College football top 25: Monmouth enters CBS Sports FCS Power Rankings looking for Big South title

It’s the final week of the regular season in the Football Championship Subdivision, and there’s nothing short of excitement and intrigue in Week 12. Many conferences are still up for grabs, but teams like Holy Cross, Sam Houston and UT-Martin have clinched playoff berths in the Patriot League, AQ7 and Ohio Valley Conference, respectively. 

Last week’s results did a fantastic job of once again muddying up the at-large playoff picture. Teams like Southern Illinois, Chattanooga and South Dakota State — which lost on a Hail Mary to South Dakota — have put multiple scenarios in play because of Week 11 results. 

While some teams have a strong at-large résumé, you never want to leave it up to chance and put your fate in the hands of the selection committee. Teams on the bubble desperately need to end the season with a win. Those on the back end of the Top 25 need to try to elevate a few spots heading into Selection Sunday. 

Here’s how the FCS Power Poll looks heading into Week 12 … 

1. Sam Houston (9-0): The Bearkats haven’t lost a game since late 2019 and riding a 20-game winning streak. How cool would it be for them to run the table and bid farewell to the entire subdivision undefeated in their last two seasons in the FCS?

2. Montana State (9-1): The Brawl of the Wild could decide the Big Sky Conference — or, at least, a share of it for the Bobcats since they don’t get to play Sacramento State.

3. James Madison (9-1): JMU’s only loss was a one-point decision to Villanova. Since then, they haven’t taken their foot off of the gas defensively.

4. Villanova (8-2): The Wildcats play Delaware in a big game this weekend. Can they avoid stubbing their toe against the Blue Hens?

5. North Dakota State (9-1): It may not look the same, but the results tend to remain the same. The Bison are still the Bison, and they’re a team you don’t want to see in the postseason.

6. Sacramento State (8-2): The Hornets can earn a share of the Big Sky title if they bat UC Davis. It’s definitely not an easy task, but it would be a well-earned win. 

7. UT-Martin (9-1): Championship and postseason tickets already in hand, the Skyhawks take on SE Missouri State in a rematch game from earlier in the season.

8. Eastern Washington (8-2): What a huge win over UC Davis for Eastern Washington. That’s now seven wins vs. Division I opponents on the season, including the upset of UNLV in Week 1.

9. East Tennessee State (9-1): ETSU should earn a Top-8 seed in the playoffs if it can take care of business against Mercer. That would give it the outright SoCon title and 10 wins, one of which came over an SEC team in Vanderbilt. This team deserves a first-round bye.

10. Jackson State (9-1): The Tigers are so good on both sides of the ball, they can toy with opponents until the latter parts in the game before turning it on and getting the win. 

11. Montana (8-2): The Griz have a chance to spoil the special regular season of their most hated rival, Montana State, in the Brawl of the Wild.

12. UC Davis (8-2): UC Davis took a loss to Eastern Washington, which took it out of contention for the Big Sky title. It’ll be interesting to see where this team ends up in the postseason. It may have an at-large chance if it can knock off Sacramento State.

13. Incarnate Word (8-2): UIW controls its own destiny in the Southland Conference race. 

14. Southeastern Louisiana (8-2): The Lions will be the biggest Nicholls fans, hoping for a Colonels victory over UIW this week.

15. Kennesaw State (9-1): The Big South Championship is on the line this week against Monmouth. The last three seasons have come down to these two playing for the title.

16. South Dakota State (7-3): As good as this team has been all season, even dating back to the spring, the Jackrabbits can’t afford another loss. Right now, they only have six DI wins on the season and the magic number is seven. Hopefully, they learned last week to always blitz the QB on a Hail Mary attempt.

17. Missouri State (7-3): It’s been a really good year for Missouri State. It’s riding a three-game winning streak and should roll into the playoffs playing its best ball.

18. Dartmouth (8-1): A Big Green win over Brown coupled with a Princeton loss means Dartmouth wins the outright Ivy League title. Coach Buddy Teevens is one of the best in the country.

19. Florida A&M (8-2): With seven DI wins and a seven-game winning streak, more than just bragging rights hinge on this annual Florida Classic rivalry game vs. Bethune-Cookman. The Rattlers are thinking of the FCS Playoffs.

20. Mercer (7-2): Mercer can’t afford a loss against ETSU, as it would only have six DI wins and its résumé would be put under scrutiny, which could keep it out of the playoffs. This is essentially a play-in game.

21. South Dakota (7-3): With their Hail Mary victory over South Dakota State, the Coyotes have now entered the at-large bid conversation.

22. Holy Cross (8-2): The Cruisaders did an excellent job in the Bronx last weekend, knocking off Fordham for the Patriot League title. Coach Bob Chesney is one of the bright young stars in the profession. 

23. Stephen F. Austin (7-3): The Lumberjacks have quietly positioned themselves to snag an at-large bid. Winners of four straight games, they need this one against Abilene Christian, as it would give them the requisite seven DI wins. But is the résumé strong enough?

24. Monmouth (7-3): Monmouth has fought through a ton of adversity to get itself in position to win a Big South championship. Can the Hawks finish the drill like they did in 2019?

25. Sacred Heart (7-3): The Pioneers need to win in order to gain the automatic bid in the playoffs coming from the Northeast Conference. 

Just Missed the Cut: Prairie View A&M, Princeton, Davidson

The Czar’s Games of the Week

Florida A&M vs. Bethune-Cookman: The Florida Classic has been played between these two HBCUs since 1925, with FAMU leading the overall series 50-24-1. However, what makes this intriguing is that Bethune-Cookman has won the last eight games in the series, oftentimes spoiling the Rattlers hopes of getting to the Celebration Bowl or having a winning season. 

This particular game has just as much at stake for Florida A&M. If the Rattlers can win convincingly, it strengthens their case to snag an at-large bid in the playoffs. All of the pressure is on Florida A&M. Bethune-Cookman is playing with house money. It’s won two straight games with a chance to push for three while knocking its rival out of postseason contention. Look for this to come down to the wire, but with the Rattlers being able to slither past the Wildcats. Pick: Florida A&M 30, Bethune-Cookman 27

Montana State at Montana: I’ve been saying “The Brawl of the Wild” for this entire article, so it would be a crime if I didn’t have this game under the “Game of the Week” section. Montana State, despite having the better record, still feels as though it’s in a “prove it” type situation on a national scale. The Bobcats just aren’t getting enough respect nationally for their outstanding season. Across the state, the Griz are trying to let people know that they are a legit national title contender despite some of their slip-ups. What this game will come down to is offense and which side can maximize its possessions. For my money, that team is the one currently sitting at No. 2 in this poll. Pick: Montana State 21, Montana 17

The Czar’s Upset of the Week

Rhode Island at Elon: Rhode Island jumped back into the at-large picture with its upset win over UMass a few weeks ago, and it would love to get an eighth DI win against an Elon squad that’s probably ready for this wretched season to end. But, this Rams team tends to sleepwalk early in ball games. Elon has shown the ability to generate splash plays, so by the time the Rams wake up it may be in the offseason and not the postseason. Pick: Elon 27, Rhode Island 21

The Czar’s SportsLine Lock of the Week

Monmouth at Kennesaw State: This is for all of the marbles. The automatic bid is at stake once again as Monmouth travels to Kennesaw to take on the Owls. We saw the Hawks slay the Kennesaw dragon in 2019, made light work of them in the spring season and will be looking to do it again this weekend. Will Kennesaw State save its best for last against the confident Hawks?  You can find my pick for that game, along with all my Week 12 picks, on Sportsline

Christin Hakim

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