Don’t overdue it on the candy because the November stretch run has arrived in the FCS
Halloween weekend was an appropriate time for some scary good performances and ghoulishly bad losses.
James Madison might still be scoring points against Rhode Island today, and North Dakota, Eastern Washington, Western Illinois and New Hampshire all posted wins over fellow teams in the Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll.
Conversely, South Dakota State got knocked out of the top 10 and South Dakota was bumped from the power poll. Hey, that’s life in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
The November title races have arrived.
Here is the Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll through the games of Oct. 29:
1. North Dakota State
(7-1, 4-1 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: 1
Last Week’s Result: 24-20 win over then-No. 20 Northern Iowa
The Bison pulled within 26-24 in their all-time series with rival UNI. Tre Dempsey had two of the defense’s four interceptions as it stopped the Panthers on four drives in the final 10 minutes.
Next Opponent: No. 17 Youngstown State (Nov. 5)
2. Eastern Washington
(7-1, 5-0 Big Sky)
Previous Ranking: 2
Last Week’s Result: 35-16 win over then-No. 16 Montana
While North Dakota has the easier path to the Big Sky title, the Eagles appear intent to go unbeaten as well. Gage Gubrud, Cooper Kupp and Co. still have to overcome Cal Poly’s ground game on Saturday.
Next Opponent: at Nov. 11 Cal Poly (Nov. 5)
3. Jacksonville State
(7-1, 4-0 Ohio Valley)
Previous Ranking: 3
Last Week’s Result: 47-14 win over Eastern Illinois
Third-year head coach John Grass still hasn’t lost to an Ohio Valley Conference opponent or an FCS team in the regular season. Quarterback Eli Jenkins accounted for three touchdowns in the easy win over Eastern Illinois.
Next Opponent: at Southeast Missouri State (Nov. 5)
4. Sam Houston State
(8-0, 7-0 Southland)
Previous Ranking: 4
Last Week’s Result: 66-17 win over Texas Southern
The Bearkats have yet to trail in a game because of their amazing execution early in games. With a 28-0 first-quarter lead on Texas Southern, they have outscored opponents 150-24 after the first 12 minutes.
Next Opponent: McNeese (Nov. 5)
(7-1, 4-1 CAA)
Previous Ranking: 5
Last Week’s Result: Idle
Few foresaw safety Brendan Coniker being the Spiders’ leading tackler and defensive end Brandon Waller sitting third behind All-CAA linebacker Omar Howard heading into November.
Next Opponent: No. 6 James Madison (Nov. 5)
6. James Madison
(7-1, 5-0 CAA Football)
Previous Ranking: 6
Last Week’s Result: 84-7 win over Rhode Island
The Dukes geared up for their trip to Richmond by setting a program record for points in a game. Junior quarterback Bryan Schor was nearly perfect in completing 21 of 22 passes for 309 yards and five touchdowns.
Next Opponent: at No. 5 Richmond (Nov. 5)
7. The Citadel
(8-0, 6-0 Southern)
Previous Ranking: 8
Last Week’s Result: 45-10 win over East Tennessee State
By defeating Samford, the Bulldogs would clinch at least a share of a second straight Southern Conference title and an automatic bid to the playoffs. They have never won titles in back-to-back seasons.
Next Opponent: No. 15 Samford (Nov. 5)
8. Charleston Southern
(5-2, 3-0 Big South)
Previous Ranking: 9
Last Week’s Result: 49-28 win over Bucknell
In a season of quarterback injuries for the Buccaneers, it was good to see Shane Bucenell and London Johnson both account for three touchdowns in their fourth straight victory.
Next Opponent: Gardner-Webb (Nov. 5)
(8-1, 6-1 Southern)
Previous Ranking: 10
Last Week’s Result: 38-25 win over Western Carolina
The Mocs will have a bye on Saturday and hope for a Samford win over The Citadel. Against Western Carolina, running back Richardre Bagley made it two straight big games with 126 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Next Opponent: Wofford (Nov. 12)\
10. North Dakota
(7-2, 6-0 Big Sky)
Previous Ranking: 11
Last Week’s Result: 27-19 win over Weber State
Safety Cole Reyes picked off a pair of passes and Big Sky leader UND forced four turnovers against Weber State. The Fighting Hawks, whose two losses are by five points, have won seven straight games.
Next Opponent: at Northern Colorado (Nov. 5)
11. Cal Poly
(6-2, 4-1 Big Sky)
Previous Ranking: 12
Last Week’s Result: 59-47 win over Sacramento State
Joe Protheroe (168) and Kori Garcia (146) led the way as Cal Poly gained 527 rushing yards against Sac State just a week before it takes on Eastern Washington.
Next Opponent: Eastern Washington (Nov. 5)
12. South Dakota State
(5-3, 4-1 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: 7
Last Week’s Result: 38-21 loss to Illinois State
The top 10 hasn’t been home to many upsets in the last month, but Illinois State never trailed against the Jackrabbits, picking off quarterback Taryn Christion three times.
