STATS FCS Top 25: Once again, North Dakota State is No. 1
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - When people break down North Dakota State, it's easy to focus on the gaudy win totals, all the rushing yards and the great defensive statistics.
Fourth-year coach Chris Klieman feels something else gets overlooked.
"Our resolve, character," he said, "something you can't quantify as far as statistics on things. That's the neat thing about being in that locker room with those guys, is they're going to battle for each other. They're going to battle for the guy next to them."
Also, for the players who came through the program before them.
There's a responsibility to keep the Bison at the highest level, and this season's team did that, winning a sixth FCS national title in the last seven years with a 17-13 victory over defending champ James Madison in the championship game this past Saturday.
On Monday, the Bison were a unanimous No. 1 in the STATS FCS Top 25. The Missouri Valley Football Conference champ, which tied Georgia Southern for the most all-time FCS national championships with six, collected 158 first-place votes over a No. 2 James Madison squad that had been top-ranked all season. Both teams finished with 14-1 records.
While James Madison and coach Mike Houston were denied back-to-back FCS championships, the Dukes went unbeaten in CAA Football for the second consecutive season.
National semifinalists South Dakota State (11-3) and Sam Houston State (12-2) finished at No. 3 and 4, respectively. South Dakota State handed North Dakota State its only loss during the regular season, while Sam Houston advanced to the final four for the fifth time in the last seven seasons.
Big Sky co-champ Weber State (11-3) finished at No. 5. The rest of the Top 10 was Southern Conference champ Wofford (10-3); MEAC champ North Carolina A&T (12-0), which won the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl; Big South champ Kennesaw State (12-2); Ohio Valley Conference champ Jacksonville State (10-2); and Southland Conference champ Central Arkansas (10-2).
Stony Brook (10-3) was No. 11, followed by New Hampshire (9-5), Western Illinois (8-4), Big Sky co-champ Southern Utah (9-3), South Dakota (8-5), SWAC champ Grambling State (11-2), Northern Iowa (8-5), Samford (8-4), Furman (8-5) and Elon (8-4).
Rounding out the Top 25 were No. 21 Eastern Washington (7-4), McNeese (9-2), Pioneer Football League champ San Diego (10-3), Ivy League champ Yale (9-1) and Nicholls (8-4).
A season-high 11 conferences placed teams in the Top 25. The Missouri Valley had the most teams with five followed by the CAA and Southland with four each.
A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries selected the STATS FCS Top 25. A first-place vote was worth 25 points, a second-place vote 24 points, all the way down to one point for a 25th-place vote.
Updated January 8, 2018