Philadelphia, PA – The Southern Conference is rising.
CAA Football has been the top conference in the FCS in recent seasons, but the SoCon is making a push for that distinction this year. Georgia Southern continues to be top-ranked in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25, and Appalachian State and Wofford give the conference two additional schools among the top eight.
On Monday, Georgia Southern (3-0) remained an overwhelming No. 1 for the third straight week, gaining 124 of the 160 first-place votes and 3,931 points from the national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries.
The Eagles rushed for an FCS season-high 634 yards in a 52-20 win over Western Carolina on Saturday. Dating to last season, coach Jeff Monken's squad has won nine of their last 10 games, losing only to Delaware in the 2010 national semifinals.
Their first-place votes increased by 2.8 percent from last week.
The top four spots were unchanged in the poll. Northern Iowa (2-1) again stood at No. 2, with 17 first-place votes and 3,715 points. The Panthers posted a 38-10 win over Western Illinois in its Missouri Valley Football Conference opener on Saturday.
No. 3 Appalachian State (3-1) relied on two defensive touchdowns for a 14-12 win over Chattanooga, the SoCon's fourth team in the Top 25. The Mountaineers will play another important game this weekend when they go to No. 8 Wofford (3-1) for a meeting between last year's conference co-champions.
Montana State (3-1) remained No. 4 after booting defending FCS champion Eastern Washington out of the rankings with a 36-21 win in the Big Sky Conference.
North Dakota State (3-0) moved up three spots to No. 5 after upsetting Minnesota, 37-24. The Bison, from the Missouri Valley Conference, have an impressive 5-3 record against Bowl Subdivision schools since 2006.
The rest of the Top 10 was No. 6 Delaware (3-1), No. 7 New Hampshire (2-1), Wofford, No. 9 James Madison (3-1) and No. 10 Richmond (3-1). James Madison beat CAA preseason favorite William & Mary, 20-14, on Saturday, but was reeling on Monday from the university leveling an indefinite suspension to starting quarterback Justin Thorpe.
William & Mary (2-2) fell five spots to No. 11 and was followed by No. 12 Southern Illinois (2-1), No. 13 Lehigh (3-1), No. 14 Jacksonville State (3-1), No. 15 Chattanooga (2-2), No. 16 Sam Houston State (3-0), No. 17 Southern Utah (3-1), No. 18 McNeese State (2-1), No. 19 Montana (2-2) and No. 20 Massachusetts (2-1).
Sam Houston State and Southern Utah made big moves up in the rankings after both beat FBS opponents. Sam Houston State, from the Southland Conference, rose four spots after its 48-45 overtime win over New Mexico, while defending Great West Conference champion Southern Utah rose six spots after its 41-16 thrashing of UNLV.
Rounding out the poll were No. 21 South Dakota (2-2), No. 22 South Carolina State (2-2), No. 23 Towson (3-0), No. 24 Indiana State (3-1) and No. 25 Sacramento State (2-2).
Towson moved into the rankings for the first time since Sept. 10, 2007, which gave the CAA a poll-best seven teams in the Top 25. Indiana State hadn't been in the rankings since the 1996 preseason poll, while Sacramento State was out of the rankings last week, but moved back in with a 42-28 win over Montana in the Big Sky.
Stephen F. Austin, Murray State and Eastern Washington fell out of the rankings after suffering losses.
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.