October is here but the FCS wouldn’t let September leave without a bang. An upset-filled weekend that had shocking results all over the place resulted in a lot of movement in the Top 25. There’s a new name at the #2 spot and ____ squads fell from the rankings in the latest edition. As the season nears its midway point, the beginnings of a playoff picture are starting to take shape.
Let’s get into this week’s poll.
The Top 25
#1 South Dakota State (4-0) - Last Week: #1
North Dakota proved to be little match for the top team in the land and again South Dakota State rolls on at #1. The Jacks rode another big rushing performance from Isaiah Davis who went for 132 yards and three touchdowns. Mark Gronowski tacked on another score and when all was said and done SDSU put up more than 400 yards of offense. Going 6-of-8 on third down and holding your opponent to 68 rushing yards will win you a lot of games and the Jackrabbits are looking nearly unbeatable as Missouri Valley play heats up. They’ll square off with Illinois State on the road this weekend.
#2 Montana State (4-1) - Last Week: #3
Give Portland State credit, they kept Montana State within striking distance for a good while last weekend. The Bobcats, though, pulled away by the end and won comfortably 38-22 and, thanks to NDSU’s loss, they’ll move up to #2. Sean Chambers and Jared White gassed the Vikings defense for 100+ yards on the ground each and the MSU defense locked it down through the air, forcing two picks and keeping the high-scoring PSU offense to just over 100 passing on the day. Montana State is making a strong early case for another Big Sky championship and they’ll have a bye week next before taking on Cal Poly.
#3 Idaho (4-1) - Last Week #4
Once again Idaho’s vaunted offense showed up and showed out, this week blasting Eastern Washington for 44 points in another impressive win. Anthony Woods absolutely gutted the EWU defense for 183 rushing yards and five touchdowns, bringing his season scoring total up to nine end zone trips now. Nick Romano also ran for over 100 and Gevani McCoy threw for 128 yards and a score as well. Downing the Eagles on their red turf is never an easy feat and Idaho moves up to 2-0 in conference play. The Vandals will travel to face Cal Poly on Saturday.
The stiff arm was so beautiful. pic.twitter.com/B568KEtVAz— Sickos Committee (@SickosCommittee) September 30, 2023
#4 Sacramento State (4-1) - Last Week #8
It took a late interception in the end zone but Sacramento State held on against a feisty Northern Arizona team on Saturday night to improve to 1-1 in Big Sky play. Kaiden Bennett was as reliable as ever, throwing for 267 yards and leading the team in rushing as well with 76. Wideout Jared Gipson had himself a night with 108 receiving yards on five catches. The Hornets, for all their productivity, still have yet to see All-American tight end Marshel Martin break out this season. Nonetheless, they’re 4-1 and riding in high as they prepare to face Northern Colorado after a bye.
#5 Furman (3-1) - Last Week #7
No game for the Paladins last week but they still move up two spots. Furman takes on The Citadel on Saturday.
#6 Southern Illinois (4-0) - Last Week: #10
For the first time since 2007, Southern Illinois is 4-0 to start the season and the Salukis are one of the hottest teams in the FCS right now. Again quarterback Nic Baker played well, throwing for nearly 300 yards and touchdown. Ro Elliot ran for two scores and had the first 100-yard rushing game of his season. SIU continues to climb the rankings and will find themselves well inside the Top 10 as conference play ramps up. This momentum could factor in huge because things won’t get easier from here. Up next is a tough one with Youngstown State.
#7 North Dakota State (3-1) - Last Week: #2
Things didn’t go according to plan against South Dakota last weekend and the Bison took an absolute punch in the mouth from the visiting Coyotes. Down 21-3 at halftime, NDSU found itself in unfamiliar territory and it showed. Despite outgaining the Coyotes 348 to 269 and winning the time of possession battle, Matt Entz’ team couldn’t make the most of their opportunities and it ended up costing them. The Bison will take a rare slide back in this week’s rankings all the way to #7 as they now turn their focus to Missouri State.
#8 Incarnate Word (3-1) - Last Week #9
UIW sat idle last weekend. They’ll begin conference play with Southeastern Louisiana this Saturday.
#9 Delaware (3-1) - Last Week #11
The Blue Hens had a bye in Week 5. This weekend they’ll face Duquesne.
#10 William & Mary (4-1) - Last Week #5
Without Bronson Yoder, the Tribe was lost against Elon on Saturday, faltering for the first time this season in a disheartening 14-6 defeat to their CAA rivals. William & Mary’s usually-potent offense couldn’t even muster up a touchdown in the loss and Darius Wilson only threw for 36 yards. Malachi Imoh did have a good day in Yoder’s absence with over 100 rushing yards but things fell flat otherwise. Mike London’s group will look to rebound this week but it might not come easy against FBS Virginia.
