Eastern Washington ascends to No. 1

Players and coaches in the Eastern Washington football program feel quite at ease to be ranked No. 1 in The Sports Network FCS Top 25.

The Eagles grabbed the top ranking at the end of the 2010 regular season and never gave it up while going on to win their first FCS national championship.

They hope to have a similar script this season.

Monday was the calm after Saturday's storm and Eastern Washington ascended five spots to No. 1 - an incredible accomplishment, but seemingly warranted after four of last week's top five teams lost for the first time. The Eagles grabbed the top perch by earning 92 of the 165 first-place votes and 3,982 points.

EWU delivered a big win at Big Sky rival Montana State, 27-24, to make the leap from No. 6.

"It's exciting for our program," EWU coach Beau Baldwin said. "To be ranked No. 1 - and for the third time in three years - takes a lot of work from a lot of people. I'm proud of everyone involved in getting us to this point. From here we have to keep focusing on the task at hand, which is the Sacramento State game.

"But I'm not going to undersell what is special. A lot of programs go a lot of years without being ranked No. 1 for a single season, let alone being ranked No. 1 for three straight years."

EWU held the top spot through the 2011 preseason poll and the first week of that regular season. This is the Eagles' first No. 1 ranking since then.

Saturday's surprising day of results among the top teams led to nine teams earning first-place votes on Monday, but Eastern Washington (5-1) was still a decisive No. 1 over James Madison, which moved up two spots to No. 2 after beating William & Mary in double overtime. The Dukes (5-1) gained 42 first- place votes and 3,831 points.

Georgia Southern (5-1) moved up to No. 3 after beating Wofford, 17-9, and taking over first place in the Southern Conference.

Among the unbeaten teams to lose on Saturday was defending national champion North Dakota State, which fell to Indiana State, 17-14. The Bison (5-1) dropped from the top spot to No. 4.

A different team mans the top 11 spots from a week ago. Montana State (6-1) fell three spots to No. 5 and was followed by No. 6 Sam Houston State (4-2); No. 7 Old Dominion (5-1), which dropped four spots after falling to Villanova, 38-14; No. 8 Wofford (5-1); No. 9 Lehigh (7-0); No. 10 Stony Brook (6-1); and No. 11 Illinois State (6-1), which rallied past then-No. 8 Youngstown State, 35-28.

New Hampshire (5-2) and Appalachian State (5-2) won their games to remain at No. 12 and 13, respectively.

They were followed by No. 14 Cal Poly (6-0), No. 15 Youngstown State (4-2), No. 16 Northern Arizona (5-1), No. 17 Tennessee State (7-0), No. 18 Towson (3-3), No. 19 Central Arkansas (5-2) and No. 20 South Dakota State (5-1).

Indiana State (5-2) moved back into the rankings at No. 21 after its upset of North Dakota State.

Ivy League power Harvard (5-0), which has the longest active winning streak in the FCS at 14 games, was ranked No. 22, and received one first-place vote.

The Crimson were followed by No. 23 Eastern Kentucky (5-2); No. 24 Villanova (5-2), which earned its first ranking this season; and No. 25 Delaware (4-2), which was idle this past Saturday.

McNeese State and Samford fell from the Top 25 after suffering losses.

CAA Football had the most teams in the rankings with six and the Missouri Valley Football Conference had five.

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

During the regular season, the Top 25 is released every Monday afternoon, except for the final weekend of the regular season, when it will be released Sunday morning, Nov. 18, prior to the selection of the FCS playoff field.

The Sports Network will release a final Top 25 following the FCS championship game, which will be held Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas.