FCS Rankings: Power Poll for Week 2

With three wins over FBS teams from the top 12, the FCS helped get the new college football season off to a rousing start

Hasn’t the FBS learned not to let the FCS steal the spotlight on opening weekend?


This year, three teams that were ranked in the top 12 of the Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll – Richmond, Northern Iowa and Eastern Washington – got the job done.


Only Richmond takes a breather this week in another schedule that should prove electrifying.


Here is the Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll after the first full weekend of action:


1. North Dakota State

(1-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week’s Result: Idle

The five-time defending national champs are not at full strength without a healthy Nick DeLuca patrolling middle linebacker. But the Bison will have two weeks to prepare for the only program to beat them in their 22-1 FCS playoff history.

Next Opponent: Eastern Washington (Sept. 10)


2. Richmond

(1-0, 0-0 CAA)

Previous Ranking: 4

Last Week’s Result: Beat Virginia, 37-20

The Spiders certainly played the way head coach Danny Rocco described it after they spoiled new Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s debut: “Our team expected to win.”    

Next Opponent: Norfolk State (Sept. 10)


3. Northern Iowa

(1-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week’s Result: Beat Iowa State, 25-20

Surely, Iowa State must be ready to not schedule the Panthers. Since 2007, UNI has split the six meetings in Ames. Quarterback Aaron Bailey and an opportunistic defense fueled this year’s win.

Next Opponent: Montana (Sept. 10)


4. Sam Houston State

(1-0, 0-0 Southland)

Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week’s Result: Beat Oklahoma Panhandle State, 59-21

Quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe looked terrific in slinging the football around, but the reason for the two-spot drop is simple: Panhandle State is not Virginia or Iowa State.

Next Opponent: at Lamar (Sept. 17)


5. Jacksonville State

(1-0, 0-0 Ohio Valley)

Previous Ranking: 5

Last Week’s Result: Beat North Alabama, 31-12

It was hard to tell in the opener that first-team All-America quarterback Eli Jenkins had offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. The Gamecocks may want to cut down on the 12 penalties, however.

Next Opponent: at LSU (Sept. 10)


6. Charleston Southern

(1-1, 0-0 Big South)

Previous Ranking: 6

Last Week’s Result: Beat Kentucky State, 57-7

Rough week for the Buccaneers, even with a win – head coach Jamey Chadwell was suspended one game because an assistant violated an NCAA recruiting rule on social media, then starting quarterback Kyle Copeland suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Next Opponent: at Florida State (Sept. 10)


7. Eastern Washington

(1-0, 0-0 Big Sky)

Previous Ranking: 12

Last Week’s Result: Beat Washington State, 45-42

NFL scouts will note what senior wide receiver Cooper Kupp, the new FCS all-time leader with 59 touchdown receptions, did in four career games against Pac-12 opponents: 40 receptions for 716 yards and 11 TDs. 

Next Opponent: at North Dakota State (Sept. 10)


8. Chattanooga

(1-0, 0-0 Southern)

Previous Ranking: 7

Last Week’s Result: Beat Shorter, 66-0

New quarterback Alejandro Bennifield wasn’t exactly taxed by the competition, but four touchdown passes in less than one half’s work is a good start to replacing four-year standout Jacob Huesman.

Next Opponent: Presbyterian (Sept. 10)


9. South Dakota State

(0-1. 0-0 Missouri Valley)

Previous Ranking: 8

Last Week’s Result: Lost to TCU, 59-41

All-America wide receiver Jake Wieneke must have liked the way mobile quarterback Taryn Christion passed the ball for 333 yards in the Jackrabbits’ strong effort at TCU.

Next Opponent: Drake (Sept. 10)


10. James Madison

(1-0, 0-0 CAA Football)

Previous Ranking: 14

Last Week’s Result: Beat Morehead State, 80-7

One game into his JMU head coaching tenure and Mike Houston already can claim the school record for points in a game. Central Connecticut State, brace yourselves.

Next Opponent: Central Connecticut State (Sept. 10)


11. Coastal Carolina

(1-0 FCS Independent)

Previous Ranking: 9

Last Week’s Result: Beat Lamar, 38-14

Senior running back De’Angelo Henderson has tied former Virginia Tech star Lee Suggs for the Division I record with a touchdown in 27 straight games.

Next Opponent: Florida A&M (Sept. 10)


12. Illinois State

(1-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

Previous Ranking: 11

Last Week’s Result: Beat Valparaiso, 50-13

The focus has been on the changes at quarterback and running back, but the rebuilt defense has even more of a new look. In allowing only 130 yards and forcing three turnovers against Valpo, the defense laid the new foundation.

