So who improved the most this year, from last year's final BennettRank chart of the FCS to the final regular season ranking of 2017. We take a look at who shot up the rankings in one year, and how the top teams did it.
So below, we have the top 'FCS improvers' ranked by how many spots they shot up from 2016 to 2017's regular season final ranking. Some of the improvements were fantastic. Take a look at No. 6 through No. 25 in the chart below, and below that? The countdown to No. 1.
THE TOP 'RISERS' OF THE FCS IN 2017
|RANK||FCS TEAM||'16 TO '17 IMPROVEMENT|
|6||UC Davis||+50 spots|
|11||Central Conn. St.||40|
|14||North Carolina A&T||35|
5. HOWARD (+65 spots): Coach Mike London should pat himself on the back, taking the Bison from 2-9 last year to 7-4 this year — with a win over an FBS (UNLV), another near win over an FBS (Kent State) and a massive improvement overall. Freshman QB Caylin Newton — little brother of Cam Newton — was a big spark for this team.
4. ELON (+68 spots): Curt Cignetti has done an outstanding job coaching the Phoenix, going from 2-9 last year to 8-3 and in the playoffs last year — with one of those losses being to FBS Toledo and one to defending FCS champion James Madison. A big spark in the early part of the season (prior to injury) was RB Malcolm Summers, and true freshman QB Davis Cheek was tough as nails all year.
2(tie). YALE (+74 spots): This is the best Yale team in 37 years, since its last outright Ivy League title in 1980. The Bulldogs went 9-1 after going 3-7 in 2016. This year's relatively young Yale team did it with a stout defense that allowed just under 16 points per game, and a physical run game led by a freshman in Zane Dudek. This was a balanced group under coach Tony Reno, and it doesn't appear it'll end any time soon.
2(tie). AUSTIN PEAY (+74 spots): The Governors went from 29-game losing streak to 8-4 this year with three losses coming to FBS opponents. Coach Will Healy received national attention for the team's turnaround, with mentions on ESPN Gameday and Good Morning America. This program had more than 15 players start a game this year as a freshman or sophomore, so it doesn't appear it'll end any time soon. The Govs were very much a part of the playoff bubble picture, but didn't get in.
1. SACRAMENTO STATE (+85 spots): Last year, Sacramento State lost to a D-II team in Western Oregon, ultimately finishing 2-9. But coming into 2017, there was hope because 22 starters were returning for coach Jody Sears. Well, it panned out as the Hornets went 7-4 and were one more win away from making the FCS Playoffs. The gem of the season was the early blowout win over what eventually became the Big Sky champions — Southern Utah.