FCS Football: 5 Teams That Will Test Athlon Sports' FCS Top 25 Rankings

Make no mistake, they're unranked, not unloved

Referees are often afforded a second review, so why not the prognosticators?

 

John Madden has already gone to his telestrator to show us what we had wrong.

 

The Athlon Sports FCS Preseason Top 25 was comprised in the spring, so what we know now may not be what we knew then. As the 2019 season nears, we’re recognizing more teams that may make us regret leaving them out of the rankings. They may have not been far outside the Top 25, but outside nonetheless.

 

Here are five teams that give us a sinking feeling:

 

Abilene Christian

2018 Records: 6-5, 5-4 Southland

The Wildcats were picked seventh in the Southland Conference preseason poll. That will be wrong. They have too strong of a team and too good of a head coach (Adam Dorrel, who guided Northwest Missouri State to three Division II national titles) to finish that low. A gaudy 18 starters return from the first winning season in their Division I era. Junior quarterback Luke Anthony passed for more than 3,000 yards a year ago and is surrounded by offensive weapons. Former South Dakota State defensive coordinator Clint Brown should boost a defense that is led by senior middle linebacker Jeremiah Chambers.

 

Duquesne

2018 Records: 9-4, 5-1 Northeast

It's easy to be impressed with a team that handled Towson for its first-ever FCS playoff win last season and returns NEC offensive player of the year A.J. Hines, a three-time 1,000-yard rusher. But for the NEC power to truly be a top-25 team, it has to win at least two of its three straight road games in September against Youngstown State, Dayton and New Hampshire. It's certainly possible and worth watching closely. Head coach Jerry Schmitt's squad has the most NEC preseason selections with eight. They're all seniors, including quarterback Daniel Parr and shutdown cornerback Reid Harrison-Ducros.

 

Eastern Kentucky

2018 Records: 7-4, 5-2 Ohio Valley

We basically had the Colonels in mind for No. 26 during the offseason. Head coach Mark Elder got the program back on track in his third season and it returns 16 starters as well as 50 of the 61 players who were part of last year's season-ending two-deep. Some transfers were brought in as well, including quarterback Conor Blount after he made six starts at Oregon State a year ago. The defense boasts two-time OVC first-team defensive end Aaron Patrick. One potential problem: EKU must travel to the two teams picked above it in the conference's preseason poll, Jacksonville State and Southeast Missouri.

 

ETSU

2018 Records: 8-4, 6-2 Southern

The concern for last year's SoCon tri-champ was replacing four-year quarterback Austin Herink, but second-year head coach Randy Sanders did that through the transfer market with the Miami Hurricanes' Cade Weldon (son of former Florida State great Casey Weldon) and Coastal Carolina's Chance Thrasher. The Buccaneers have an exceptional running back duo in sophomores Quay Holmes and Jacob Saylors as well as a dominating defensive combo in defensive end Nasir Player and free safety Tyree Robinson. Even with two FBS opponents, this may be a seven- or eight-win team.

 

Yale

2018 Records: 5-5, 3-4 Ivy

The Bulldogs went 9-1 and won the Ivy League title in 2017. It may happen again. They get a mulligan for last season because of injuries to key players, which has led to head coach Tony Reno's team suffering minimal losses. There's an embarrassment of riches of offensive players who have already had great success: quarterbacks Kurt Rawlings and Griffiin O'Connor, running backs Zane Dudek and Alan Lamar, and wide receivers Reed Klubnik and J.P. Shohfi. The Bulldogs will have the strongest senior class in the Ivy League. They also face road games at Princeton and Dartmouth, which were a combined 19-1 a year ago.

 

— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.

 

(Photo courtesy of Duquesne Athletics)

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