In the FCS Huddle: Spiders climb into Top 10

Philadelphia, PA ( – If Richmond is this good in November,
imagine what the Spiders could accomplish in December.

Such prospect would mean Richmond is playing in the postseason, and Saturday’s
one-point win over then-No. 4 Villanova strengthened the Spiders’ bid for their
first FCS playoff appearance since 2009.

On Monday, the Spiders moved up five spots to No. 8 in The Sports Network FCS
Top 25 – their highest ranking in over three years. With New Hampshire
remaining at No. 2 and Villanova at No. 7, CAA Football has three of the top
eight teams in the poll.

Richmond (7-2, 4-1) would love to go into the playoffs with the CAA’s automatic
bid, but the Spiders need some help over the final three Saturdays of the
regular season. They are one game behind first-place New Hampshire in the
standings and lost the head-to-head meeting on Sept. 20. But they hold the
head-to-head advantage over Villanova.

As the Spiders try to play their way into the 24-team playoffs – the CAA
figures to receive multiple at-large bids in addition to the automatic
qualifier – they will need continued success this month. They are 8-0 in
November games under third-year coach Danny Rocco, who also had plenty of
success in the month when he coached Liberty for six seasons prior to arriving
at Richmond.

Opponents have been caught in the Spiders’ web recently as they have allowed
only 19 points combined in their last three games. In the 10-9 win over
Villanova, linebacker Omar Howard, the Co-CAA Defensive Player of the Week, had
18 tackles and one sack of Wildcats quarterback John Robertson, a five-time CAA
offensive player of the week who had his worst game of the season.

“I thought it was a signature win for our season,” Rocco said Monday.
“Obviously, we have to continue to find ways to win and be successful. This is
a more veteran team than we’ve had since I’ve been here. And I think they
recognize the significance of the moment. Guys have really stepped into new
roles and have played at a really high level for us.”

Richmond hasn’t dwelled on injuries to key some players, including quarterback
Michael Strauss and wide receiver Stephen Barnette. Rocco has turned to his
nephew Michael at quarterback, and the redshirt senior is 3-0 as the starter,
which isn’t surprising considering he made 21 career starts at Virginia before
he transferred to Richmond in spring 2013.

On Saturday, the Spiders hope to continue to make it a November to remember
when they travel to Maine, the 2013 CAA champion.

North Dakota State (9-0), the three-time reigning FCS national champion,
remained the unanimous No. 1 in the rankings (all 164 first-place votes) after
posting a 37-17 victory over South Dakota State on Saturday. First-year coach
Chris Klieman’s Bison have won an FCS-record 33 straight games since 2012 and
are one of three unbeaten teams remaining this season (Coastal Carolina and
Harvard are the other two).

After NDSU, the rest of the Top 10 was No. 2 New Hampshire (7-1), No. 3 Coastal
Carolina (9-0), No. 4 Jacksonville State (7-1), No. 5 Eastern Washington (8-2),
No. 6 McNeese State (6-2), No. 7 Villanova (7-2), Richmond, No. 9 Fordham (8-1)
and No. 10 Youngstown State (7-2).

Montana moved up to No. 11 in advance of its huge game in the Big Sky
Conference Saturday on the road against Eastern Washington.

Then it was No. 12 Illinois State (7-1), No. 13 Chattanooga (6-3), No. 14
Southeastern Louisiana (6-3), No. 15 Montana State (6-3), No. 16 Eastern
Kentucky (8-1), No. 17 Indiana State (6-3), No. 18 Harvard (7-0), No. 19
Northern Iowa (5-4) and No. 20 Bethune-Cookman (7-2).

Rounding out the Top 25 were No. 21 Cal Poly (6-3), which entered the rankings
for the first time this season following its recent back-to-back sweep of
Montana and Montana State; No. 22 South Dakota State (5-4); No. 23 Bryant
(7-1); No. 24 William & Mary (5-4); and No. 25 Northern Arizona (6-3), which
re-entered after a six-week absence.

Albany and Stephen F. Austin fell out of the Top 25 after suffering losses on

Led by North Dakota State, the Missouri Valley Football Conference had the most
teams in the Top 25 with six, followed by the Big Sky with five and the CAA
with four. Eleven of the 13 FCS conferences had at least one team in the

A national panel of sports information and media relations directors,
broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries select the Top 25. In the voting,
a first-place vote is worth 25 points, a second-place vote 24 points, all the
way down to one point for a 25th-place vote.

During the regular season, the Top 25 will be released every Monday afternoon,
except for the final weekend of the regular season, when it will be released
Sunday morning, Nov. 23, prior to the selection of the 24-team FCS playoff

The Sports Network will release a final Top 25 following the FCS championship
game, which will be held Jan. 10 in Frisco, Texas.