Another thrilling week of FCS football is in the books and the season has officially reached its halfway point, at least for most teams. Some things are sitting exactly how we thought they might be at this point and others are far from it. Week 6 saw major comebacks, last-second wins and, of course, a few more upsets. What does all that mean for the rankings? Let’s take a look.
The Top 25
#1 South Dakota State (5-0) - Last Week: #1
South Dakota State made light work of Illinois State to pick up its 19th straight win dating back to last season. Mark Gronowski threw for three touchdowns and no picks while Isaiah Davis nearly hit 200 yards on the ground. Amar Johnson also went for 106 rushing helping the Jacks ground attack put up 374 yards. The Janke brothers made plays all over the field and the SDSU defense forced two turnovers. It certainly seems as though no one can stop the Jackrabbits right now. Northern Iowa will get their shot next.
#2 Montana State (4-1) - Last Week: #2
The Bobcats didn’t play last week. Cal Poly comes to town this Saturday.
#3 Idaho (5-1) - Last Week #3
One sign of a true contender is being able to take care of the teams it should take care of with ease and that’s exactly what Idaho did to Cal Poly last weekend. The Vandals offense trounced the Mustangs for 421 yards. Gevani McCoy, Anthony Woods and Nick Romano all posted rushing TDs and standout receiver Hayden Hatten even threw a touchdown. Things are looking really good for Idaho right now as October marches on. They’re one of only two teams unbeaten in Big Sky action and they get the prime time treatment this weekend when ESPN comes to town for the “Little Brown Stein” battle with Montana.
#4 Sacramento State (4-1) - Last Week #4
Sac State had the week off and now gets ready to take on Northern Colorado on the road.
#5 Furman (4-1) - Last Week #5
The Citadel woke up for their rivalry game but Furman was still able to handle its business and pick up the win. Tyler Huff managed the game well, completing 19-of-24 passes for two scores. Dominic Roberto also found the chalk. The Paladins won the time of possession battle, the turnover battle and outgained the Bulldogs 199 to 34 on the ground. It was a total team win even though it wasn’t quite as lopsided as some might have expected. Furman is now 2-0 in SoCon play and maintains their spot in the Top 5. Next week is a big road trip to Samford.
5 yd touchdown by Dominic Roberto! pic.twitter.com/ZEpVbxFKk0— Furman Football (@PaladinFootball) October 7, 2023
#6 North Dakota State (4-1) - Last Week: #7
It’s not often NDSU drops two in a row and they certainly didn’t this time. The Bison bullied Missouri State to pick up their first Missouri Valley win. Cam Miller and Cole Payton combined for five total touchdowns and the NDSU defense, which got outmanned a week ago, looked a whole lot better, forcing four turnovers. The Bears were only able to muster up 82 rushing yards while the Bison averaged 6.5 yards per rush and looked like the team we’re used to seeing. Now they’ll head to Grand Forks to face in-state rival UND.
#7 Incarnate Word (4-1) - Last Week #8
Southeastern Louisiana seems to have UIW’s number but, unlike last season, the Cardinals avoided an upset loss at the hands of the Lions. It took a late interception but Incarnate Word snuck away with the 33-26 win. Zach Calzada was responsible for three scores as he threw for 304 yards. Brandon Porter torched the SLU defense for 182 receiving yards, the second time this year he’s gone for over 150. The defense was an area of concern, though, in spite of the win. The Cardinals got outgained by the Lions 416 yards to 371. The special teams, however, also rose up and made big plays to help seal it. Now they’ll take on Texas A&M-Commerce.
#8 Delaware (4-1) - Last Week #9
The Dukes hung around longer than most Delaware fans would have liked but in the end, the Blue Hens took it handedly over Duquesne on Saturday. Ryan O’Connor is coming into his own, throwing for 347 yards and four touchdowns. Marcus Yarns ran for two more and when all was said and done, UD had an offensive hay day. The Hens picked up 29 first downs and racked up over 450 yards. Pair that with three interceptions from the defense and things are sitting pretty in Newark. They’ll be at home again this Saturday for a date with North Carolina A&T.
#9 Western Carolina (5-1) - Last Week: #11
Richard McCollum was the man of the hour for WCU as his 32-yard field goal lifted the Catamounts to their fifth win of the year in epic fashion. As he seems to be in every game lately, Desmond Reid was the best player on a field of really good players. Reid ran for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Cole Gonzalez threw for 276 yards and three more scores and helped Western Carolina come out on top in a shootout. Big plays were the name of the game as the Catamounts only had possession for 18 minutes but managed 52 points. The defense forced a pair of takeaways and WCU is looking like a legitimate threat to challenge Furman for the SoCon title. They’ll meet on the field in two weeks after a bye.
