The Bluebloods 2023 Preseason FCS Top-25 is officially here.
I have the honor of representing The Bluebloods each week in the FCS Stats Perform Top-25 Poll for the 2023 season. Each week I will release my official ballot and provide analysis on my selections throughout the season.
South Dakota State will look to defend the first FCS National Championship in school history. New head coach Jimmy Rogers will lead the Jackrabbits into 2023 after former head coach John Stiegelmeier retired after the season.
25. Youngstown State
Next Game: Valparaiso (Aug. 31)
24. Florida A&M
Next Game: Jackson State (Sep. 3)
23. Rhode Island
Next Game: @ Georgia State (Aug. 31)
Next Game: @ Appalachian State (Sep. 2)
21. Jackson State
Next Game: South Carolina State (Aug. 26)
20. Eastern Kentucky
Next Game: @ Cincinnati (Sep. 2)
Next Game: North Alabama (Aug. 26)
18. Southeastern Louisiana
Next Game: @ Mississippi State (Sep. 2)
Next Game: Butler (Sep. 2)
16. UC Davis
Next Game: @ Texas A&M-Commerce (Aug. 31)
15. North Dakota
Next Game: Drake (Sep. 2)
14. New Hampshire
Next Game: Stonehill (Sep. 2)
13. North Carolina Central
Next Game: Winston-Salem State (Sep. 2)
12. Weber State
Next Game: Central Washington (Aug. 31)
11. Sacramento State
Next Game: @ Nicholls State (Aug. 31)
10. Incarnate Word
Next Game: @ UTEP (Sep. 2)
9. Southeast Missouri State
Next Game: @ Kansas State (Sep. 2)
Next Game: Shorter (Aug. 31)
Next Game: @ Lamar (Aug. 31)
6. Holy Cross
Next Game: Merrimack (Sep. 2)
Next Game: Tennessee Tech (Aug. 31)
4. William & Mary
Next Game: @ Campbell (Aug. 31)
3. North Dakota State
Next Game: Eastern Washington (Sep. 2)
2. Montana State
Next Game: Utah Tech (Sep. 2)
1. South Dakota State
Next Game: Western Oregon (Aug. 31)
Honorable Mentions: Austin Peay, Chattanooga, Delaware, Elon, Northern Iowa, UT Martin
South Dakota State will be the consensus No. 1 team entering the season. The Jackrabbits return 18 starters from last season, including eight preseason FCS All-Americans. Running backs Isaiah Davis and Amar Johnson will be able to produce at a high level behind an offensive line that returns all five starters. Linebacker Adam Bock and defensive back DyShawn Gales will lead a defensive unit that finished No. 3 in scoring defense last season. The Jackrabbits have all the pieces in place to make a run at another FCS National Championship in 2023.
Montana State enters the season with fewer question marks than North Dakota State. The Bobcats return the top seven offensive linemen from last season, along with Sean Chambers and Tommy Mellott at quarterback. Injuries forced multiple running backs to step up throughout the 2022 season, which should benefit the Bobcats this season. Insert Wisconsin transfer Julius Davis and the Bobcats could field one of the best rushing attacks in the country once again. The question mark can be found on the defensive side of the ball. I expect the defensive line to take a massive step forward, but the secondary remains a question mark entering August.
Incarnate Word enters its third consecutive season with a new head coach and quarterback. The Cardinals have an extremely favorable schedule and landing former Texas A&M Zach Calzada should pay off in a big way in 2023. New head coach Clint Killough did a great job of landing productive transfers, including All-Conference defensive lineman Marcus Brown and EDGE Ayodele Adeoye. I expect the Cardinals to still compete for a conference championship and with an FBS win over UTEP could find their way into a top-eight seed again.
North Carolina Central was one of the surprise teams from the 2022 season, which ended with the first Celebration Bowl victory in school history. Trei Oliver may have the best team of his tenure with the Eagles, led by All-American quarterback Davius Richard. All-American Khalil Baker will lead a defense that returns nine starters and 18 players from the two-deep. The hype seems to be real surrounding the Eagles and I expect Oliver to lead this team back to Atlanta for the Celebration Bowl.
Furman and Idaho enter the season with tremendous hype after both teams made FCS playoff runs last season. The Paladins bring back 18 starters from a team that was 9-2 against FCS competition, including a loss to Samford without starting quarterback Tyler Huff. Furman has one of the best returning offensive lines in the country with two FCS All-Americans (Jacob Johanning & Pearson Toomey). The Vandals are the only team in the country returning multiple 1,000-yard wide receivers (Hayden Hatten & Jermaine Jackson). Jerry Rice Award winner Gevani McCoy and leading rusher Anthony Woods also return for the Vandals.
Sacramento State and Weber State are two teams that experienced roster turnover after coaching changes this offseason. Some voters are skeptical of the ceiling for these teams, but neither team is lacking talent.
The Hornets’ defense will be led by All-Conference performers Armon Bailey, Jett Stanley, and Caleb Nelson. Former South Dakota quarterback Carson Camp is expected to step into the void left by Jake Dunniway and Asher O’Hara. The new quarterback will be helped by All-American tight end Marshel Martin and an offensive line that returns four starters from last season.
Weber State will be led by new head coach Mickey Mental, who will be tasked with replacing multiple starters from last season’s squad. The offensive line should still be a strength for the Wildcats, while Damon Bankston seems primed for a major season. All-Americans Winston Reid and Maxwell Anderson both return to lead the Weber State defense, while Abraham Williams is a game-changing return specialist for the Wildcats.
Youngstown State is the final-ranked team after a much-improved 7-4 season. The Penguins offense could take another massive step forward with nine returning starters, including wide receiver Bryce Oliver and offensive lineman Jaison Williams. Replacing All-American Jaleel McLaughlin will be tough, but the Penguins have multiple talented players ready to step into a bigger role. Defensive linemen Dylan Wudke and Chris Fitzgerald are two names to know defensively entering 2023.
Jackson State enters the season with multiple question marks after winning back-to-back SWAC championships. The Tigers lost multiple top contributors from last season but landed the No. 2 ranked FCS high school recruiting class and brought in almost 20 FBS transfers. Delaware State defensive back Esaias Guthrie and running back Irv Mulligan should all be major contributors for the Tigers. The Tigers also return All-Conference tight end DJ Stevens and defensive tackle Devonta Davis. We have seen multiple teams be able to utilize the transfer portal to reload under a new head coach and Jackson State could be the next example.