Philadelphia, PA – Well into conference play, CAA Football teams keep knocking each other off in a battle royale worthy of a steel cage, or at least synthetic turf.
There's a benefit to the parity in this year's conference race: the depth of quality teams in the CAA is noticed nationwide.
On Monday, the CAA surpassed its record by placing nine teams in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25. In the prior two weeks, it had eight ranked teams for the first time in the poll for sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries.
The top two teams were unchanged as Southern Conference leader Georgia Southern held the No. 1 ranking for the sixth straight week, followed by No. 2 Northern Iowa. North Dakota State moved up one spot to No. 3, with Montana State dropping to No. 4 and Wofford remained at No. 5.
Massachusetts (4-2) is leaving the CAA after this season to join the Mid- American Conference on the FBS level, but the Minutemen are not going quietly. They won at Delaware, 21-10, this past Saturday to move back into the poll after a two-week absence - at No. 22 - and give the 11-school conference its ninth representative.
UMass isn't eligible for the CAA championship or the FCS playoffs, but it is in the poll along with fellow conference members Maine, James Madison, New Hampshire, William & Mary, Towson, Delaware, Richmond and Old Dominion.
"If you can escape the conference and make it to the playoffs," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said Monday, "that's where you can truly appreciate the difficulty of our league, in such that it's a quality opponent week to week to week. They just change colors and towns. If you can escape and get out and play the rest of the world, you tend to do pretty well."
The CAA has had a team play in seven of the last FCS championship games, with four winning national titles.
Georgia Southern (6-0) maintained the No. 1 ranking by collecting 125 of the 157 first-place votes and 3,871 points. The Eagles, who are 5-0 in the SoCon, routed Furman, 50-20, this past Saturday.
Northern Iowa (5-1) kept a half-game lead on North Dakota State in the Missouri Valley Football Conference by defeating South Dakota State, 31-14. The Panthers had 18 first-place votes in the poll.
North Dakota State (6-0) is right behind at No. 3 and collected nine first- place votes. The only other teams that gained first-place votes were No. 4 Montana State (6-1) with two and No. 5 Wofford (5-1) with three.
The rest of the Top 10 was No. 6 Appalachian State (4-2), No. 7 Sam Houston State (6-0), No. 8 Lehigh (6-1), No. 9 Maine (5-1) and No. 10 Jacksonville State (5-1), the Ohio Valley Conference leader which will step up in class this coming weekend and take on Southeastern Conference member Kentucky.
The second 10 includes a virtual who's who of the CAA. James Madison (5-2) claimed the No. 11 ranking, followed by No. 12 Montana (5-2), No. 13 New Hampshire (4-2), No. 14 William & Mary (4-3), No. 15 Towson (5-1), No. 16 Delaware (4-3), No. 17 Indiana State (5-2), No. 18 Richmond (3-3), No. 19 Alabama State (6-1) and No. 20 North Dakota (4-2).
Old Dominion (5-2) was ranked No. 21, followed by UMass, No. 23 Jackson State (6-1), No. 24 Norfolk State (5-1) and No. 25 South Dakota (4-3).
Norfolk State, which leads the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, moved into the ranking for the first time since the Oct. 22, 2007 poll.
Tennessee Tech and McNeese State fell out of the Top 25 after suffering losses this past Saturday.
During the regular season the Top 25 will be released every Monday afternoon, except for the final weekend of games, when it will be released Sunday morning, Nov. 20, due to its use as an official tool by the NCAA Division I Football Committee in selecting the 20-team playoff field later that day.
The Sports Network and Fathead.com will release a final Top 25 following the FCS championship game, which will be held Jan. 7 at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.