I am grateful to again have a vote in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 media poll for the 2022 season. I’ll publish my ballot every week and provide some reasoning for my order.
Notes at the bottom.
FCS Top 25
25. Rhode Island
24. Austin Peay
22. Southeastern Louisiana University
19. North Dakota
16. Southern Illinois
14. Incarnate Word
12. Jackson State
9. William & Mary
7. Holy Cross
5. Montana State
4. Sacramento State
3. North Dakota State
2. Weber State
1. South Dakota State
I reevaluate my order every week, which can result in big jumps and falls. I don’t like to slot teams based on last week’s order since every week of more games we get a clearer picture. So Team A can jump Team B even if both teams had similar wins.
The teams dropping out of my ballot were Eastern Kentucky and UT Martin. EKU lost in the final seconds to an OK Sam Houston team who is redshirting a lot of would-be starters as it transitions to the FBS. EKU is now 3-3 overall and 2-2 vs. the FCS. UT Martin was already hanging on by a thread in its ranking on my ballot, and Rhode Island and Idaho bumped them out. New Hampshire (5-2 overall, 5-1 vs. FCS) is close to making it in my Top 25, but I still need to see a more convincing win.
Rhode Island handed ranked Elon its first FCS loss, improving to 4-2 overall and 4-1 vs. the FCS (loss to Delaware). Kudos to the Rams, as I wasn’t totally sold on them as a ranked team last Monday.
I know some voters don’t like making drastic moves, but I like to start over every ballot and not let where I had teams last week impact where I put them this week. Or else you run into hard-headedness. So I had no problem moving Idaho from just outside my Top 25 last week to in my Top 10. Idaho won at No. 3 Montana in an upset-but-don’t-you-dare-call-it-an-upset win. The Vandals are playing at a really high level, improving to 4-2 overall (with two competitive P5 losses) and 4-0 vs. the FCS. This was the FCS win needed to show it belongs, and boy did they show it. That’s a Top 10 resume, even if they weren’t in the poll last week. Idaho was up two scores in the last minute on the Griz, who drop out of my Top 10 for now after suffering their first loss. But they have a few upcoming opportunities against Top 10 opponents to climb back in, including this week at Sac State.
SDSU is the new No. 1 after being my No. 2 last week and beating No. 1 NDSU in Fargo, coming back from a 21-7 halftime deficit to win 23-21. The Jacks are now 6-1 overall and 6-0 vs. the FCS. SDSU will be favored to win out, but its program is known for disappointing losses here and there, and a tough road trip to home giants UND comes this week. This looks like the best team the Jacks have had to win an FCS natty, and they should be experienced enough to play like the top team and avoid hangover performances.
I moved NDSU to No. 3. You could argue for any spot from 2-5. The Bison lost by two points to the No. 2 team in a 50/50 game. One could argue that NDSU and SDSU were viewed as 1a and 1b most of the offseason and this season, and the game played out like that with NDSU dominating the first half and SDSU dominating the second half. So a huge drop may not be necessary. Yet you could also make the argument that the Bison haven’t really looked sharp all season and being ranked No. 2 would be more about what they’ve done in the past and not what they have done this year. But we have seen this team ho-hum its way through the regular season and lose (even more decisively last year) to the Jacks and still show they are the best team in the FCS by year’s end. And it’s not like this is a brand-new NDSU team. There are plenty of returning starters and big contributors that mostly dominated their way through last year’s bracket. So I didn’t drop the Bison too far, because I still wouldn’t pick many teams to beat them on a neutral field. Weber State is one team I would. The more I watch the Wildcats, the more I like and see a team built to make a run to the title game. Weber is 6-0 with an FBS win against Utah State and has been absolutely smashing its FCS opponents lately. Bronson Barron looks like the missing piece for a Weber program that’s been a QB away from competing legitimately for an FCS championship. Defensive, special teams, and now offense … this team has fewer question marks than teams 3-5.
Sac State is looking really good at 6-0 with an FBS win against Colorado State. I like Weber a bit better than Sac State through seven weeks. Weber is better defensively, and pretty close on offense. And I still don’t know if the Hornets would beat SDSU or NDSU if they played. But they do look primed to get over the 0-2 playoff hump. I’m very intrigued with Sac State hosting Montana this week, as the team can continue to prove it is among the FCS top tier and past postseason performances should be ignored. Montana State rounds out the Top 5. The Bobcats continue to win at 6-1 overall and 6-0 vs. the FCS. An opportunity to move up the rankings is there as Weber comes to town this week.
There aren’t a ton of changes from there. I’m still very high on Mercer at No. 6 with a 6-0 record vs. the FCS and looking awesome on offense. Elon got bumped out of my Top 10 after losing to Rhody. They did beat my No. 9 William & Mary earlier this season, but I like W&M’s recent play a bit more at 5-1 overall with an FBS win (Charlotte) and beating my No. 10 Delaware.
The teams mostly stayed the same from there besides Rhody coming in at No. 25. Some teams were just maneuvered around a little bit when looking back at how I ordered them last week. And obviously, with Idaho climbing so high, that’s going to result in some teams dropping even if they won or had a bye.