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FCS Rankings: Power Poll for Week 3

Lance Lenoir.jpg

WIU's Lance Lenoir

We’re blowing up the Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll this week.

FCS

OK, we’re merely lighting a firecracker.

But it’s time to both reward and penalize teams for their strength of schedule (or lack of it). We’re moving up teams coming off of losses, such as Eastern Washington and McNeese, and lowering teams with wins, such as James Madison and Coastal Carolina.

Here is the Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll through the games of Sept. 10:

1. North Dakota State

(2-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week’s Result: 50-44 overtime win over then-No. 7 Eastern Washington

The five-time defending FCS national champion Bison believe they will win no matter any situation (two OT wins to date). They’ll need that mindset this week as they put their five-game winning streak over FBS teams on the line.

Next Opponent: at Iowa (Sept. 17)

Related: 15 Best FBS vs. FCS Football Games in 2016

2. Richmond

(2-0, 0-0 CAA)

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Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week’s Result: 34-0 win over Norfolk State

The Spiders move into their conference schedule with a 2-0 overall mark for the first time in five seasons.  Defensive lineman Winston Craig is off to a big start with two sacks in each win.

Next Opponent: at Stony Brook (Sept. 17)

3. Sam Houston State

(1-0, 0-0 Southland)

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Previous Ranking: 4

Last Week’s Result: Idle

A bye week is usually better later in the season when bodies need rest. The Bearkats must figure out Lamar All-America running back Kade Harrington, who ran all over them last season in an upset.

Next Opponent: at Lamar (Sept. 17)

4. Eastern Washington

(1-1, 0-0 Big Sky)

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Previous Ranking: 7

Last Week’s Result: 50-44 overtime loss to No. 1 North Dakota State

Sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud remains outstanding even when All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp goes down with a shoulder injury.

Next Opponent: No. 7 Northern Iowa (Sept. 17)

5. Jacksonville State

(1-1, 0-0 Ohio Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 5

Last Week’s Result: 34-13 loss at LSU

Most of the FCS nation will be on the Gamecocks’ side when they take on a Coastal Carolina squad transitioning to the FBS. They’ve been playing without injured No. 1 wide receiver Josh Barge.

Next Opponent: No. 15 Coastal Carolina (Sept. 17)

6. Montana

(2-0, 0-0 Big Sky)

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Previous Ranking: 14

Last Week’s Result: 20-14 win at then-No. 3 Northern Iowa

Senior quarterback Brady Gustafson isn’t playing at a consistent level and the Grizzlies are going on the road against a team that always troubles them.

Next Opponent: at Cal Poly (Sept. 24)

7. Northern Iowa

(1-1, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week’s Result: 20-14 loss to then-No. 14 Montana

UNI may want to miss Montana in the FCS playoffs as the Grizzlies own a 6-0 series lead. The Panthers will stay in the Big Sky with a return trip to Eastern Washington this week.

Next Opponent: at No. 4 Eastern Washington (Sept. 17)

8. Illinois State

(2-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 12

Last Week’s Result: 9-7 win over Northwestern

It’s interesting that the Redbirds and their rival EIU both beat FBS opponents a week before their 105th meeting. The Redbirds’ came on Sean Slattery’s 33-yard, game-winning field goal.

Next Opponent: Eastern Illinois (Sept. 17)

9. South Dakota State

(1-1, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 9

Last Week’s Result: 56-28 win over Drake

While the Jackrabbits opened new Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in easy fashion, All-America wide receiver Jake Wieneke caught three touchdowns, which pushes him to five in two games.

Next Opponent: Cal Poly (Sept. 17)

10. Chattanooga

(2-0, 0-0 Southern)

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Previous Ranking: 8

Last Week’s Result: 34-0 win over Presbyterian

Pretty impressive line for wide receiver Xavier Borishade against the Blue Hose – three receptions for 168 yards and three touchdowns.

Next Opponent: at Furman (Sept. 17)

11. James Madison

(2-0, 0-0 CAA Football)

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Previous Ranking: 10

Last Week’s Result: 56-21 win over Central Connecticut State

Bring on the better competition – JMU opens the Mike Houston era with a two-game record 136 points. The upcoming game at North Carolina is the Dukes’ 25th against an FBS opponent, with five previous wins.

Next Opponent: at North Carolina (Sept. 17)

12. Western Illinois

(2-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 16

Last Week’s Result: 34-20 win over then No. 21-Northern Arizona

Here’s how WIU beat NAU: Sean McGuire passed for a career-high 336 yards, Lance Lenior had a career-high 231 receiving yards and Steve McShane rushed for a career-high 155 yards.

