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FCS Top 25: Who Moved and What Changed in the National Rankings for Week 11

Montana surges into the Top 3, William & Mary tumbles out and a whole lot of other movement headlines the poll this week.

Sacramento State v Montana Photo by Tanner Ecker/University of Montana/Getty Images

The 2023 FCS season is headed for a thrilling conclusion over the final two weeks. The playoff and conference races are as tight as we've seen them in some time and this weeks Top 25 has the picture as clear as its been all year. Just because there's only a couple of these left, though, doesn't mean the movement is slowing down.

Week 11 is right around the corner and here's where it all stands.

The Top 25

#1 South Dakota State (9-0) - Last Week: #1

It was a dogfight until it wasn't in the 115th Dakota Marker and now with the toughest parts of their regular season schedule squarely behind them, the Jacks are eyeing perfection. Isaiah Davis continues to run through defenders like they aren’t even there, posing 106 yards and another score against the Bison. Mark Gronowski threw a pair of touchdowns, both to Jadon Janke while kicker Hunter Dustman nailed all four of his field goal tries in the win. The Jackrabbits are clicking in every facet of the game right now and it certainly seems as though they’re untouchable at the top. Youngstown State will give it a try this weekend.

#2 Furman (8-1) - Last Week: #2

The Paladins are the first team to officially ink their name into the postseason field with a 17-14 win over Chattanooga. Furman will have the SoCon auto bid, winning their second league title in a row. Tyler Huff had to leave the game early with an injury but Carson Jones stepped up in his place and threw two second half touchdowns. Travis Blackshear is now up to three interceptions on the season thanks to a big one he snagged on Saturday. Despite being outgained and losing the time of possession battle, Furman held strong when it needed to most and now at eight wins and playoff spot in hand, the Paladins fight for a seed the rest of the way. They’ll host VMI next.

#3 Montana (8-1) - Last Week: #4

The incredible season turnaround continues for Montana who put up perhaps its most impressive showing of the season so far against visiting Sacramento State last Saturday night. Bobby Hauck is now the all time winningest coach in Big Sky history and it came in electric fashion. Clifton McDowell completed 11 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns while Eli Gillman rumbled for 113 yards and a score. The Grizzlies gave up an early touchdown to the Hornets but then never looked back, running up well over 500 yards of total offense. UM is gunning for a top seed in the playoffs as the season winds down. The final road trip of the regular season is up next and Portland State is waiting.

#4 Idaho (7-2) - Last Week: #3

Northern Colorado didn't go away but Idaho scored late to pull away and escape a potential upset bid. The Vandals, thanks in large part to Anthony Woods, ran for 133 yards. Gevani McCoy and Hayden Hatten teamed up for 104 through the air and a touchdown while the defense only allowed six second half points. By no means was it Idaho’s prettiest win of the year but at the end of the day, they’re still 5-1 in Big Sky play with a chance to take home a share of the conference crown down the stretch. A road trip to Weber State is around the corner before they return home to wrap things up with Idaho State.

#5 Montana State (7-2) - Last Week: #6

The Bobcats needed a bounce back and they got an emphatic one by clobbering Northern Arizona at home. Tommy Mellott threw for 126 yards and a score while also leading the team in rushing with 107 yards on 10 carries. Four different MSU rushers found the end zone and the ‘Cats looked like their normal selves again, rushing for 343 yards. The defense did a great job of keeping NAU’s offense on the sideline and forced two stops on fourth down. Montana State is 5-1 in Big Sky action meaning that the chance for a conference championship is still alive if they can win out. MSU will host Eastern Washington this weekend.

#6 South Dakota (7-2) - Last Week: #9

After getting blown out a week ago by SDSU, the Coyotes rebounded in a big way, outlasting a good Southern Illinois squad 14-7. The USD defense was phenomenal, holding the Salukis to their second-lowest point output of the year and registering a big interception at the end to seal it. Defensive lineman Brendan Webb was a man possessed, picking up four sacks and batting the ball away on the final play that lead to the game winning turnover. The ‘Yotes can all but lock up a playoff spot this week with a win against North Dakota.

#7 North Carolina Central (8-1) - Last Week: #12

The Eagles continue their romp toward the Celebration Bowl with another solid win, this time over Norfolk State and they'll jump five spots from last week. Davius Richard threw three touchdowns and rushed for another, bringing his season total up to 27. Latrell Collier also found the end zone and Devin Smith hauled in two TDs in another offensive clinic. With just two games left, NC Central should be on the fast track to the MEAC title for a second straight year. The Eagles will hit the road to take on Howard this weekend.

#8 Delaware (7-2) - Last Week: #5

Just when it was looking like the CAA was cut and dried, the Hens floundered against Elon and things are interesting at the top of the conference once again. The good news is Ryan O’Connor was back and played well, throwing for 315 yards and a score. The bad news was that Delaware’s pass defense gave up 352 yards and three touchdowns and didn’t force a single turnover. Elon’s Matthew Downing averaged over 10 yards per throw and torched the Hens. A league title is still in reach but it’s further now than it was before with Villanova surging. UD will try to get it right against Campbell.

