College Football: Power Ranking All 13 FCS Conferences

Alan BlackAnalyst IIINovember 2, 2012

College Football: Power Ranking All 13 FCS Conferences

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    Last season, the Football Championship Subdivision of Division I football had 14 conferences and four teams who played as independents.  This year, the Great West Conference no longer has any football-playing members, and there are no independents at the FCS level, bringing the total number of conferences at this level to 13. 

    Nine weeks into the season, the strengths and weaknesses of each team and conference are becoming pretty clear, allowing for a solid comparison between them.

    Following are the power rankings of all 13 FCS football conferences.

13. Southwestern Athletic Conference

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    This season has not been a strong one for the SWAC.  Only one team from the conference received any votes at all in the latest polls, with Alabama A&M receiving a single vote.  While Alabama State, Alabama A&M, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff all have winning records, most of the conference has been underwhelming.

    Besides the three aforementioned teams with winning records, the only other team in the conference that has even reached .500 on the season is Jackson State.

    In non-conference play, the SWAC has a dismal record of 4-14.  Not a strong season at all for a once-proud conference that prides itself on tradition. 

12. Pioneer Football League

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    Being competitive can be difficult for the teams in the Pioneer League, owing to the fact that none of the member schools offer scholarships for football.  While none of the schools in the league received any votes in the latest Top 25 poll, Butler, Drake, San Diego and Jacksonville all have winning records. 

    While the Pioneer League's non-conference record of 9-21 is far from impressive, it does contain a few notable wins.  Chief amongst them is Jacksonville's 31-10 victory over Big South team Charleston Southern.  

11. Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

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    Bethune-Cookman coming in at No. 24 in the latest polls gives the MEAC something to brag about, but the Wildcats are hardly the only capable team in the conference.  Delaware State, North Carolina Central, and Howard all boast winning records, while North Carolina A&T currently sits at .500. 

    While the conference's major publicity this season was negative (surrounding member team Savannah State's dismantling by Oklahoma State to begin the season), there has been some positive news in non-conference play as well.  South Carolina State's 33-6 drubbing of CAA team Georgia State was especially notable. 

10. Northeast Conference

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    The NEC is carried by the No. 18 Albany Great Danes.  Their 7-1 record has voters around the country taking notice, as the team has slowly moved up the polls throughout the season. 

    The conference better enjoy Albany while they can, as the team will move to the CAA next season.

    The Danes use a balanced offense that has racked up 1,664 yards rushing and 1,671 yards passing.  The Albany defense has also been opportunistic at creating turnovers, with 11 interceptions and six forced fumbles. 

    Besides Albany, the NEC also boasts winning teams in Wagner and Duquesne.  Monmouth currently sits at a respectable 4-4. 

9. Ivy League

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    The Ivy League contains incredible parity this season, as five of the eight member teams currently sit at either 4-3 or 3-4.  However, one team stands out in this crowded standing: No. 21 Harvard.

    The Crimson currently sit at 6-1, with their only blemish being a 39-34 loss to Princeton two weeks ago.

    The Crimson have ridden the offensive production of their senior QB-RB tandem consisting of Colton Chapple and Treavor Scales.  The two of them have accounted for over 3,000 yards of total offense and 34 touchdowns.

    While the Ivy League has no major standouts besides Harvard, the Crimson provide a major boost to the entire conference. 

8. Big South Conference

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    Similar to the Northeast Conference, the Big South is also having a mediocre season, but is lifted up by an elite team.  In the this case, that team is Stony Brook.  Like Albany, Stony Brook has parlayed their success into an invite to join the CAA following this season. 

    The Seawolves have a high-powered offense that wears opponents down.  While QB Kyle Essington leads an efficient passing game, the real strength of the Seawolves' offense is their running game.

    Payton Award candidate Miguel Maysonet has rushed for 1,546 yards and 14 touchdowns so far, while averaging an impressive 8.4 yards per carry.  Iowa transfer Marcus Coker has added 686 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.

