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FCS Rankings: Power Poll Following Week 3

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Maybe the top four teams in the Athlon FCS Power Poll — North Dakota State, James Madison, South Dakota State and Kennesaw State — had it right this past week by scheduling easy home games.

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If a ranked FCS team wasn’t doing that, then it seemed like it was losing in Week 3.

It was a wild week across the FCS, chock full of upsets. Nothing new, of course, but the fact South Dakota State scored 90 points and it wasn’t even the high in the subdivision (Davidson with 91) indicated the action was crazier than usual.

Here’s the Athlon FCS Power Poll for games through Sept. 15:

1. North Dakota State

(2-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

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Last Week’s Ranking: 1

Last Week’s Result: 38-7 win over North Alabama

The offense was sluggish at times, but the Bison can always count on their defense. Linebacker Jabril Cox scored on a 43-yard interception return and strong safety Robbie Grimsley had a game-high 11 tackles.

Next Opponent: Delaware (Sept. 22)

2. James Madison

(2-1, 0-0 CAA)

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Last Week’s Ranking: 2

Last Week’s Result: 73-7 win over Robert Morris

Quarterback Ben DiNucci accounted for five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) in the first half as the Dukes tied the program record for points in a half (52). With the demolition continuing into the third quarter, the Dukes scored on 10 of their first 11 possessions.

Next Opponent: William & Mary (Sept. 22)

3. South Dakota State

(2-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

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Last Week’s Ranking: 3

Last Week’s Result: 90-6 win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff

After gaining his 150th career win, Jackrabbits head coach John Stiegelmeier publicly apologized to UAPB for letting the score get out of hand. Quarterback Taryn Christion accounted for five touchdowns in his team’s school-record point total.

Next Opponent: at North Dakota State (Sept. 29)

4. Kennesaw State

(2-1, 0-0 Big South)

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Last Week’s Ranking: 5

Last Week’s Result: 62-13 win over Alabama State

The Owls have some tough games on the schedule, but plenty of easy ones, too. Fourteen different players had at least one carry, with Darnell Holland rushing for 136 yards on only three carries, including a 70-yard score, against Alabama State.

Next Opponent: Clark Atlanta (Sept. 22)

5. North Carolina A&T

(3-0, 0-0 MEAC)

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Last Week’s Ranking: 6

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Although inland in Greensboro and away from Hurricane Florence, it was a good week for the early starting Aggies (Aug. 25 in Week 0) to have a bye. Their 15-game winning streak is the longest in the FCS.

Next Opponent: Morgan State (Sept. 22)

6. Eastern Washington

(2-1, 0-0 Big Sky)

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Last Week’s Ranking: 4

Last Week’s Result: 59-24 loss to Washington State

The good news for the Eagles is three different unheralded players — Zach Eagle, Andrew Boston and Dennis Merritt — caught a touchdown pass. It’s all Big Sky action from here.

Next Opponent: Cal Poly (Sept. 22)

7. Wofford

(2-1, 2-0 Southern)

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Last Week’s Ranking: 10

Last Week’s Result: 17-14 loss to Wyoming

A Wyoming touchdown with 17 seconds remaining ruined the Terriers’ bid for an upset. The defending Southern Conference champ got a positive result, however, when preseason favorite Samford was upset by Mercer.

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Next Opponent: at Gardner-Webb (Sept. 29)

8. Maine

(2-0, 1-0 CAA)

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Last Week’s Ranking: 11

Last Week’s Result: Bye

After resting up in their open week, the Black Bears will try to become the first FCS team to beat two FBS programs in the same season since Portland State did it in 2015.

Next Opponent: at Central Michigan (Sept. 22)

9. McNeese

(3-0, 2-0 Southland)

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Last Week’s Ranking: NR

Last Week’s Result: 20-10 win over Nicholls

McNeese showed off its DWA (Defense With Attitude) while beating Nicholls and adding to its lead in the Southland Conference race. Linebacker B.J. Blunt had three sacks and a fumble recovery.

Next Opponent: at BYU (Sept. 22)

10. Villanova

(2-1, 0-1 CAA)

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Last Week’s Ranking: 7

Last Week’s Result: 45-35 loss to Towson

A bad trade-off: Zach Bednarczyk’s 389 passing yards were the most by a Wildcats quarterback in more than 15 years, but the defense allowed more than 500 yards (528) for the first time since 2014.

Next Opponent: Bucknell (Sept. 22)

11. Elon

(1-1, 0-0 CAA)

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Last Week’s Ranking: NR

Last Week’s Result: Postponed against William & Mary

The Phoenix hope they won’t make up the William & Mary game (Hurricane Florence) because that will mean they qualified for the FCS playoffs again.

Next Opponent: at Charleston Southern (Sept. 22)

12. Jacksonville State

(1-1, 0-0 Ohio Valley)

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Last Week’s Ranking: NR

Last Week’s Result: Bye

With two byes since a Week 0 game, the Gamecocks will have played only once in a four-week span (and hardly that, a 71-0 win over Mississippi Valley State) when they try to build on their 32-game Ohio Valley Conference win streak against Tennessee Tech.

Next Opponent: Tennessee Tech (Sept. 22)

FCS Conference Rankings

1. CAA Football — Eight of the 12 teams are 2-1 or better; two more are .500.

2. Missouri Valley Football Conference — The Valley claimed the Big Sky-MVFC Challenge Series again.

3. Big Sky Conference — Weber State stood out as four of the five Top 25 teams fell in Week 3.

4. Southern Conference — Chattanooga is 3-0 after going 3-8 a year ago.

5. Southland Conference — Sam Houston State’s 21-game home losing streak ended against North Dakota.

6. Ohio Valley Conference — Austin Peay racked up a school-record 78 points to begin a three-game road swing.

7. Ivy League — The Ivies hit the ground running, going 5-3 in opening week.

8. Big South Conference — Monmouth is 2-1, but not playing at its 2017 playoff level.

9. Northeast Conference — Early results suggest this title race is wide open.

10. Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference — NC A&T at 3-0 helps the conference's 7-18 overall record.

11. Patriot League — Like last season, only Colgate (2-0) has a winning record.

12. FCS Independents — North Dakota thinking playoffs after narrow win at Sam Houston State.

13. Southwestern Athletic Conference — Alcorn State (2-1) is the only one team with a winning record.

14. Pioneer Football League — If you had Davidson at 3-0 and Stetson 2-0, you are Nostradamus.

— 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 Dennis Babineaux/McNeese Athletics)