I am grateful to have a vote in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 poll. I will publish my Top 25 every week for everyone to see, and I’m sure rationally discuss with a clear lens.
25. NC Central
23. Holy Cross
22. Northern Iowa
20. Missouri State
18. Southeastern Louisiana
17. Austin Peay
15. Central Arkansas
13. Eastern Washington
11. UC Davis
9. North Dakota
8. Montana State
7. Weber State
6. Southern Illinois
5. North Dakota State
4. James Madison
2. Sam Houston
1. South Dakota State
The order of the Top 5 can be debated all day. But before I get to my reasoning for my 1-5 rankings, I hope Southern Illinois didn’t get lost in the shuffle of last week’s big wins. The Salukis looked damn good in a 47-21 win at SEMO, which is typically a close game between the two non-conference rivals. SIU is going to be a problem this season after nearly beating SDSU in the spring quarterfinals.
So I put NDSU No. 5. New starting QB Quincy Patterson looked good and made some impressive throws. You can already tell the Bison have upgraded at quarterback compared to the spring. NDSU’s offense was up-and-down in Game 1 against Albany, struggling to finish some drives. But it will continue to get better. NDSU was lights out on defense as the Bison won 28-6. It was not a statement performance by any means, but there were small things you can see throughout the game that says the Bison are a better team than when they lost at Sam Houston in the quarterfinals.
The Bison could win the national title this season and it wouldn’t even mildly surprise me. So don’t pull that “sleeping” stuff on me. In the past, a No. 5 ranking would have been a slap in the face because a few years ago, it was clear there weren’t that many teams better than NDSU, even if the Bison lost one regular-season game. But the top tier of the FCS is more loaded than it’s been in quite some time. This is a very strong Top 5
JMU is No. 4. The Dukes hammered Morehead State 68-10. QB Cole Johnson was on point and picked up where he left off from an impressive few games in the playoffs. The secondary looked vulnerable at times, so I’m curious to watch this next game against a good Maine passing attack. I’m also a bit concerned about the offensive line. That was the biggest question mark during preseason camp. All-American offensive tackle Raymond Gillespie left the team a couple of weeks before preseason camp to begin his working career. And JMU’s other All-American OT Liam Fornadel suffered a knee injury against Morehead State and will likely be out for this season.
Montana is No. 3 after a historic 13-7 win at FBS No. 20 Washington. The Griz looked legit defensively, answering some questions I especially had regarding the defensive line. The 2019 d-line was not at the level it needed to be for the Griz to compete for a national title. Now, it is. I kept Montana behind SHSU and SDSU because I want to see how the Griz offense looks against FCS defenses.
And I’m curious if the hot start cools off, something that has happened to past Griz teams. Montana beat No. 1 NDSU to start 2015 and ended up being only an above-average FCS team. The Griz started 5-1 in 2016, including a road win at No. 3 Northern Iowa, and ended up missing the playoffs. In 2018, Montana started 4-1 with a home win against No. 13 UNI and ended up missed the playoffs.
Beating Washington is one of the most impressive FCS wins in quite some time. But my best gauge of Montana and how high it sits nationally is probably going to come on Oct. 2 when it goes to EWU.
SHSU goes from No. 1 to No. 2 for me. And SHSU didn’t do anything wrong in Week 1, handling NAU 42-16 for a road win in a game many of us thought was going to be close. But I don’t believe in the “a team can’t drop if they win.” It’s less about the team that dropped, and more about the team that moved up.
I still think SHSU is one of the two most complete teams in the country. The Bearkats have so many weapons on offense and a stud QB in Eric Schmid. Plus, the defense is the No. 1 or No. 2 unit in the FCS.
But I loved what SDSU showed in its 42-23 beatdown at Colorado State.
If Mark Gronowski didn’t get hurt on the first drive in the national title game against SHSU, I think the Jackrabbits would have won. And before Bearkats fans get mad at me, I would be saying the same thing about SHSU if Schmid got hurt early and SDSU barely hung on for a national championship win.
In his debut game for the Jacks, Chris Oladokun showed he may be even better than Gronowski. If he continues to play like that the rest of this season and makes the throws he made in a consistent fashion, Oladokun is going to gain more and more NFL interest.
Oladokun was fantastic. Pierre Strong Jr. looked back to being the best RB in the FCS after fighting injuries in the spring. The o-line that many called the best in the FCS during the spring has stayed intact. And the defense looked great again after a tremendous spring.
The Jacks were a QB away from winning their first FCS national title in the spring. Oladokun is the final piece of the puzzle this season.