Next Opponent: at Northern Illinois (Sept. 24)

13. McNeese

(2-0, 0-0 Southland)

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Previous Ranking: 15

Last Week’s Result: 30-22 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette

The Cowboys deserve to move up even after a loss, but first-year head coach Lance Guidry said he wants his team to play with more intensity.

Next Opponent: Stephen F. Austin (Sept. 17)

14. Charleston Southern

(1-2, 0-0 Big South)

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Previous Ranking: 6

Last Week’s Result: 52-8 loss to Florida State

The bookstore “scandal” cost the Buccaneers 10 starters for their game at Florida State. It’s time to regroup as Charleston Southern heads toward its conference opener.

Next Opponent: at Monmouth (Sept. 24)

15. Coastal Carolina

(2-0 FCS Independent)

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Previous Ranking: 11

Last Week’s Result: 49-10 win over Florida A&M

After the trip to 2015 FCS runner-up Jacksonville State, the Chanticleers will play on the road only two more times in their final nine games.

Next Opponent: at No. 4 Jacksonville State (Sept. 17)

16. The Citadel

(2-0, 2-0 Southern)

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Previous Ranking: 13

Last Week’s Result: 19-14 win over Furman

The Bulldogs are the only team in the FCS that can say they’re 2-0 in conference play. They step out of conference this week.

Next Opponent: at Gardner-Webb (Sept. 17)

17. William & Mary

(1-1, 0-0 CAA Football)

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Previous Ranking: 17

Last Week’s Result: 24-14 win over Hampton

Hampton, Norfolk State... are the Tribe aiming for the MEAC title or the CAA title? All-purpose threat DeVonte Dedmon is off to a terrific start this season.

Next Opponent: Norfolk State (Sept. 24)

18. Youngstown State

(1-1, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 18

Last Week’s Result: 38-21 loss to West Virginia

Pass rushers Derek Rivers and Avery Moss have just one sack each. At least the YSU offensive line has yet to surrender a sack.

Next Opponent: Robert Morris (Sept. 17)

19. Towson

(1-1, 0-0 CAA Football)

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Previous Ranking: 19

Last Week’s Result: 35-28 win over Saint Francis

With No. 1 quarterback Morgan Mahalak knocked out with a shoulder injury, Ellis Knudson came off the bench to help guide Towson’s first win. Christian Summers caught six passes and two touchdowns for 232 yards.

Next Opponent: at No. 19 Villanova (Sept. 17)

20. Villanova

(1-1, 0-0 CAA Football)

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Previous Ranking: 20

Last Week’s Result: 26-21 win over Lehigh

‘Nova glad to be hosting Towson in a matchup that both teams need if either plans to make the FCS playoffs.

Next Opponent: No. 19 Towson (Sept. 17)

21. North Carolina A&T

(2-0, 0-0 MEAC)

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Previous Ranking: 24

Last Week’s Result: 39-36 (4OT) win over Kent State

It’s hard to do, but the Aggies had three different quarterbacks throw at least 12 passes in their first-ever FBS win. The final one was the difference: Oluwafemi Bamiro’s 15-yard TD to Denzel Keyes to end the fourth OT.

Next Opponent: at Tulsa (Sept. 17)

22. Northern Arizona

(0-2, 0-0 Big Sky)

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Previous Ranking: 21

Last Week’s Result: 34-20 loss to then-No. 16 Western Illinois

Sophomore Case Cookus is glad to be playing the home opener this week. Last season, he threw for 24 touchdowns in five games at the Walkup Skydome.

Next Opponent: New Mexico Highlands (Sept. 17)

23. Colgate

(0-1, 0-0 Patriot)

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Previous Ranking: 23

Last Week’s Result: Idle

The Raiders, who have a 15-day buildup to Saturday’s game, are thinking payback after Yale rallied to a 29-28 win in upstate New York last year.

Next Opponent: at Yale (Sept. 17)

24. Eastern Kentucky

(1-1, 0-0 Ohio Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 25

Last Week’s Result: Beat Pikeville, 55-14

Talk about hard to do: the Colonels scored three touchdowns on interceptions in the same quarter (third) against NAIA member Pikeville (OK, it was Pikeville). Most interesting, though, was first-year head coach Mark Elder started redshirt sophomore Tyler Swafford at the crowded quarterback position.

Next Opponent: at Ball State (Sept. 17)

25. Portland State

(1-1, 0-0 Big Sky)

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Previous Ranking: 22

Last Week’s Result: 66-35 loss to San Jose State

Six wasn’t the Vikings number in San Jose. They surrendered 66 points – the most in six seasons – and committed six turnovers.

Next Opponent: at Washington (Sept. 17)

Power poll possibilities: Fordham (1-1, 0-0 Patriot); New Hampshire (1-1, 0-0 CAA); Samford (2-0, 0-0 Southern)

— 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 Western Illinois Athletics)