Tuesday, May 30, 2023

College football top 25: North Dakota teams rise, Jackson State jumps into CBS Sports FCS Power Rankings

Welcome back, Ivy League! The Ancient Eight kickoff their 2021 season this weekend, and it will be the first time since November 2019 that we’ve seen any of them play football. In what should be one of the more competitive Ivy races in recent memory, there should be no shortage of teams from the league who will more than likely end up in my FCS Power Rankings by season’s end.

The biggest game on the slate involving an Ivy League team takes place at the iconic Yale Bowl as Yale welcomes Holy Cross. If the Eli, who were picked to finish second in the Ivy League preseason poll, are able to get a win against the visiting Crusaders, perhaps they will become the first Ivy League team to enter this poll in Week 4.

As for this week’s FCS Power Rankings, Jacksonville State pulled off the upset of the weekend vs Florida State. Let’s see how far they were able to climb along with the rest of the top 25. 

1. Sam Houston (2-0): While the offense can score against anybody, it’s been the Bearkats defense that has been the real story, only giving up 15 points per game.

2. South Dakota State (2-0): Losing RB Isaiah Davis for eight weeks will be a tough blow to the run game, but the Jackrabbits have more than enough depth there to be OK.

3. Montana (2-0): In Week 1, it was the defense. Last week, it was the offense. The Grizzlies are such a complete team.

4. James Madison (2-0): Putting 55 points on a conference foe in Maine proves that the Dukes offense is legit. JMU looks as strong as ever.

5. North Dakota State (2-0): Quincy Patterson doesn’t have to throw much, but when he does, he’s extremely efficient and effective. Patterson completed 4 of 5 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown against Valparaiso last weekend.

6. Montana State (1-1): The Bobcats made light work of Drake, not the Certified Lover Boy but the Bulldogs of the Pioneer League.

7. Eastern Washington (2-0): QB Eric Barrierre makes every game he plays in must-see TV.

8. North Dakota (1-1): Despite their loss last week to Utah State, this is still a very dangerous Fighting Hawks squad.

9. UC Davis (2-0): The Big Sky boasts four teams in my top 10, and if you want to say that the Aggies are the best one, you won’t get an argument from me.

10. Southern Illinois (1-1): Football is a game of matchups, and the Salukis present so many difficult ones out there on game day, no matter the opponent.

11. Delaware (2-0): Huge opportunity for the Blue Hens to fly up the rankings next week if they are able to pull off the upset against Rutgers.

12. Southeastern Louisiana (1-1): The Lions nearly (and probably should have) upset Louisiana Tech. This offense doesn’t care what level you play at, they will find the end zone and find it a lot.

13. Weber State (1-1): Loved the way the Wildcats were able to rebound last week, taking out their frustration on Dixie State, 41-3.

14. Villanova (2-0): Huge matchup this week vs. Richmond. The Wildcats will need some magic from QB Daniel Smith, who is off to a great start to the season.

15. Richmond (2-0): The Spiders run defense will be put to the test against the Wildcats. Could be a huge game for DT Kobie Turner.

16. Northern Iowa (1-1): You can always sell me on Northern Iowa’s brand of football. Coach Mark Farley is one of the best in the game.

17. Jacksonville State (1-1): Well lookie here! Where was this effort in Week 1 against UAB?! But in all seriousness, shout out to coach John Grass for instilling that no-quit attitude in his football team, and what a beautiful throw by QB Zerrick Cooper (and catch by WR Damond Philyaw-Johnson) for the upset win over Florida State.

18. East Tennessee State (2-0): The Bucs are the team that’s quietly bubbling under the surface and could be in position for a deep playoff run.

19. Monmouth (1-1): Barely getting out of the Bronx with a win, the Monmouth Hawks hope to find their consistency this week against Charleston Southern.

20. Missouri State (1-1): Another team that’s underrated in the FCS might be the Missouri State Bears. I love what I’m seeing from their offense so far this season.

21. New Hampshire (2-0): With two wins already in conference play, UNH is slowly climbing up the rankings and will be a serious contender for the CAA crown.

22. Rhode Island (2-0): The Rams travel to Brown for this year’s edition of the Governor’s Cup. Should be a highly entertaining game.

23. Austin Peay (1-1): The Governors look to get back on the winning track this weekend against Morehead State.

24. Furman (2-0): RB Devin Wynn is on the Senior Bowl watch list and justifiably so. He’s going to need a huge game this week if  the Paladins are going to pull off the shocker against NC State.

25. Jackson State (2-0): Listen, true freshman QB Shedeur Sanders is playing like a veteran, and the Tigers defense is playing like an FBS squad. Coach Prime has built a bully down there in Jackson, Mississippi.

Just missed the cut: Merrimack, Alabama A&M, Murray State, Wofford, Incarnate Word

The Czar’s Game of the Week

Richmond at Villanova: Huge battle in the CAA between two of the FCS bests. Villanova’s defense has only allowed three points per game so far this season. Wildcats defensive coordinator Ola Adams is one of the brightest football minds in college football, regardless of subdivision, and has his defense playing elite-level ball at all levels of the field. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him become a head coach soon. It’ll be up to Richmond QB Joe Mancuso to continue to play an efficient, complementary game and find ways to sustain drives. The Spiders have been able to do just that, converting 50% on third downs overall and 64% of red zone trips into touchdowns. With both defenses playing extremely well, look for a low-scoring affair between two top 25 squads. Pick: Villanova 17, Richmond 13

NFL prospects to watch: Villanova: DE Malik Fisher, DB Christian Benford, RB Justin Covington | Richmond: QB Joe Mancuso, DT Kobie Turner

The Czar’s Upset Alert

Jackson State at Louisiana-Monroe (-24.5): Quietly, Jackson State’s defense is built like an FBS team. The Tigers have tremendous athleticism and explosiveness at all three levels of the field. On the perimeter, they match up rather well with the passing game of ULM. Now, the Warhawks have had two weeks to prepare for Coach Prime’s Tigers and should be able to throw some creative looks at true freshman QB Shedeur Sanders. We’ll see if the young man can handle his first “big game” of his career. I would wisely take Jackson State and the points here. Right now, ULM is not 24.5 points better than an aggressive, confident and solid Jackson State team. JSU straight up is another smart move. Pick: Jackson State 24, ULM 21

The Czar’s Featured SportsLine Pick

Holy Cross at Yale: Arguably the biggest game on the Ivy League schedule this weekend and a true test for the Bulldogs to see where they stack up against a team in Holy Cross that knocked off UConn just a few weeks ago. Will coach Tony Reno’s squad, led by RB Zane Dudek, do the same thing to the Crusaders that they did to the Huskies? Check out my pick plus every Week 3 pick on SportsLine.

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