Now that North Dakota State has wrapped up its second consecutive FCS title, we can take a peek at what might be in store for the 2013 season. And 2013 might resemble 2012 in many ways. If you were to predict a preseason top 10 FCS rankings, here’s how one poll might look:
1) North Dakota State – Were you expecting someone else? The Bison, 28-2 during the last two seasons, will go for a three-peat this fall, and they might have the firepower to pull it off. Quarterback Brock Jensen, who was named the most valuable player in Saturday’s championship victory over Sam Houston State, returns as does all-American cornerback Marcus Williams.
2) Eastern Washington – From top to bottom, the Big Sky Conference probably is the best FCS league in the nation. Although quarterback Kyle Padron and wide receiver Brandon Kaufman have elected to skip their final years of eligibility and enter the 2013 NFL Draft, Eastern Washington still has a potent quarterback in Vernon Adams. All Adams did against Sam Houston State in theFCS playoff semifinals was throw for six touchdowns.
3) Georgia Southern – The Eagles came within a whisker of beating North Dakota State in the Fargodome in the semifinals. They lose three-year all-American defensive tackle Brent Russell but return quarterback Jerick McKinnon and fullback Dominique Swope.
4) Montana State – Another Big Sky member whose 11 victories this year were the most in a single season in 28 years. It lost to Sam Houston State 34-16 in the FCS quarterfinals, but quarterback DeNarius McGhee – Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP – returns. Montana State opens the 2013 season at North Dakota State.
5) Appalachian State – Former player and assistant coach Scott Satterfield replaces longtime coach Jerry Moore in Boone, N.C. Quarterback Jamal Jackson returns and that’s a good place to start as the Mountaineers open their season at Montana.
6) Sam Houston State – The Bearkats have the tools to return to Frisco, Texas for a third-straight championship appearance, too. Quarterback Brian Bell returns for his senior season, having won 30 games in his career.
7) Towson – Quarterback Grant Enders is gone, but there’s a lot to like about the Tigers, starting with the presence of running back Terrance West. A veteran offensive line should smooth the progression for either Connor Frazier or Joe Brennan, a Wisconsin transfer, at quarterback. LSU isn’t on the schedule this year, but Connecticut will be the foe for the Tigers’ opener.
8) Cal Poly – The Big Sky team won nine games for the first time since 2005, and it returns 18 starters. Cal Poly lost to Sam Houston State 18-16 in the second round of the playoffs. It does lose its quarterback Andre Broadous and top rusher Deonte Williams.
9) Central Arkansas - The Southland Conference entry went 9-3 overall this season and returns 15 to 16 starters. A relatively young program in terms of FCS play, it’s one to watch.
10) Villanova – Why not? The Wildcats rebounded from a 2-9 campaign to go 8-4 this year. Veteran coach Andy Talley has his quarterback John Robertson and top running back, Kevin Monangai, back for 2013. Villanova made the FCS playoffs but were bumped in the first round by Stony Brook.
Although not mentioned, keep an eye on Montana and Northern Iowa. Both suffered disappointing years for a variety of reasons in 2012, but the perennial FCS contenders should rebound in 2013.