Top-ranked teams thriving before stretch run

Philadelphia, PA ( - The top teams in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 have been raising their play for what they hope will turn into championship seasons.

There was only one loss among Top 10 teams this past Saturday, and that was the result of a matchup within the Top 10. Otherwise, the top eight teams won important conference matchups while No. 9 Fordham was idle.

Seven ranked teams outside the Top 10 fell in their games, however, so there was plenty of movement there in Monday's new poll, which continues to be led by two-time defending national champion North Dakota State.

Four weeks of action remain in the regular season. Eleven conference champions and 13 at-large selections will advance to this year's expanded 24-team FCS playoff bracket, which will be announced by the NCAA on Nov. 24.

North Dakota State (8-0) could top that field the way it has been atop the rankings all season. The Bison blew out Indiana State, 56-10, on Saturday to take sole possession of first place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

Coach Craig Bohl's squad collected all 159 first-place votes and 3,975 points in Monday's rankings.

Second-ranked Eastern Illinois (7-1) is coming off one of the weekend's bigger wins, as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo solved the Tennessee State defense for a 34-16 Ohio Valley Conference triumph.

Third-ranked Eastern Washington (6-2) kept pace atop the Big Sky Conference standings with a 42-37 win at then-No. 10 Montana.

Also winning games to remain atop their conferences were No. 4 McNeese State (7-1) in the Southland Conference, No. 5 Montana State (6-2) in the Big Sky and No. 6 Coastal Carolina (8-0) in the Big South

Towson (8-1) followed running back Terrance West's lead to a 48-32 CAA Football win over Richmond and moved up one spot to No. 7, passing Sam Houston State (6-2), which routed Northwestern State, 44-10, in the Southland.

Fordham (8-0) remained at No. 9 as one of only three unbeaten teams in the FCS, while CAA leader Maine (7-1) moved into the 10th spot following a 37-35 win over Villanova in a key CAA matchup.

Youngstown State (7-1) moved up to No. 11 after an idle weekend. The Penguins were followed by No. 12 Montana (6-2); No. 13 Bethune-Cookman (7-1), which sits first in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference; No. 14 Northern Arizona (6-2), No. 15 Samford (6-2), the Southern Conference frontrunner; No. 16 New Hampshire (4-3); No. 17 Wofford (5-3); No. 18 Central Arkansas (5-3); No. 19 South Dakota State (5-4); and No. 20 Villanova (4-4).

Rounding out the rankings were No. 21 Delaware (6-2), which returned after a three-week absence, No. 22 Lehigh (6-2), No. 23 Tennessee State (7-2) and then two newcomers, No. 24 Charleston Southern (8-1) and No. 25 Southeastern Louisiana (6-2).

Charleston Southern, from the Big South, has had only one previous appearance in the national media poll, when the Buccaneers were ranked No. 24 on Nov. 6, 2006. Southeastern Louisiana was last ranked No. 25 on Sept. 13, 2004. With the Lions' addition, the Southland has four teams in the rankings, which ties with the Big Sky for the second-most teams behind the CAA's five.

Northern Iowa, James Madison and Georgia Southern all fell from the Top 25 after suffering losses.

A panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries selects the national poll. In the Top 25 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.

During the regular season, the Top 25 will be released every Monday afternoon, except for the final weekend, when it will be released Sunday morning, Nov. 24, prior to the selection of the FCS playoff field.

The final Top 25 will be released on the Monday after the FCS championship game Jan. 4 in Frisco, Texas.