#9 Sacramento State (6-3) - Last Week: #7

Any hope the Hornets had of being a seed in this year’s playoffs probably died in Montana on Saturday evening. After taking an early 7-0 lead, they got blanked the rest of the way through. Neither Kaiden Bennett or Carson Conklin hit 100 yards passing and the defense surrendered a season-worst 548 yards. The offense didn’t even have the ball for 25 minutes and punter Cal McGough had to boot it away seven times. While a Big Sky title and first round bye is likely out of reach now, the Hornets still are very much in the playoff conversation but need to correct things in a hurry. They’ll welcome in Cal Poly this Saturday.

#10 North Dakota (6-3) - Last Week: #13

Once again it wasn’t how they drew it up but the Hawks found a way to get it done against Murray State. Tommy Schuster tossed five touchdowns and Isaiah Smith ran for 153 along with another score. Those big numbers were enough to overcome a lackluster defensive performance in which the UND allowed nearly 400 yards. The win keeps North Dakota’s postseason dreams alive but they’ll have them on the line again this weekend when they see South Dakota on the road.

#11 Southern Illinois (6-3) - Last Week: #10

The Salukis really needed to beat South Dakota at home but it didn’t happen and now the rest of the way won’t be nearly as comfortable at three losses. Nic Baker did throw a touchdown but also when it mattered most at the end, he tossed an untimely pick that put the game on ice. The offense barely rushed for over 100 yards and turned it over on downs twice. The defense played solidly but with no offensive support, it was a recipe for disaster. It really feels like SIU needs to win out to make it in now but that won’t be an easy task. North Dakota State is up next.

#12 North Dakota State (6-3) - Last Week: #11

Although the outcome wasn’t necessarily surprising, NDSU’s 33-16 loss to South Dakota State all but ensures there won’t be bye in Fargo during the playoffs and that’s an odd sight in and of itself. Cam Miller tossed a pair of interceptions and Tamerik Williams lost a fumble. The defense surrendered nearly 400 yards and gave up over 30 points for the third time this year. It’s been an atypical campaign for the Bison and for the first time in a long time it doesn’t seem like this team has what it takes to run it to Texas. They’ll face Southern Illinois this weekend.

#13(T) Florida A&M (8-1) - Last Week: #15

With a berth in the 2023 SWAC Championship already in hand, the Rattlers keep on winning and winning big. Jeremy Moussa threw for 245 yards with a score while three different ball carriers got touchdowns also. The Florida A&M defense forced two takeaways and turned Alabama A&M away ten times in total on third down and four times on fourth. FAMU is the clear cut favorite to represent the SWAC in the Celebration Bowl but that’s not a lock quite yet. The Rattlers will square off with Lincoln (CA) this weekend before taking on Bethune-Cookman in the “Florida Classic” to close out the regular season.

#13(T) Villanova (7-2) - Last Week: #17

The Wildcats’ bid for a CAA title gained some traction last week with another big win paired with Delaware’s loss. Connor Watkins threw four touchdowns to help the ‘Nova offense outpace a high-powered UNH team. The defense notched three interceptions and picked up a fumble. Jalen Jackson ran for 145 yards and two more touchdowns to put the icing on a very productive day. Villanova will turn its attention to Towson this week before facing Delaware in what could serve as the CAA championship to wrap things up in two weeks.

#15 Northern Iowa (6-3) - Last Week: #18

UNI blew the doors off Western Illinois and has the postseason in their cross hairs going into the final two weeks. Theo Day only had four incomplete passes all afternoon and threw two touchdowns while his backup Aidan Dunne tossed one more once the game was comfortably in hand. Amauri Pesek-Hickson ran for a pair of scores while fellow back Tyjahree Edwards led the team with 96 yards on the ground and another TD. The Panthers only had to punt once and put up 50 points. They’ll hit the road to face Missouri State this Saturday.

#16 Incarnate Word (7-2) - Last Week: #8

The close game issues finally caught up with Incarnate Word in a bad way last weekend as the Cardinals dropped one to Nicholls. Zach Calzada was back and did throw for nearly 400 yards along with four TDs but the Colonels dropped 24 points in the second quarter to take a lead that was too big for UIW to overcome. The rush defense was practically nonexistent as Nichols had two ball carriers eclipse 150 yards. Incarnate Word got manhandled in the time of possession battle and allowed a 50% conversion rate on third down. The Southland is no longer in their possession at 4-1 in conference play and they’ll be playing catch up. This week’s contest against Northwestern State has been canceled. UIW will end the season with Houston Christian on November 18.

#17 Western Carolina (6-3) - Last Week: #16

The Catamounts had to sweat it out against a winless Wofford squad last weekend but eked out a 28-25 win to avoid disaster. Desmond Reid is still sidelined but Cole Gonzalez shouldered the load, throwing for 229 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 61 yards. The WCU defense helped overcome two turnovers by going a perfect 3-for-3 on fourth down and holding the Terriers to under 200 passing yards. Penalties are a persistent problem, however, and Western Carolina was hit with 11 of them on Saturday. They’ll need to fix that if they want to win out in their playoff push. Up next is ETSU.

