The FCS Top 25 poll for the 2017 college football season was released on August 7, so now it’s time to take a look at five of the most underrated teams at the FCS level this year.
Last season, James Madison was No. 12 in the preseason poll, and the Dukes went on to usurp North Dakota State as the best team in FCS. Will there be a similar surprise this season?
1. Weber State Wildcats – Last week, we highlighted how Weber State has a great chance to knock off Cal in its second game of the season. The Wildcats are going to start the year just outside of the FCS Top 25, but that will change in a hurry.
Weber State has a very good defense, so that will keep it in every game on its schedule save a road trip to Eastern Washington. The Wildcats have a quarterback that lit up the junior college ranks and a set of tight ends that are the envy of the rest of the Big Sky.
There’s a really good chance this team goes 9-2 or better with its schedule. The Wildcats get to feast on all the teams that finished in the bottom half of the Big Sky last season and don’t have to play North Dakota, Northern Arizona or Northern Colorado.
2. Northern Iowa Panthers – They were probably the best FCS team by a wide margin that posted a losing record in 2016. Northern Iowa started the season with a road win over Iowa State, but turnovers and inconsistent quarterback play doomed this squad to a 5-6 mark.
Northern Iowa is bound to be much better in 2017. Eli Dunne emerged as a solid option at quarterback over the last half of 2016 and should be better after a whole offseason of practice. The Panthers do lose the best defensive player in the country, but the defense should still be strong.
There will be some serious value in the Panthers from November on. They close out October with a brutal three-game stretch, but they should do well enough elsewhere to make it to the postseason. Northern Iowa didn’t even receive a vote in the preseason Top 25, but it has playoff talent.
3. Grambling Tigers – The kings of the SWAC start the season at the tail end of the Top 25, but they have a chance at running the table with their schedule. Grambling’s two toughest opponents are in the first two weeks of the season, and the Tigers have a real shot of beating Tulane in the opener.
DeVante Kincade is without question the best quarterback in the conference and one of the best in the FCS period. He is already getting attention from NFL scouts and should light up defenses just like he did last season. Kincade is very accurate with his throws and has the mobility needed to pick up big chunks of yards with his feet.
Grambling will be in a lot of shootouts this season with a mostly new defense, but Kincade should be the best quarterback in every game on the Tigers’ schedule.
4. Delaware Blue Hens – This is all about the faith we have in Danny Rocco. He proved he can turn programs around at both Liberty and Richmond and is now ready to return Delaware to the ranks of the elite.
The problem for the Blue Hens last year was a nonexistent passing game. They were able to move the ball on the ground pretty well and the defense was good, but Delaware was one of four teams in the country to average less than 100 passing yards per game.
Rocco will make sure the production is better this season, and if Delaware can steal a win over William & Mary or Richmond, this team could be back in the playoffs.
5. Lehigh Mountain Hawks – Lehigh is the highest-ranked team on this list, entering the season at No. 17. The Mountain Hawks were one of the best offenses in the country last season and should have the best passing attack east of the Mississippi in 2017.
This team has a bevy of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Brad Mayes has a chance to eclipse 4,000 yards and has fantastic receivers in Troy Pelletier and Gatlin Casey. The defense is going to be questionable, but with an offense like this, it’s hard to count the Mountain Hawks out of any game.