#10 South Dakota (4-1) - Last Week: #15
The ‘Yotes rode the momentum from their big win over NDSU to another comfortable victory, this time over Murray State. Travis Theis may not have found the end zone but he gassed the Racers defense for 190 rushing yards on 26 carries. Aidan Bouman threw for 195 yards along with a TD and Cade Shupperd got in on 11 tackles to lead a defensive effort that gave up just one touchdown. Two weeks ago, USD wasn’t even ranked and now they’ve risen like a bullet to the Top 10. The Coyotes will have a much tougher task this week, though, as they prepare for Youngstown State.
#11 William & Mary (4-2) - Last Week #10
Despite it being close for a while, Virginia had too much and now William & Mary has lost two straight. The Tribe is missing Bronson Yoder in a big way right now and the offense is going stagnant. Darius Wilson and Malachi Imoh couldn’t make up for Yoder’s absence this time and Mike London’s group was only able to score one touchdown in the loss. If there’s any postives to be gleaned it’s that the defense is still swinging. John Pius made another case for him being this year’s Buck Buchanan Award winner with eight tackles and 2.5 sacks. Overall, though, there’s work to be done. The Tribe will see Towson after a bye.
#12 Holy Cross (4-2) - Last Week #12
Bucknell got the receiving end of Holy Cross’ frustrations last weekend as the Crusaders rolled to a 55-27 win over the Bison. For the fourth time this season Jordan Fuller ran for over 100 yards and this time he found the end zone four times. Quarterback Matthew Sluka looked like his normal self again, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 122 yards as well. Penalties, though, continue to haunt Holy Cross. Bob Chesney’s team was flagged 12 times in the win. They’ll have a bye to get those kinks worked out before Lafayette comes in.
#13 Southern Illinois (4-1) - Last Week: #6
It’s hard to win when your quarterback isn’t upright and Nic Baker hit the turf a lot against Youngstown State. In a surprising turn of events, the Penguins outplayed the Salukis in nearly every facet of the game and left SIU on the wrong end of a 31-3 loss. It was the team’s worst offensive performance of the year by a lot. Baker didn’t even hit 100 passing and Justin Strong was the leading rusher with eight yards... yes, eight. In fact, the Salukis were only able to muster up 100 total yards on the day. All is not lost but forgetting this one might be tough. Murray State is waiting.
#14 North Carolina Central (5-1) - Last Week #14
NCCU continues to prove itself against solid competition. Last week the Eagles rallied to take down a then-ranked Elon squad on the road. The one-man show that is Davius Richard accounted for four more TDs brining his season total (rushing and passing) up to 15. The Eagles, after falling behind early, scored 21 second-quarter points and never looked back. The MEAC certainly seems like its NC Central’s to lose at this point and the upcoming bye week should only help. The Eagles will host Morgan State following the extended time off.
#15 North Dakota (3-2) - Last Week #16
A beatdown over Western Illinois is just what the doctor ordered for the Hawks who got handled by SDSU last week. Things were clicking across the board. Tommy Schuster threw for 206 yards and five different ball carriers all recorded touchdowns. The North Dakota defense held WIU to 206 total yards and Ted Mullin’s second interception of the season went for six. Gaven Zierbarth led the way with 78 rushing yards and things are again looking up for UND. It comes at a good time because they’ll welcome in North Dakota State next week for a big one.
#16 Montana (5-1) - Last Week #17
This may have been the most important win for the Griz this year, at least so far. Bobby Hauck’s team silenced some of the criticism coming its way with a nice 31-23 win over UC Davis on Saturday night. Clifton McDowell threw for 243 yards and three touchdowns and Eli Gillman sparked the offense with a huge 85-yard touchdown run. The Montana defense forced a late fumble to thwart the Aggies comeback bid and the Grizzlies are right back in the thick of the playoff conversation. A monster game against Idaho is on the docket.
#17 UT Martin (5-1) - Last Week: #18
It took overtime but UT Martin prevailed over a solid EIU team to remain unbeaten in FCS play. The Skyhawks rallied behind a two-touchdown performance from Kinkead Dent to survive a scrappy Panthers team that took the ball away four times. Sam Franklin was held relatively in check but still managed to find paydirt once. Eight different guys caught passes and the defense gave up just 32 yards on the ground. There’s plenty to fix but this is the best kind of win if you’re the Skyhawks who move up one more spot this week. Charleston Southern is waiting after a week off.
#18 Florida A&M (5-1) - Last Week: #19
Southern came to play and gave Florida A&M a scare but, thanks to a late defensive stand, the Rattlers hold on to remain perfect in conference play. Jeremey Moussa picked apart the Jaguars for 325 yards and two touchdowns while Marcus Riley averaged almost 14 yards per reception. Willie Simmons has to be frustrated with the penalties that continue to mount for his team, though. The Rattlers were hit 10 times for 100 yards last weekend by the officials. They’ll need to work on that over the bye week.
