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FCS Top 25: Dakotas battle for top spot in Week 3, Towson and Youngstown State move up


The South Dakota State Jackrabbits and two-time reigning national champion North Dakota State continue to duke it out for our top spot while a couple newcomers — Davidson and Central Connecticut State — make their first appearance in our weekly rankings.

Here’s a look at our Week 3 FCS Top 25:

#1. South Dakota State (2-1)

Grinding out 369 yards on the ground, top-ranked South Dakota State had little difficulty in defeating winless Drake 38-10 on Saturday. Backup quarterback Kanin Nelson, substituting for injured J’Bore Gibbs for the second straight week, threw two touchdown passes while completing 12 of 18 passes for 159 yards. The Jackrabbits entertain Southern Utah (1-2) — a 45-38 winner in overtime against Stephen F. Austin — in Brookings this weekend.

#2. North Dakota State (3-0)

The Bison, who looked as invincible as ever in a 47-22 pounding of Delaware on Saturday — the first of four straight nationally-ranked teams they will play over the next three weeks — face Jake Maier-led UC Davis (2-1) this weekend. The airborne Aggies, who put up a decent effort against Pac-12 California in their season opener, head to Fargo on a two-game winning streak after pummeling visiting Lehigh 41-13 in their home opener on Saturday night. Maier threw for 389 yards and four touchdowns in that rout.

#3. James Madison (2-1)

Senior Ben DiNucci tossed a career-high four touchdown passes in a little over two quarters of action and seven different players scored touchdowns as JMU routed Morgan State 63-12 on Saturday afternoon in Harrisonburg, Va. The Dukes, who racked up 507 yards of total offense against their MEAC visitors, travel to Chattanooga (1-2) this weekend for the first of three straight road games that will also feature contests at Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) rivals Elon and Stony Brook. The Mocs, who compete in the Southern Conference, lost 45-0 at Tennessee on Saturday.

#4. UC Davis (2-1)

All eyes will be on Fargo this Saturday when UC Davis takes on two-time defending national champion North Dakota State. Playing on the road, the Aggies will try to do what Delaware was unable to do while playing at home this past weekend. This promises to be a good one.

#5. Weber State (1-2)

For the second time this season, the Wildcats battled an FBS opponent down to the wire before losing to the Nevada Wolf Pack 19-13 on Saturday night. Weber State has a well-deserved bye this week before hosting nationally-ranked Northern Iowa on Sept. 28.

#6. Northern Iowa (1-1)

The Panthers, who drew a bye this past weekend, host Idaho State (1-1) on Saturday. The Bengals are coming off a 31-0 loss to nationally-ranked Utah before a crowd of 45,989 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

#7. Towson (3-0)

Following an impressive 45-23 road win against defending CAA champion Maine over the weekend, undefeated Towson moves up four spots in our weekly poll. It was the second straight year that the Tigers opened conference play with a victory on the road against a nationally-ranked team. In a battle of unbeaten teams, Towson hosts Villanova (3-0) on Saturday before heading into SEC territory for a game against the Florida Gators on Sept. 28.

#8. Kennesaw State (2-1)

Rebounding from a heartbreaking overtime loss to FBS Kent State a week earlier, the Owls had no trouble walloping Alabama State 42-7 in Montgomery, Alabama, on Saturday. KSU, which rushed for 481 yards in the lopsided victory, remains on the road when it visits Missouri State (0-2) — a 58-6 victim at the hands of Tulane — on Saturday.

#9. Youngstown State (3-0)

Off to their strongest start since 2012, the undefeated Penguins continued to impress with a dominating 34-14 victory over turnover-plagued Duquesne on Saturday. YSU has a bye week before hosting winless Robert Morris (0-3) in a 6 p.m. contest at Stambaugh Stadium on Sept. 28.

#10. Jacksonville State (2-1)

Overcoming a 21-point deficit, the Gamecocks rallied to defeat visiting Eastern Washington 49-45 on Saturday night before a frenzied crowd of 20,901. JSU hosts longtime rival North Alabama (1-2) in a non-conference tilt on Saturday.

