The FCS rankings are getting more intriguing with each week and this one is no different. There were some pivotal games that went down in Week 7 with some surprising results and the polls reflect that. There are only five weeks left until Selection Sunday and the contenders are starting to rise to the top.
Here’s where we stand.
The Top 25
#1 South Dakota State (6-0) - Last Week: #1
The Jackrabbits hold firm at the top again after blowing the doors off of Northern Iowa. Isaiah Davis rumbled for 103 yards and a TD. Mark Gronowski sliced the UNI defense for 291 yards passing plus three more scores and it was just one of those days for the Jacks who forced five turnovers and held the Panthers out of the end zone all game. Another week another reminder that this is the best team out there. SDSU will look to make it 7-0 when it sees Southern Illinois this Saturday.
#2 Montana State (5-1) - Last Week:#22
Cal Poly got off the plane in Bozeman Saturday night but that's about all they did. The Bobcats expectedly dismantled the Mustangs 59-19 to pick up their fifth win of the year. Tommy Mellott was back and threw for a pair of touchdowns while Sean Chambers ran for three more. The MSU offense has another big night with nearly 600 total yards and the D allowed just 73 on the ground. Montana State even had a great showing from their special teams that blocked a PAT and a punt as well as logged a return touchdown. It was a complete performance all around. Now up for the 'Cats is a big one with a team right on their heels; Sacramento State.
#3 Sacramento State (5-1) - Last Week #4
Sac State didn’t have its prettiest showing against winless Northern Colorado last week but the Hornets escaped with a win all the same and will move up a spot. Kaiden Bennett played a good game, tossing three touchdowns but the defense gave up nearly 300 passing yards and the team only scored once in the second half. Marshel Martin looked like his former self again, hauling in a team-best seven passes for 52 yards. The Hornets will need to clean some things up, however, as they get ready to square off with Montana State in a big prime time battle on Saturday night.
#4 Furman (5-1) - Last Week #5
Samford, for all its struggles, showed Furman why its still a really talented team record aside. The Paladins still won the game but the Bulldogs never let it get comfortable. Tyler Huff threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns and Dominic Roberto went for over 100 on the ground yet again. The Furman defense, while giving up quite a bit through the air, stifled the Samford rushing attack and made two big fourth down stops. For the first time in a long time, Clay Hendrix’s team finds itself in the Top 4. The Paladins will take on Western Carolina in a monster game this weekend.
#5 Incarnate Word (5-1) - Last Week #7
UIW scored 14 fourth quarter points to escape against a pesky Texas A&M-Commerce squad to increase their hold on the Southland’s top spot. The Cardinals put up 458 total yards of offense despite Zach Calzada tossing three picks. Calzada still threw for 300 yards and a pair of TDs also but the turnovers were certainly an issue. Ronald Wilson’s big 71-yard interception return helped spark Incarnate Word’s defense which held the Lions to just 50 rushing yards. A road trip to McNeese is right around the corner.
#6 South Dakota (5-1) - Last Week: #10
The Coyotes impressive climb up the polls continues on this week after they hit a game-winning field goal at the horn to squeak by Youngstown State. Aidan Bouman put up another big time performance, throwing for 369 yards and three touchdowns while avoiding any interceptions. Both Carter Bell and J.J. Galbreath had a 100+ yard receiving day kicker Will Leyland played hero for USD at the end. The ‘Yotes still have not lost an FCS game and remain a perfect 3-0 in Missouri Valley play. Up next is Indiana State.
#7 Delaware (5-1) - Last Week #8
As of right now, Delaware is the best team in the CAA and they proved it again last weekend with a smothering 21-6 win over conference-newcomer North Carolina A&T. The Hens tore it up on the ground for 322 rushing yards and had two different backs... Kyron Cumby and Marcus Yarns... go for well over the century mark. The UD defense forced three turnovers and kept the Aggies out of the end zone all game while allowing just 13 first downs. It’s starting to seem like no one in the league can stop the Blue Hens but Hampton will have the next go at it on Saturday.
