defense. The only real blow the Jackrabbits took was when All-American tight end Tucker Kraft went down with an apparent leg injury.

If John Stiegelmeier’s group can keep pitching those kind of defensive performances every week, then every game (even the one against NDSU) on their schedule is a winnable one and this will not be a team anyone wants to see come December. South Dakota State has a date with UC Davis next Saturday at home.

#3 Montana Blows By Northwestern State

The Grizzlies are one of the favorites to compete for an FCS national title come January and after Saturday afternoon’s season opener, it’s easy to see why. Montana absolutely dominated Northwestern State 47-0. Bobby Hauck’s team was as surgical as ever on offense, putting up 464 total yards on the Demons with a pretty even split of rush-to-pass.

Transfer QB Lucas Johnson was on fire, throwing for 208 yards and four touchdowns. Johnson also led the team in rushing with 76 yards. Receivers Mitch Roberts and Junior Bergen were the go-to guys with eight of the team’s 19 total catches. Each notched two touchdowns.

Montana’s offense was not only effective, but was also disciplined. They didn’t turn the ball over while their stellar defense notched five takeaways. Preseason All-Big Sky Defensive MVP Patrick O’Connell nabbed an interception as did safety Garrett Graves. Overall it was smooth sailing for UM in every facet of the game. No team is perfect but the Griz darn near were on Saturday. Montana is set to host South Dakota next weekend.

#4 Bobcats Manhandle McNeese on Saturday Night

Montana State entered this season with many questions, several on the defensive side of the ball. On Saturday night, though, the Bobcats made a statement against the Cowboys to the tune of 40-17. MSU’s defense, despite losing studs like Troy Andersen and Daniel Hardly to the NFL last year, put up big numbers on Saturday night. The unit held McNeese’s offense to just 11 first downs and forced two turnovers.

On offense, quarterback Tommy Mellott continued to steal the show as he did in last year’s playoffs. He threw for 182 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 44 yards and another score. Receivers like Willie Patterson and Ravi Alston made several circus-like catches and helped the offense explode for 40 points. Oh yeah, and they did all that without star running back Isaiah Ifanse. Even some of the team’s young guys got their time in the spotlight when the game got comfortable enough down the stretch. All around it was a big success for Montana State.

Yes, MSU did give up a few big plays but overall the ‘Cats seem to be picking up right where they left off last winter. Second-year coach Brent Vigen got himself a coaches dream of a win on Saturday night: a comfortable enough final that still had plenty of coachable moments. Montana State prepares for Morehead State next week.