#18 Albany (7-3) - Last Week: #23

Albany helped itself out greatly by besting William & Mary in a pivotal game last Saturday. Griffin Woodell ran for 100 yards and a touchdown while defensive back Aamir Hall ran an interception back for six. Reese Poffenbarger was productive again, throwing for 205 yards and a score. The Great Danes still have hope of grabbing the CAA’s auto bid but will need some outside help. They’ll battle Stony Brook on the road this weekend before coming back home to face Monmouth in the finale.

#19 Chattanooga (7-3) - Last Week: #14

The Mocs played a really good game against Furman but in the end, the Paladins still came out on top. Chase Artopoeus completed 20 passes for 289 yards and both of Chattanooga’s touchdowns but not having Ailym Ford is starting to take its toll. Gino Appleberry ran it 15 times but only mustered up 48 yards to lead the team on the ground. Jamoi Mayes and Javin Whatley each had over 100 receiving yards and a score but they alone couldn’t get it done. The Mocs will have to try for an at-large bid now but things could get interesting as they have a bye this week before ending the season at FBS Alabama.

#20 Austin Peay (7-2) - Last Week: #19

The UAC is looking like it may very well be decided on the last weekend because Austin Peay keeps winning. Last weekend the Govs toppled Eastern Kentucky in overtime. Giving up 21 fourth quarter points was less than ideal but the wins all count the same. Mike DiLiello threw four touchdowns and Jevon Jackson ran for 120 yards. Kam Thomas was a one-man show on the outside, hauling in ten passes for 204 yards and a pair of TDs, The defense needs to tighten up as they allowed 396 passing yards but they did bottle it up well on the ground. Austin Peay returns home for the final two games. They’ll take on Utah Tech this Saturday.

#21 UT Martin (7-2) - Last Week: #21

The Skyhawks had to empty the arsenal against Tennessee Tech but in overtime they got it done to pick up their seventh win of the year. Kinkead Dent threw five touchdowns, none more exciting than the winner to Zoe Roberts who had two on the day. Sam Franklin ran for 78 yards and broke the goal line once while DeVonte Tanksley had a team-high 115 receiving yards. Oshae Baker did lose two fumbles but all’s well that ends well and UT Martin still has a chance to win the Big South-OVC title this week in their league finale against SEMO. They’ll wrap up the season with Samford on November 18.

#22 Youngstown State (6-3) - Last Week: #22

Youngstown State kept its postseason hopes afloat with a 19-7 victory over Indiana State. The Penguins defense was lights out after giving up a first-quarter TD, pitching a shutout over the final 45 minutes. Mitch Davidson threw for 245 yards and ran for a touchdown while Andrew Lastovka drilled two field goals to help lift YSU to its sixth victory of the season. They’ll probably need to win both of their final two games to have a shot and that’s a big ask with South Dakota State coming to town this Saturday.

#23 Mercer (7-3) - Last Week: #25

The Bears are knocking on the door to the postseason for the first time in program history and beating The Citadel keeps that dream alive for at least another week. Mercer’s defense forced three turnovers and Carter Peevy threw a pair of touchdowns to help the team pick up its seventh win. Al Wooten II authored scores both via the run and pass and linebacker Ken Standley posted a defensive touchdown. The Bears have just one more chance to make their case to the selection committee when they play Samford this Saturday.

#24 Harvard (7-1) - Last Week: NR

The Crimson return to the rankings this week after defeating Columbia on the road. Kaleb Moody had a heck of a showing on defense, grabbing two interceptions while running back Shane McLaughlin ran for two touchdowns on the other side. Harvard is still the favorite to take home the Ivy League title this fall and is now 4-1 in conference play. The Crimson will take on Penn this weekend before the all important showdown with Yale to end the year.

#25 Lafayette (7-2) - Last Week: #20

For the first time this fall Lafayette lost to an FCS opponent and it came at an inopportune time. Colgate scored 31 second half points to force overtime where they polished off the upset. The Leopards defense struggled on fourth down, allowing three big conversions and over 300 yards. Lafayette’s offense didn’t fare much better. Dean DeNobile’s three passing touchdowns were overshadowed by three turnovers. Ball control issues along with missed opportunities made the difference and now the Leopards will likely need to win out to secure the Patriot League championship. Fordham is on deck.

Dropped Out

William & Mary (5-4) - Last Week: #24

The latter half of the season has made it one to forget for the Tribe and now at four losses, it seems the playoffs are out of reach. Darius Wilson threw two interceptions, one of which directly led to six points the other way, and Malachi Imoh only managed 23 rushing yards to lead the team. The William & Mary offense has been quite ineffective since Bronson Yoder was lost to injury and for the first time this year they will not appear in the Top 25. The Tribe take on Hampton this weekend.