Philadelphia, PA – Perhaps the most stunning day of FCS regular-season action ever wasn't quite that with a little closer look.
It might sound hard to believe after four of the Top 5 teams lost for the first time this season and the FCS went from nine unbeaten teams to four on Saturday.
But strength of schedule may not lie.
The NCAA puts out a weekly list for FCS teams and Week 7 - the first week of the second half of the regular season - might have exposed how some fast- starting teams had feasted a bit on their schedules.
Not to pick on only the unbeaten teams, but four of the five to fall on Saturday - top-ranked North Dakota State, No. 2 Montana State, No. 5 Wofford and SWAC leader Alabama A&M - each had one of the 25 easiest schedules during the first half of the season (out of 121 FCS teams - Georgia State isn't recognized in the strength of schedule rankings as an FBS-bound program which is over the FCS limit for football scholarships). At least they were among the easiest according to their opponents' combined record.
The biggest alarm may have sounded for Wofford last week. The Terriers had the fifth-easiest schedule in the first half of the season and were set to face the second-toughest schedule in the second half (keep in mind the strength of schedule list is fluid from week to week and has changed again after Saturday).
In addition to Wofford's game against Georgia Southern on Saturday (a 17-9 loss), the Terriers still go to Appalachian State next Saturday and have road games at Samford and South Carolina later this season. They also face The Citadel and Chattanooga at home, so the schedule is daunting enough to think they could fall apart and miss the FCS playoffs - one of their five wins was against Division II Lincoln (Pa.) and doesn't count toward the seven Division I wins certainly needed for an at-large playoff bid.
Conversely, the strength of schedule could suggest brighter days for some teams. For example, Eastern Kentucky was ranked as having the 12th-toughest schedule in the first half of the season, but began the second half with the 12th-easiest schedule.
EKU went out and routed Austin Peay to improve to 5-2 - which wasn't surprising - yet still boasts a manageable schedule the rest of the way.
Some teams get little break all season. Defending CAA Football champion Towson faced tough teams in the first half of its schedule (Kent State, LSU and James Madison) and still have plenty more in the second half (Old Dominion, Villanova, Delaware and New Hampshire).
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
A recap of games in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at http://tinyurl.com/9soyqtw.
Who's No. 1? Opinions should vary when the new Top 25 is released Monday afternoon.
Defending national champion North Dakota State might hold onto the top spot considering it lost by only a field goal to Indiana State on Saturday.
James Madison, No. 4 this past week, was the highest-ranked team to survive Saturday's rash of upsets, and seemingly has a shot at reaching the top spot.
Eastern Washington could even leap from No. 6 to No. 1, having now beaten FBS Idaho and defending Big Sky co-champions Montana and Montana State (27-24 on Saturday), and has only lost by four points to FBS Washington State.
STOCK RISING, STOCK FALLING
Rising: Stony Brook senior running back Miguel Maysonet may have assumed the favorite's role for the Walter Payton Award with Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke recently posting pedestrian numbers for his high standard. Maysonet has set a career high for rushing yards in three of his last four games, lifting himself to 1,121 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground in Stony Brook's seven games. He's averaging 186.6 all-purpose yards per game (tied for third in the FCS) with 12 total touchdowns.
Falling: Montana might have played itself out of the FCS playoffs for a second time in three seasons by falling at home to Southern Utah, 30-20. The Grizzlies (3-4, 1-3 Big Sky) made an FCS-record 17 straight playoff appearances from 1993-2009. They certainly have to win their final four games to have a chance, but that might not be enough to get it done.
AROUND THE NATION
Big Sky: Sacramento State enjoyed a big defensive effort in topping Weber State, 19-14, to improve to 5-2. The Hornets collected five sacks and forced three turnovers, while Todd Davis (11), Jeff Badger (11) and Ryan McMahon (10) all reached double figures in tackles ... UC Davis had 647 yards of total offense in its 52-45 win over Idaho State. Randy Wright threw for three touchdowns and Courtney Williams rushed for three TDs.
Big South: Maybe there will be a title race after all. Liberty improved to 2-0 in conference play by throttling Presbyterian, 56-7, behind Aldreakis Allen's 183 yards and four touchdowns on the ground ... Defending champion Stony Brook also is 2-0 in conference play after escaping from Coastal Carolina, 27-21. The No. 11 Seawolves have to travel to Liberty on Nov. 10.
CAA Football: In all five of Villanova's wins, including 38-14 at Old Dominion on Saturday, the Wildcats have held opponents to 14 or fewer points, verifying the type of defense that coach Andy Talley thought he had this season. The balanced unit features 11 players who have between 20 and 46 tackles, led by free safety Ronnie Akins ... It doesn't get easier for ODU and Heinicke. Next Saturday, they travel to Towson (3-3), which is in survival mode ... Georgia State (1-6) won a battle of winless teams by dominating Rhode Island, 41-7. Donald Russell rushed for a school-record 201 yards on 21 carries, scoring two touchdowns. Does URI (0-6) really want to stay in the CAA?
Ivy: Nobody came from nowhere on Saturday as much as Cornell's Chris Amrhein. The senior stepped in for injured Jeff Mathews (neck injury) and threw for 523 yards - the second-highest total in Big Red history - in a 41-38 win over Monmouth. Luke Tasker caught 11 passes for a school-record 280 yards and a touchdown and Silas Nacita rushed for four touchdowns, offsetting Kyle Frazier's 451 yards and four touchdowns through the air for Monmouth ... Princeton shut out Brown, 19-0, to end the Bears' Ivy League record 162-game scoring streak. Caraun Reid had a safety, four tackles for loss and 2 1/2 sacks, and Princeton's defense had two interceptions and six sacks against Brown quarterback Patrick Donnelly. The surging Tigers won a combined two games in coach Bob Surace's first two seasons, but are 3-2 this season ... In Penn's 24-20 win over Columbia, quarterback Billy Ragone engineered his sixth career comeback in the fourth quarter or overtime.