#11 Western Carolina (4-1) - Last Week: #17
The climb continues for Western Carolina and don’t look now but the Catamounts are 4-1 with only an FBS loss on their resume. The Citadel stood no chance against a soaring WCU offense that again put up video game numbers. Desmond Reid ran for 167 yards and five touchdowns while Cole Gonzalez completed 22-of-28 throws for 237 yards and a score. The Catamounts led 35-7 at the half and never looked back from there. With each passing week it seems as though the path for a SoCon championship might run straight through Cullowhee. A big one with Chattanooga is right around the corner.
#12 Holy Cross (3-2) - Last Week #6
Holy Cross, like several other ranked teams, lost in surprising fashion. The Crusaders flubbed against Harvard despite Matthew Sluka again putting up big numbers. The Crimson were able to have their way on offense in what was a rare poor showing for the Holy Cross defense which gave up 360 total yards and four touchdowns. Sluka tossed a pair of interceptions in the loss and Jordan Fuller was kept in check. It’s time to shake it off and look ahead to a Bucknell.
#13 Weber State (3-2) - Last Week #13
Things were ugly for a while against Northern Colorado but ultimately Weber State pulled it out on the road to avoid another bad loss. The Wildcats outscored the Bears 21-0 in the final quarter to squeak out with the win and got a huge pick six from Winston Reid in the process. Kylan Weisser struggled greatly, though, throwing no touchdowns and three interceptions. He will have to play better down the stretch or the Big Sky gauntlet might eat Weber State alive by season’s end. Still, a win is a win and now the Wildcats will look to make it two in a row against Northern Arizona this weekend.
#14 North Carolina Central (4-1) - Last Week #15
Campbell led 35-14 at one point but Davius Richard and company staged an epic comeback to topple the Camels in OT. It was a herculean performance from the standout quarterback who ran for four touchdowns and threw for a fifth. The NC Central offense posted 21 second-half points then got the game winner in overtime thanks to a huge blocked PAT from the special teams unit. In this game last year, Campbell rolled but this time around the Eagles showed that they’re a different team this season. They now get ready for a solid Elon team.
#15 South Dakota (3-1) - Last Week: NR
South Dakota stunned NDSU in their own building to improve to an impressive 3-1 in what was the statement win of the season (so far). The ‘Yotes stymied the usually-dominant Bison ground game and avoided turnovers on offense. Signal-caller Aidan Bouman threw for two scores, both of which were caught by receiver Carter Bell. Bell put up 124 yards on five catches. All of this resulted in the program’s biggest win since 2015 (when they defeated NDSU also) and skyrocket them into the rankings for the first time in 2023. Now up is Murray State.
#16 North Dakota (2-2) - Last Week #12
The Hawks couldn’t find their footing against South Dakota State last weekend and lost their second game of the year. The defense got ripped up by the Jackrabbits ground game which ran for 266 yards and five touchdowns. QB Tommy Schuster did all he could, completing 19-of-24 passes for 118 yards and a score but it wasn’t close to enough. UND only ran for 68 yards in what was a day to forget. Now the Hawks will try and correct things against a winless Western Illinois squad.
#17 Montana (4-1) - Last Week #18
The Griz needed a win badly and, although it wasn’t the prettiest, homecoming ended happily with a 28-20 victory over Idaho State. The team opted to switch things up at quarterback and go with senior Clifton McDowell last week, a move that worked out. McDowell threw for 160 yards and score while Junior Bergen hauled in seven catches for 100 yards on the dot. Bobby Hauck rolled the dice on a fake punt and the defense sealed it with a late interception. The Grizzlies will try to keep it going this Saturday when they face UC Davis.
#18 UT Martin (4-1) - Last Week: #22
UT Martin took down Tennessee State last weekend and suddenly the Skyhawks, who just two weeks back weren’t ranked, are in the Top 20 at 4-1. Sam Franklin continues to tear up the turf, posting his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game. Franklin was responsible for 132 of the team’s 256 yards on the ground. The Skyhawks defense shutout TSU in the second half and the offense controlled the clock for over 35 minutes. A big matchup with Eastern Illinois is up next.
#19 Florida A&M (4-1) - Last Week: #20
FAMU keeps on winning and keeps on moving up in the Top 25. The Rattlers made light work of Mississippi Valley State. Marcus Riley only needed two catches to post 99 yards and Jeremy Moussa was solid again with 155 passing yards and two touchdowns. The FAMU defense was lights out, surrendering only 80 rushing yards and 12 first downs. If there’s on thing that needs improved, though, it’s penalty trouble. The Rattlers got hit 13 times by the refs for over 100 penalty yards. Those numbers have to come down because if it doesn’t it’ll be costly down the road. Another road trip is up next, this one to take on Southern.
#20 UC Davis (3-2) - Last Week #21
The Aggies bounce back this week with a solid performance to beat Cal Poly 31-13 on the road. Trent Tompkins and Darian Leon-Guerrero stepped up in the absence of Lan Larison and combined for 24 carries and 136 rushing yards. Miles Hastings threw for 242 yards and a TD as well and the defense forced three turnovers. The Mustangs only managed 14 yards on the ground. It was just the type of win UC Davis needed after last week’s rough one. They’ll now get ready to welcome in Montana this Saturday.
