With No. 1 NDSU losing, the upcoming FCS playoffs appear more wide open.
They invented going out for a Sunday drive because it comes one day after an FCS Saturday.
Everybody needs to unwind slowly following a wild day of college football.
FCS kingpin North Dakota State, Chattanooga and Harvard fell from the ranks of the unbeaten this past Saturday, leaving just two remaining — Sam Houston State and The Citadel — and two weeks to go before Halloween.
South Dakota State’s win over North Dakota State — to reclaim the Dakota Marker for the first time since 2009 — surely has people thinking another Bison national title isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Here is the Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll through the games of Oct. 15:
1. North Dakota State
(5-1, 2-1 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: 1
Last Week’s Result: 19-17 loss to then-No. 10 South Dakota State
Yup, keeping the five-time reigning FCS champion Bison at No. 1 despite their last-second loss to South Dakota State. The Bison have beaten many of the top teams right behind them in the past few years, including Eastern Washington last month.
Next Opponent: at No. 12 Western Illinois (Oct. 22)
2. Eastern Washington
(5-1, 3-0 Big Sky)
Previous Ranking: 2
Last Week’s Result: Idle
They work in the shadow of Cooper Kupp, but senior wide receivers Kendrick Bourne (176 receptions, 2,545 yards, 23 TDs) and Shaq Hill (136-2,183-23) have impressive career stats as well.
Next Opponent: at Montana State (Oct. 22)
3. Jacksonville State
(5-1, 2-0 Ohio Valley)
Previous Ranking: 3
Last Week’s Result: 34-14 win over Austin Peay
Sixth-year senior Josh Clemons has become the featured running back, gaining 253 yards and five touchdowns in the Gamecocks’ first two Ohio Valley Conference wins. They’ve won 19 straight against conference opponents.
Next Opponent: at Eastern Kentucky (Oct. 22)
4. Sam Houston State
(6-0, 5-0 Southland)
Previous Ranking: 4
Last Week’s Result: 48-21 win over Abilene Christian
Junior quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe leads the FCS with 26 touchdown passes, including 17 in his last three games. En fuego.
Next Opponent: at Nicholls (Oct. 22)
(6-1, 3-1 CAA)
Previous Ranking: 7
Last Week’s Result: 23-0 win over then-No. 13 Villanova
After the loss of two more starters to season-ending injuries, the Spiders went out and posted their second shutout of the season, knocking Villanova from first place in the CAA.
Next Opponent: at Elon (Oct. 22)
6. James Madison
(6-1, 4-0 CAA Football)
Previous Ranking: 6
Last Week’s Result: 42-39 win over New Hampshire
The Dukes started looking at their bye week too early as a 30-point lead at UNH nearly slipped away in the final 10 minutes. Junior quarterback Bryan Schor (four touchdown passes, one rushing) impressed yet again.
Next Opponent: Rhode Island (Oct. 29)
7. South Dakota State
(4-2, 3-0 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: 10
Last Week’s Result: 19-17 win over No. 1 North Dakota State
South Dakota State had lost eight times to the Bison this decade before pulling the upset on Taryn Christion’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Jake Wieneke with one second remaining.
Next Opponent: No. 13 Youngstown State (Oct. 22)
8. The Citadel
(6-0, 4-0 Southern)
Previous Ranking: 12
Last Week’s Result: 22-14 win over then-No. 5 Chattanooga
The Bulldogs ran the ball 77 times and had a lopsided time of possession (39 minutes, 26 seconds) in knocking off the three-time SoCon champion Mocs. But a trip to Wofford, with the Terriers coming off a bye, appears quite difficult.
Next Opponent: at Wofford (Oct. 22)
9. Charleston Southern
(3-2, 1-0 Big South)
Previous Ranking: 8
Last Week’s Result: Idle
The 59-58 win in two overtimes at Coastal Carolina was memorable, but that was on Oct. 1. Head coach Jamey Chadwell must hope the three-week layoff between games hasn’t made the Buccaneers rusty.
Next Opponent: Presbyterian (Oct. 22)
(5-1, 2-1 Big Sky)
Previous Ranking: 9
Last Week’s Result: 68-7 win over Sacramento State
There’s no truth to the rumor the Big Sky Conference will discontinue the Griz’s series with Sacramento State despite their 19-1 lead. But it’s worth considering.
Next Opponent: at Northern Arizona (Oct. 22)
(6-1, 4-1 Southern)
Previous Ranking: 5
Last Week’s Result: 22-14 loss to then-No. 12 The Citadel
The Mocs have won at least a share of three straight Southern Conference titles, but they will need help to keep the streak alive. They had their worst rushing performance (55 yards) since 2011 in the loss to The Citadel.
Next Opponent: VMI (Oct. 22)
12. Western Illinois
(5-1, 2-1 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: 11
Last Week’s Result: 38-35 win over Missouri State
Big Devon Moore (6-2, 227) scored on a second effort from a yard out with 43 seconds remaining to lift the Leathernecks past Missouri State.
