James Madison strengthens No. 1 grip in STATS FCS Top 25
(STATS) – The teams that headlined the STATS FCS Top 25 on Monday opened the 2017 season in midseason form.
Impressive performances drew attention – and votes.
Reigning FCS national champion James Madison (1-0) handled East Carolina 34-14 for its sixth all-time win against an FBS opponent. Not surprisingly, the Dukes strengthened their hold on No. 1 since the preseason, gaining 152 of the 163 first-place votes (over 93 percent) and 4,064 points.
“Any time you can go on the road into an FBS stadium and get a win, especially to open the season, it’s a pretty significant achievement for your program, so we’re very happy with the win,” James Madison coach Mike Houston said Monday. “The biggest thing that stood out was how hard our kids played, how physical we were at the point of attack on the line of scrimmage.”
Second-ranked North Dakota State (2-0) was expected to have a much easier time against struggling SWAC program Mississippi Valley State. In winning 72-7, the Bison totaled the most points and offensive yards in their 14 years on the Division I level.
Also standing out were No. 3 Sam Houston State (1-0), which beat Richmond 48-34 in a matchup of Top 10 teams; No. 4 South Dakota State (1-0), 51-13 over two-time defending Northeast Conference champ Duquesne; No. 5 Jacksonville State (1-0), 27-13 over Southern Conference power Chattanooga; and No. 6 Villanova (1-0), 38-35 over defending Patriot League champ Lehigh.
Among the top six teams, all but James Madison face road games this week, with North Dakota State playing in one of the bigger nonconference games of the season at No. 7 Eastern Washington (0-1), which seeks to bounce back from a 56-10 loss at Texas Tech.
Eighth-ranked Youngstown State (0-1), which took Pittsburgh to overtime, and No. 9 Richmond (0-1) also seek their first wins this week. Every team in this week’s rankings that suffered a loss had it happen against an FBS program or a fellow nationally ranked FCS team.
Ironically, No. 10 Wofford (1-0) and No. 12 New Hampshire (1-0) opened their seasons with conferences games and won by an identical 24-23 score – Wofford over Furman in the Southern Conference and UNH over Maine in CAA Football.
North Dakota (0-1) checked in at No. 11, and following New Hampshire it was No. 13 Chattanooga (0-1), The Citadel (1-0), Central Arkansas (0-1), Charleston Southern (0-1), Samford (1-0), Illinois State (1-0), Lehigh (0-1) and Liberty (1-0), which toppled Baylor 48-45 to begin its final season on the FCS level.
Rounding out the Top 25 were No. 21 Northern Iowa (0-1), Western Illinois (1-0), Tennessee State (1-0), Grambling State (0-1) and Weber State (1-0). Tennessee State was the first of four FCS teams to defeat an FBS program in the first full week of the season, beating Georgia State 17-10 on Thursday.
Fordham, Cal Poly and Albany fell out of the Top 25 from the preseason rankings.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference, behind 2016 co-champs North Dakota State and South Dakota State, had the most Top 25 teams with six. The CAA and SoCon tied for the second-most with four each.
A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries select the STATS FCS Top 25. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, a second-place vote 24 points, all the way down to one point for a 25th-place vote.
The Top 25 is released every Monday afternoon during the regular season, except for Sunday morning, Nov. 19, prior to the selection of the 24-team FCS playoff field. A final Top 25 will follow the FCS championship game, which will be held Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas.