FCS Rankings: Power Poll Entering First Round of Playoffs

In the FCS playoffs, a strong field is gunning for No. 1 James Madison

FCS Power Poll RankingsA crazy FCS season had an even crazier final full weekend of the regular season as numerous at-large playoff candidates lost games, and the bubble burst in all kinds of directions.


The results created a lot of interesting talk (read: angriness) after the release of the 24-team field, but one thing everybody could agree is defending national champion and No. 1 seed James Madison is still the team to beat over a strong group of contenders which also includes North Dakota State, Jacksonville State, Central Arkansas and South Dakota State.


Here is the Athlon FCS Power Poll following the final full weekend of the regular season:


1. James Madison

(11-0, 8-0 CAA)

Last Week’s Ranking: 1

Last Week’s Result: 31-3 win over then-No. 13 Elon

Of Note: No opponent has scored more than 14 points off the defending FCS champion Dukes, who are on a 23-game winning streak heading into the FCS playoffs.

Next Opponent: Lehigh or Stony Brook in FCS playoff second round (Dec. 2)


2. North Dakota State

(10-1, 7-1 Missouri Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: 3

Last Week’s Result: 20-7 win over then-No. 23 Illinois State

Of Note: The Bison claimed their seventh straight Missouri Valley title with a sixth win over a Top 25 opponent.

Next Opponent: San Diego or Northern Arizona in FCS playoff second round (Dec. 2)


3. Jacksonville State

(10-1, 8-0 Ohio Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: 2

Last Week’s Result: 36-6 win over Tennessee State

Of Note: QB Bryant Horn (148 yards, one touchdown) and RB Roc Thomas (105, TD) led a 368-yard ground assault against Tennessee State as the Gamecocks clinched a fourth straight unbeaten season in the OVC.

Next Opponent: Samford or Kennesaw State in FCS playoff second round (Dec. 2)


4. Central Arkansas

(10-1, 9-0 Southland)

Last Week’s Ranking: 4

Last Week’s Result: 34-0 win over Abilene Christian

Of Note: The Southland Conference champ’s last three opponents have gained a combined 104 rushing yards. Granted those teams have a combined 5-28 record, but the Bears’ defense is on a roll.

Next Opponent: Central Connecticut State or New Hampshire in FCS playoff second round (Dec. 2)


5. South Dakota State

(9-2, 6-2 Missouri Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: 6

Last Week’s Result: 31-28 win over then-No. 15 South Dakota

Of Note: Sure the offensive standouts steal the headlines, but LB Christian Rozeboom posted a big performance in the South Dakota Showdown Series, totaling a game-high 10 tackles with two for a loss, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.

Next Opponent: Monmouth or Northern Iowa in FCS playoff second round (Dec. 2)


6. Sam Houston State

(10-1, 8-1 Southland)

Last Week’s Ranking: 5

Last Week’s Result: 53-33 win over Houston Baptist

Of Note: Jeremiah Briscoe threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns, including three to Nathan Stewart, to send the Bearkats into the playoffs on a seven-game winning streak.

Next Opponent: South Dakota or Nicholls in FCS playoff second round (Dec. 2)


7. Southern Utah

(9-2, 7-1 Big Sky)

Last Week’s Ranking: 8

Last Week’s Result: 48-20 win over then-No. 16 Northern Arizona

Of Note: The Big Sky co-champ Thunderbirds earned the conference’s automatic playoff bid behind RB Jay Green (25 carries, 134 yards, 3 TDs).

Next Opponent: Western Illinois or Weber State in FCS playoff second round (Dec. 2)


8. Wofford

(9-2, 7-1 Southern)

Last Week’s Ranking: 7

Last Week’s Result: 31-10 loss to South Carolina

Of Note: The Terriers committed three turnovers in the loss to South Carolina, but claimed an outright Southern Conference title when Furman lost to Samford.

Next Opponent: Furman or Elon in FCS playoff second round (Dec. 2)


9. Western Illinois

(8-3, 5-3 Missouri Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: 9

Last Week’s Result: 28-14 win over Southern Illinois

Of Note: Six of the Leathernecks’ eight wins are on the road – an indication they are a playoff dark horse.

Next Opponent: at Weber State in FCS playoff first round (Nov. 25)


10. Weber State

(9-2, 7-1 Big Sky)

Last Week’s Ranking: 10

Last Week’s Result: 35-7 win over Idaho State

Of Note: QB Stefan Cantwell made up for three interceptions with four total touchdowns to help the Wildcats beat Idaho State and claim a share of the Big Sky title.

Next Opponent: Western Illinois in FCS playoff first round (Nov. 25)


11. North Carolina A&T

(11-0, 8-0 MEAC)

Last Week’s Ranking: 11

Last Week’s Result: 24-10 win over North Carolina Central

Of Note: Marquell Cartright ran for a pair of touchdowns as the Aggies ended a three-game losing streak to rival NC Central to finish off a perfect regular season.

Next Opponent: SWAC champion in Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl (Dec. 16)


12. Northern Iowa

(7-4, 6-2 Missouri Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: 12

Last Week’s Result: 42-3 win over Indiana State

Of Note: Colton Howell (17-of-26, 216 yards, 2 TDs) was at quarterback for an injured Eli Dunne as the Panthers punched their playoff ticket.

