No. 1 North Dakota State posts one of college football's greatest decades
Something tells us the first college football team to go 16-0 since Yale in 1894 would beat those Ivy Leaguers.
The way North Dakota State beats basically everybody is proof.
The Bison returned only seven starters from last year's FCS championship squad, but they kept rolling in head coach Matt Entz's first season, pushing their subdivision record to 37 straight wins while making it three straight and eight national titles in the last nine seasons. Their 28-20 win over James Madison in the national championship game pushed them to 137-13 (.913) during the 2010s.
Here is the final 2019 Athlon FCS Power Poll:
1. North Dakota State
(16-0, 8-0 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: 1
Notable: Quarterback Trey Lance won the national freshman (Jerry Rice Award) and offensive player (Walter Payton Award) of the year awards while accounting for 42 touchdowns and only one turnover (a fumble in the first game). NFL prospect and linebacker Jabril Cox is coming back to try to go 4-for-4 in national titles.
2. James Madison
(14-2, 8-0 CAA)
Previous Ranking: 2
Notable: The Dukes' senior class ended their careers with the most wins in school history, finishing with 51 victories.
3. Weber State
(11-4, 7-1 Big Sky)
Previous Ranking: 3
Notable: Behind head coach Jay Hill, the Wildcats have won a share of the last three Big Sky titles, and this season they went to the semifinals for the first time.
4. Montana State
(11-4, 6-2 Big Sky)
Previous Ranking: 5
Notable: The Bobcats reached the national semifinals for the first time in 35 years before being eliminated by North Dakota State for the second straight year.
5. Northern Iowa
(10-5, 6-2 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: 7
Notable: The MVFC runner-up limited 10 opponents, including three in the playoffs, to 17 or fewer points.
6. Illinois State
(10-5, 5-3 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: 19
Notable: In an incredible, three-game playoff run, senior running back James Robinson carried the ball 102 times for 611 yards and three touchdowns.
7. Austin Peay
(11-4, 7-1 Ohio Valley)
Previous Ranking: 11
Notable: The OVC co-champ, under first-year head coach Mark Hudspeth, made believers in its first FCS playoff appearance, scoring 42 points against both Furman and Sacramento State.
8. Sacramento State
(9-4, 7-1 Big Sky)
Previous Ranking: 4
Notable: First-year head coach Troy Taylor won the Eddie Robinson Award by lifting a 2-8 team last season to its first Big Sky title and FCS playoff bid.
(10-4, 6-2 Big Sky)
Previous Ranking: 6
Notable: The Griz took a much-needed, but familiar step under head coach Bobby Hauck, ending a three-year playoff drought with their record 24th appearance.
10. South Dakota State
(8-5, 5-3 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: 10
Notable: A season-ending injury to quarterback J'Bore Gibbs contributed to the Jackrabbits losing four of their final six games.
(9-5, 7-2 Southland)
Previous Ranking: 14
Notable: For the second consecutive season, the Colonels won a share of the Southland title and a first-round playoff game.
12. Central Arkansas
(9-4, 7-2 Southland)
Previous Ranking: 8
Notable: A playoff loss at home didn't spoil a season in which the Bears beat an FBS opponent (Western Kentucky) and won a share of the Southland title.
(11-3, 6-0 Big South)
Previous Ranking: 15
Notable: Quarterback Kenji Bahar and FCS rushing leader Pete Guerriero formed a dominating duo for the Big South champion.
14. Kennesaw State
(11-3, 5-1 Big South)
Previous Ranking: 18
Notable: The Owls reached 11 wins for the third straight season with an impressive playoff win at Wofford.
(9-5, 6-2 CAA)
Previous Ranking: 21
Notable: Jeff Undercuffler set an FCS freshman record with 41 touchdown passes, including 17 to Juwan Green.
16. Southeastern Louisiana
(8-5, 6-3 Southland)
Previous Ranking: 23
Notable: The Lions were involved in the two highest-scoring games of the playoffs — a 45-44 win over Villanova and a 73-28 loss to Montana.
(9-4, 5-3 CAA)
Previous Ranking: 9
Notable: The Wildcats won the first game of college football's 150th season and graduate transfer quarterback Daniel Smith went on to lead the FCS in points responsible for with 288.
18. North Carolina A&T
(9-3, 6-2 MEAC)
Previous Ranking: N/R
Notable: The MEAC co-champion Aggies handled Alcorn State 64-44 for its fourth Celebration Bowl title in five years.
(8-4, 7-1 Southern)
Previous Ranking: 12
Notable: After an 0-2 start to the season, the Terriers rallied to win their third straight SoCon title.
20. Southeast Missouri
(9-4, 7-1 Ohio Valley)
Previous Ranking: 13
Notable: The OVC co-champ posted a second straight winning record for the first time since its 1986-90 squads.
(9-1, 6-1 Ivy)
Previous Ranking: 17
Notable: An upset loss to Cornell prevented a perfect season for the Ivy co-champ, which is 8-2 or better in five of the last six seasons.
(7-5, 4-4 CAA)
Previous Ranking: 22
Notable: Quarterback Tom Flacco finished an excellent two-year run with 6,082 passing yards and 50 touchdown passes.
23. Southern Illinois
(7-5, 5-3 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: N/R
Notable: The Salukis handled UMass for an FBS win and played well in a season-ending loss to North Dakota State.
24. Florida A&M
(9-2, 7-1 MEAC)
Previous Ranking: 25
Notable: The Rattlers had the best record among MEAC teams, but their conference and postseason ineligibility (APR penalties) cost them glory.
(9-1, 5-1 Ivy)
Previous Ranking: N/R
Notable: Non-league wins over Holy Cross and Richmond boost the Bulldogs, who shared the Ivy title despite suffering a 42-10 loss to Dartmouth.
Dropped Out: North Dakota (20), Furman (22) and Central Connecticut State (24)
— 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 Tim Sanger/NDSU Athletics)