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
- North Dakota State
- Montana State
- Holy Cross
- Sacramento State
- Incarnate Word
- William & Mary
- Weber State
- Southern Illinois
- North Carolina Central
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- Western Carolina
- UC Davis
- Florida A&M
- Rhode Island
- Youngstown State
- Eastern Washington
- Central Arkansas
Leaving: Southeastern Louisiana University, Gardner-Webb
Entering: Delaware, Eastern Washington
Moving into my Top 25 are EWU and Delaware. Moving out are SLU and Gardner-Webb. EWU beat ranked SLU this last weekend and also had a 2OT loss at Fresno State the week before, a good FBS G5 squad. Delaware has been on my radar and nearly made my preseason Top 25, and it has cruised past its two FCS opponents Stony Brook and Saint Francis. Gardner-Webb lost to TN State, who just missed the cut.
I kept UCA in at No. 25, even though the Bears were losing pretty decisively for most of the game at NDSU. The final was 49-31, but NDSU held a 49-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. I almost put ACU in at No. 25 with its 2-1 record and close loss vs. a Top 10 UIW team. But looking ahead to this upcoming weekend, I’d favor UCA at home over ACU.
Other movement includes Montana dropping a few spots after squeaking by D2 Ferris State 17-10. Now, Ferris State is an elite D2 team, the two-time defending national champs, is ranked No. 1, and would beat a good number of FCS teams. But Montana still has 63 scholarships to Ferris State’s 36, has way more resources to be a routine top-tier FCS team, and it was in Missoula. And two weeks after having a competitive game against non-scholarship Butler, it raises questions about just how good Montana is. Put their resume on another team’s helmet, and they may not be ranked at all. The Griz still have talent, though, and plenty known names remain that have contributed big-time on past playoff teams. So I’ll keep them in my top 25. Comparing scores is dangerous, but as a “how should a ranked FCS team play against a top D2 team” barometer, FAMU beat D2 No. 4 West Florida 31-10 Saturday.
Other movement saw SIU move up a few more spots after a great road win at SEMO, who didn’t drop too far in a down-to-the-wire game.
Sac State also rose a few spots in the Top 10 after beating FBS P5 Stanford, a result that I called happening back in August (not to brag).
UIW also ended up jumping W&M in the Top 10. UIW made it through a good road test at ACU, who was a 7-win team last year. W&M squeaked by a competitive but overall struggling Charleston Southern program.
The Top 5 so far is looking like the strongest the FCS has had in several years.
SDSU is the most talented FCS team since 2019. NDSU is crushing non-conference opponents (two of which will be on a lot of ballots this week in EWU and UCA) like past championship teams did instead of doing some ho-humming through its schedule like recent squads. Montana State was literally an inch away from beating SDSU in Brookings and looks to have the play in the trenches to compete in the top tier. Holy Cross was a foot away from beating P5 Boston College two weeks ago, cruised past the Ivy League favorite Yale last week, and arguably has the best QB (Matthew Sluka) and LB (Jacob Dobbs) in the FCS right now. And Idaho is living up to the hype offensively, is playing much better than expected defensively, dominated FBS Nevada 33-6 two weeks ago, and was up 17-0 at P5 Cal this last week before things snowballed and lost 31-17.
The next five are looking good as well. Sac State just beat a P5 team in Stanford. Furman still has a loaded roster looking to make further noise in the playoffs. UIW is starting to click and looking better every week. W&M has mostly everyone back from last year’s quarterfinal team. And Weber State looks like it’ll reload once again after some offseason questions.
Every year around this time, we talk about how there looks to be more parity than in past seasons. That usually doesn’t play out come playoff time. We’ll see if it does this year or not. But right now, the FCS is shaping up to be a fun race to the top.