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North Dakota State a unanimous No. 1 in final FCS Top 25 rankings

Bison ascended to top spot after wrapping up ninth FCS national championship on Saturday.

North Dakota State's Destin Talbert and Braylon Henderson hold the trophy after the FCS title game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022.
David Samson/ The Forum

The FCS dynasty never ended at North Dakota State, it just took a small step backward during the spring season — as if being a national quarterfinalist is anything to scoff at.

In the 2021 season, the Bison didn't leave any doubt as to who's No. 1 in college football's Division I subdivision.

Two days after the Bison extended their record of FCS national championships to nine in the last 11 seasons, they were a unanimous No. 1 in the final Stats Perform FCS Top 25 on Monday.

"I think these kids appreciate one another, they appreciate the energy, they appreciate the hard work," said coach Matt Entz, whose 14-1 team routed Montana State 38-10 in the national final.

"This isn't a spotlight program. You're not coming here to be the guy and have gaudy stats. You're coming here to win and, hopefully, win championships and get a degree."


The Bison, who also captured a 10th Missouri Valley Football Conference title in the last 11 seasons, finished atop the national media poll over Montana State. The Bobcats (12-3) from the Big Sky were just ahead of national semifinalist James Madison (12-2), while South Dakota State (11-4), the other semifinalist and only team to beat NDSU during the regular season, was fourth, and Sam Houston (11-1), the FCS spring champion and ranked No. 1 throughout the 2021 regular season, rounded out the top five.

A national media panel selected the Stats Perform FCS Top 25, which had 11 different conferences represented in the final poll, led by the MVFC with six teams and the Big Sky five. A first-place vote was worth 25 points, a second-place vote 24 points, all the way down to one point for a 25th-place vote.

Final 2021 Stats Perform FCS Top 25

1. North Dakota State (14-1, 7-1 Missouri Valley), 1,250 points (50 first-place votes)

Previous Ranking: 3; Postseason Results: 38-7 win over Southern Illinois; 27-3 win over ETSU; 20-14 win over James Madison; 38-10 win over Montana State

2. Montana State (12-3, 7-1 Big Sky), 1,173

Previous Ranking: 7; Postseason Results: 26-7 win over UT Martin; 42-19 win at Sam Houston; 31-17 win over South Dakota State; 38-10 loss to North Dakota State

3. James Madison (12-2, 7-1 CAA), 1,165


Previous Ranking: 2; Postseason Results: 59-20 win over Southeastern Louisiana; 28-6 win over Montana; 20-14 loss at North Dakota State

4. South Dakota State (11-4, 5-3 Missouri Valley), 1,051

Previous Ranking: 11; Postseason Results: 56-24 win over UC Davis; 24-19 win at Sacramento State; 35-21 win at Villanova; 31-17 loss at Montana State

5. Sam Houston (11-1, 6-0 AQ7), 1,046

Previous Ranking: 1; Postseason Results: 49-42 win over UIW; 42-19 loss to Montana State

6. Montana (10-3, 6-2 Big Sky), 1,008

Previous Ranking: 5; Postseason Results: 57-41 win over Eastern Washington; 28-6 loss at James Madison

7. Eastern Washington (10-3, 6-2 Big Sky), 924


Previous Ranking: 4; Postseason Results: 19-9 win over Northern Iowa; 57-41 loss at Montana

8. Villanova (10-3, 7-1 CAA), 919

Previous Ranking: 6; Postseason Results: 21-16 win over Holy Cross; 35-21 loss to South Dakota State

9. ETSU (11-2, 7-1 Southern), 879

Previous Ranking: 9; Postseason Results: 32-31 win over Kennesaw State; 27-3 loss at North Dakota State

10. Sacramento State (9-3, 8-0 Big Sky), 745

Previous Ranking: 8; Postseason Result: 24-19 loss to South Dakota State

11. Kennesaw State (11-2, 7-0 Big South), 740

Previous Ranking: 10; Postseason Results: 48-21 win over Davidson; 32-31 loss at ETSU

12. UIW (10-3, 7-1 Southland), 682

Previous Ranking: 13; Postseason Results: 35-28 OT win over Stephen F. Austin; 49-42 loss at Sam Houston

