College Football

Five takeaways from FCS Week 3

By CRAIG HALEY

Stats Perform FCS Senior Editor

(Stats Perform) - Go ahead, try to assemble a Top 25 after this weekend's FCS college football schedule.

Or try a Rubik's Cube - it's easier.

Eleven of the 20 ranked teams in action suffered losses during a head-spinning Week 3, even No. 1 North Dakota State via a blowout, which almost never happens.

It was madness before March.

Here are five takeaways from Week 3:

- Considering its position as the strongest FCS league, the big picture usually dominates with the Missouri Valley Football Conference, with many results impacting national scenarios and the postseason picture. But Southern Illinois (2-1, 1-1), which is seeking its first FCS playoff bid since 2009, proved how it's always good to embrace the here and now and not worry about the what-ifs. The Salukis surely won't have a bigger win the rest of the season than their 38-14 demolition of North Dakota State, which ended the three-time defending national champ's 39-game (FCS record) and 19-game (MVFC record) winning streaks. As coach Nick Hill said afterward, the win leaves a legacy.

- Unlike with NDSU previously, there may not be a consensus No. 1 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 on Monday. The debate is half the fun. James Madison (2-0) would stand to move up from No. 2 following a tougher-than-expected, 36-16 win over Robert Morris, but support could be there for No. 4 Weber State (1-0) as well as surprise MVFC newcomer and leader North Dakota (2-0) after it beat No. 3 South Dakota State for its second straight Top 25 win. NDSU (2-1) won't remain in the conversation, but probably should given the dynasty program's recent history of being dropped too far after a loss, only to climb back up the rankings. The Bison have been No. 1 in the last 32 polls dating to the final 2017 rankings, and JMU predated them for 14 straight polls. The last team to be No. 1 other than those two programs was an undefeated Sam Houston at the end of the 2016 regular season.

- In a conference that this past fall featured one record-setting performance after another from former Houston Baptist quarterback Bailey Zappe, the Southland may come down to the last defense standing. Its teams have scored 38 or more points in six of their first eight opportunities, and 38 wasn't even enough for Southeastern Louisiana when it fell 43-38 at Sam Houston in a wild game that featured over 1,200 yards of offense. Also, a revamped UIW dropped 48 on McNeese to spoil the Cowboys' first game on campus six months after it was ravaged by the first of two hurricanes, while two-time defending champ Nicholls "only" scored 55 a week after setting the program standard with 87. The conference race is sure to be breathless.

- The spring season is giving the FCS a Division I spotlight, and the Ohio Valley Conference is taking it to another level with Sunday conference games. Austin Peay redshirt sophomore Brian Snead commanded the spotlight this weekend, scoring on 75-, 67- and 44-yard touchdown runs on the Governors' first four plays and setting an FCS record for rushing yards in a quarter (204) as they beat Tennessee State 27-20. Jacksonville State and Southeast Missouri are the ranked teams in a closely matched race. The Northeast Conference also will play on Sundays, beginning next weekend, which will lead up to its biggest spotlight - the conference's first-ever championship game on April 11.

- While the FCS level won't be as decimated by grad transfers to FBS programs this year the way it was in 2020, there's evolution to the scenario/problem - players participating in the spring season who are planning to go to another program for the fall season. VMI quarterback Reece Udinski, the Southern Conference preseason offensive player of the year, will keep adding school records - as he did in an upset of Furman on Saturday - but has committed to playing at Maryland this fall. Holy Cross left tackle Brian Foley will try to win another Patriot League title before heading to Duke. Other players are in the NCAA transfer portal, and FCS All-Americans such Illinois State left tackle Drew Himmelman, who had invites to the East-West Shrine Game and NFL Combine this winter, will be coveted for a move.

Updated February 28, 2021

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