#19 Harvard (4-0) - Last Week: #21
The Crimson remain undefeated after a solid win over Cornell on Friday night. Charles DePrima keeps on showing why he’s one of the Ivy League’s best signal-callers, throwing for 209 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for 152 to pace the team as well. Four games in and DePrima still has only tossed two interceptions. Harvard’s offense looked as sharp as ever, putting up 41 total yards and finding the end zone five times. If there’s any area that needs improvement, it’s special teams. The Big Red were able to block two PATs. Howard will roll in this Saturday.
#20 Central Arkansas (4-2) - Last Week: #23
The Bears scored 32 fourth quarter points on Saturday night to complete a miraculous comeback over SEMO. Trailing 30-6 at one point, Central Arkansas flipped the switch thanks to four touchdown passes from Will McElvain, all of which came in the final 15 minutes. Myles Butler was responsible for two of those scores as he went for 117 yards through the air on a day where ShunDerrick Powell was bottled up. The Bears have still not lost on the stripes in Conway this year as they get ready to open the gates for Stephen F. Austin this weekend.
#21 Eastern Washington (2-3) - Last Week: #22
No game for the Eagles in Week 6. EWU will travel to Idaho State this weekend.
#22 Weber State (3-3) - Last Week #13
Weber State takes a big fall this week after getting smacked at home by Northern Arizona. Something has been wrong in Ogden for a while now this season and it all came to a head against the Lumberjacks. The Wildcats only scored 10 points behind an offense that didn’t even put up 200 yards and turned it over twice. Kylan Weisser struggled, throwing a pair of interceptions while the WSU defense couldn’t get off the field. NAU had the ball for over 37 minutes and to add insult to injury, the Wildcats were penalized nine times. UC Davis is right around the corner.
#23 Youngstown State (3-2) - Last Week: NR
YSU is back in the rankings after a dominant win over a previously undefeated Southern Illinois team. The Penguins shut down the Salukis prolific offense and held them to just three points all day. Both Tyshon King and Dra Rushton ran for two touchdowns with King going for 117 yards as well. Holding Nic Baker to under 100 passing yards is a feat in and of itself and the Youngstown State defense did just that. This win not only gets YSU into the rankings once more but is also a huge resume booster come playoff selection time. The Penguins will look to make it two Top 10 wins in a row when they see South Dakota on Saturday.
#24 Albany (4-2) - Last Week: NR
Albany has been hovering outside the Top 25 pretty much all season and, finally, they’ll be in this week after picking up a nice victory over Towson. Reese Poffenbarger has been the guy for the Great Danes this year under center and on Saturday he threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns to lead them to their fourth win of the season. Griffin Woodell and Marqueese Dietz each hauled in TDs and Dylan Kelly put up 23 tackles plus a fumble recovery. Now at 2-0 in CAA action, Albany is positioning itself well for a playoff push. A tough one at New Hampshire is right around the corner, though.
.@FCS_STATS's FedEx Ground FCS National Defensive Player of the Week: Dylan Kelly, @UAlbanyFootball— CAA Football (@CAAFootball) October 9, 2023
Kelly racked up an FCS season-high 23 tackles...here's a few ⬇️
➡️ https://t.co/GUuGaun6wE pic.twitter.com/7iekJGuROz
#25 Chattanooga (4-2) - Last Week: #24
For a while it looked like it would be a happy homecoming for the Mocs but, in spite of a late two-point conversion to give them the lead, Chattanooga couldn’t hold it and lost a crazy game against Western Carolina 52-50. The offense put on a show but it wasn’t quite enough. Chase Artopoeus threw for 399 yards and five touchdowns and Javin Whatley was a huge reason why he had those big numbers. Whatley caught 11 passes for 231 yards and four of those scores. This loss stings certainly but the Mocs aren’t dead. They’ll need a big rebound against Mercer this weekend.
UC Davis (3-3) - Last Week #20
The Aggies fumbled a big opportunity at home against Montana and drop their third game of the season. Miles Hastings’ big night passing was overshadowed by a poor defensive performance. UC Davis surrendered over 400 yards and let the Grizzlies march up and down the field for much of the game. Ball security was a big problem as the team lost two fumbles. It’s clear that this team is missing its star player in Lan Larison. Things will have to turn around in a hurry because the Aggies’ postseason hopes are slipping away. They’ll see Weber State next.
Elon (3-3) - Last Week: #25
The Phoenix had a good chance to make a statement against NC Central but instead they dropped a big one and their time in the Top 25 will be short-lived. After taking a 10-0 lead, the Elon defense four unanswered touchdowns and by the time the offense picked it back up, it was far too late. Matthew Downing tossed for 163 yards and a touchdown but also had a pick in there and no Elon ball carrier eclipsed 50 yards. If there’s any saving grace right now it’s that they are still a perfect 3-0 in the conference but they’ll need to prove themselves against a good Villanova squad this weekend.