#8 Western Carolina (5-1) - Last Week: #9
The Catamounts took the week off and it was probably needed as a huge game with Furman awaits.
#9 Montana (6-1) - Last Week #16
Left for dead just a few weeks back, the Griz have completely turned their season around after a huge road win over a then-Top 3 Idaho on Saturday night. Junior Bergen rose to the occasion, bringing in five catches for 118 yards and a score while the UM defense forced three bug turnovers and held the potent Idaho rushing attack to 58 yards. Suddenly the Grizzlies are in the Top 10 and appear to be a contender once more and they now get an extra week to prep before facing a reeling Northern Colorado.
#10 Idaho (5-2) - Last Week #3
Montana was ready for the big stage and Idaho, surprisingly, wasn't. The usually-accurate Gevani McCoy threw two picks but still managed to give the Vandals a chance late. A failed two-point try and untimely fumble, though, iced it and gave Idaho its first FCS loss of the year. Despite outgaining Montana and picking up almost twice as many first downs, UI couldn't find a way to really get going. As big as this one was, though, the Vandals have an even bigger one after the bye when they welcome in Montana State.
#11 North Dakota (4-2) - Last Week #15
They may have never been a bigger win for North Dakota in its program’s history than this one. Beating North Dakota State is one thing but beating them down is something that is very rare and yet the Hawks did just that. Gaven Ziebarth put up a big time performance, rushing for 156 yards and three touchdowns. The UND kept the vaunted Bison rushing attack in check and Tommy Schuster played a mistake-free game. It all resulted in a 49-24 stunner that will send North Dakota skyrocketing up the rankings. Now up is a road trip to Northern Iowa.
#12 Southern Illinois (5-1) - Last Week: #13
SIU rebounded nicely from its ugly loss against Youngstown State two weeks ago with a solid 21-point victory over Murray State. Justin Strong rumbled for 128 yards and a score while Nic Baker played a mistake-free game, throwing for 137 yards. With the Saluki receivers held to a relatively quiet day, the ground game stepped up and accounted for three touchdowns. The defense was fantastic on third down, allowing just three conversions (13 tries) and forced three turnovers. Southern Illinois will have a big game this weekend against #1 South Dakota State.
#13 William & Mary (4-2) - Last Week #11
The Tribe sat idle in Week 7. Towson pays a visit this Saturday.
#14 North Dakota State (4-2) - Last Week: #6
It hasn't been a typical year for the Bison and things seem like they came to a really ugly head on Saturday against UND. The Hawks sent NDSU running from the Alerus Center with their tails tucked and took it to their rivals in every phase. For the first time in over a decade, NDSU is not in the Top 10, a truly odd sight. The defense got gashed for 215 yards on the ground and surrendered the most points any Bison defense has since the program moved up to Division I. Cam Miller did throw for 175 yards and a score but it wasn’t nearly enough. Western Illinois comes to town next.
#15 Holy Cross (4-2) - Last Week #12
No game for the Crusaders last weekend. Holy Cross will pick it back up this Saturday with Lafayette.
#16 North Carolina Central (5-1) - Last Week #14
North Carolina Central didn’t play last weekend. The Eagles take on Morgan State on the road on Thursday evening.
#17 UT Martin (5-1) - Last Week: #17
The Skyhawks got a week off as they get ready to face Charleston Southern.
#18 Harvard (5-0) - Last Week: #19
Harvard made quick work of Howard to remain undefeated. The Crimson ran for a total of 341 yards while Charles DePrima did his part passing for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Isaiah Abbey accounted for three of the team’s four rushing scores and both Eric Little and Caleb Phillips snagged interceptions. The Ivy League looks as though it runs through Harvard but a a trip to Princeton to take on a good Tigers team is due up.
#19 Florida A&M (5-1) - Last Week: #18
No game for FAMU in Week 7. The Rattlers will take a trip to Texas Southern this Saturday.
#20 Central Arkansas (5-2) - Last Week: #20
Stephen F. Austin posed a challenge but Central Arkansas found a way once more to come out on top. Will McElvain tossed two touchdowns and ShunDerrick Powell tacked on one more. The defense got a huge sack late to help squash any comeback attempt by the Lumberjacks and now the Bears are 3-0 in UAC play. The team gets a bye then will welcome Tarleton State.
