Undefeated Harvard colors STATS FCS Top 25 with Crimson
(STATS) - By winning the last four national championships, North Dakota State likely gains the additional title of being the best FCS program of the 2000s.
Former FCS program Appalachian State, which preceded NDSU in capturing three straight national titles, is on the short list of candidates.
But the FCS program with the best winning percentage this millennium? Harvard, which is ranked 24th in this week's STATS FCS Top 25.
The Ivy League power, whose university annually competes to be recognized as the nation's top academic school, has a 122-30 record since Y2K - an .803 winning percentage. Add in seven conference titles in the 2000s, and coach Tim Murphy has an amazing dynasty in Cambridge which even the New England Patriots have to admire.
Harvard is off to a 3-0 start this season, including a 45-0 win over Georgetown on Friday night - which gave the Crimson a shutout for the fourth straight year. The school has now won 17 straight games since 2013, which is the longest active run in the FCS.
"That might be one of the best football teams that I have seen since I started coaching at this level," Georgetown coach Rob Sgarlata said afterward.
Harvard is seeking to become the first team to win three straight Ivy titles since Dartmouth from 1990-92. Last year's 10-0 team was built around one of the more special defenses in the Murphy era, which spans 22 seasons with a 150-62 record (.708).
This season, Harvard is fueled by an offense that is ranked third in the FCS in scoring (46.3 points per game), an aspect of the team that is much-needed to compete in an Ivy race that has three other scoring juggernauts - Dartmouth, Princeton and Yale - also off to 3-0 starts. Senior quarterback Scott Hosch is calling the shots while the Crimson's top running backs, senior Paul Stanton Jr. and freshman Noah Reimers, are excelling behind one of the better offensive lines in school history.
While Harvard, which has been between No. 23 and 25 in every poll this season, has room to grow, Jacksonville State was No. 1 for the fourth straight week, gaining 89 of the 157 first-place votes and 3,802 points.
The Gamecocks blew past winless Mississippi Valley State 49-7 to improve to 4-1, their lone loss coming in overtime against Auburn. Coach John Grass and his defending Ohio Valley Conference champions have a bye this week.
Four other teams received first-place votes: No. 2 Coastal Carolina (5-0) with 39, No. 3 North Dakota State (3-1) with 20, No. 4 Illinois State (3-1) with one and No. 5 James Madison (5-0) with eight. Each team won last weekend.
Sam Houston State (2-2) won for the second straight week to move up to No. 11. The Bearkats were followed by Montana (3-2), Fordham (4-1), Villanova (2-2), Liberty (3-2), Richmond (3-1), Eastern Kentucky (2-2), Montana State (2-2), Indiana State (3-1) and Southeastern Louisiana (3-1).
Rounding out the poll were New Hampshire (3-2), McNeese State (4-0), North Dakota (4-1), Harvard and Portland State (3-1). North Dakota beat Portland 19-17 to move into the Top 25 for the first time since the 2011 season-ending rankings.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference continued to lead the way with six Top 25 teams, including five of the top 10. The Big Sky followed with five teams, CAA Football four and the Southland three, with nine conferences having at least one team in the rankings.
A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries select the STATS FCS 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.
The Top 25 is released every Monday afternoon during the regular season, except for Sunday morning, Nov. 22, prior to the selection of the 24-team FCS playoff field. A final Top 25 will follow the FCS championship game, which will be held Jan. 9 in Frisco, Texas.