(STATS) - Conference play is beginning to take over the college football schedule and the FCS has a diverse group leading the way into the most heated part of the season.
The first six teams in Monday's STATS FCS Top 25 were from different conferences, there were seven conferences among the top 10 teams and nine different conferences plus an independent team were represented in the rankings, with a team from three others among the first five just outside the national media poll.
Yes, let the conference craziness begin.
"You have great examples from Stony Brook over Richmond two weeks ago to Elon over William & Mary this past week," James Madison first-year coach Mike Houston said, reflecting on CAA Football results, "that they understand that they've got to bring their best each and every week" in conference games.
North Dakota State had a bye this past weekend, but the five-time defending FCS national champion maintained its hold on No. 1, collecting all 164 first-place votes. The Bison (3-0) were one of a season-high seven Missouri Valley Football Conference teams in the Top 25.
Then a roll call of other top FCS conferences followed with No. 2 Sam Houston State (3-0) from the Southland, Jacksonville State (3-1) from the Ohio Valley, Eastern Washington (3-1) from the Big Sky, Chattanooga (4-0) from the Southern and Richmond (3-1) from CAA Football.
James Madison (3-1) moved up four spots to No. 7 after it won its CAA opener against Maine. Western Illinois (3-0), The Citadel (3-0) and defending Big South champion Charleston Southern (2-2) rounded out the Top 10.
Western Illinois beat Northern Illinois 28-23 this past Saturday to become the fourth Missouri Valley team to defeat an FBS program this year. Nine of the 10 teams to topple a team from the bowl subdivision in the opening month of the season have Top 25 rankings.
Montana (2-1) dropped five spots to No. 11 following its 42-41 loss at Big Sky nemesis Cal Poly, which has beaten the Grizzlies in three straight seasons.
Northern Iowa (1-2) checked in at No. 12 followed by Eastern Illinois (3-1), FCS independent Coastal Carolina (3-1), South Dakota State (1-2), poll newcomer Cal Poly (3-1), Villanova (3-1), Illinois State (2-2), William & Mary (2-2) and Youngstown State (2-1).
Rounding out the rankings were No. 21 Albany (4-0), MEAC power North Carolina A&T (2-1), McNeese (2-2) and two other newcomers, Indiana State (3-1) and Harvard (2-0). On Saturday, Indiana State beat Illinois State in the season's first Missouri Valley conference matchup while Harvard won its Ivy League opener against Brown.
Stony Brook, which lost to Sacred Heart from the Northeast Conference just one week after beating Richmond, Colgate and Portland State dropped out of the Top 25.
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. 20, 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. 7 in Frisco, Texas.