North Dakota State a unanimous No. 1 in FCS Preseason Top 25

NCAA Football

(Stats Perform) – Step back about six months to the beginning of March, when spring practices were underway, and FCS teams were dreaming big about the 2020 season.

That’s what voters of the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 did over the past week while they selected a preseason 2020 media poll and projected where the season might have headed if most conferences and schools hadn’t postponed their fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When voters envisioned the Top 25 come post-championship game in January, they remained confident in North Dakota State, selected as a unanimous No. 1 – just like the Bison were after they went 16-0 and claimed their third straight and record eighth FCS national title during the 2019 season.

Coach Matt Entz’s program earned all 147 first-place votes on Tuesday. The Bison have a veteran squad, featuring quarterback Trey Lance, the NFL prospect who swept the Walter Payton and Jerry Rice awards as a redshirt freshman last season. He was the most outstanding player of the Missouri Valley Football Conference power’s 28-20 win over James Madison in the national championship game.

James Madison, the CAA Football champ which has appeared in three of the last four national finals, was second in the preseason Top 25. Northern Iowa was third, three-time defending Big Sky Conference champ Weber State fourth and South Dakota State fifth.

Among conferences, the Big Sky and MVFC tied for the most teams in the rankings with five each.

A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries select the Stats Perform 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.

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Stats Perform 2020 Preseason FCS Top 25 (Aug. 25)

1. North Dakota State (16-0, 8-0 Missouri Valley), 3,675 points (147 first-place votes)

Notable: Bison have an FCS-record 37-game winning streak since 2017

2. James Madison (14-2, 8-0 CAA), 3,411

Notable: Dukes ranked No. 1 in FCS in scoring defense and No. 3 in total defense

3. Northern Iowa (10-5, 6-2 Missouri Valley), 3,269

Notable: Coach Mark Farley was returning one of his most talented teams for his 20th season

4. Weber State (11-4, 7-1 Big Sky), 3,198

Notable: Wildcats made their deepest FCS playoff run by advancing to national semifinals

5. South Dakota State (8-5, 5-3 Missouri Valley), 2,911

Notable: 2017 and ’18 semifinalist confident in bounce-back after injury-plagued season

6. Montana State (11-4, 6-2 Big Sky), 2,884

Notable: Fourth straight win over archrival Montana preceded first national semifinal run in 35 years

7. Montana (10-4, 6-2 Big Sky), 2,753

Notable: 73-28 playoff win over Southeastern Louisiana punctuated first 10-win season since 2013

8. Villanova (9-4, 5-3 CAA), 2,499

Notable: Dual-threat QB Daniel Smith accounted for FCS-high 48 touchdowns

9. Illinois State (10-5, 5-3 Missouri Valley), 2,471

Notable: Stout defense limited North Dakota State to three field goals in national quarterfinals

10. Kennesaw State (11-3, 5-1 Big South), 2,178

Notable: In last three seasons, Owls’ 34 wins third to North Dakota State (45) and James Madison (37)

11 Central Arkansas (9-4, 7-2 Southland), 2,093

Notable: Bears were only playoff team, and just one of three in FCS, with FBS win (Western Kentucky)

12. Sacramento State (9-4, 7-1 Big Sky), 2,085

Notable: Hornets were 2-8 in 2018 before becoming last year’s most-improved FCS team

13. Austin Peay (11-4, 7-1 Ohio Valley), 2,030

Notable: Governors earned share of first OVC title since 1977, won twice in first playoff appearance

14. Nicholls (9-5, 7-2 Southland), 1,392

Notable: Two-time defending Southland champ was supposed to play FBS champ LSU on Oct. 3

15. Furman (8-5, 6-2 Southern), 1,239

Notable: Paladins have gone 6-2 in SoCon in each of coach Clay Hendrix’s first three seasons

16. Wofford (8-4, 7-1 Southern), 1,089

Notable: Three-time defending SoCon champ had four straight conference games to open schedule

17. Albany (9-5, 6-2 CAA), 825

Notable: Jeff Undercuffler set FCS freshman record with 41 touchdown passes

18. Eastern Washington (7-5, 6-2 Big Sky), 817

Notable: Senior QB Eric Barriere led Eagles to 2018 national championship game

19. North Carolina A&T (9-3, 6-2 MEAC), 809

Notable: Aggies captured Celebration Bowl for third straight season, fourth time in five years

20. New Hampshire (6-5, 5-3 CAA), 759

Notable: Two-time Eddie Robinson Award winner Sean McDonnell is back after missing last season

21. Southeastern Louisiana (8-5, 6-3 Southland), 652

Notable: Lions beat three Top 10 teams and posted first playoff win since 2013

22. Sam Houston State (7-5, 6-3 Southland), 597

Notable: Bearkats’ 99 wins in 2010s ranked second in FCS to North Dakota State (137)

23. Monmouth (11-3, 6-0 Big South), 577

Notable: In program’s best season, Hawks secured first Big South title and playoff win, No. 12 final ranking

24. Southern Illinois (7-5, 5-3 Missouri Valley), 568

Notable: Salukis returned 16 starters for potential run at first playoff appearance since 2009

25. Southeast Missouri (9-4, 7-1 Ohio Valley), 499

Notable: Coach Tom Matukewicz had 15 wins in first four years, but 18 in back-to-back playoff seasons

Other Vote Totals (schools listed on two or more ballots): Jacksonville State 357, Florida A&M 301, The Citadel 283, Central Connecticut State 200, Towson 199, Dartmouth 195, Delaware 193, Yale 193, Princeton 143, San Diego 104, North Dakota 66, South Carolina State 25, Alcorn State 22, Houston Baptist 19, Richmond 18, Chattanooga 16, Elon 15, Holy Cross 15, UIW 15, UT Martin 14, Portland State 12, Youngstown State 12, McNeese 10, UC Davis 9, Maine 7, Duquesne 5, Charleston Southern 4, Eastern Kentucky 2

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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