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Joe Boozell | | November 6, 2018

FCS football rankings: James Madison plummets, Princeton rises in new Coaches’ Poll

Trickery headlines FCS plays of the week

It was a mostly chalk FCS Saturday, with one glaring exception. Here’s the newest FCS Coaches’ Poll:

1 North Dakota State (26) 9-0 650 1
2 Kennesaw State 8-1 624 2
3 Eastern Washington 7-2 589 4
4 Weber State 7-2 569 5
5 Elon 6-2 522 6
6 South Dakota State 6-2 520 7
7 UC Davis 8-1 492 9
8 Colgate 8-0 437 11
9 Jacksonville State 7-2 433 10
10 James Madison 6-3 417 3
11 Princeton 8-0 386 14
12 Delaware 7-2 364 16
13 North Carolina A&T 7-2 315 17
14 Wofford 6-3 300 8
15 Stony Brook 6-3 296 18
16 Nicholls 6-3 249 T20
17 East Tennessee State 8-2 215 23
18 McNeese 6-3 214 12
19 Southeast Missouri State 7-2 162 24
20 Towson 6-3 148 15
21 Maine 6-3 146 NR
22 Illinois State 5-4 108 13
23 Dartmouth 7-1 103 T20
24 Northern Iowa 5-4 57 NR
25 Idaho State 6-3 49 NR

We’ll start with James Madison, which dropped seven spots to No. 10 after an unlikely 35-24 loss to New Hampshire. The No. 3 spot in the FCS Coaches’ Poll has been a revolving door this season, and Eastern Washington (ranked fourth going into this week) sits behind North Dakota State and Kennesaw State now.

MORE: The details of James Madison's loss to New Hampshire

That’s been the story of the FCS season: North Dakota State (which has already clinched a playoff spot) is in a tier of its own, and Kennesaw State is in a tier after the Bison... but ahead of everyone else. Teams three through six have two losses apiece, and while there are still some undefeated schools left, they don’t have the strength of schedule that the top six teams do. It would be a huge shock if North Dakota State didn’t make it to the end, but if its opponent isn’t Kennesaw State, it’s essentially a dart throw. Momentum is going to be key.

One school worth highlighting is Colgate, which is a perfect 8-0 and pasted Fordham 41-0 over the weekend. It rose to No. 8 in the rankings. Quarterback Grant Breneman continues to be incredibly efficient. He went 16-of-19 for 198 yards on the day, while running back James Holland Jr. carried 16 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns.  

But the defense is what really stands out. Colgate has recorded five shutouts this season and has allowed three points in its last six games. Just absurd. The Red Raiders play in the Patriot League, and as mentioned before, the strength of schedule leaves some to be desired. But these guys are dangerous. They’ve destroyed everyone in their path. Colgate clinched an FCS playoff automatic bid with the win over Fordham.

MORE: Full FCS stats

Another undefeated team that jumped was Princeton, which improved to 8-0 after a tough 14-9 win over Dartmouth on Saturday. The Tigers are now ranked 11th.

Princeton plays in the Ivy League, and like Colgate, it doesn’t have strength of schedule on its side. But the Tigers have beaten everyone in front of them, and there’s something to be said for taking care of the opponents on your schedule. What’s impressive about Princeton is its ability to win in a variety of ways. The defense can carry the Tigers, as we learned against Dartmouth. But the offense is also capable of exploding, as we saw two weeks ago against Cornell when it scored 66 points. This is one of the most well-rounded teams in the FCS. A showdown at Yale this Saturday looms.

Some other teams to note: No. 12 Delaware vaulted four spots after another win. The Blue Hens are one of the hottest teams in the land at the moment. The same goes for UC Davis, which rose to No. 7. The Aggies face Eastern Washington on Saturday in what’s going to be a huge matchup. If UC Davis can win, will it jump all the way to No. 3? Don’t rule it out.

Wofford had an opportunity to clinch an automatic playoff berth with a win and some help on Saturday, but the Terriers lost 35-20 to Samford. It’s the latest chapter in an up-and-down season for Wofford, which dropped six spots to No. 14 with the loss.

We’re just a few weeks away from playoff action. If we’ve earned anything this season, it’s that anything can happen in the FCS. Except, it seems, a North Dakota State loss.

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