Next Opponent: at Northwestern (Sept. 10)


13. The Citadel

(1-0, 1-0 Southern)

Previous Ranking: 10

Last Week’s Result: Beat Mercer, 24-23

Heading into his second conference game already, new Bulldogs head coach Brent Thompson has to decide between staying with redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Black or returning to last year’s starter, junior Dominique Allen, who’s back from a one-game suspension and preseason injury.

Next Opponent: Furman (Sept. 10)


14. Montana

(1-0, 0-0 Big Sky)

Previous Ranking: 16

Last Week’s Result: Beat Saint Francis, 41-31

Will the real Brady Gustafson please stand up? Is he the senior QB who produced five second-half touchdowns to beat Saint Francis or the one who committed four turnovers in the tougher-than-expected game?

Next Opponent: at Northern Iowa (Sept. 10)


15. McNeese

(1-0, 0-0 Southland)

Previous Ranking: 17

Last Week’s Result: Beat Tarleton State, 33-3

New head coach Lance Guidry promised a more wide-open offense and McNeese delivered with 358 passing yards – the fourth-highest outing in program history. Was it legal for the Cowboys to have 14 different receivers catch a pass?

Next Opponent: at UL Lafayette (Sept. 10)


16. William & Mary

(0-1, 0-0 CAA Football)

Previous Ranking: 13

Last Week’s Result: Lost to NC State, 48-14

Granted, the Tribe are filling big holes on defense, but their unit was on the field too long when three defenders recorded at least 12 tackles. The level of competition decreases this week, although they stay on the road.

Next Opponent: at Hampton (Sept. 10)


17. Western Illinois

(1-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

Previous Ranking: 19

Last Week’s Result: Beat Eastern Illinois, 38-21

Two days before his old team Richmond beat Virginia, former Spiders offensive coordinator Charlie Fisher had an impressive head coaching debut on the road. Steve McShane totaled 263 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.

Next Opponent: Northern Arizona (Sept. 10)


18. Youngstown State

(1-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

Previous Ranking: 22

Last Week’s Result: Beat Duquesne, 45-10

Not to be overshadowed by some bigger games on opening weekend, the playoff-starved Penguins posted an impressive win against the defending Northeast Conference champ. Quarterback Ricky Davis was quite efficient in his first career start.

Next Opponent: at West Virginia (Sept. 10)


19. Towson

(0-1, 0-0 CAA Football)

Previous Ranking: 18

Last Week’s Result: Lost to South Florida, 56-20

The special teams looking strong was the positive takeaway in an otherwise disappointing start to the season for Towson, one of the last two teams to miss the playoffs a year ago.

Next Opponent: Saint Francis (Sept. 10)


20. Villanova

(1-0, 0-0 CAA Football)

Previous Ranking: 20

Last Week’s Result: Lost to Pittsburgh, 28-7

Yup, the Wildcats’ defense looked pretty good, even scoring the team’s lone touchdown at Pitt. Now redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Bednarczyk has to get the offense moving.

Next Opponent: Lehigh (Sept. 20)


21. Northern Arizona

(0-0, 0-1 Big Sky)

Previous Ranking: 24

Last Week’s Result: Lost to Arizona State, 44-13

No early sign of a sophomore slump from Lumberjacks quarterback Case Cookus, last year’s national freshman of the year, as he passed for 369 yards. But the Big Sky preseason favorites must win at Western Illinois to avoid an 0-2 start.

Next Opponent: at Western Illinois (Sept. 10)


22. Portland State

(1-0, 0-0 Big Sky)

Previous Ranking: 21

Last Week’s Result: Beat Central Washington, 43-26

The Vikings can’t afford to be rusty any longer as they move into two straight games against the FBS. Of course, those opponents brought out the best in head coach Bruce Barnum’s squad last year.

Next Opponent: at San Jose State (Sept. 10)


23. Colgate

(0-1, 0-0 Patriot)

Previous Ranking: 23

Last Week’s Result: Lost to Syracuse, 33-7

Just who decided to put the defending Patriot League champ on the road in three straight games to open the season, and five of its first six? At least the Raiders have a bye week to regroup from their opening loss.

Next Opponent: at Yale (Sept. 17)


24. North Carolina A&T

(1-0, 0-0 MEAC)

Previous Ranking: Unranked

Last Week’s Result: Beat St. Augustine’s, 62-0

Senior running back Tarik Cohen wasn’t called on to have a big game, but he set the Aggies’ school record for career touchdowns (41) in the opener. They’ll rely more on the All-American this week.

Next Opponent: at Kent State (Sept. 10)


25. Eastern Kentucky

(0-1, 0-0 Ohio Valley)

Previous Ranking: 25

Last Week’s Result: Lost to Purdue, 45-24

Round and round the quarterback wheel turns at EKU. If head coach Mark Elder’s first game is any indication, the Colonels’ offense will try to seek rhythm behind senior Bennie Coney.

Next Opponent: Pikeville (Sept. 8)


— 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 courtesy of Eastern Washington Athletics)

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