13. UT Martin (10-3, 5-1 Ohio Valley), 654

Previous Ranking: 16; Postseason Results: 32-31 win at Missouri State; 26-7 loss at Montana State

14. Missouri State (8-4, 6-2 Missouri Valley), 531

Previous Ranking: 12; Postseason Result: 32-31 loss to UT Martin

15. Southeastern Louisiana (9-4, 6-2 Southland), 522

Previous Ranking: 18; Postseason Results: 38-14 win over Florida A&M; 59-20 loss at James Madison

16. Southern Illinois (8-5, 5-3 Missouri Valley), 504

Previous Ranking: 21; Postseason Results: 22-10 win at South Dakota; 38-7 loss at North Dakota State

17. UC Davis (8-4, 5-3 Big Sky), 439

Previous Ranking: 14; Postseason Result: 56-24 loss at South Dakota State

18. South Dakota (7-5, 5-3 Missouri Valley), 326

Previous Ranking: 17; Postseason Result: 22-10 loss to Southern Illinois

19. Holy Cross (10-3, 6-0 Patriot), 319

Previous Ranking: 24; Postseason Results: 13-10 win over Sacred Heart; 21-16 loss at Villanova

20. Dartmouth (9-1, 6-1 Ivy), 281

Previous Ranking: 19; Postseason Results: No games

21. Stephen F. Austin (8-4, 4-2 AQ7), 268

Previous Ranking: 20; Postseason Result: 35-28 OT loss at UIW

22. Jackson State (11-2, 8-0 SWAC), 259

Previous Ranking: 15; Postseason Results: 27-10 win over Prairie View A&M; 31-10 loss to South Carolina State

23. Northern Iowa (6-6, 4-4 Missouri Valley), 132

Previous Ranking: Unranked; Postseason Result: 19-9 loss at Eastern Washington

24. Princeton (9-1, 6-1 Ivy), 116

Previous Ranking: 23; Postseason Results: No games

25. Florida A&M (9-3, 7-1 SWAC), 114

Previous Ranking: 22; Postseason Result: 38-14 loss at Southeastern Louisiana

Dropped Out: Mercer (25)

Others Receiving Votes (schools listed on two or more ballots): Mercer (7-3, 6-2 Southern) 76, South Carolina State (7-5, 5-0 MEAC) 35, Rhode Island (7-4, 4-4 CAA) 23, Sacred Heart (8-4, 6-1 Northeast) 23, Eastern Kentucky (7-4, 4-2 AQ7) 15, Davidson (8-3, 7-1 Pioneer) 12, Harvard (8-2, 5-2 Ivy) 8

Stats Perform FCS Top 25 Voters

Stats Perform: Craig Haley, Gary Reasons. ASUN: Patrick McCoy, Mike Parris. Big Sky Conference: Doug Kelly, Tyson Rodgers, Larry Weir. Big South Conference: Brian Cleary, Matt Harmon, Mark Simpson. CAA Football: Scott Klatzkin, Greg Madia, Rob Washburn. Ivy League: Rick Bender, Craig Larson. Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference: Bill Hamilton, Maurice Williams. Missouri Valley Football Conference: Dom Izzo, Mike Kern, Randy Reinhardt. Northeast Conference: Tad Maury, Ralph Ventre. Ohio Valley Conference: Neal Bradley, Kyle Schwartz. Patriot League: Eric Malanowski, Ryan Sakamoto. Pioneer Football League: Cody Bush, Jack Cronin. Southern Conference: David Fox, Jeff Hartsell, Phil Perry. Southland Conference: Zack Carlton, Josh Yonis. Southwestern Athletic Conference: Ronnie Johnson, Travis Jarome, Andrew Roberts. Western Athletic Conference: Josh Criswell, Chris Thompson. National Representatives: Josh Buchanan, Riley Corcoran, Sam Herder, Emory Hunt, Brett Huston, Kyle Kensing, Brandon Lawrence, Jon Passman, Lawrence Smith, Phil Sokol, Reggie Thomas, Jamie Williams.
Craig Haley is Stats Perform FCS Senior Editor

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