We are into the fourth quarter of the 2022 FCS regular season. At this time, it’s always fun to look back at the preseason Top 25 to see how teams are living up to expectations.
Here is a report card for those preseason Top 25 teams in the Stats Perform Media Poll.
These are grades for this point in the season and not looking ahead at what they can still accomplish.
RELATED: FCS Bracketology 5.0
1. North Dakota State
This one is a bit tough to grade. Because I like to point out that the Bison didn’t look too great for most of last season until the final game of the regular season before mostly dominating its way to another national title. I give NDSU a B- right now since this is just through seven games. At 5-2 with a three-point loss to P5 Arizona and a two-point loss to now-No. 1 SDSU, the Bison don’t have terrible losses. But they also don’t look like the behemoth we expected them to be, even in their wins. There’s still time and some level of national expectation for this team to turn their grade into an A by January.
NDSU is currently ranked No. 4.
2. South Dakota State
The Jackrabbits were viewed as 1b to NDSU’s 1a all offseason. Through three-quarters of the season, they have proven to be No. 1 at 7-1 overall (close P5 loss at Iowa) and 7-0 vs. the FCS. SDSU beat NDSU in Fargo in mid-October, rallying from a 21-7 halftime deficit to win 23-21. Its defense looks legit while the offense is reaching expectations. And SDSU has a nice path to the No. 1 playoff seed. While one could argue the Jacks could be given an A- because the play hasn’t been perfect at times, I think any SDSU fan back in August would take being in this late-October position with no complaints.
SDSU is currently ranked No. 1.
The Grizzlies and their fans felt confident the team would be 7-0 at this point, 6-1 at worst. A double-digit regular-season win total, heck even an 11-0 record, was tossed out there as possibilities, by me included. But Montana is 5-2, suffering back-to-back losses at home to Idaho and on the road at Sac State. QB injury and some calls/no-calls did not go Montana’s way at Sac State, but that’s how sports go sometimes. Montana has games to come at No. 5 Weber State and at No. 3 Montana State. The Griz have gone from expected title contenders to questions on if they will make the playoffs if they lose those two road games. Win out, and this grade turns around quickly.
Montana is currently ranked No. 11.
4. Montana State
For being preseason No. 4 and reaching the national title game last season, the Bobcats faced some level of doubt if they could replicate 2021’s success without a star-studded senior class. But the Bobcats have just kept winning with new players emerging and stepping up almost every week. MSU is 7-1 overall and 7-0 vs. the FCS. A new-look OL is playing beyond its years for a dominant rushing attack down multiple key RBs. With two unranked road games and a home game vs. No. 11 Montana to end the regular season, the Bobcats are in position for a Top 3 seed and more Bozeman playoff scenes. The only things preventing MSU from getting an A are the ugly loss to Oregon State (which tbh probably doesn’t matter) and some defensive/special teams sloppiness. But at 7-0 vs. the FCS and an A- grade on this made-up report card, it’s hard to complain about that with the number of new starters playing this year.
Montana State is currently ranked No. 3.
5. Missouri State
Mo State was viewed as a legit title threat in the preseason due to its returning standout players and the additions of several FBS transfers. Things didn’t click, and it quickly unraveled after a 2-0 start and then holding a 10-point fourth-quarter lead at FBS No. 10 Arkansas. The Bears blew that lead, and have since lost to four straight FCS opponents by double digits. At 2-5, the Bears are out of playoff contention, even if they win out to finish 6-5.
Missouri State is no longer ranked.
Nova hasn’t lived up to expectations to be at the top of the CAA and contend for a playoff seed. The Wildcats are 4-3 overall (4-2 vs. the FCS) and 2-2 in conference play. They lost 49-42 to Monmouth and 20-10 to Richmond. Nova is certainly not out of playoff contention yet. Winnable games come vs. Hampton and Towson before facing ranked W&M and Delaware to end the season. At this point of the year, though, it hasn’t been a success or a failure.
Villanova is no longer ranked but is receiving votes.
7. Sacramento State
Sac State was starting to get the Jacksonville State treatment this offseason due to its playoff performances as a high seed. So far, the Hornets look like a team ready to win multiple games in the bracket. They are 7-0, featuring a decisive FBS win on Colorado State and a ranked win over Montana. Sac State has tough games to come vs. ranked Idaho and at ranked Weber State, plus a tough game vs. UC Davis to end the regular season. Through seven weeks, it’s been an A season for the Hornets.
Sac State is currently ranked No. 2.
