With James Madison falling to Elon on Saturday, nobody can dispute North Dakota State should be everybody’s No. 1 team in the FCS.
It’s also created the question: Who’s No. 2?
Elon surely has a claim after its big win, but then there’s Eastern Washington, South Dakota State, Kennesaw State and Wofford all grouped in a crowded field of contenders.
Here’s the Athlon FCS Power Poll for games through Oct. 6:
1. North Dakota State
(5-0, 2-0 Missouri Valley)
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
Last Week’s Result: 56-31 win over Northern Iowa
The reigning FCS champion overcame a third-quarter deficit with 28 unanswered points. QB Easton Stick accounted for six touchdowns and RB Bruce Anderson racked up 245 yards from scrimmage.
Next Opponent: at Western Illinois (Oct. 13)
2. Eastern Washington
(5-1, 3-0 Big Sky)
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
Last Week’s Result: 55-17 win over Southern Utah
QB Gage Gubrud sat out with a foot injury, but the Eagles stayed on an offensive roll. His replacement, Eric Barriere, rushed for two touchdowns and threw for one to Nsimba Webster.
Next Opponent: at Weber State (Oct. 13)
3. South Dakota State
(3-1, 1-1 Missouri Valley)
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
Last Week’s Result: 54-51 OT win over Indiana State
The Jackrabbits sidestepped a major upset just one week after losing by a field goal to top-ranked North Dakota State. After SDSU's defense limited Indiana State to a field goal in overtime, Isaac Wallace scored on a 2-yard run to win it.
Next Opponent: Youngstown State (Oct. 13)
(4-1, 2-0 CAA)
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
Last Week’s Result: 27-24 win over James Madison
Davis Cheek connected with Avery Jones for a 15-yard, game-winning touchdown with 1:17 left, handing James Madison its first CAA defeat since 2015. Malcolm Summers rushed for 186 yards, including a 59-yard score.
Next Opponent: at Delaware (Oct. 13)
5. James Madison
(4-2, 2-1 CAA)
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
Last Week’s Result: 27-24 loss to Elon
As the Dukes’ power run game stalled, their record 20-game CAA win streak ended against Elon. Usually dominant with turnovers, they finished minus-two.
Next Opponent: at Villanova (Oct. 13)
6. Kennesaw State
(5-1, 1-0 Big South)
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
Last Week’s Result: 56-0 win over Presbyterian
The fourth-year Owls posted their largest win over an FCS opponent, although it was against another struggling opponent. QB Chandler Burks rushed for four touchdowns to push his season total to 14.
Next Opponent: at Gardner-Webb (Oct. 13)
(4-1, 3-0 Southern)
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
Last Week’s Result: 21-10 win over Chattanooga
The Terriers pulled into a first-place tie with ETSU as QB Joe Newman (16 carries, 155 yards, 2 TDs) led a 444-yard ground assault.
Next Opponent: at Furman (Oct. 13)
8. Jacksonville State
(4-1, 3-0 Ohio Valley)
Last Week’s Ranking: 8
Last Week’s Result: 56-7 win over Eastern Kentucky
The offense spread the wealth, including backup QB Zion Webb with 100 rushing yards and four total TDs (three passing), in the Gamecocks’ 35th straight OVC win. Zack Woodard had a pair of interceptions.
Next Opponent: Eastern Illinois (Oct. 13)
9. UC Davis
(4-1, 2-0 Big Sky)
Last Week’s Ranking: 9
Last Week’s Result: 49-36 win over Northern Colorado
With only 264 receiving yards entering the game, Keelan Doss was, well, Keelan Doss again with 11 receptions for 161 yards and a touchdown.
Next Opponent: Idaho State (Oct. 13)
(4-1, 2-0 CAA)
Last Week’s Ranking: 17
Last Week’s Result: 52-28 win over Stony Brook
Head coach Rob Ambrose’s squad has only lost to Wake Forest. The competition has been solid (Villanova, The Citadel and Stony Brook) while the Tigers have scored 44 or more points in three straight games for the first time in program history.
Next Opponent: William & Mary (Oct. 13)
11. McNeese (5-1, 4-0 Southland)
12. Illinois State(4-1, 1-1 Missouri Valley)
13. Nicholls (4-2, 3-1 Southland)
14. North Carolina A&T (5-1, 2-0 MEAC)
15. Rhode Island (4-1, 2-0 CAA)
16. Colgate (5-0, 3-0 Patriot)
17. Weber State (3-2, 1-1 Big Sky)
18. South Dakota (3-2, 2-0 Missouri Valley)
19. Montana (4-2, 2-1 Big Sky)
20. Princeton (4-0, 1-0 Ivy)
21. Maine (3-2, 2-0 CAA)
22. Stony Brook (4-2, 2-1 CAA)
23. Northern Iowa (2-3, 1-1 Missouri Valley)
24. Sam Houston State(3-2, 2-1 Southland)
25. Idaho State (4-1, 3-0 Big Sky)
FCS Conference Rankings
1. Missouri Valley Football Conference – To get four or five playoffs teams, the Valley may need a 6-5 at-large bid.
2. CAA Football – When Richmond and Villanova are tied for last place at 0-3, it’s a scary good conference.
3. Big Sky Conference – Montana losing at home to Portland State is one of the season’s big upsets.
4. Southern Conference – Furman will be rested when Wofford comes calling next weekend.
5. Southland Conference – Conference-leading McNeese held off Abilene Christian for the program’s 500th all-time victory.
6. Ivy League – After downing Harvard for the second straight year, Cornell will take aim on unbeaten Colgate.
7. Ohio Valley Conference – In Week 6, the winning team scored at least 48 points in each of the four conference games.
8. Big South Conference – A 23-3 loss to Division II-bound Savannah State shows how much Charleston Southern has fallen.
9. Northeast Conference – A win over Central Connecticut State would put Bryant in the driver’s seat.
10. Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference – Florida A&M and North Central A&T are set to battle for first place.
11. Patriot League – Non-league play has been an utter disaster with a 6-22 record.
12. Southwestern Athletic Conference – After falling to Alabama State, Alcorn State may struggle to win a fifth straight East title.
13. Pioneer Football League – Back in league play, San Diego is rolling as usual.
14. FCS Independents – Big game ahead: North Dakota hosts Montana.
— 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 James Madison Athletics)