Week 4 of FCS football saw nine ranked FCS teams lose, including five to unranked opponents. The wild weekend of games shook up a handful of conferences and it's only September. Let's dive into how these early-season games will impact conferences down the stretch.
- No. 3 Montana State def. No. 8 Weber State 40-0
- No. 10 Idaho def. No. 4 Sacramento State 36-27
- Northern Arizona def. No. 11 Montana 28-14
- Eastern Washington def. No. 15 UC Davis 27-24
There are two top dogs in the Big Sky after Week 4: No. 3 Montana State and No. 10 Idaho. Montana State shut out the then-No. 8 team in the country with a 40-0 win over Weber State. Idaho knocked off then-No. 4 Sacramento State adding to an impressive resume that already included an FBS win. Yet, after those two teams, the Big Sky looks cloudy.
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Weber State didn't just lose, it got embarrassed. Sacramento State fought to the finish, but it's Big Sky four-peat hopes look slim with a schedule that doesn't get any easier thanks to three ranked teams (as of Week 4) left on the schedule. Then there are the unranked losses.
Montana's 3-0 record already looked shaky after a near loss to DII opponent Ferris State. Now that the Grizzlies lost to Northern Arizona, questions about an offense that only converts 37 percent of its third downs arise. Meanwhile, UC Davis remained winless all-time against Eastern Washington, falling to 0-11. The Big Sky is typically one of the deepest conferences in the FCS, but Week 4 leaves plenty of questions on the quality of said depth.
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- No. 16 Delaware def. No. 12 New Hampshire 29-25
- Villanova def. No. 18 Rhode Island 35-9
- Lafayette def. Monmouth 28-20
CAA is wide open behind No. 5 William & Mary. Will any team be able to challenge the Tribe?
The top candidate entering the season was defending co-champion New Hampshire, but the Wildcats just opened conference play with a loss to Delaware. That game now makes the Blue Hens the second-best team in the conference, especially when projecting wins across future schedules. It's with reason to think Delaware could run the table in conference play.
Meanwhile, then-No. 18 Rhode Island's loss to Villanova keeps the CAA hopes for four or more playoffs in effect as the Wildcats look like they may be a threat again in the conference. However, the rest of the CAA took a hit with Monmouth's loss to Lafayette. It's still early for the FCS conference with the most teams, but Week 4's games could hold weight come November.
The NEC conference title race is getting wild and we still have a week left in September. Week 4 saw defending conference champion Saint Francis (PA) fall to 0-4 on the year after losing Sacred Heart on a game-winning field goal. That's the same Sacred Heart team that entered Week 4 winless after losing Wagner a week ago.
In fact, Wagner is the only playoff-eligible team (sorry Stonehill) in the NEC with a .500 record entering Week 5 after the Seahawks beat preseason conference contender Merrimack 30-27. Wagner is now 2-0 in conference play with wins over teams predicted to finish in the top three of the conference. That's a great start for the Seahawks who conference coaches predicted would finish last in the NEC in 2023.
- No. 7 Furman def. No. 21 Mercer 38-14
- Chattanooga def. No. 17 Samford 47-24
- Western Carolina def. Charleston Southern 77-21
The SoCon's hopes of getting three teams to the FCS playoffs for the first time since 2017 took another hit in Week 4. While Furman continues to look like one of the best teams in the FCS, the rest of the conference hasn't lived up to the hype.
Western Carolina continues to look like the second-best team in the conference after dominating Charleston Southern and its win over Eastern Kentucky gained more value after the Colonels knocked off then-No. 20 Southeast Missouri State in Week 4. However, Western Carolina's own ranked win against Samford continues to lose luster week after week.
Preseason top-10 team Samford lost its third straight game and its second FCS game by 23 points after Chattanooga routed the Bulldogs at home. While a ranked win boosts Chattanooga's playoff hopes, a season-opening nonconference loss to a North Alabama team that's 2-3 against FCS opponents does not. Chattanooga's nonconference mishap combined with Mercer's blowout loss leaves little room for error down the stretch for the SoCon if it hopes for a third at-large bid.
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The Southland has had at least two teams in the FCS playoffs every year since 2016. That streak is looking like a long shot to maintain after defending conference champion Southeastern Louisiana lost to Houston Christian to fall to 0-4. That loss almost surely knocks the Lions out of the playoff picture, leaving Houston Christian and No. 9 UIW as the conference's only hope. However, HCU already lost a nonconference game to UT Martin. Unless the Huskies — the team predicted to finish last in the conference in the preseason — run the table, the Southland may be a one-bid league for the first time in two presidential administrations.