8. Kennesaw State
The new blocking/cutting rules haven’t helped KSU’s option offense. But so far, the biggest bright spot of the season was the program’s accepted invite to Conference USA. The Owls are 3-4 overall (3-3 vs. the FCS) and 1-2 vs. ASUN opponents. The wins are one-score victories over Wofford, North Alabama, and Tennessee Tech (combined record of 3-18). They can turn it around with games at ranked UT Martin, vs. ranked Austin Peay, and at EKU (receiving votes). To this point, it hasn’t been good for a team thought to be strong enough to make a potential run to the quarterfinals.
Kennesaw is no longer ranked.
9. Southern Illinois
This would have been a B if not for last week’s loss at South Dakota. The Salukis started 0-2 with a 64-29 loss at UIW and a 31-24 loss vs. SEMO. Then came a P5 win at Northwestern followed by four straight FCS victories to sit at 5-2 and looking like the SIU team we expected. Then came a loss at USD (who is now 2-5). A 5-3 record isn’t awful at this point in the season (most of us probably expected 6-2). But two of the three losses were ugly.
SIU is currently ranked No. 20.
10. Stephen F. Austin
It isn’t SFA’s fault they were the preseason media darlings and we hyped them up as a breakout team in 2022 that can make a deep playoff run. Regardless, SFA hasn’t lived up to external or internal expectations. Yet, kinda like SIU, it isn’t sitting in a terrible spot either. A 42-17 loss to Jacksonville State was surprising. A 31-27 win at Alcorn was underwhelming. A 52-17 loss at FBS Louisiana Tech was disappointing from a score perspective. A 98-0 win over non-D1 Warner was just laughably sad (granted SFA had to make a late adjustment to its schedule). And a 17-16 loss to rival Sam Houston was a heartbreaker. Just a total meh start for SFA. Since then, the Lumberjacks have won three straight for a current record of 5-3. Still not up to preseason par, but three more wins (Utah Tech, UCA, ACU) and SFA can hope the computerized ranking for the ASUN-WAC auto-bid goes their way for a return trip to the playoffs.
SFA is no longer ranked but is receiving votes.
11. East Tennessee State
ETSU is 3-5 overall with two D1 wins. Its offense took a while to get going, but now the defense is struggling, allowing 110 points in the last two games to Mercer and Samford. The Bucs lost a lot of talent from last season’s quarterfinal team, yet had enough coming back to push for another playoff bid. At five losses, that looks like it won’t be happening.
ETSU is no longer ranked.
High preseason expectations aren’t anything new for the Mocs. But they finally appear to be living up to them. At 6-1 overall and 6-0 vs. the FCS, Chattanooga is coming off of a dominant win vs. then-No. 11 Mercer. Its defense is shutting teams down, while the offense has looked more balanced. Two of the final four games involved ranked opponents (Furman and Samford). We’ll see how those games go, but Chattanooga looks to be in the driver’s seat for a playoff seed.
Chattanooga is currently ranked No. 7.
13. Eastern Washington
EWU doesn’t get an F or a D like some of the other teams above with bad records. Mostly because we kinda thought a 2-5 record would be realistic at this point. The Eagles have lost to P5 Oregon and Florida and Top 5 FCS teams Montana State, Weber State, and Sac State. But still, for a program that expects to win, a 2-5 record is disappointing regardless of opponents. And the Weber and Sac State losses were by 20+ points. Road games loom at ranked Idaho and Montana.
EWU is no longer ranked.
14. Incarnate Word
It’s hard to dock UIW too much on what it has accomplished. A conference loss to Southeastern prevents the Cardinals from getting an A because that’s a 50/50 game they probably want back to truly be in the national title conversations. UIW is currently 7-1 overall, featuring a 64-29 win over ranked SIU and a 55-41 win over FBS Nevada. The offense hasn’t lost any of its explosiveness, and the defense looks improved. Three winnable games remain, and a 10-1 UIW team (one non-counter win in there) should get a seed, a remarkable feat for a program struggling just a few years ago.
UIW is currently ranked No. 8.
15. Jackson State
JSU is 7-0 and outscoring opponents by an average of 40 to 10. It’s tough to give anything less than an A to this talented squad. And for some bonus points, ESPN’s College GameDay is heading to Jackson this week. I predicted an 11-0 regular-season record for JSU, which caught plenty of flak. It’s looking more and more promising.
Jackson State is currently ranked No. 9.