MEAC: Surprising North Carolina Central (4-2, 3-0) moved atop the conference standings with idle Bethune-Cookman after defeating Morgan State, 24-20. Tight end Detwan Robinson's 26-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown with 25 seconds left provided the game-winning score ... Hampton earned its first win by topping Norfolk State, 28-14, in the Battle of the Bay. Jeremi Schwartz rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns, and Lyndell Gibson had two interceptions and four pass breakups.
Missouri Valley: Linebacker Bryan Presume had a 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Southern Illinois' 34-31 triumph over Northern Iowa, which at 1-5 has to win out to avoid a losing season ... Austin Witmer's 33-yard field goal as time expired gave Missouri State its first win, 27-24 over South Dakota ... FCS rushing leader Zach Zenner of South Dakota State has rushed for at least 171 yards and a touchdown in each of the Jackrabbits' six games. He is on pace for 2,288 yards this season ... Western Illinois junior Pat Smith has kicked the most field goals in the FCS without a miss - nine.
Northeast: In one of the day's more stunning scores - on a day with many of them - Duquesne fell at winless Central Connecticut State, 38-31. The Blue Devils' Andrew Clements had three total touchdowns (two rushing, one passing) in the upset ... In Albany's 36-13 win over St. Francis (Pa.), running back Drew Smith scored three touchdowns to raise his FCS-best total to 15.
Ohio Valley: UT Martin's Derek Carr completed an incredible 42-of-46 pass attempts for 560 yards and seven touchdowns in a 66-59 win over Murray State. How many quarterbacks can say they threw for eight touchdowns and lose? Murray State's Casey Brockman did after going 45-for-67 for 537 yards. The two teams combined for 1,440 yards ... Including Brockman (second, 381.6) and Carr (seventh, 288.6), the OVC has four quarterbacks in the top 14 nationally in passing yards per game. Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo (fourth, 353.7) and Tennessee Tech's Tre Lamb (14th, 268.3) are the other two ... Tennessee State (7-0, 3-0) leads the race by one-half game over Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky and UT Martin - each 3-1.
Patriot: They call it the "Double-Mac Attack" at Colgate. The Raiders' duo of quarterback Gavin McCarney and tailback Jordan McCord combined on 367 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns in a 51-35 victory over Holy Cross. The Raiders have won three of their last four games ... When a team wins 16 straight regular-season wins, it finds ways to capture games. Tenth-ranked Lehigh (7-0) has won four of its last five games by two or three points, including 17-14 at Georgetown on Saturday.
Pioneer: Butler, Dayton and Jacksonville all won on the road to stay atop the league race at 4-0 ... Davidson fell to Jacksonville, 34-24, but Lanny Funsten caught a PFL- record 17 passes for 246 yards and broke Davidson's all-time reception and receiving yardage records ... Dayton used a 39-yard hook-and- lateral - wide receiver Ross Smith to a streaking Robert Washington out of the backfield - to close the first half of its 41-27 win over Morehead State.
SoCon: In its 200th game at Paulson Stadium, Georgia Southern improved to 169-31 by beating Wofford, 17-9. Having established the FCS single-game record by not attempting a pass, the Eagles have put the ball in the air only 33 times in six games ... At 378 yards, Western Carolina "held" The Citadel's triple option in check in a 45-31 loss. Earlier this season, Wofford (590 yards) and Georgia Southern (614) completely shredded the Catamounts' defense with their triple options.
Southland: After a 27-22 win over Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana is 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 1974 and the first time in the Southland Conference. Freshman Xavier Roberson carried the ball 15 times for 85 yards and two touchdowns before the Lions headed into their bye week ... Late-game meltdowns have led to two one-point losses for McNeese State in conference play. Next up: a visit to Sam Houston State. Gulp.
SWAC: There are no unbeaten SWAC teams after Alabama A&M fell to Alcorn State, 27-24. The Braves only had 211 yards in their win, but slowed A&M quarterback Deaunte Mason just enough ... Alabama State failed to take advantage of A&M's loss in the East Division race, falling at home to Jackson State, 37-34 ... Mississippi Valley State routed Grambling State, 45-21, for its first victory over the winless Tigers since 1996. Sophomore Julian Stafford had seven catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns along with an 88-yard kickoff return for a score. He finished with 263 all-purpose yards.
Extra Point: Lehigh (7-0), Tennessee State (7-0), Cal Poly (6-0) and Harvard (5-0) are the only unbeaten teams in the FCS after Alabama A&M, Montana State, North Dakota State, Old Dominion and Wofford all fell on Saturday.
A LOOK AHEAD
No rest for the weary: Some of next Saturday's big conference games are Wofford at Appalachian State in the SoCon, Old Dominion at Towson in the CAA and McNeese State at Sam Houston State in the Southland.
Other key conference games: Big Sky, Portland State at Cal Poly, UC Davis at Northern Arizona and Sacramento State at Eastern Washington; CAA, New Hampshire at Maine in their 100th meeting and James Madison at Richmond; Ivy, Harvard at Princeton; Missouri Valley, Southern Illinois at Youngstown State, South Dakota State at Northern Iowa, Indiana State at Western Illinois and North Dakota State at South Dakota in Sioux Falls; OVC, Tennessee State at Jacksonville State, UT Martin at Southeast Missouri State and Eastern Kentucky at Tennessee Tech; Patriot, Georgetown at Colgate and Holy Cross at Lafayette; Pioneer, San Diego at Jacksonville; SoCon, Georgia Southern at Furman, Samford at Chattanooga; and SWAC, Arkansas Pine-Bluff at Southern.