I am grateful to again have a vote in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 media poll for the 2023 season. I’ll publish my ballot every week and provide some reasoning for my order.
Notes at the bottom.
FCS Top 25
- South Dakota State
- Montana State
- South Dakota
- Western Carolina
- North Carolina Central
- Sacramento State
- North Dakota
- Southern Illinois
- North Dakota State
- UT Martin
- Youngstown State
- Florida A&M
- Central Arkansas
- Austin Peay
- Northern Iowa
Leaving: Holy Cross, William & Mary
Entering: Northern Iowa, Lafayette
Holy Cross, who was expected to be in the seed discussion this season, now dips out of my Top 25 after its 38-35 loss to Lafayette. HC once trailed 31-14 in an eye-opening score. Its offense is still legit, led by the elite play of Matthew Sluka. He had 330 yards on the ground Saturday, setting a record for most single-game rushing yards by a D1 quarterback. But the Crusaders just don’t have it this year defensively, not helped by injuries and youth. Now at 4-3 overall and an FBS game vs. Army looming in November, a playoff bid is questionable for the preseason Top 10 team.
William & Mary’s stock had been dropping for me as this season progressed due to multiple underwhelming performances. Now the Tribe drops all the way out of my ranking after a 34-24 loss to Towson on its own Homecoming. Towson was just 2-4 entering the game. W&M falls to 4-3 with an FBS loss and two unranked FCS losses.
Lafayette enters my ballot with its win over Holy Cross. It’s been quite a turnaround for the Leopards. A 4-7 team last fall, they are now 6-1 overall and 6-0 vs. the FCS. They took it to ranked Holy Cross for most of the game on Saturday and did it in HC’s house. Lafayette also owns a win over Princeton, who just gave Harvard its first loss. That led me to put Lafayette one spot ahead of Harvard. Harvard dropped from its No. 11 spot last week, a ranking that was originally boosted from its earlier win over Holy Cross.
Northern Iowa did its UNI thing. Meaning the Panthers looked terrific after a couple of meh performances. They crushed ranked UND 27-0 a week after UND dominated NDSU. This was also seven days after UNI got rolled by SDSU and two weeks after it barely beat Indiana State. Add in an earlier 34-17 loss to Weber State, which hasn’t aged well with Weber dropping out of the Top 25. But even with those down performances, there have been good showings as well. UNI sits 4-3 overall (4-2 vs. the FCS) with two ranked wins over YSU and UND. That’s deserving of getting back into the Top 25.
North Dakota dropped a few spots after its loss at UNI. The Fighting Hawks looked flat after their monstrous win over NDSU last week. They have had a habit of not capitalizing on some serious momentum, and Saturday was just a bad performance. It makes you wonder how much UND put into that NDSU game and if it can match that level of play again. It can also make you wonder what this result says about NDSU and how the Bison looked against the Fighting Hawks. UND fell from No. 8 last week to No. 11 at 4-3 overall and 4-2 vs. the FCS, but still remains a couple of spots ahead of the Bison.
Delaware moved up several spots into the Top 10 after some recalibration on my part plus some other teams losing. The Blue Hens are 6-1 overall and 6-0 vs. the FCS with one ranked win over UNH. The Blue Hens are explosive offensively (even with standout QB Ryan O’Connor sidelined on Saturday) and are playing better than I expected on the defensive side.
Besides Delaware moving in, My Top 10 stays the same. With teams like UND, Harvard, and Holy Cross losing, plus UIW looking underwhelming again, I didn’t end up dropping Sac State after its loss to Montana State or Western Carolina after its loss to Furman, two Top 10 showdowns. On the winning side of those matchups, Montana State’s and Furman’s wins solidified their spots in the Top 3. Montana State is 6-1 with two ranked wins. Furman is also 6-1 overall (6-0 vs. the FCS) with two ranked wins.
Undefeated South Dakota State keeps its hold of the No. 1 spot with its FCS-high third ranked win of the season, winning at SIU. The Salukis also didn’t drop in their ranking after pushing the Jackrabbits.
UT Martin, Chattanooga, and Austin Peay move up a few spots as they keep tallying wins. Chattanooga is 6-2 overall/vs. the FCS with one ranked win, plus an impressive showing in a shootout loss against Top 10 WCU. UT Martin is 6-1 overall and 6-0 vs. the FCS. Austin Peay is 5-2 overall and 5-1 vs. the FCS.