Big Sky Conference

Jacksonville State surges to No. 5 in STATS FCS Top 25; Three Big Sky teams ranked in the Top 10


CHICAGO – Oct. 15, 2018 –– It’s odd to be outside the spotlight with a 36-game conference winning streak, but Jacksonville State has been quietly moving back up the STATS FCS Top 25 since it suffered a season-opening loss.

The Gamecocks (5-1) were up three spots to No. 5 on Monday, trailing only unanimous No. 1 North Dakota State (160 first-place votes), South Dakota State, Kennesaw State and James Madison in the national media poll.

JSU, which was sixth in the preseason, dropped to No. 13 after falling to North Carolina A&T 20-17 in the FCS Kickoff game. The Sept. 3 poll marked the first time the Ohio Valley Conference squad was outside the Top 10 since 2013 and the Gamecocks stayed there for three weeks.

However, they have won five straight games by at least 16 points, including four in the OVC. They’re halfway through the conference schedule. If they finish unbeaten in conference for a fifth straight season – three of the final four OVC games are on the road, including Southeast Missouri on Saturday – they would surpass the FCS record of 39 straight conference wins, set by Duquesne in the MAAC from 1999-2006.

“We do have some guys that are used to playing and I think we are growing as a football team and getting better each week,” fifth-year coach John Grass said earlier this month.

JSU moved up as part of a noticeable shuffling in the top half of the rankings because five of last week’s top 11 teams dropped games, including the first FCS losses by Eastern Washington, Elon and Wofford. CAA Football is back to having seven teams in the poll followed by the Missouri Valley and Southland conferences with four each.

After another wild, unpredictable week in the Big Sky Conference including the first overtime game of the season in the league — UC Davis rallied for a 44-37 win over Idaho State in the first ever overtime game at Aggie Stadium — the conference now has three teams in the Top 10 of the FCS STATS and American Football Coaches (AFCA) Top 25 national polls.

Eastern Washington sophomore quarterback Eric Barriere/ by EWU athletics

Eastern Washington snapped a three-game win streak as it fell to Top 25 in-conference foe Weber State on the road. The Eagles dropped down to No. 8 in the AFCA poll and No. 9 in the FCS STATS poll. The Eagles are second in Big Sky in total offense (524.0.) Eastern Washington has now been ranked in the top 10 for seven consecutive weeks.

Weber State used a smothering defense that held EWU without an offensive touchdown for the first time since 2008 in the 14-6 win at home. The Wildcats improved six spots to No. 7 in the FCS STATS poll and are ranked No. 9 in the AFCA poll – four spots up from last week and back in the Top 10. The Wildcats lead the league in scoring defense, holding their opponents to an average of 21.7 points per game. Weber State leads the FCS in turnovers gained at 20.

UC Davis is 5-1 overall and 3-0 in league play to sit atop the Big Sky standings by itself. The Aggies pulled off a comeback victory over Idaho State at home to earn the 44-37 overtime victory. The win moved the Aggies up to No. 10 in the FCS STATS poll and three spots in the AFCA poll to No. 16, as it continues to set a record for the highest ranking in school history. UC Davis is ranked second in the FCS in passing offense at 354.3 yards per game.

The Aggies bump up in the FCS STATS poll gives the Big Sky three teams in any top 10 for the first time since Week 1 of the 2015 season – Eastern Washington (7th), Montana (8th) and Montana State (9th) in the Coaches’ Poll.

Other Big Sky teams receiving votes were Montana, Idaho State, Montana State and Northern Arizona. The Griz dropped out of the Top 25 for the first time this season after suffering a 41-14 loss at North Dakota, the second straight defeat for the Griz.

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 STATS FCS Top 25 for Oct. 15:

  1. North Dakota State(6-0), 160 points – 4,000 first-place votes

Previous Ranking: 1; Last Week’s Result: 34-7 win over Western Illinois

  1. South Dakota State(4-1), 3,762

Previous Ranking: 2; Last Week’s Result: 36-7 win over Youngstown State

  1. Kennesaw State(6-1), 3,690

Previous Ranking: 3; Last Week’s Result: 56-7 win over Gardner-Webb 

  1. James Madison(5-2), 3,437

Previous Ranking: 6(T); Last Week’s Result: 37-0 win over Villanova

  1. Jacksonville State(5-1), 3,272

Previous Ranking: 8; Last Week’s Result: 49-22 win over Eastern Illinois 

  1. McNeese(5-1), 2,994

Previous Ranking: 9; Last Week’s Result: Bye 

  1. Weber State(4-2), 2,884

Previous Ranking: 13; Last Week’s Result: 14-6 win over Eastern Washington

  1. Illinois State(5-1), 2,701

Previous Ranking: 12; Last Week’s Result: 51-3 win over Southern Illinois

  1. Eastern Washington(5-2), 2,693

Previous Ranking: 4; Last Week’s Result: 14-6 loss to Weber State

  1. UC Davis(5-1), 2,366

Previous Ranking: 14; Last Week’s Result: 44-37 overtime with over Idaho State

  1. Elon(4-2), 2,324

Previous Ranking: 5; Last Week’s Result: 28-16 loss to Delaware 

  1. Wofford(4-2), 2,061

Previous Ranking: 6(T); Last Week’s Result: 34-14 loss to Furman

  1. Towson(5-1), 1,986

Previous Ranking: 17; Last Week’s Result: 29-13 win over William & Mary 

  1. Sam Houston State(4-2), 1,977

Previous Ranking: 15; Last Week’s Result: 42-28 win over Northwestern State 

  1. Central Arkansas(4-2), 1,445

Previous Ranking: 18; Last Week’s Result: 27-17 win over Stephen F. Austin

  1. Maine(4-2), 1,415

Previous Ranking: 21; Last Week’s Result: 38-36 win over Rhode Island 

  1. Colgate(6-0), 1,337

Previous Ranking: 20; Last Week’s Result: 31-0 win over Cornell 

  1. Stony Brook(5-2), 1,326

Previous Ranking: 19; Last Week’s Result: 35-7 win over New Hampshire

  1. North Carolina A&T(5-2), 1,221

Previous Ranking: 10; Last Week’s Result: 22-21 loss to Florida A&M 

  1. Nicholls(4-3), 925

Previous Ranking: 11; Last Week’s Result: 28-12 loss to Abilene Christian 

  1. ETSU(6-1), 847

Previous Ranking: 23; Last Week’s Result: 26-23 win over The Citadel 

  1. Rhode Island(4-2), 775

Previous Ranking: 16; Last Week’s Result: 38-36 loss to Maine

  1. Princeton(5-0), 618

Previous Ranking: 25; Last Week’s Result: 48-10 win over Brown

  1. Delaware(4-2), 399

Previous Ranking: NR; Last Week’s Result: 28-16 win over Elon

  1. Northern Iowa (3-3), 378

Previous Ranking: NR; Last Week’s Result: 42-28 win over South Dakota

Dropped Out: Montana, South Dakota

Others Receiving Votes: North Dakota 271, Dartmouth 218, Idaho State 155, Missouri State 133, Florida A&M 114, Chattanooga 110, Montana State 62, Montana 52, South Dakota 22, Northern Arizona 21, Furman 8, Murray State 1

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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