    There are no other teams in the conference with winning records, but Coastal Carolina and Charleston Southern both have records of .500.  The overall depth of the conference isn't great this season, but having an elite program like Stony Brook greatly increases the quality of the conference. 

7. Patriot League

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    Out of all the conferences in FCS football who have one elite team standing out amongst average teams, the Patriot League is the best.  In this case, the conference's elite program is No. 6 Lehigh.

    The Mountain Hawks sit at 8-0 so far this season, and even received a first place vote in the latest polls.  Unlike last season, when Lehigh went as far as their offense could take them, this season the Mountain Hawks are led by their stingy defense.

    The Mountain Hawks have 54 tackles for loss this season, including 27 sacks.  Linebacker Nigel Muhammad leads the unit with 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. 

    Aside from Lehigh, the Patriot League is home to two teams with 5-3 records, Colgate and Lafayette. 

6. Ohio Valley Conference

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    This is where the conferences really start to get powerful. The OVC boasts two top 25 teams in No. 19 Tennessee State and No. 23 Eastern Kentucky. 

    The Tigers have ridden their dominant running back Trabis Ward to an 8-1 record, as he has amassed 1,205 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.

    The Colonels have their own workhorse running back in Matt Denham, who has rushed for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns, while adding 149 yards and two touchdowns receiving. 

    The OVC also boasts a ton of depth, as it has three teams in the "others receiving votes" category of the latest polls.  UT Martin, Jacksonville State, and Eastern Illinois have all gotten the attention of voters across the nation. 

5. Southland Conference

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    The Southland has two teams in the top 15, an impressive feat.  Sam Houston State comes in at No. 4 and received two first place votes, while Central Arkansas is currently No. 13 in the country. 

    Last year's runner-up in the national championship game, the SHSU Bearkats have ridden their unique rushing attack to a 6-2 record so far.  Running back Tim Flanders has 803 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground, but he is hardly the team's only rushing threat.  Overall, the Bearkats have racked up 2,285 yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground.

    Currently in first place in the Southland right now are the Central Arkansas Bears, who beat SHSU earlier in the season, 24-20.  The Bears have relied heavily on dual-threat QB Wynrick Smothers, who has amassed 2,292 yards and 23 touchdowns through the air, while adding 263 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. 

    McNeese State, at 5-3, also received votes in the latest poll.  One other team in the conference currently sits at .500 or better, with Northwestern State currently holding a 4-4 record. 

4. Southern Conference

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    The SoCon boasts the current No. 1 team in the polls, Georgia Southern.  Joining the Eagles in the top 25 are No. 7 Wofford and No. 14 Appalachian State.  Conference members The Citadel and Samford also received votes.

    The Georgia Southern Eagles are one of the most well-rounded teams in the entire league.  Nineteenth in total offense, 17th in scoring offense, 4th in total defense and 6th in scoring defense are reasons why the Eagles have been able to attain the No. 1 ranking at this point in the season. 

    No.7 Wofford got its 7-1 record by relying on running back Eric Breitenstein, one of the best rushers in the league.  Through eight games, Breitenstein has rushed for 1,228 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging a whopping eight yards per carry.  The Terriers also have a stingy defense that has limited every opponent so far this season to under 30 points. 

    Rounding out the three SoCon teams in the top 15 is No. 14 Appalachian State.  The Mountaineers have ridden their one-two punch of QB Jamal Jackson and RB Steven Miller to a 6-3 record.

    Jackson has been a true dual threat, racking up 2,120 yards and 15 touchdowns passing, while adding 366 yards and five touchdowns rushing.  Miller has added to that deadly attack by rushing for 1,077 yards and nine touchdowns. 

    Besides the five SoCon teams drawing the attention of the pollsters, there is also another team with a record of at least .500 so far this season.  Chattanooga currently has a 4-4 record, giving the SoCon six teams with a record of .500 or better.