#21 Chattanooga (5-2) - Last Week: #25
Chattanooga handled business in a big win over Mercer to improve to 4-1 in SoCon action and keep their playoff hopes still very much alive. Ailym Ford averaged 4.2 yards per carry while receiver Jamoi Mayes had a breakout game catching nine passes for 119 yards and touchdown. Quarterback Chase Artopoeus threw for 244 yards and no picks while the Mocs defense took the ball away three times. Chattanooga will now turn its attention to East Tennessee State.
#22 Villanova (5-2) - Last Week: NR
The Wildcats are back in the Top 25 after an impressive shutout win over Elon. Villanova’s rushing attack had its way with the Phoenix defense, running for 440 yards and three touchdowns. The defense didn’t even let Elon reach 100 yards on the day, gave up a mere five first downs and pitched a shutout to boot. It was a total team win and it should have fans in Philly excited about what lies ahead. ‘Nova will look to go to 4-1 in the CAA when it takes on Stony Brook after a bye.
#23 UC Davis (4-3) - Last Week: NR
UC Davis finds itself back in the rankings after a narrow 17-16 win over Big Sky foe Weber State. Still without standout running back Lan Larison, the Aggies got a major lift from Trent Tompkins who carried 24 times for 116 yards and a score. Miles Hastings threw for two touchdowns and the defense made a big stop late as the Wildcats were driving for the win. Their postseason dreams aren’t dead yet but a big one with scrappy Northern Arizona is up after the week off.
#24 Austin Peay (4-2) - Last Week: NR
For the first time in 2023, Austin Peay is in the Top 25. The Govs dominated Gardner-Webb 41-14 thanks to a big day from quarterback Mike DiLiello who threw for 372 yards and two touchdowns. Tre Shackelford and Trey Goodman torched the Runnin’ Bulldogs defense, accounting for 13 total receptions and 227 yards between them. Jevon Jackson was also part of the offensive show with 108 rushing yards and TD. Now the Governors will try to win their fifth straight against Southern Utah this Saturday.
#25 Youngstown State (3-3) - Last Week: #23
The Penguins will stay in the poll this week despite falling to South Dakota. YSU had its chances but a game-winning field goal sunk them right at the end. Mitch Davidson threw three touchdowns and Dra Rushton had 116 yards on the ground but the defense gave up too many big plays. USD was able to put up nearly 500 yards. Turning the ball over twice didn’t help matters either. YSU will look to bounce back when it sees Illinois State this weekend.
Eastern Washington (2-4) - Last Week: #21
The sailing looked like it would be smooth against Idaho State but an epic collapse resulted in the Eagles first loss to the Bengals since 2005 and it was a gut-wrenching one. A missed field goal at the end sealed their fate but plenty of mistakes led up to the conclusion. EWU came out flat in the second half and let ISU score 28 second half points. Kekoa Visperas did throw for 404 yards and three scores but the it was all for naught. Now at 2-4 it seems unlikely that the Eagles will reach the playoffs unless they win out. Weber State will pay a visit this Saturday.
Weber State (3-4) - Last Week #22
Things are going downhill fast for the Wildcats after yet another tough loss and now they’re out of the Top 25 for the first time this year. Kylan Weisser didn’t play but no one really stepped up on offense. Kris Jackson was the leading rusher with 59 yards and no receiver went for over 40. Abraham Williams did make some electric plays in the punt return game but in the end UC Davis came away with a big stop and the win. Eastern Washington is up next.
Albany (4-3) - Last Week: #24
For the first time in 2023, Albany lost to an FCS opponent and its a loss that will dip them out of the rankings. New Hampshire outshot the Great Danes in a back-and-forth affair but Reese Poffenbarger still gave it his all with 373 passing yards and four TDs. He did, however, throw two interceptions and the Albany defense surrendered 435 total yards. Only rushing for 41 yards didn’t do them any favors either. A big contest with Rhode Island is waiting.