FCS poll reaction: James Madison stays No. 1 after wild week with five top-10 upsets
The FCS finally produced the wild week football fans have been anxiously waiting. Half – yes, you read that correctly: half – of the top-10 teams in the FCS Coaches Poll were upset, which led to some major shakeups in the latest poll.
Without further ado, here's our FCS poll reactions as we try to digest and make sense of what happened last weekend.
We'll start with the top of the poll, where there's a lead pack of three teams: No. 1 James Madison (7-0), No. 2 North Dakota State (7-0) and No. 3 Jacksonville State (6-1). Just 53 points separate JMU and JSU, while there's a 49-point dropoff between the No. 3-ranked Gamecocks and No. 4 Central Arkansas (6-1).
The Dukes coasted to a 46-14 win over William & Mary in which James Madison didn't allow a point until the fourth quarter after building a six-touchdown lead.
North Dakota State had its hands full with Western Illinois (5-2) as the Leathernecks took a 12-10 lead into halftime. However, they didn't score again. NDSU quarterback Easton Stick's two third-quarter touchdowns allowed the Bison to pull away for a 24-12 win. Western Illinois dropped two spots to No. 14 with the loss.
Jacksonville State also completed a come-from-behind win against an Illinois-based school. Eastern Illinois led 7-0 after the first quarter and 14-9 at halftime but Jacksonville State turned up its defensive pressure in the second half, while quarterback Bryant Horn connected with Krenwic Sanders for a pair of scores in the third quarter.
Now it's time to buckle up as we review a hazardous Week 8.
Fourth-ranked South Dakota suffered its first loss of the season, a 37-21 defeat to Illinois State (5-2), and the Coyotes dropped to No. 7 in the poll. South Dakota cut the deficit to 24-21 with a 12-yard touchdown run from Kai Henry with 13:30 to play in the fourth quarter but the Redbirds scored on their final three drives to put the game out of reach. Illinois State moved up three spots in the rankings to No. 21 with the win.
Wofford entered the weekend ranked No. 5 after a 6-0 start to the season. The Terriers' perfect record didn't survive Week 8 as Samford (5-2) won 24-21 thanks to a 10-play, 64-yard drive late in the fourth quarter that ended with a 27-yard field goal from Jordan Weaver. Wofford made a valiant effort to win the game, or at least force overtime, starting its final drive on its own 10-yard line with 1:27 to play but the drive ended on Samford's 19-yard line with an interception with six seconds remaining. The Bulldogs were one of Week 8's big winners, climbing from No. 14 to T-No. 8.
Southern Utah's offense got off to a slow start but once it found its groove, Eastern Washington couldn't slow down the Thunderbirds. After throwing an interception on its first drive, then punting the next four times it had the ball, Southern Utah scored on seven of its final nine drives. After falling behind 28-25, the Thunderbirds ended the game with 21 unanswered points to win 46-28. The Eagles fell from No. 8 to No. 12.
Youngstown State (3-4) dropped more than any other team in the FCS Coaches Poll, falling 10 spots to No. 19 after a 19-14 loss to Northern Iowa. Panthers running back Marcus Weymiller paced UNI with 133 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The Panthers climbed into the rankings at No. 25 with the win.
Richmond (4-3) took a hit in top-25 voting – falling from No. 10 to No. 17 – after a 42-35 loss to Delaware in double overtime. Delaware running back Kani Kane provided the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard rush.
So which teams benefited from the madness that put its stamp on Week 8?
Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State (6-1) both slid up two spots to No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. North Carolina A&T (8-0) jumped five spots to No. 6 after a come-from-behind win over Bethune-Cookman. The Bulldogs are the first team in the country to reach eight wins. South Dakota State also improved its standing by five after doubling up Missouri State, 62-30. The Jackrabbits are tied with Samford at No. 8 in the poll.
Is there any way Week 9 could prove to be a suitable encore to a wild Week 8? It's unlikely, but never say never.
Here are the games to watch this weekend:
No. 1 James Madison vs. No. 16 New Hampshire
No. 2 North Dakota State vs. No. 25 Northern Iowa
No. 4 Central Arkansas vs. No. 18 McNeese
T-No. 8 South Dakota State vs. No. 14 Western Illinois
No. 11 Elon vs. No. 15 Villanova
No. 19 Youngstown State vs. No. 21 Illinois State