FCS Rankings: Preseason Power Poll

Will Week 1 be full of upsets against the FBS?

The small schedule in Week Zero simply whet the appetite. FCS college football fans are hungry for the full course.

 

They'll get it this week as two-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State and most teams jump into their season in Week 1. FCS vs. FBS matchups expect to command the spotlight.

 

Here's the Athlon FCS Power Poll heading into Week 1 games (last year's record listed below team):

 

1. North Dakota State

(15-0, 8-0 Missouri Valley)

First-year head coach Matt Entz named redshirt freshman Trey Lance as the team's starting quarterback. Iowa State junior transfer Zeb Noland also sought the job.

Season Opener: Butler in Minneapolis (Aug. 31)

 

2. James Madison

(9-4, 6-2 CAA)

The Dukes' run game often pounds defenses into submission, but they're fairly inexperienced with junior running backs Percy Agyei-Obese and Jawon Hamilton.

Season Opener: at West Virginia (Aug. 31)

 

3. South Dakota State

(10-3, 6-2 Missouri Valley)

Redshirt freshman quarterback J'Bore Gibbs replaces Taryn Christion, the Missouri Valley Football Conference's all-time leader in total offense.

Season Opener: at Minnesota (Aug. 29)

 

4. Eastern Washington

(12-3, 7-1 Big Sky)

Gone are the days of 50 pass attempts. A stout offensive line will allow the Eagles to run the ball as much as they pass it.

Season Opener: at Washington (Aug. 31)

 

5. UC Davis

(10-3, 7-1 Big Sky)

Senior quarterback Jake Maier is surrounded by a wealth of offensive talent, but the Aggies are replacing a lot on defense.

Season Opener: at California (Aug. 31)

 

6. Maine

(10-4, 7-1 CAA)

Nick Charlton makes his coaching debut. Leading rusher Ramon Jefferson transferred out this offseason, but former Buffalo running back Emmanuel Reed seeks a quick impact.

Season Opener: Sacred Heart (Aug. 30)

 

7. Jacksonville State

(9-4, 7-1 Ohio Valley)

Quarterback Zerrick Cooper will keep firing away to wide receivers Josh Pearson (17 touchdown catches) and Jamari Hester (11).

Season Opener: at Southeastern Louisiana (Aug. 29)

 

8. Montana State

(8-5, 5-3 Big Sky)

See Troy Andersen on offense. See Troy Andersen on defense. See the two-way standout everywhere.

Season Opener: at Texas Tech (Aug. 31)

 

9. Weber State

(10-3, 7-1 Big Sky)

Jerry Rice Award winner Josh Davis (1,362 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns) has a backfield mate in Kevin Smith, who was sidelined by injury last season.

Season Opener: at San Diego State (Aug. 31)

 

10. Wofford

(9-4, 6-2 Southern)

The Terriers' triple-option offense ranked No. 3 in the FCS in average time of possession (33 minutes, 14 seconds) and rushing yards per game (311.7).

Next Opponent: at South Carolina State (Aug. 31)

 

11. Towson

(7-5, 5-3 CAA)

Quarterback Tom Flacco terrorized The Citadel with 438 total yards (253 passing, 185 rushing) and four touchdowns in a win a year ago.

Season Opener: at The Citadel (Aug. 31)

 

12. Illinois State

(6-5, 3-5 Missouri Valley)

Running back James Robinson powered the Redbirds to an FBS win at Colorado State last year.

Season Opener: at Northern Illinois (Aug. 31)

 

13. Nicholls

(9-4, 7-2 Southland)

The Colonels beat Kansas to open last season. As juniors, defensive end Sully Laiche and linebacker Evan Veron combined for 39 tackles for a loss and 15.5 sacks.

Season Opener: at Kansas State (Aug. 31)

 

14. Kennesaw State

(11-2, 5-0 Big South)

The Owls have only one returning starter on offense, but an easy opener will allow them to get comfortable behind new signal-caller Daniel David.

Season Opener: Point (Aug. 31)

 

15. Indiana State

(7-4, 5-3 Missouri Valley)

All-Missouri Valley linebacker Jonas Griffith seeks a third straight season with 100-plus tackles.

Season Opener: at Kansas (Aug. 31)

 

16. Furman

(6-4, 6-2 Southern)

Linebacker Adrian Hope tied for the FCS high with 15 sacks as a freshman coming off the bench.

Season Opener: Charleston Southern (Aug. 31)

 

17. Northern Iowa

(7-6, 5-3 Missouri Valley)

Head coach Mark Farley’s perennial Missouri Valley power won at Iowa State in 2013 and '16.

Season Opener: at Iowa State (Aug. 31)

 

18. Colgate

(2019: 0-1, 0-0 Patriot)

First Opponent: 34-14 loss to Villanova

The defending Patriot League champion will be falling soon after its season-opening loss. The Raiders allowed more points to 'Nova than in their first nine games combined last season.

Next Opponent: at Air Force (Aug. 31)

 

19. Southeast Missouri

(9-4, 6-2 Ohio Valley)

Senior linebacker Zach Hall (168 tackles), the 2018 Buck Buchanan Award winner, is one of 10 returning starters on defense.

Season Opener: Southern Illinois (Aug. 29)

 

20. Sam Houston State

(6-5, 5-4 Southland)

The Bearkats seek a return to a faster tempo again with sophomore quarterback Ty Brock and wide receiver Nathan Stewart.

Season Opener: at New Mexico (Aug. 31)

 

21. Elon

(6-5, 4-3 CAA)

The Phoenix have the last two CAA offensive rookies of the year in junior quarterback David Cheek and sophomore running back Jaylan Thomas.

Season Opener: at No. 25 North Carolina A&T (Aug. 31)

 

22. McNeese

(6-5, 5-4 Southland)

In head coach Sterlin Gilbert's debut, junior quarterback Cody Orgeron seeks to lift an offense that ranked last in the Southland Conference a year ago.

Season Opener: Southern (Aug. 31)

 

23. Montana

(6-5, 4-4 Big Sky)

The opener is pivotal as the Grizzlies seek to end a three-year playoff drought. Quarterback Dalton Snead works with a veteran wide receivers unit.

Season Opener: at South Dakota (Aug. 31)

 

24. Delaware

(7-5, 5-3 CAA)

Dynamic duo: Leading rusher DeJoun Lee returns, but the Blue Hens added Penn State transfer Andre Robinson as well.

Season Opener: Delaware State (Aug. 29)

 

25. North Carolina A&T

(10-2, 6-1 MEAC)

The two-time reigning MEAC and Celebration Bowl champs, who open with a Top 25 matchup, return only eight starters.

Season Opener: No. 21 Elon (Aug. 31)

 

— 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.

 

(Photo courtesy of Weber State Athletics)

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