Following a chaotic Week 8 in which half of the top-10 teams in the FCS lost, the sport found its footing in Week 9. Consider it the ying to last week's yang, a balancing act between the top teams continuing to back up their rankings and the parity within the top 25.
The top five teams in the latest FCS Coaches Poll maintained their positions, and nine of the top-10 teams entering the weekend stayed in the top 10. The following sentence may sound like a broken record: James Madison (8-0) is the No. 1 team in the country after claiming all 26 first-place votes this week. The Dukes navigated a potential trap game against then-No. 17 New Hampshire to the tune of a 21-0 victory. Rashad Robinson's 82-yard pick-six in the third quarter put the finishing touches on the team's 20th consecutive win, while quarterback Bryan Schor set the school record for career passing touchdowns.
From first snap to last snap, we battle it out together. pic.twitter.com/vx2iBNOdA0— JMU Football (@JMUFootball) October 30, 2017
To use a cycling comparison, No. 2 North Dakota State (8-0), No. 3 Jacksonville State (7-1), No. 4 Central Arkansas (7-1) and No. 5 Sam Houston State (7-1) stayed in order behind James Madison in the peloton, or lead group, waiting for their chance to strike and improve their position. Each of those four teams found themselves in competitive first halves in Week 9, but each won by at least 10 points.
Touchdown, Bison!— NDSU Football (@NDSUfootball) October 28, 2017
RJ Urzendowski hauls in a 31-yard pass from Easton Stick, increasing the NDSU lead to 23-7! pic.twitter.com/Zlkv5TBEht
The Bison pulled away from Northern Iowa in a 30-14 victory after entering halftime knotted at 7-7. Southeast Missouri State answered Jacksonville State's first quarter touchdown with a touchdown of its own, just 15 seconds later, but the Gamecocks pulled away for a 23-7 win. No. 22 McNeese (6-2) led Central Arkansas 10-9 after the first quarter but the Bears rattled off 35 unanswered points that included both a punt return for a touchdown, and a scoop and score by linebacker Chris Chambers. UCA won 47-17. Sam Houston State found itself in a tie game with Southeastern Louisiana – 16-16 at halftime, then 23-23 in the third quarter – before escaping Hammond, La., with a 33-23 win.
South Dakota (7-1) and North Carolina A&T (8-0) switched places in the Coaches Poll, checking in at No. 6 and No. 7, respectively. The Coyotes shut out Southern Illinois 42-0 while the Aggies had a bye week.
79-yard interception return for #2 Mike Johnson resulting in a Coyote touchdown. Coyotes stretch the lead to 42 with 3:29 to go pic.twitter.com/sgO8GfdLV8— SouthDakota Football (@SDCoyotesFB) October 28, 2017
Samford (5-3) took a major hit, falling from T-No. 8 to No. 15, after losing to Chattanooga, 23-21. Samford quarterback Devlin Hodges threw for 333 yards but the Bulldogs only managed 34 rushing yards on 27 attempts.
This week's notable risers include No. 13 Illinois State (6-2), No. 14 Weber State (6-2), No. 16 Northern Arizona (6-2) and No. 17 Nicholls (6-2). Each school climbed from the 20s to the mid-teens.
Four newcomers entered the fray after not being ranked last week: No. 21 Stony Brook (6-2), No. 23 Southern Utah (6-2), No. 24 Monmouth (7-1) and No. 25 Kennesaw State (7-1).
As October comes to a close, let's take a look at the biggest regular season games left on the schedule. If you're looking for shakeups in future editions of the FCS Coaches Poll, keep an eye on the states of North Dakota and South Dakota, which are home to three teams currently ranked among the top eight in the country.
No. 2 North Dakota State vs. No. 8 South Dakota State
No. 11 Eastern Washington vs. No. 14 Weber State
No. 2 North Dakota State vs. No. 6 South Dakota
No. 8 South Dakota State vs. No. 13 Illinois State
No. 10 Elon vs. No. 19 New Hampshire
No. 1 James Madison vs. No. 10 Elon
No. 6 South Dakota vs. No. 8 South Dakota State