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Stan Becton | | August 23, 2022

13 things to know about the FCS football preseason top 25 rankings

FCS football season preview: Players to watch, potential upsets and more

The preseason AFCA FCS Coaches' Top 25 is here ahead of the FCS football season beginning Aug. 27. Here's what you need to know from the initial rankings.

No. 1

North Dakota State, fresh off its ninth FCS championship in the last 11 years, enters the season ranked No. 1 atop the polls. The Bison return the championship game's most outstanding player in fullback Hunter Luepke on offense, while the defense features talent like defensive back Micheal Tutsie.

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First-place votes

While North Dakota State is the reigning champion, it did not receive all 54 first-place votes. Two votes went to South Dakota State, the only team to beat the Bison in 2021. The Jackrabbits advanced to the FCS semifinals last year.

The MVFC is strong at the top

Missouri State and Southern Illinois join the two Dakota schools in the top 10. This quartet gives the Missouri Valley Football Conference the most top-10 teams of any FCS conference.

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The Big Sky is deep

The Big Sky leads all FCS conferences with six entries in the preseason top-25. Rivals No. 3 Montana and No. 4 Montana State lead a loaded conference, filled with quality teams. Defending Champion Sacramento State sits seventh, while No. 13 Eastern Washington, No. 20 Weber State and No. 25 UC Davis round out the rankings.

Tradition Powers are gone

After the latest wave of Division I football realignment, traditional FCS powers Jacksonville State, James Madison and Sam Houston are gone from the FCS rankings. James Madison is FBS in 2022, while Jacksonville State and Sam Houston are ineligible for the poll.

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No. 8 Kennesaw State

The Owls won the Big South title last season and All-American quarterback Xavier Shepherd returns under center. With a dominant rushing attack leading the way, a top-10 ranking is well-deserved.

George Quarles

Head coach George Quarles begins his collegiate head coaching career at ETSU, starting off ranked No. 11. The Buccaneers advanced to the FCS quarterfinals last year and should again challenge for the SoCon title.


No. 12 Chattanooga enters 2022 as the highest ranked team to not make the 2021 FCS playoffs. The Mocs finished last season 6-5, but return two of the best linemen in the FCS in offensive lineman Curtis McClendon and defensive lineman Devonnsha Maxwell.

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No. 15 Jackson State is the only HBCU football program ranked in the preseason top 25. The Tigers return Jerry Rice Award-winning quarterback Shedeur Sanders in head coach Deion "Coach Prime" Sanders' third year at the helm. Jackson State also brings in the top recruit in the class of 2022 in wide receiver and defensive back Travis Hunter.

The other HBCUs to receive votes in the preseason poll were Florida A&M (78), South Carolina State (13) and North Carolina A&T (4).

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No. 16 Holy Cross

No. 16 Holy Cross returns one of the top defenses in the FCS, with the potential to be dominant in the Patriot League. Led by linebacker Jacob Dobbs, how the Crusaders perform in non-conference play will likely determine how high they rise in the rankings.

Delaware and Weber State

After performing below expectations in 2021, No. 19 Delaware and No. 20 Weber State begin the 2022 season just inside the top 20 of the rankings. Both teams faced injuries to major contributors last year; it'll be interesting to see how each team performs if everyone stays healthy.

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Playoff teams miss the cut

The following 2021 FCS playoff teams did not make the top 25 of the preseason rankings:

  • Davidson
  • Florida A&M
  • Sacred Heart
  • South Dakota

South Dakota was two votes away from the final preseason ranking, while Davidson was the only 2021 playoff team that didn't receive any votes. The Pioneer League and NEC were the only two conferences without their playoff-participating 2021 champion in the preseason rankings.

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Week 1 matchups

The preseason rankings set up a must-watch season-opening matchup. Here is the lone ranked vs. ranked matchup entering Week 1:

Here are the complete preseason rankings from Aug. 8, 2022:

Ranking School (First-place votes) 2021 Record Points
1 North Dakota State (52) 14-1 1,348
2 South Dakota State (2) 11-4 1,285
3 Montana 10-3 1,218
4 Montana State 12-3 1,203
5 Missouri State 8-4 1,066
6 Villanova 10-3 997
7 Sacramento State 9-3 991
8 Kennesaw State 11-2 959
9 Southern Illinois 8-5 915
10 Stephen F. Austin 8-4 813
11 ETSU 11-2 750
12 Chattanooga 6-5 562
13 Eastern Washington 10-3 538
14 UIW 10-3 533
15 Jackson State 11-2 515
16 Holy Cross 10-3 503
17 Southeastern Louisiana 9-4 440
18 UT Martin 10-3 404
19 Delaware 5-6 401
20 Weber State 6-5 391
21 Northern Iowa 6-6 289
22 Rhode Island 7-4 242
23 Mercer 7-3 215
24 Richmond 6-5 166
25 UC Davis 8-4 153

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