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Joe Boozell | NCAA.com | October 24, 2018

FCS football rankings: James Madison rises, South Dakota State falls in new Coaches Poll

Here’s a look at the FCS Coaches Poll after another entertaining week of action:

RANK SCHOOL RECORD POINTS PREVIOUS
1 North Dakota State (26) 7-0 650 1
2 Kennesaw State 6-1 623 2
3 James Madison 5-2 595 5
4 Eastern Washington 5-2 559 8
5 Weber State 5-2 550 9
6 Elon 5-2 486 11
7 Wofford 5-2 448 12
8 South Dakota State 4-2 443 3
9 Illinois State 5-2 424 7
10 Towson 6-1 390 14
11 Colgate 6-0 379 13
12 Jacksonville State 5-2 363 4
13 UC Davis 6-1 343 16
14 Central Arkansas 5-2 324 15
15 Stony Brook 6-2 299 17
16 McNeese 5-2 270 6
17 Princeton 6-0 222 T18
18 North Carolina A&T 6-2 216 T18
19 Nicholls 4-3 137 22
20 Dartmouth 6-0 135 24
21 Delaware 5-2 128 25
22 Sam Houston State 4-3 118 10
23 Northern Iowa 4-3 104 NR
24 North Dakota 5-2 90 NR
25 East Tennessee State 6-2 72 21

We’ll start with South Dakota State, which fell five spots after losing to Northern Iowa over the weekend. At this point, it’s just hard to trust anyone after North Dakota State and Kennesaw State. Northern Iowa is a worthy opponent, but there’s shuffling in the top 10 every week, and there’s probably more to come. Jacksonville State, which was No. 4, dropped to No. 12 after losing to Southeast Missouri by a score of 37-14. JSU had a 36-game conference winning streak heading in. There’s a ton of parity in the FCS this year.

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James Madison is up to No. 3 as a result of South Dakota State and Jacksonville State’s losses. The Dukes didn’t play this week, nor did No. 4 Eastern Washington, which rose four spots. But Weber State, which rose to No. 5 after beating Montana State 34-24, is charging. Weber State topped Eastern Washington a week prior.

The Wildcats’ defense is one of the most reliable units in the FCS. Outside of its Week 1 loss against Pac-12 power Utah, it hasn’t allowed more than 30 points, and it held a high-flying Eastern Washington offense to just six points two weeks ago. The FCS is an offensive division. That’s part of the reason for all of the upsets and general inconsistency. But Weber State’s defense makes it a bit more reliable, and perhaps there’s reason to think the Wildcats can vault into the top three within the next few weeks. A tough matchup against North Dakota looms, though.

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Let’s touch on two more schools that jumped in the latest rankings: No. 6 Elon and No. 7 Wofford. The Phoenix rose five spots after beating Richmond 38-28, but the way in which they did so was spectacular. Elon threw the ball 11 times; it notched 58 rushing attempts for 284 yards. But when quarterback Jalen Greene did pass, he was effective, finishing 7-of-11 for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Everyone knows Elon relies on its run game, but fall asleep on the play action deep ball, and you’re toast. The Phoenix are one of the most talented teams in the country, but on the rare day they are outmanned, they have ball control on their side. That’s a great way to pull off an upset.

It's a similar story for Wofford, which beat East Tennessee State in a game it threw for 32 yards and ran for 317. Wofford barely averaged two yards per pass attempt, yet still scored 30 points.

Nine different players carried the ball for the Terriers. Ideally, you’d achieve similar run-pass balance to what Elon did against Richmond. But Wofford sticks to its identity, which is incredibly hard to mess with. Like the Phoenix, the Terriers will have ball control on their side if they come across a juggernaut of an opponent.

A few other notes: No. 16 McNeese fell 10 spots after losing to Incarnate Word by a score of 45-17. That’s a tough result for a team that could have gotten up to No. 3 with a win. Northern Iowa and North Dakota entered the rankings at Nos. 23 and 24, respectively. North Dakota will have a chance to rise even higher if it can upset Weber State this weekend. Towson and Colgate rose to Nos. 10 and 11 and are in the mix with teams like Elon and Wofford to vault into the top five if one of those teams slips.

We just watched another crazy weekend of FCS football, and we’re likely to endure another here soon. Sit back and enjoy the madness.

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