Don't sleep on these FCS teams
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By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - The FCS season is heating up with wins over FBS opponents and Top 25 clashes drawing significant attention. All of the upcoming conference action will raise the temperature even more.
With 126 teams, too many good stories get a bit overlooked on the national level.
But fast starts from teams outside the national rankings deserve early attention. Some may take the next step in conference play, some will fade toward preseason expectations.
Still, don't sleep on these seven teams as they try to build on their early success:
Central Connecticut State (3-0)
The 2017 Northeast Conference champ is off to its first 3-0 start since 2006. Under interim coach Ryan McCarthy, the Blue Devils are playing five of their first six games on the road. Quarterback Aaron Wincester, a Georgia State graduate transfer, has been excellent and the offensive line is clearing room for the FCS' No. 5 rushing offense. The Blue Devils have nine takeaways, scoring off three of them.
Sacramento State (2-1)
The Hornets have matched last year's win total, but the Big Sky squad is a much different team in coach Troy Taylor's first season. The key is dual-threat quarterback Kevin Thomson being healthy again as his 11 total touchdowns lead an offense that's ranked third nationally in points and yards per game. A balanced defense limited Arizona State to one touchdown in the Hornets' 19-7 loss.
Austin Peay (2-1)
The Governors, under new coach Mark Hudspeth, have multiple offensive threats, none bigger than all-purpose back Kentel Williams. An unproven defensive line has risen to the challenge by holding three opponents to a combined 128 net rushing yards on 90 carries. Fresh off going on the road to hand Mercer its first defeat, the Govs' schedule will stay rugged with a trip to ETSU before Ohio Valley Conference home games against Jacksonville State and Southeast Missouri.
William & Mary (2-1)
Let the roll of new coaches continue with Mike London doing well to replace the legendary Jimmye Laycock. The CAA squad has hit the 30-point mark in wins twice, which doubles the times it was there the last two seasons combined. Freshman quarterback Hollis Mathis is getting more comfortable, and the Tribe, whose defense features Isaiah Laster and Corey Parker in the secondary, has forced 10 turnovers, which is tied for the national high.
South Carolina State (2-1)
In the last two weeks, the Bulldogs have hammered Division II Lane and was hammered by South Florida. The more telling game was the season opener, a decisive win over two-time defending Southern Conference champ Wofford. The defense has 28 tackles for loss, led by freshman linebacker B.J. Davis with six, and quarterback Tyrece Nick is a superb on runs. Coach Buddy Pough's team may be growing up into a MEAC title contender.
It's time for the Wildcats to schedule tougher out-of-conference games because the culture is completely changed under second-year coach Scott Abell. They're 9-5 since the start of last season - a win total the Pioneer Football League team didn't reach in the 2012-17 seasons combined. The rushing offense is ranked fourth in the FCS after being first last season. The defense is much-improved behind dominating defensive end Bryce Perry-Martin.
Houston Baptist (2-1)
Home games against Northwestern State and Texas Southern (a combined 0-6) give the Huskies the chance to continue their early success under coach Vic Shealy. They nearly beat UTEP and won at South Dakota to earn STATS FCS National Team of the Week. Bailey Zappe (1,062 passing yards, 10 TDs) directs the FCS' top-ranked offense. Seven of the six-year-old Southland squad's top 10 offensive yardage totals have come since the start of the 2018 season. Defensive end Andre Walker has an FCS-high 7½ sacks.
Updated September 19, 2019