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FCS Rankings: Power Poll for Week 5

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Over half of the Missouri Valley Football Conference teams took off this past weekend yet the rich got richer.

FCS

Western Illinois earned the conference’s fourth win over an FBS opponent this season and Indiana State held off Illinois State in the first conference matchup. Now the top FCS conference in the nation has seven teams in the Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll.

It was moving Saturday for many. Eastern Washington and Cal Poly also won big games in the Big Sky Conference, and the Southland Conference grabbed headlines as well.

Here is the Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll through the games of Sept. 24:

1. North Dakota State

(3-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week’s Result: Idle

Redshirt junior Matt Plank takes over at middle linebacker with All-American Nick DeLuca lost to season-ending shoulder surgery. Plank’s first start comes against an Illinois State team that shared each of the last two Missouri Valley Conference titles with the Bison.

Next Opponent: No. 19 Illinois State (Oct. 1)

2. Eastern Washington

(3-1, 1-0 Big Sky)

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Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week’s Result: 50-35 win over then-No. 23 Northern Arizona

The Eagles got All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp back from a shoulder surgery after he missed a game and a half. His return – 11 receptions, of course – helped make quarterback Gage Gubrud devastating again in their Big Sky opener.

Next Opponent: UC Davis (Oct. 1)

3. Jacksonville State

(3-1, 0-0 Ohio Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 4

Last Week’s Result: 48-19 win over Liberty

The Gamecocks leapfrog Sam Houston State because they’ve played a much-stronger schedule. Oh yes, they did blow out the Bearkats in the FCS semifinals last season.

Next Opponent: Tennessee Tech (Oct. 8)

4. Sam Houston State

(3-0, 2-0 Southland)

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Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week’s Result: 52-16 win over Houston Baptist

A terrific “Battle of the Piney Woods” is on tap against Stephen F. Austin this week. Bearkats quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe enters with an average of 345 passing yards and three touchdowns per game.

Next Opponent: No. 25 Stephen F. Austin in Houston (Oct. 1)

5. Chattanooga

(4-0, 2-0 Southern)

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Previous Ranking: 6

Last Week’s Result: 41-21 win over Samford

The Mocs jumped to a 21-0 lead and were not threatened by Samford as they moved atop the SoCon standings alongside The Citadel. Those two defending co-champs have a chance to be unbeaten when they meet on Oct. 15 in South Carolina.

Next Opponent: at East Tennessee State (Oct. 1)

6. Western Illinois

(3-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 10

Last Week’s Result: 28-23 win over Northern Illinois

The Leathernecks beat Eastern Illinois and Northern Arizona, then ended a 15-game losing streak against the FBS. And now the schedule will really get tough – they’ll be playing Missouri Valley Conference opponents.

Next Opponent: at No. 13 South Dakota State (Oct. 1)

7. James Madison

(3-1, 1-0 CAA Football)

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Previous Ranking: 11

Last Week’s Result: 31-20 win over Maine

Talk about a 1-2 punch in the backfield: Khalid Abdullah, who’s coming off a career-best game (175 yards), and Cardon Johnson have combined for 851 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground this season.

Next Opponent: Delaware (Oct. 1)

8. Richmond

(3-1, 0-1 CAA)

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Previous Ranking: 9

Last Week’s Result: 38-31 win over then-No. 22 Colgate

The Spiders answered a gut-check following their blowout loss at Stony Brook. Against Colgate, senior wide receiver Brian Brown became the program’s all-time receiving yardage leader (3,178).

Next Opponent: Towson (Oct. 1)

9. Cal Poly

(3-1, 1-0 Big Sky)

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Previous Ranking: 13

Last Week’s Result: 42-41 win over then-No. 5 Montana

Head coach Tim Walsh doesn’t duck tough schedules, even with a team picked ninth in the Big Sky Conference’s two preseason polls. The Mustangs’ amazing start includes back-to-back wins over top-10 teams (South Dakota State on Sept. 17).

Next Opponent: at North Dakota (Oct. 1)

10. Montana

(2-1, 0-1 Big Sky)

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Previous Ranking: 5

Last Week’s Result: 42-41 loss to then-No. 13 Cal Poly

The Griz suffered a tough Big Sky-opening loss on a day in which quarterback Brady Gustafson completed 47 passes and Jerry Louie-McGhee caught 21 of them – both school records.

Next Opponent: Southern Utah (Oct. 1)

11. Northern Iowa

(1-2, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 7

Last Week’s Result: Idle

A bye week was the first thing to slow down Panthers All-American Karter Schult. He has 12 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks through the first three games.

Next Opponent: Southern Illinois (Oct. 1)

12. Charleston Southern

(2-2, 1-0 Big South)

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Previous Ranking: 12

Last Week’s Result: 35-7 win over Monmouth

Give him the ball more: Senior running back Mike Holloway has 25 touches from the line of scrimmage for 408 yards and six touchdowns.