3. Missouri Valley Conference

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    The MVC edges out the SoCon in these rankings by sheer numbers, having four teams in the top 25 and six total teams receiving votes.  No.2 North Dakota State, No. 15 Illinois State, No. 17 Indiana State, and No. 25 South Dakota State are joined as teams receiving votes in the latest poll by Youngstown State and Southern Illinois. 

    The No. 2 Bison have risen to their lofty ranking the same way they won the national championship last season, with defense.  Despite losing key safety Colten Heagle to injury early in the season, the NDSU defense has been just as stingy as last season, ranking first in the league in both total defense and scoring defense. 

    The No. 15 Illinois State Redbirds have found success thanks to their QB Matt Brown, who has thrown for 2,285 yards and 18 touchdowns, while adding five rushing touchdowns.

    Indiana State and South Dakota State having relied on their running backs, as Shakir Bell has rushed for 1,306 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Sycamores, while Zach Zenner has carried the Jackrabbits with 1,447 yards and nine touchdowns rushing.

    Youngstown State made national headlines this season when they demolished Big East team Pittsburgh 31-17 in the first week of the season, but have found the going to be tougher in MVC conference play.

2. Colonial Athletic Association

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    The CAA has also found strength in numbers this season, with five teams in the top 25 and two more receiving votes.  No. 5 Old Dominion, No. 10 James Madison, No. 11 New Hampshire, No. 20 Delaware, No. 22 Towson, and Richmond and Villanova have all made voters take notice of CAA football.

    The ODU Monarchs have the best offense in the league, placing first in both overall offense and scoring offense.  The passing game is where the Monarchs really overpower other teams, as QB Taylor Heinicke has thrown for 3,159 yards and 24 touchdowns, while adding eight rushing touchdowns.

    Heinicke broke the NCAA Division I record for passing yards in a single game earlier this season, throwing for 730 yards and five touchdowns in a wild 64-61 win over New Hampshire. 

    The No. 10 Dukes may not stand out in any one area of the game, but an efficient offense with the No. 17 scoring defense in the country has worked out well for them.

    The No. 11 Wildcats, meanwhile, are all about offense, as they rank sixth in the league in total offense and 11th in scoring offense. 

    The CAA is stacked with good teams, making the battle for the CAA title especially difficult. 

1. Big Sky Conference

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    The Big Sky's appearance at the top of this list might be a little shocking, given that traditional power Montana is having a down season.  However, the other teams in the conference have upped their level of play, and place pretty impressively in the polls.

    No.3 Montana State, No. 8 Eastern Washington, No. 12 Northern Arizona, and No. 16 Cal Poly make the Big Sky the conference with the most highly-ranked teams in the latest poll.  Add to that the fact that Sacramento State is at the top of the "others receiving votes category," and the Big Sky has the best argument for being at the top of these rankings. 

    The No. 3 Bobcats are led by dual-threat QB Denarius McGee, who has thrown for 2,142 touchdowns and 17 touchdowns while rushing for 184 yards and four touchdowns.

    On defense, the Bobcats are especially proficient at getting to the QB, totaling 29 sacks so far on the season.  Defensive end Caleb Schreibeis leads the way with 7.5 sacks.

    The No. 8 Eagles are all about the passing game.  Two QB's have each amassed over 1,000 yards, and have combined for 18 passing touchdowns.  Right now, head coach Beau Baldwin appears unable to decide on whether to use Kyle Padron or Vernon Adams, as both have been effective for EWU.

    The No. 12 Lumberjacks have been one of the biggest surprises this season, going from a cupcake the last few seasons to a 7-1 team whose only blemish so far was a loss to Pac-12 team Arizona State.  NAU is led by running back Zach Bauman, who has rushed for 1,029 yards and eight touchdowns so far.

    The No. 16 Mustangs are currently tied for second place in the Big Sky, with a 7-1 record.  Their offense is all about the rushing attack, which has gained a staggering 2,587 yards so far this season.  Running back Deonte Williams leads the way with 1,094 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground, but that accounts for less than half of the Mustangs rushing output.

    Overall, the Big Sky has the most high-level teams of any conference in the country, giving it the top spot in these conference power rankings.