Illinois State isn't unaccustomed to knocking off an FBS or even a Power Five Conference program, just ask Northwestern's team from 2016. But Saturday's trip to Colorado State wasn't just a close win at the buzzer, it was total dominance.
The Redbirds' defense was once again stellar after already recording a shutout this year and holding its other opponent to 10 garbage points — so Saturday's 34-19 (with CSU's last TD coming very late) was just a continuation of the same, except it was done against a school with 23 more scholarships that was paying Illinois State good money to come to town — and disappoint 26,000 Rams fans. ISU (3-0) hurried the QB 10 times, broke up seven of his passes, had two INTs and sacked him twice and had five tackles for loss.
On the flip side, the Redbirds rushed for nearly 300 yards. Usually establishing the run is the toughest thing for an FCS team to do against an FBS team, but it was not an issue for the Redbirds as James Robinson and Markel Smith ran wild and QB Brady Davis was precise. For the Missouri Valley Football Conference, we now know there's another power in the league.
It was Illinois State's 8th all-time win over an FBS program, and third of this decade.
FCS POWERS DOMINATE
[credit](Tim Sanger/NDSU Athletics)[/credit]
North Dakota State, James Madison and Eastern Washington were three of the four top seeds I had in my weekly FCS Playoff projection (South Dakota State is off) and the three programs did not disappoint, combining to win 159-27. South Dakota State has looked rather tough the first two games and probably would have given Iowa State a decent game in week one if it hadn't been canceled due to weather.
The Bison pummeled what many (including yours truly) had felt would be a solid FCS Playoff lock in the preseason — Delaware. NDSU created a slew of turnovers and shut the Blue Hens' offense down, an area which has been a problem for Delaware all year. EWU hung 70 on conference opponent Cal Poly and JMU shutout CAA rival William & Mary 51-0. If anyone wanted evidence there is a clear upper echelon in the FCS this year, you're already seeing it.
When it comes to proving there's a clear upper crust within the Ohio Valley Conference and Southern Conference — something that would help come November during the playoff selection process — Saturday wasn't exactly what the two conferences planned. There's a ton of parity, it would seem, which makes for a lot of fun for the fans (and media) — but the first question is, will this hurt the teams and possibly rob the conference of a playoff spot? Time will tell.
In the OVC, three teams with losing records very nearly beat three teams with winning records through the first four weeks. Austin Peay saw its playoff chances hurt a good bit by a blowout loss to winless UT Martin, while Eastern Kentucky dropped SEMO, which was coming off an impressive MVFC win over Southern Illinois. Any momentum was dashed, at least for now. Tennessee State had to overcome a 17-point first quarter deficit to edge out winless Eastern Illinois. It was that kind of weekend.
In the SoCon, VMI — which hasn't won a game in two years — nearly tied Western Carolina at the end of regulation. It is doubtful anyone expected that, and Mercer's momentum after its big win over Samford last year was dashed by The Citadel. One rising star though has been Chattanooga.
Bottom line? Some teams need to start emerging from these conferences. We'll see if that happens in the next few weeks.
Stetson is 3-0 for the first time since 1951, but keep in mind the program didn't play football between the mid 1950s until 2013.
North Carolina A&T's 15-game winning streak is now over, thanks to previously winless Morgan State.
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