Next Opponent: No. 1 North Dakota State (Oct. 22)
13. Youngstown State
(5-1, 3-0 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: 14
Last Week’s Result: 14-10 win over then-No. 17 Northern Iowa
On a night the Penguins celebrated the 25th anniversary of their first FCS championship season in 1991, they rallied behind another big defensive effort, allowing only 173 yards to UNI. And, no, they still haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown this season.
Next Opponent: at No. 7 South Dakota State (Oct. 22)
14. North Dakota
(5-2, 4-0 Big Sky)
Previous Ranking: 18
Last Week’s Result: 45-23 win over Southern Utah
UND’s mantra is “Leave No Doubt” after it was one of the last two teams left out of the 2015 FCS playoffs. The Fighting Hawks are doing just that with sole possession of first place in the Big Sky.
Next Opponent: at Idaho State (Oct. 22)
15. Cal Poly
(4-2, 2-1 Big Sky)
Previous Ranking: 15
Last Week’s Result: 55-35 win over Portland State
It’s been a good season for FCS teams running the triple option, and the Mustangs rank second nationally with 352.5 rushing yards per game. Against Portland State, Kyle Lewis (158 yards), Kori Garcia (141) and Joe Protheroe (101) all went over the century mark.
Next Opponent: UC Davis (Oct. 22)
16. Coastal Carolina
(4-2 FCS Independent)
Previous Ranking: 16
Last Week’s Result: 17-7 win over Gardner-Webb
Running back De’Angelo Henderson has increased his Division I record for consecutive games with a touchdown to 32. After suffering a shoulder injury against Gardner-Webb, his playing status must still be determined this week.
Next Opponent: Central Connecticut State (Oct. 22)
(5-1, 3-1 Southern)
Previous Ranking: 19
Last Week’s Result: 55-21 win over VMI
Coming off a game in which he had 12 receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown, wide receiver Karel Hamilton has 2,958 career receiving yards — just 96 shy of the school record.
Next Opponent: Western Carolina (Oct. 22)
18. Stony Brook
(4-2, 3-0 CAA)
Previous Ranking: 20
Last Week’s Result: 14-3 win over Rhode Island
In leading another terrific Seawolves’ defensive effort, defensive back Tyrice Beverette had a team-high 11 tackles, including a sack, four tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.
Next Opponent: at Delaware (Oct. 22)
(5-2, 3-1 CAA Football)
Previous Ranking: 13
Last Week’s Result: 23-0 loss to No. 7 Richmond
In the Wildcats’ first shutout loss since 2004 (148 straight games with points), quarterback Zach Bednarczyk was knocked from the game with an upper-body injury.
Next Opponent: Albany (Oct. 22)
20. Central Arkansas
(5-1, 4-0 Southland)
Previous Ranking: 23
Last Week’s Result: 35-0 win over McNeese
Stunning result for UCA, which handed McNeese its first shutout at home since 1987. All of the Bears’ FCS wins are by double digits and they also won at FBS Arkansas State.
Next Opponent: Lamar (Oct. 22)
21. Eastern Illinois
(5-2, 3-1 OVC)
Previous Ranking: 21
Last Week’s Result: 30-24 win over Tennessee Tech
The Panthers have come from behind in three of their wins, including a two-touchdown deficit against Tennessee Tech.
Next Opponent: Murray State (Oct. 22)
22. Northern Iowa
(2-4, 1-2 Missouri Valley)
Previous Ranking: 17
Last Week’s Result: 14-10 loss to then-No. 14 Youngstown State
Consider the talented Panthers the most snakebitten team in the FCS. All four losses have been by six points or fewer and against teams that are a combined 18-6. Still, it’s been a bad season for head coach Mark Farley’s team.
Next Opponent: Missouri State (Oct. 22)
23. North Carolina A&T
(5-1, 3-0 MEAC)
Previous Ranking: 25
Last Week’s Result: 52-35 win over Bethune-Cookman
Running back Tarik Cohen is running away with a third straight MEAC offensive player of the year award, while linebacker Jeremy Taylor is in the conversation for defensive player of the year.
Next Opponent: at Howard (Oct. 22)
(5-2, 2-0 Patriot)
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Last Week’s Result: 35-3 win over Georgetown
The Mountain Hawks are known for their passing attack, but they limited Georgetown to 177 yards and their fewest points allowed since a 27-0 shutout win over the Hoyas in 2009. They’re the early leader in the Patriot League.
Next Opponent: at Holy Cross (Oct. 22)
25. Tennessee State
(5-1, 2-1 OVC)
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Last Week’s Result: 35-28 win over Eastern Kentucky
It seems any team near the bottom of the power poll keeps falling out. The Tigers, whose only loss is by one point to Eastern Illinois, will stay there — and move up — with a win across town at Vanderbilt.
Next Opponent: at Vanderbilt (Oct. 22)
— 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 North Dakota State University Athletics)