Next Opponent: Missouri State (Nov. 5)
13. Western Illinois
(6-2, 3-2 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: 13
Last Week’s Result: 35-34 win over then-No. 24 South Dakota
The Leathernecks led for a little more than three minutes in the first quarter and never again at South Dakota until Sean McGuire threw a 2-yard touchdown pass Joey Borsellino with 32 seconds remaining and Nathan Knuffman added the PAT.
Next Opponent: Illinois State (Nov. 5)
(6-2, 4-1 CAA Football)
Previous Ranking: 17
Last Week’s Result: Idle
Wins in at least two of their final three games will get the Wildcats into the playoffs, but with veteran head coach Andy Talley retiring at the end of the season, is only one more win necessary to the FCS selection committee?
Next Opponent: at No. 24 Maine (Nov. 5)
(6-2, 4-1 Southern)
Previous Ranking: 18
Last Week’s Result: 56-41 loss to Mississippi State
Samford hung tough in Starkville, totaling 627 yards of offense behind quarterback Devlin Hodges (42-for-69 for 468 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT). Up next is a trip to the Southern Conference leader.
Next Opponent: at No. 7 The Citadel (Nov. 5)
16. Central Arkansas
(7-1, 6-0 Southland)
Previous Ranking: 19
Last Week’s Result: 45-10 win over Southeastern Louisiana
With Sam Houston State stepping out of conference, the Bears caught up to the Bearkats in the Southland title race. The Bears’ surging defense forced four turnovers against Southeastern Louisiana.
Next Opponent: at Stephen F. Austin (Nov. 5)
17. Youngstown State
(6-2, 4-1 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: 15
Last Week’s Result: 13-10 win over Indiana State
The Penguins won a conference game without scoring an offensive touchdown. Darien Townsend’s 79-yard punt return for a touchdown with 9:19 remaining in the fourth quarter was the game-winner.
Next Opponent: at No. 1 North Dakota State (Nov. 5)
18. North Carolina A&T
(7-1, 5-0 MEAC)
Previous Ranking: 21
Last Week’s Result: 42-17 win over Florida A&M
Dial long distance: Aggies senior Tarik Cohen scored on an 83-yard run for his 11th career touchdown of at least 70 yards. The Aggies are on a five-game winning streak since a loss to Tulsa.
Next Opponent: South Carolina State (Nov. 5)
(5-3, 2-3 Big Sky)
Previous Ranking: 16
Last Week’s Result: 35-16 loss to then-No. 2 Eastern Washington
The Griz have lost two straight games, but have an excellent chance to get on a roll before the playoffs, facing Idaho State, Northern Colorado and Montana State in November. After missing four games, Jerry Louie-McGee returned against Eastern Washington to catch 10 passes.
Next Opponent: Idaho State (Nov. 5)
20. New Hampshire
(6-3, 5-1 CAA)
Previous Ranking: 25
Last Week’s Result: 43-14 win over then-No. 14 Stony Brook
UNH needed a quality win on its playoff resume and got one by forcing five turnovers against Stony Brook. After a bye, head coach Sean McDonnell’s squad will host Albany and then pay a visit to rival Maine.
Next Opponent: Albany (Nov. 12)
(7-2, 4-0 Patriot)
Previous Ranking: 23
Last Week’s Result: 58-37 win over Fordham
The high-scoring Mountain Hawks, on a seven-game winning streak, can clinch the Patriot League title and automatic playoff bid by defeating Bucknell. Quarterback Nick Shafnisky (346 yards of total offense, four total touchdowns) and running back Dominick Bragalone (192 rushing yards, three TDs) dominated against Fordham.
Next Opponent: Bucknell (Nov. 5)
22. Coastal Carolina
(6-2 FCS Independent)
Previous Ranking: 22
Last Week’s Result: 48-17 win over Presbyterian
With running back De’Angelo Henderson out again, Jah-Maine Martin and Kenneth Daniels rushed for 120 and 100 yards, respectively, and two touchdowns each.
Next Opponent: Monmouth (Nov. 5)
23. Stony Brook
(5-3, 4-1 CAA)
Previous Ranking: 14
Last Week’s Result: 43-14 loss to then-No. 25 New Hampshire
The Seawolves hadn’t allowed a touchdown in 10 straight quarters before UNH scored on the game’s opening drive and then five more times. Despite having quality wins, head coach Chuck Priore’s team needs to win two of its final three games to be a playoff possibility.
Next Opponent: William & Mary (Nov. 5)
(5-3, 4-1 CAA)
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Last Week’s Result: 35-28 win over William & Mary
Behind the youngest head coach in Division I, 30-year-old Joe Harasymiak, the Black Bears are on a five-game winning streak. They have lost only to two FBS opponents and James Madison.
Next Opponent: No. 14 Villanova (Nov. 5)
(6-1, 4-0 Ivy)
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Last Week’s Result: 23-21 win over Dartmouth
It hasn’t been the typical dominating season for head coach Tim Murphy’s Ivy League power, but the Crimson’s only loss occurred when starting quarterback Joe Viviano was sidelined by injury.
Next Opponent: Columbia (Nov. 5)
Power Poll Possibilities: Northern Iowa (3-5, 2-3 Missouri Valley) and South Dakota (4-4, 3-2 Missouri Valley)
— 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.
(Top photo by James Madison University Athletics)