10 takeaways from FCS Week 7

CRAIG HALEY (STATS FCS Senior Editor=)

(STATS) - Through the first six weeks of the regular season (oh yes, Week Zero - so seven!), only six teams had moved into the STATS FCS Top 25 since the preseason poll.

The season of relative steadiness imploded in Week 7 as 11 ranked teams dropped games, leaving voters left to pick up the many pieces of fractured ballots.

Here are 10 takeaways from Week 7 of the FCS season:

- As they were beating Top 10 opponents at the same time on Saturday, a question appeared obvious: Are North Dakota State and James Madison on another collision course in the FCS playoffs? There's little reason to jump too far ahead, but let's do it anyway. Top-ranked North Dakota State (6-0, 2-0 MVFC) handled No. 10 Northern Iowa 46-14 for its 27th straight win, second only in FCS history to the Bison's 33-game winning streak from 2012-14. They would tie the record run by winning out in the regular season. In the FCS Game of the Week, No. 2 James Madison (6-1, 3-0 CAA) scored the final 21 points - all in the fourth quarter - of a 38-24 win over previously unbeaten and No. 5 Villanova. The Dukes forced four turnovers on Villanova's final five possessions, highlighted by safety MJ Hampton's 83-yard interception return for a touchdown to break a 24-24 tie. Their upcoming schedule makes it appear the Dukes will win the conference title.

- The feel-good story in the CAA comes from the team tied with James Madison atop the standings. New Hampshire has reeled off four straight wins behind interim coach Ricky Santos, including 20-14 at Stony Brook for its third in a row in conference. The Wildcats have yet to score more than 27 points in a game, but they're grinding out wins, just as they learned under two-time Eddie Robinson Award-winning coach Sean McDonnell, who is on a medical leave of absence.

- Even when Yale won the 2017 Ivy League title, it lost to Dartmouth. The Big Green (4-0, 2-0 Ivy League) simply know how to beat the Bulldogs, making it seven times in the last eight seasons by cruising 42-10 in a highly anticipated battle of unbeatens. The win was coach Buddy Teevens' 100th in 20 seasons with the Big Green, and afterward he astutely said "No. 101 is more important right now." Although opponents have held the ball on average for five-plus more minutes per game and run 48 more plays, Dartmouth has outscored the opposition 143-34.

- Like Dartmouth, Sacramento State and Austin Peay were among the first five teams sitting outside the Top 25 last week and they probably will step in from the porch. Sac State handled No. 6 Montana State on the road and Austin Peay added No. 20 Southeast Missouri State to its OVC victims list which began with five-time defending champ Jacksonville State. New Hampshire figures to get plenty of love, too.

- Interceptions plagued VMI quarterback Reece Udinski last season, as his 16 were one off the FCS high. It included his final pass in the season finale. But this year, the junior's in dominating form, completing nearly 65 percent of his 296 passes without an interception, a record in the Southern Conference. After winning only six games in coach Scott Wachenheim's first four seasons, the Keydets are 4-3 overall and 3-1 in conference following a 48-41 overtime triumph over Samford. Udinski was 37 of 46 for 390 yards, and Alex Ramsey rushed for a school-record six TDs, giving him 15 this season.

- San Diego's 31-game winning streak against Pioneer Football League opponents is made even more amazing by the Toreros' ability to handle long road trips. They're always all-business, beating Davidson 37-17 behind Reid Sinnett's five touchdown passes and by shutting down Davidson's option offense and scoring the final 27 points. With no geographically close opponent in the coast-to-coast PFL, the Toreros have 10 wins in the Eastern time zone and another five in the Central time zone during the winning streak. Coach Dale Lindsey's program also has made cross-country trips to Princeton and Harvard out of league during the run.

- With two-time defending champ North Carolina A&T (4-1, 2-0) on a bye, the MEAC got even more interesting as Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M - both 5-1 and 3-0 - inched ahead in the standings. FAMU is under NCAA sanctions and ineligible for the postseason, so the conference race will turn a bit messier if it beats N.C. A&T next Saturday - something record-setting quarterback Ryan Stanley and the Rattlers did last season. Bethune-Cookman doesn't get the other two MEAC unbeatens until the final two weeks of the regular season next month.

- Southern has a firm hold on first place in the SWAC's West Division after a 34-28 win over Prairie View A&M. The Jaguars (3-3, 2-0), who also have beaten second-place Arkansas-Pine Bluff, have won 14 of their last 15 home games. Quarterback Ladarius Skelton scored after the Jags blocked a punt and Devon Benn added a late touchdown. Alcorn State has the early lead in the East Division, and a rematch in the SWAC championship game is brewing.

- The Southland race keeps one's head spinning. Sam Houston State fell in three overtimes to Lamar to drop out of first place, but it will have a chance to do the same to preseason favorite Nicholls next Saturday when they square off. UIW, which earned a share of last year's title with Nicholls, has reeled off three straight wins, including 27-21 at Southeastern Louisiana, to jump back into the crowded race. Central Arkansas is only a game behind, but its conference loss is to the Colonels.

If your scorecard is not up to date, the remaining unbeaten teams are down to No. 1 North Dakota State (6-0), No. 21 Princeton (4-0) and Dartmouth (4-0). Incredibly, there are nine teams without a win: Colgate (0-7), Eastern Illinois (0-7), Lafayette (0-6), Long Island (0-5), Northwestern State (0-6), Presbyterian (0-6), Texas Southern (0-6), Valparaiso (0-6) and Western Illinois (0-6).