College football has been all about conference realignment this summer. However, the moving and shaking among teams isn't restricted to the highest level of the sport. Some teams that made conference moves this offseason occupy -- or did occupy -- a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Here are the highlights:
- We bid farewell to Jacksonville State and Sam Houston, both of which have jumped to the FBS and Conference USA.
- Kennesaw State will play its final season in the FCS and follow Jacksonville State and Sam Houston to Conference USA next year.
- The Colonial Athletic Association is now called the Coastal Athletic Association to better represent their new membership. The CAA jumped to 15 teams after Campbell and North Carolina A&T joined the mix.
- Because of the conference uncertainty within both organizations, the Big South and Ohio Valley Conference have formed an alliance to combine their football programs into one: The Big South-OVC.
- Murray State, which left the Ohio Valley Conference, has now joined the Missouri Valley Conference.
You got all that?
Who does return? The reigning national champion South Dakota State Jackrabbits, who are breaking in a new boss after the retirement of legendary coach John Stiegelmeier. What the Jackrabbits accomplished last season in the title game by knocking off their hated rival North Dakota State was nothing short of impressive.
It's only right that they lead off our preseason FCS top 25 as the No. 1 team in the nation.
|1. South Dakota State||0-0||What better way for legendary coach John Stiegelmeier to ride off into the sunset than by winning a national championship? New coach and longtime staff member Jimmy Rogers takes over the Jackrabbits with plans to make yet another trip to Frisco, Texas.|
|2. Montana State||0-0||The Bobcats play a brand of football that makes them tough to defend on any given Saturday. As long as Touchdown Tommy Mellott is under center, the Bobcats will be favorites in the Big Sky.|
|3. William & Mary||0-0||Coach Mike London's Tribe put together an excellent 2022 season, making it to the playoffs. Run game and defense can still win you games in today's era, and the Tribe's defense is one of the best in the FCS.|
|4. North Dakota State||0-0||I'm looking forward to seeing explosive plays return to North Dakota State this year. The Bison were missing those last season. Also, if they can get back to playing the dominant defense we're used to seeing from them, they'll be right back in the thick of the national title race.|
|5. Sacramento State||0-0||New coach in Andy Thompson, who has been the defensive coordinator since 2019, will help continue the buzz around this team, especially on that side of the ball where they tend to wreak havoc.|
|6. Incarnate Word||0-0||Replacing 2022 Walter Payton Award winner Lindsey Scott Jr. will be tough, but bringing in former Texas A&M signal-caller Zach Calzada will help keep the Cardinals afloat -- and dangerous.|
|7. Holy Cross||0-0||You can make a case for Crusaders coach Bob Chesney as the best in the FCS. The dominance his teams have displayed across the Patriot League is impressive. Look for QB Matthew Sluka to push for Payton Award consideration as well.|
|8. Weber State||0-0||The Wildcats will be a pesky team, especially on defense. Between their defense and special teams they will win a bevy of games. Offensively, they do replace some keep production at QB and WR, but the cupboard isn't bare by a long shot.|
|9. Montana||0-0||I'm interested to see what QB Kris Brown can do this year as he steps into the starting role. The Griz are an experienced group on both sides of the ball, so a lot will be riding on Brown's growth and development.|
|10. Southeast Missouri State||0-0||Getting all-time leading rusher Geno Hess back for a sixth season definitely helps the offense. The Redhawks are looking to right some wrongs after their postseason loss to Montana.|
|11. New Hampshire||0-0||UNH wouldn't go away last season and ended up beating Fordham in the first round of the playoffs. That experience should make this year's version of the Wildcats a more known commodity around the FCS.|
|12. Samford||0-0||The Bulldogs will always have excellent play at QB, and senior Michael Hiers will have Samford's offense rolling once again. If the defense can get up to speed, look out.|
|13. Idaho||0-0||I am a huge fan of Vandals QB Gevani McCoy, who won the Jerry Rice Award last year given to the top freshman in the FCS. McCoy led the Vandals to the postseason and should take an even bigger step forward with plenty of help on that side of the ball. o|
|14. Furman||0-0||An experienced Paladins team looks to make another trip to the postseason. Furman might be one of the more well-balanced teams in the country this year.|
|15. Southeastern Louisiana||0-0||SLU usually beat teams up along the lines of scrimmage. It's one of the more under-discussed points about this team. Guess what ... they are strong there again this year.|
|16. Richmond||0-0||The offense moves forward after losing a lot of production from last season, but expect the defense to lead from the front until the offense finds its spidey senses.|
|17. UC Davis||0-0||Coach Dan Hawkins has built a solid, consistent program. I'm looking forward to seeing what RB Lan Larison can do as the featured back, replacing the great Ulonzo Gilliam.|
|18. Eastern Kentucky||0-0||QB Parker McKinney leads an uptempo Colonels offense that puts a ton of strain on any defense. Defensively is where I expect the biggest improvement to come from this season.|
|19. North Carolina Central||0-0||The reigning Celebration Bowl champions are armed with the best QB in the MEAC in Davius Richard and a defense that has studs at every level. Expect the Eagles to be the frontrunners to make a return trip to Atlanta in December.|
|20. Central Arkansas||0-0||The Bears may have the best one-two punch at running back with Darius Hale and ShunDerrick Powell.|
|21. Florida A&M||0-0||No one talks about the job that Rattlers coach Willie Simmons has done. I like how Florida A&M is built along both sides of the line of scrimmage.|
|22. Delaware||0-0||Replacing Nolan Henderson at QB will be tough, but the saving grace is that whoever takes over will have a solid team around him. The Blue Hens could be a fly in the ointment in the CAA.|
|23. Mercer||0-0||WR Devron Harper is one of the more dynamic talents in the FCS. It's been incremental steps forward for the Bears program, and we'll see if this is the year they can finally break through the playoff wall.|
|24. Gardner-Webb||0-0||Coach Tre Lamb has changed the culture at Gardner-Webb. Last year, the Bulldogs made the postseason for the first time in program history and won their first conference title in 19 years. Expectations are high coming into the season, but so is the talent on this roster.|
|25. Youngstown State||I may be in the minority, but I believe the Penguins have a stud in QB Mitch Davidson. Don't look now, but the Penguins could become a playoff team by season's end.|