#21 Harvard (3-0) - Last Week: NR
Harvard is one of the few undefeated teams remaining and they stay that way thanks to a massive upset over Holy Cross. The Ivy League frontrunners scored the most points of anyone on the Crusaders defense so far this season thanks to a solid showing from QB Charles Deprima who threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Both Cooper Barkate and Shane McLaughlin ran it for scores as well and A.J. Lopez had a house call on an interception. Harvard takes on Cornell this Friday night.
#22 Eastern Washington (2-3) - Last Week: #19
Idaho is really, really good this year and Eastern Washington was made aware of that last Saturday in Cheney. It didn’t help that quarterback Kekoa Visperas was a late scratch and didn’t play but still the Eagles offense gave it a mighty try. Backup QB Jared Taylor ran for 121 yards and two scores and threw for another. Justice Jackson and Anthony Stell Jr. each caught touchdowns but in the end, Idaho just threw too much at them. The EWU defense got exposed for 363 rushing yards and allowed an average of 7.4 yards per carry for Vandal runners. They’ll try and fix things during the bye before facing Idaho State.
#23 Central Arkansas (3-2) - Last Week: #25
The Bears had to withstand a weather delay and a surge from Southern Utah but a late 4th down stop iced the narrow 29-27 win. Will McElvain tossed three touchdowns, two of which went to Kylin James. Kicker Jake Gaster was automatic as it gets, connecting on all three of his field goal attempts and the defense allowed just two third down conversions for the Thunderbirds all night. UCA will face Southeast Missouri State in a big non-conference matchup this Saturday.
#24 Chattanooga (4-1) - Last Week: NR
The Mocs make their way into the Top 25 for the first time this year after picking up their fourth win of the year, this one over Wofford. Quarterback Chase Artopoeus had a rough day passing but the Chatanooga defense rose up and held the Terriers to just 13 points. Gino Appleberry led the team with 93 rush yards and Javin Whatley had 94 receiving. The slow day offensively didn’t cost the Mocs this time but if it happens again this weekend it might not be the same story. Western Carolina is up next.
#25 Elon (3-2) - Last Week: NR
Elon joins several others in climbing into the poll this week thanks to a big upset. The Phoenix dispatched William & Mary to the surprise of many. Quarterback Matthew Downing tossed a pair of touchdowns and Chandler Brayboy went for 109 yards receiving on just four catches. The defense didn’t allow a single touchdown and held the Tribe to a mere 36 passing yards. It was a dominant effort that launches Elon into the playoff conversation as the CAA feels wide open again now. A tough test with NC Central is up next.
New Hampshire (2-3) - Last Week #14
UNH tumbles out of the rankings this week after dropping its second game in a row, this one to unranked Towson. The Wildcats offense did what was expected and put up 446 yards and 51 points. The defense, though, was the issue. The Tigers ran for 300 yards and found the end zone five times through the air. The UNH defense gave up 18 fourth quarter points and in overtime just couldn’t close it out. Max Brosmer still threw for 326 yards and Dylan Laube ran for two scores but they alone can’t win games and it was evident here. New Hampshire will look to rebound after a week off against a rising Albany team.
Villanova (3-2) - Last Week: #16
The Wildcats had a bad letdown against Albany after a big win a week ago and they fall because of it. Villanova, who dropped 35 points on Rhode Island just a week ago, was only good for 10 this time around. Connor Watkins had a day he’d just as soon forget, throwing two interceptions and fumbling the ball twice. In total, the Wildcats turned it over five times. Penalties were a problem too as ‘Nova was flagged six times. There’s lots to learn from a loss like that. North Carolina A&T is next up.
Youngstown State (2-2) - Last Week: #23
Northern Iowa pushed the Penguins defense around last weekend and YSU’s short time in the poll has come to an end, at least for now. UNI went for well over 400 total yards and, despite their own offense keeping up for much of the game, Youngstown State didn’t have enough in the end. Mitch Davidson tossed a pair of touchdowns but the team was held to 85 rush yards and got torn apart by Panthers QB Theo Day. The Penguins will look to get back on the right track this weekend but it won’t be easy against Southern Illinois.
Rhode Island (3-2) - Last Week #24
Rhode Island will fall from the Top 25 but it’s trough no fault of their own because the Rams won last weekend. Bryant became the victims of Rhode Island’s frustrations last Saturday as the Rams rolled out to a big 49-26 win. Kasim Hill is back on track as he threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns. The ground attack fell silent but the receivers more than made up for it. Marquis Buchanan brought in nine catches for 111 yards while four other guys all snagged TD grabs. The only reason they’re out this week is because so much craziness happened around the country and someone had to get the boot. The Rams will look to make their case to get back in when they see Brown this weekend.