Sam Houston solidifies top ranking in STATS FCS Top 25

(STATS) - The only unbeaten FCS team remaining made its biggest statement of the season in its final regular season game Saturday.

Sam Houston State has some more statements - and wins - planned for the postseason, entering it Sunday as the top-ranked team in the STATS FCS Top 25.

Shortly before the NCAA announced its FCS playoff field, the Bearkats (11-0) gained 111 of the 151 first-place votes and 3,676 points to solidify the top ranking in the national media poll for the sixth straight week. It came on the heels of a 59-23 trouncing of then-No. 11 Central Arkansas in what basically was the Southland Conference championship game.

"You can't get any better than what we just did," third-year coach K.C. Keeler said, "Eleven-0, conference champions, pretty much dominated almost every single game we played.

"It was a great accomplishment. It's two seasons. And this season that we just had here - this regular season - it's the single greatest season I've ever been around."

All but one of the teams in the top 10 earned at least a share of their conference title, and the exception - Villanova - features the sentimental story line of a retiring head coach. Jacksonville State (10-1) was No. 2 in the final regular season poll after it finished off an unbeaten season in the Ohio Valley Conference for the third straight year.

Eastern Washington (10-1) and North Dakota State (10-1) remained No. 3 and 4, respectively, after both earned a share of their conference title. EWU made it four Big Sky Conference titles in five seasons and NDSU made it six straight in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, moving into the playoffs with the goal of extending its record five straight FCS national titles.

CAA Football James Madison (10-1) moved up one spot to No. 5, flip-flopping with The Citadel (10-1), which lost for the first time against North Carolina from the FBS level. South Dakota State (8-3), an MVFC co-champ, was No. 7 and North Dakota (9-2), a Big Sky co-champ, No. 8.

Villanova (8-3) carried a No. 9 ranking after it sent coach Andy Talley into the playoffs in his 32nd and final season on the Wildcats' sideline. Charleston Southern (7-3), which earned a share of its second straight Big South Conference crown, was No. 10.

Chattanooga (8-3) moved up one spot to No. 11 after playing to a 31-3 loss at Alabama that wouldn't be registered by many FBS teams. Then it was Richmond (8-3); Youngstown State (8-3); Central Arkansas (9-2); Coastal Carolina (9-2); Grambling State (8-1); North Carolina A&T (9-2); Lehigh (9-2), the Patriot League champ; Wofford (8-3); and North Carolina Central (9-2), the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion.

Rounding out the Top 25 were No. 21 Cal Poly (7-4), New Hampshire (7-4), Samford (7-4), and two teams appearing for the first time this season, Pioneer Football League champ San Diego (9-1) and Weber State (7-4).

Eleven FCS conferences had at least one ranked team. The Big Sky, CAA and SoCon led with four each, the Missouri Valley had three, the MEAC and Southland two each, and the Big South, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Pioneer and SWAC had one each. Coastal Carolina is an FCS independent.

A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries select the STATS FCS Top 25. In the voting, 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 final Top 25 will follow the FCS championship game, to be held Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.