16. Holy Cross
Holy Cross is rolling right now, sitting at 7-0 with an FBS win on Buffalo. Granted last week’s 24-21 win at Lafayette was a surprising score, but perhaps the Crusaders were staring ahead to this week’s Patriot League showdown against No. 22 Fordham. Holy Cross is looking like a potential seed with the talent and experience to win some games in the bracket.
Holy Cross is currently ranked No. 5.
17. Southeastern Louisiana University
The Lions have fallen out of the rankings (not mine) but aren’t sitting badly at all. They are 4-3 overall and 4-1 vs. the FCS. One win is a huge one against ranked UIW, but a loss to Texas A&M-Commerce sets them back in the national rankings. Still, the Lions will earn the Southland’s AQ if they win out due to the head-to-head on UIW. Last week’s 31-14 win at FBS-transitioning Jacksonville State was impressive.
Southeastern is not currently ranked but is receiving votes.
18. UT Martin
The Skyhawks are sitting where we expected them to be at 4-3 overall, 4-1 vs. the FCS, and 3-0 in the OVC. They get knocked to a B with the one loss to Missouri State, who is really struggling now at 2-5. UT Martin and SEMO are two ranked OVC teams who are undefeated in the standings and do not play each other. The tiebreaker could come down to a coin flip, and it’ll be interesting if the playoff committee deems the OVC worthy of an at-large bid for whoever doesn’t get the auto-bid.
UT Martin is currently ranked No. 21.
After not making the playoffs last year and hiring a new head coach in Ryan Carty, a 6-1 record featuring an FBS win on Navy is almost as good as you can ask for. The one loss is a 27-21 defeat at ranked William & Mary. The status of QB Nolan Henderson is key for the Blue Hens to finish strong and earn a playoff bid and a potential seed. Tough opponents remain at Elon, vs. Monmouth, vs. ranked Richmond, and at Villanova.
Delaware is currently ranked No. 12.
20. Weber State
Weber looks back to form after missing last year’s postseason. The Wildcats are 6-1 overall, featuring a big FBS win on Utah State, a non-counter win, and the one loss a 50/50 game at Montana State. They could easily be 7-0 right now, knocking them from an A to an A-. Weber’s season trajectory will be determined in the next two weeks in home games vs. ranked Montana and Sac State.
Weber is currently ranked No. 5.
21. Northern Iowa
UNI is 4-4, not an unusual record for the Panthers at this point. Two of those losses are by two points against potential playoff teams UND and Illinois State. The other two are decisive losses to FBS Air Force and Sac State. UNI’s playoff hopes aren’t dead yet, which is why it gets a middling C grade. But the Panthers will have to beat ranked SIU, No. 1 SDSU, and USD to get into the bracket at 7-4.
UNI is no longer ranked.
22. Rhode Island
At 5-2 overall and 5-1 vs. the FCS, Rhody is eyeing a playoff berth after being left on the bubble last year. You could argue the program deserves an A for its success so far considering it doesn’t have a winning pedigree. The lone FCS loss is by 21 points to ranked Delaware, and this last week the Rams needed seven overtimes to beat unranked Monmouth. So how good is this team really? Well, Rhode Island can solidify itself as a postseason team down the stretch, including road games at ranked W&M and UNH.
Rhody is currently ranked No. 18.
Last week’s 41-21 loss at ranked Chattanooga could knock Mercer down to a B due to the disappointing performance. But considering this program has never made the playoffs and came into this season No. 23, to be 6-2 overall and 6-1 vs. the FCS is almost as good as it gets. If Mercer beats VMI and then at least splits its games against ranked Furman and Samford, a playoff bid should happen.
Mercer is currently ranked No. 16.
Richmond’s offensive additions via the transfer portal led to preseason playoff expectations. At 5-2 overall and 5-1 vs. the FCS (loss to Elon, one then-ranked win over Nova), the Spiders are sitting well at this point in the season. The final four games will truly determine if this team is playoff-good, though, going to Maine, hosting ranked UNH, going to ranked Delaware, and hosting ranked W&M.
Richmond is currently ranked No. 17.
25. UC Davis
A B- for a 3-4 team (3-3 vs. the FCS) may sound odd. But UC Davis’ three FCS losses are by two points at SDSU, five points vs. Weber State, and 17 points at Montana State — all currently Top 5 teams. The Aggies have otherwise blown out their FCS opponents (San Diego, NAU, Northern Colorado). They have two winnable home games vs. Cal Poly and Idaho State. Then it’s road games at ranked Idaho and at ranked Sac State. The playoff hopes aren’t dead yet.
UC Davis is no longer ranked.