#11. Villanova (3-0)

Coach Mark Ferrante’s Wildcats remained undefeated with an impressive 45-10 win at Bucknell this past weekend. Villanova faces a huge test on Saturday when it travels to Towson for an important CAA matchup.

#12. Eastern Washington (1-2)

The explosive Eagles, who led Jacksonville State for 48 minutes on Saturday, will try to regroup at Idaho on Saturday.

Furman Paladins quarterback Darren Grainger (Photo by Brian Bishop/Icon Sportswire)

#13. Furman (1-2)

The Paladins led Virginia Tech 14-3 at halftime, but couldn’t hang on and suffered their second defeat of the season — both against FBS foes. Furman should have better luck this weekend when it hosts Mercer (2-1).

#14. Montana (2-1)

Bobby Hauck’s Grizzlies, who gave Oregon a tougher time on Saturday than the 35-3 final score would indicate, host Monmouth on Saturday. Montana’s ubiquitous Dante Olson, a 6-3, 240-pound linebacker, was spectacular against the Ducks, coming up with fourteen stops, including ten solo tackles.

#15. Central Arkansas (3-0)

A 22-point fourth quarter lifted Central Arkansas to a thrilling 31-30 win over Southland Conference rival Abilene Christian. UCA, which had never led in the game until the final minute and thirty seconds, plays Hawaii (2-1) in Honolulu on Saturday night.

#16. Montana State (2-1)

Montana State, which held off Western Illinois 23-14 in a non-conference road game on Saturday, hosts Norfolk State (1-2) in Bozeman this weekend.

#17. Illinois State (2-1)

After a disappointing 24-10 season opening loss to Northern Illinois, the Redbirds have been as hot as their color, defeating Morehead State 42-14 and Eastern Illinois 21-3. ISU hosts Northern Arizona on Saturday.

North Dakota State defeated Delaware on Saturday

#18. Delaware (2-1)

The Blue Hens will try to shake off their loss to reigning national champion North Dakota State when they host the Ivy League’s Penn Quakers on Saturday. It will be Pennsylvania’s first game of the season.

#19. Maine (1-2)

With back-to-back losses at Georgia Southern and at home to Towson, the Black Bears will try to get back on the winning side of the ledger when they travel to Hamilton, N.Y., to take on Colgate (0-3).

#20. Southeastern Louisiana (1-1)

The Lions, who threw a genuine scare into Ole Miss before falling 40-29 this past weekend, host Lamar (2-1) on Saturday night at Strawberry Stadium in Hammond.

#21. Nicholls (1-1)

The road-weary Colonels, who had a harder time than expected in a 42-35 win at Prairie View A&M, play their third straight road game when they visit Stephen F. Austin (0-3) on Saturday.

#22. North Carolina A&T (2-1)

The Aggies, who defeated Charleston Southern 27-21 on the road on Saturday, have a bye until Thursday, Sept. 26th, when they host Delaware State.

#23. Duquesne (1-1)

The Dukes dropped thirteen spots after being drubbed by Youngstown State this past weekend. Playing the second of three straight road games, Jerry Schmitt’s Dukes travel to Dayton (2-0) on Saturday. The Flyers are coming off a closer-than-expected 23-22 win at winless Robert Morris.

#24. Davidson (3-0)

The undefeated Wildcats, a 41-0 victor over Div. II West Virginia Wesleyan, play at Campbell on Saturday before beginning Pioneer League play the following week.

#25. Central Connecticut State (3-0)

Top 25 newcomer CCSU remained perfect with a 42-13 win at Valparaiso. The Blue Devils, who compete in the Northeast Conference (NEC), take on FBS Eastern Michigan (2-1) of the Mid-American Conference on Saturday in Ypsilanti, Mich. Eastern Michigan defeated Illinois 34-31 this past weekend.

Darcy G. Richardson is a historian and the author of more than a dozen books. His latest is Loyola's Improbable Ramblers: 55 Years in the Making, available now on Amazon.

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