It’s not as though the gap between CAA Football and the Missouri Valley Football Conference was ever big this season. There was almost no wrong answer to which conference is stronger because the difference was thismuch (insert vision of adjoined fingers).
But maybe we were wrong. No way, right?.
The CAA has had more Top 25 teams all season and incredible depth, but this past Saturday was a powerful reminder to what lies in the MVFC: defending national champ North Dakota State pummeled Delaware (a CAA team!), Illinois State took down an FBS opponent and Northern Iowa showed it might have been the best winless team around.
The abbreviated schedule was just enough to allow the MVFC to slip past the CAA in this week’s Athlon conference rankings.
Here’s the Athlon FCS Power Poll for games through Sept. 22:
1. North Dakota State
(3-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
Last Week’s Result: 38-10 win over Delaware
The Bison seemed to be sending a message to the FCS while building a 35-0 first-half lead against outmatched Delaware. Quarterback Easton Stick had 321 yards of offense with four total touchdowns in three quarters of action.
Next Opponent: South Dakota State (Sept. 29)
2. James Madison
(3-1, 1-0 CAA)
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
Last Week’s Result: 51-0 win over William & Mary
The Dukes’ defense limited their Virginia rival to 132 yards and forced four turnovers, including safety D’Angelo Amos’ two fumble recoveries. Up next? Yup, another intrastate rival.
Next Opponent: at Richmond (Sept. 29)
3. South Dakota State
(2-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
Last Week’s Result: Bye
The Jackrabbits had a well-timed bye to prepare for its huge game at North Dakota State. The Jackrabbits have won the last two meetings in the regular season. Doesn’t it seem like they’re always playing this rivalry at the Fargodome?
Next Opponent: at North Dakota State (Sept. 29)
4. Eastern Washington
(3-1, 1-0 Big Sky)
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
Last Week’s Result: 70-17 win over Cal Poly
In his first game of the season, Antoine Custer Jr. broke off 62- and 43-yard touchdown runs to highlight the easy win. The high-flying Eagles’ offense has 17 more rush attempts than pass attempts this season.
Next Opponent: at Montana State (Sept. 29)
5. Kennesaw State
(3-1, 0-0 Big South)
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
Last Week’s Result: 70-13 win over Clark Atlanta
In the big yawn game of the week, Kennesaw State’s turnover plank added four more interceptions. The Owls’ FCS playoff rematch with Samford has taken a hit by the visitors’ 1-3 record.
Next Opponent: Samford (Sept. 29)
(2-1, 2-0 Southern)
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
Last Week’s Result: Bye
Gardner-Webb shouldn’t be too taxing for Wofford off a bye, but the rest of the Terriers’ road schedule — at SoCon members Chattanooga, Furman, Samford and Western Carolina — is daunting.
Next Opponent: at Gardner-Webb (Sept. 29)
(3-1, 0-1 CAA)
Last Week’s Ranking: 10
Last Week’s Result: 49-7 win over Bucknell
‘Nova scored touchdowns on four first-quarter possessions. One of them was Josh McGrigg’s first reception of the season — a 90-yarder from Zach Bednarczyk.
Next Opponent: at Stony Brook (Sept. 29)
8. Illinois State
(3-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)
Last Week’s Ranking: 16
Last Week’s Result: 35-19 win over Colorado State
The Redbirds nabbed their second FBS win in three years while getting a dominating performance from running back James Robinson (22 carries, 184 yards, two TDs).
Next Opponent: at Missouri State (Sept. 29)
(2-1, 0-0 CAA)
Last Week’s Ranking: 11
Last Week’s Result: 31-22 win over Charleston Southern
After trailing 22-10, the Phoenix rose up to score the final 21 points of the third quarter. They had strong offensive balance with quarterback Davis Cheek (220 yards, two TDs) and the rushing duo of Malcolm Summers and Sean McNair (a combined 249 yards, two TDs).
Next Opponent: New Hampshire (Sept. 29)
10. Jacksonville State
(2-1, 1-0 Ohio Valley)
Last Week’s Ranking: 12
Last Week’s Result: 48-20 win over Tennessee Tech
Riffle-armed QB Zerrick Cooper, the Clemson transfer, has asserted himself quite well. The Gamecocks take a 33-game Ohio Valley Conference winning streak into its matchup with Austin Peay.
Next Opponent: Austin Peay (Sept. 29)
11. UC Davis (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky)
12. Maine (2-1, 1-0 CAA)
13. Weber State (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky)
14. Montana (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky)
15. McNeese (3-1, 2-0 Southland)
16. North Carolina A&T (3-1, 0-0 MEAC)
17. Nicholls (2-2, 1-1 Southland)
18. Chattanooga (4-0, 2-0 Southern)
19. Central Arkansas (2-1, 1-0 Southland)
20. Stony Brook (3-1, 1-0 CAA)
21. Rhode Island (2-1, 1-0 CAA)
22. Northern Iowa (1-2, 0-0 Missouri Valley)
23. Montana State (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky)
24. South Dakota (1-2, 0-0 Missouri Valley)
25. Towson (2-1, 1-0 CAA)
FCS Conference Rankings
1. Missouri Valley Football Conference — The Valley has an FBS win in every season in the 2010s.
2. CAA Football — Only William & Mary and New Hampshire have losing records.
3. Big Sky Conference — Four playoff bids possible this year.
4. Southern Conference — Samford has to sweep its final seven games to reach the FCS playoffs.
5. Southland Conference — Sam Houston State among the most disappointing teams in the FCS.
6. Ohio Valley Conference — UT Martin just that good in 37-7 win over Austin Peay
7. Ivy League — Five of the eight teams have begun the season at 2-0.
8. Big South Conference — Presbyterian gained its 500th all-time win.
9. Northeast Conference — Sacred Heart (3-0) one of 13 unbeatens in the FCS.
10. Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference — North Carolina A&T loss to Morgan State didn’t count toward conference standings.
11. Patriot League — Colgate is 3-0; the other six teams are a combined 3-21.
12. FCS Independents — North Dakota loss to Idaho State is troubling.
13. Southwestern Athletic Conference — Dandy Week 5 schedule: Prairie View A&M vs. Grambling State and Alcorn State at Southern.
14. Pioneer Football League — Dayton slows the Davidson juggernaut.
— 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 Illinois State)