Midseason FCS conference rankings

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - Don't be fooled by the wild results across FCS college football last weekend. They were more the exception than the rule this season.

In contrast to many recent seasons, there's been relative stability each week, and as a whole it's reflected in the ranking of the 13 conferences.

How the conferences were perceived going into the season has played out quite well.

Here's a midseason ranking of FCS conferences:

1. Missouri Valley Football Conference (preseason ranking: 1) - Having two of the three top teams since the preseason - No. 1 North Dakota State, winner of seven of the last eight FCS national titles, and No. 3 South Dakota State - raises the Valley, which won the Big Sky-MVFC Challenge for a third straight season. Illinois State, UNI and Youngstown State also are in the Top 25, while Southern Illinois claimed one of three FCS wins over the FBS (UMass).

2. Big Sky Conference (preseason ranking: 2) - The depth is terrific with five teams nationally ranked: No. 4 Weber State, No. 5 Montana, No. 12 Montana State, No. 15 Sacramento State and No. 23 UC Davis. It's odd to see Eastern Washington below .500, but the 2018 national runner-up hopes to rally to another playoff bid.

3. CAA Football (preseason ranking: 3) - Having the unranked team beat the ranked team in four conference games last Saturday underscores the depth. The week's lone ranked winner, No. 2 James Madison, happened to do it in a Top 5 matchup with Villanova. New Hampshire joins JMU atop the standings.

4. Southland Conference (preseason ranking: 5) - The Southland had three playoff bids last year and may be headed back there with six teams at four wins each this season. Ninth-ranked Nicholls leads the way with three double-figure conference wins, and Sam Houston State and UIW aren't far behind. Out of conference, Southeastern Louisiana (Jacksonville State) and Central Arkansas (Western Kentucky) made waves.

5. Southern Conference (preseason ranking: 4) - Eighth-ranked Furman is the team to beat in what's been a disappointing season for the conference. Chattanooga and Wofford are working to overcome subpar starts and upstart VMI hopes to be like ETSU last season. The Citadel has the best win, topping Georgia Tech in overtime.

6. Ohio Valley Conference (preseason ranking: 6) - Having more contenders agrees with the OVC, where No. 16 Jacksonville State, the outright champion for five straight seasons, is playing from behind in the race. UT Martin and No. 20 Austin Peay are the early surprises, while Southeast Missouri, a playoff team last season, and Eastern Kentucky have lost the margin for error. The OVC has wins against teams from eight different conferences.

7. Ivy League (preseason ranking: 7) - Dartmouth has been the best team, although the league's other nationally ranked unbeaten squad, Princeton, is sporting a 14-game winning streak. None of the 13 non-league wins are against a team currently above .500.

8. Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (preseason ranking: 9) - Two-time defending champ North Carolina A&T (a season-high No. 10), Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M are a combined 14-3, and South Carolina State stunned preseason No. 6 Wofford. That adds up to a good season for the MEAC.

9. Big South Conference (preseason ranking: 8) - While two-time defending champion Kennesaw State is ranked sixth nationally, its strength of schedule is in the three digits. Monmouth has proven it can win close games, but the Hawks still have to prove they can keep it close against Kennesaw State.

10. Northeast Conference (preseason ranking: 10) - No. 25 Central Connecticut State has its first national ranking since 2006, and the conference title could come down to the Blue Devils visiting Duquesne on the final day of the regular season. Those two appear to be the class of the NEC.

11. Southwestern Athletic Conference (preseason ranking: 12) - A rematch between Alcorn State and Southern in the SWAC championship game feels inevitable, and that's a strong matchup. Arkansas-Pine Bluff is a surprising 5-2 and has an out-of-conference FCS win, but the SWAC is 3-12 in those matchups.

12. Patriot League (preseason ranking: 11) - The demise of defending champ Colgate, which is 0-7, has been stunning. Holy Cross (New Hampshire) and Fordham (Richmond) have beaten CAA teams and Lehigh has played a strong schedule, although overall the league has struggled out of league.

13. Pioneer Football League (preseason ranking: 13) - San Diego has that look again, and that tends to mean league championship (seven of the last eight seasons). Dayton and Drake appear to be the biggest threats to the Toreros. Credit the non-scholarship PFL for playing a strong non-league schedule.

Updated October 17, 2019

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