Next Opponent: Monmouth in FCS playoff first round (Nov. 25)


13. Samford

(8-3, 6-2 Southern)

Last Week’s Ranking: 19

Last Week’s Result: 26-20 win over then-No. 14 Furman

Of Note: The Bulldogs aren’t the most consistent team around, but they are dangerous with QB Devlin Hodges leading the way. They’ve won three straight games.

Next Opponent: at Kennesaw State in FCS playoff first round (Nov. 25)


14. Stony Brook

(9-2, 7-1 CAA)

Last Week’s Ranking: 17

Last Week’s Result: 20-19 win over Maine

Of Note: The Seawolves took their first lead against Maine on a game-ending, 35-yard Joe Carbone-to-Harrison Jackson Hail Mary pass. It also resulted in a second-place finish in the CAA.

Next Opponent: Lehigh in FCS playoff first round (Nov. 25)


15. South Dakota

(7-4, 4-4 Missouri Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: 15

Last Week’s Result: 31-28 loss to then-No. 6 South Dakota State

Of Note: The Coyotes included a second-ever FBS win (over Bowling Green) during a 6-0 start to the season, but they lost four of their final five games heading into the playoffs.

Next Opponent: at Nicholls in FCS playoff first round (Nov. 25)


16. Elon

(8-3, 6-2 CAA)

Last Week’s Ranking: 13

Last Week’s Result: 31-3 loss to No. 1 James Madison

Of Note: The Phoenix have to shake off a two-game losing streak in their first playoff appearance since 2009 and second overall.

Next Opponent: Furman in FCS playoff first round (Nov. 25)


17. Kennesaw State

(10-1, 5-0 Big South)

Last Week’s Ranking: 22

Last Week’s Result: 52-21 win over Monmouth

Of Note: QB Chandler Burks rushed for four touchdowns and threw for another as Kennesaw’s third-year program captured an outright Big South title and a playoff bid for the first time.

Next Opponent: Samford in FCS playoff first round (Nov. 25)


18. Eastern Washington

(7-4, 6-2 Big Sky)

Last Week’s Ranking: 21

Last Week’s Result: 59-33 win over Portland State

Of Note: After serving a one-game team suspension, junior QB Gage Gubrud returned to the lineup to provide 512 yards of total offense and five total touchdowns. The Eagles were surprised not to make the playoff field.

Next Opponent: Season complete


19. McNeese

(9-2, 7-2 Southland)

Last Week’s Ranking: Unranked

Last Week’s Result: 13-3 win over Lamar

Of Note: The win over Lamar was the Cowboys’ fifth Southland win in which they didn’t allow the opponent to score an offensive touchdown.

Next Opponent: Season complete


20. Furman

(7-4, 6-2 Southern)

Last Week’s Ranking: 14

Last Week Result: 26-20 loss to then-No. 19 Samford

Of Note: The Paladins' seven-game losing streak ended against Samford, but the SoCon was strong enough to gain three playoff teams.

Next Opponent: at Elon in FCS playoff first round (Nov. 25)


21. Delaware

(7-4, 5-3 CAA)

Last Week’s Ranking: 18

Last Week’s Result: 28-7 loss to Villanova

Of Note: The Blue Hens’ playoff drought increased to seven years with a stunning loss to a reeling Villanova squad (four straight losses).

Next Opponent: Season complete


22. Northern Arizona

(7-4, 6-2 Big Sky)

Last Week’s Ranking: 16

Last Week’s Result: 48-20 loss to then-No. 8 Southern Utah

Of Note: The loss to Southern Utah didn’t cost NAU a playoff bid, so popular head coach Jerome Souers’ 20-year career with the Lumberjacks moves on.

Next Opponent: San Diego in FCS playoff first round (Nov. 25)


23. Grambling State

(9-1, 6-0 SWAC)

Last Week’s Ranking: 25

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Of Note: The G-Men bring a nine-game winning streak into the Bayou Classic, whose winner will represent the West Division in the SWAC championship game.

Next Opponent: Southern (Nov. 25 in New Orleans)


24. Austin Peay

(8-4, 7-1 Ohio Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: Unranked

Last Week’s Result: 28-13 win over Eastern Illinois

Of Note: The Governors might be the story of the regular season, reversing a 29-game losing streak and a 1-47 stretch by winning eight of their final 10 games.

Next Opponent: Season complete


25. New Hampshire

(7-4, 5-3 CAA)

Last Week’s Ranking: 20

Last Week’s Result: 15-0 loss to Albany

Of Note: Despite their season-ending loss, the Wildcats are moving on to the postseason for the 14th straight season. The Trevor Knight-to-Neil O’Connor combo hopes to take advantage of the opportunity.

Next Opponent: Central Connecticut State in FCS playoff first round (Nov. 25)


Power Poll Possibilities: Illinois State (6-5, 4-4 Missouri Valley); Nicholls (8-3, 7-2 Southland); Yale (9-1, 6-1 Ivy)


— 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 James Madison University Athletics)

Event Date: 
Sunday, November 19, 2017 - 17:14

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