Next Opponent: at No. 15 Coastal Carolina (Oct. 1)

13. South Dakota State

(1-2, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 14

Last Week’s Result: Idle

Having completed their bye, the Jackrabbits will play a particularly tough schedule in October (Western Illinois, at Southern Illinois, at North Dakota State, Youngstown State and at Illinois State).

Next Opponent: No. 6 Western Illinois (Oct. 1)

14. The Citadel

(3-0, 2-0 Southern)

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Previous Ranking: 16

Last Week’s Result: Idle

Want clutch? The Bulldogs have converted 49 percent on third down and are 8-of-9 in the red zone with seven touchdowns.

Next Opponent: at Western Carolina (Oct. 1)

15. Coastal Carolina

(3-1 FCS Independent)

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Previous Ranking: 20

Last Week’s Result: 41-21 win over Furman

In rebounding from a loss to Jacksonville State, Coastal scored touchdowns off a blocked field goal (Kenneth Daniels, 60 yards), a punt return (Ky’Jon Tyler, 80 yards) and an interception (Alex Scearce, 31 yards).

Next Opponent: No. 12 Charleston Southern (Oct. 1)

16. Villanova

(3-1, 1-0 CAA Football)

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Previous Ranking: 17

Last Week’s Result: 31-14 win over Lafayette

In head coach Andy Talley’s final season at ‘Nova, the first half of the schedule is much softer than what lies ahead. The Wildcats, of course, hope to send out Talley with an FCS playoff berth.

Next Opponent: at Elon (Oct. 1)

17. Youngstown State

(2-1, 0-0 Missouri Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 18

Last Week’s Result: Idle

With running back Jody Webb sidelined by injury, the Penguins have worked sophomore Tevin McCaster into the rotation with Martin Ruiz. The ‘Guins are averaging 294 rushing yards per game.

Next Opponent: South Dakota (Oct. 1)

18. Eastern Illinois

(3-1, 1-0 OVC)

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Previous Ranking: 21

Last Week’s Result: 56-35 win over Austin Peay

If the Panthers are giving up 35 points to Austin Peay, you have to wonder how their graduation-depleted defense will hold up against some of the top Ohio Valley Conference offenses.

Next Opponent: at Southeast Missouri State (Oct. 1)

19. Illinois State

(2-2, 0-1 Missouri Valley)

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Previous Ranking: 15

Last Week’s Result: 34-31 loss to Indiana State

Yikes, with a loss at North Dakota State, the Redbirds would fall below the .500 mark just three weeks after beating Northwestern. 

Next Opponent: at No. 1 North Dakota State (Oct. 1)

20. Colgate

(1-2, 0-0 Patriot)

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Previous Ranking: 22

Last Week’s Result: 38-31 loss at then-No. 9 Richmond

The defending Patriot League champs have played only on the road and their effort at Richmond was credible. The Spiders stymied Raiders quarterback Jake Melville (three interceptions) just a week after he passed for a career-high five touchdowns.

Next Opponent: Cornell (Oct. 1)

21. Albany

(4-0, 1-0 CAA Football)

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Previous Ranking: 24

Last Week’s Result: 20-9 win over Saint Francis

It’s all CAA games from here for head coach Greg Gattuso’s squad. The Great Danes have a bye week to prepare for Richmond and don’t have James Madison, Towson and William & Mary on a favorable conference schedule.

Next Opponent: No. 8 Richmond (Oct. 8)

22. McNeese

(2-2, 1-1 Southland)

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Previous Ranking: 25

Last Week’s Result: 42-35 win over Incarnate Word

It was very un-McNeese-like when the Cowboys struggled to run the ball and stop the run as they evened their conference record In a Southland that had eye-catching results this past weekend.

Next Opponent: Nicholls (Oct. 1)

23. Fordham

(2-1, 0-0 Patriot)

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Previous Ranking: Unranked

Last Week’s Result: 31-17 win over Penn

The Rams haven’t done enough to convince anyone that they play enough defense, but any team with quarterback Kevin Anderson and running back Chase Edmonds will outscore many opponents.

Next Opponent: at Monmouth (Oct. 1)

24. Indiana State

(3-1, 1-0 Missouri Valley)

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Previous Ranking: Unranked

Last Week’s Result: 34-31 win over then-No. 15 Illinois State

The Sycamores blew late leads against Illinois State in the last two seasons, but had a finishing touch this year. Sophomore quarterback Isaac Harker has been red hot.

Next Opponent: Missouri State (Oct. 1)

25. Stephen F. Austin

(3-1, 2-0 Southland)

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Previous Ranking: Unranked

Last Week’s Result: 41-30 win over Abilene Christian

What a difference a year makes – this time last season, the Lumberjacks were on their way to an 0-5 start. Quarterback Hunter Taylor keeps coming off the bench to replace starter Zach Conque and help lead victories.

Next Opponent: No. 2 Sam Houston State in Houston (Oct. 1)

Power poll possibilities: Harvard (2-0, 0-0 Ivy), North Dakota (2-2, 1-0 Big Sky), Southern Utah (2-1, 1-0 Big Sky), Stony Brook (2-2, 1-0 CAA)

— 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 University Athletics)