It may be way too early to start thinking about the 2022 FCS season for some, but it isn't for us here at Redshirt Sports. The elimination of powerhouses James Madison and Sam Houston as they transfer to the FBS, here is our way-too-early top 10 favorites to win the 2022 National Title.
1. North Dakota State
NDSU is talented at pretty much every positional group on offense and defense. They return four of their starting offensive linemen along with the next five in their rotation. All-American Hunter Luepke and the rest of the running backs return along with NFL prospect TE Noah Gindorff. On defense they return three linebackers with starting experience and their entire secondary led by All-American safety Micahel Tutsie.
2. Montana State
If the Bobcats get back a healthy Tommy Mellott, this team is going places in 2022. MSU will need to lean on transfer QB Sean Chambers from Wyoming if Mellott is not healthy. Chambers played for current MSU head coach and former Wyoming offensive coordinator Brent Vigen. They return Isaiah Ifanse and three starters on their offensive line. Unfortunately they lose two of their top three wide receivers, including Lance McCutcheon.
3. South Dakota State
The Jacks are set to get back Freshman All-American and MVFC Offensive Player of the Year QB Mark Gronowski. They also return RB Isaiah Davis who will need to fill in for Pierre Strong Jr. South Dakota State is pretty much set on offensive, it is their secondary that will need to improve. Their defense returns eight of its top tacklers, led by All-American LB Adam Bock and safety Isaiah Stalbird.
Montana is coming off back to back trips to the quarterfinals and headed in the right direction. On offense they return most of their pass catchers including All-American TE Cole Crossman. They also landed former San Diego State QB Lucas Johnson from the transfer portal. On defense they return a couple of All-Americans and a majority of their top tacklers.
5. Sacramento State
This year the Hornets face a tougher schedule going up against Eastern Washington, UC Davis, Weber State, and Montana. Their two QB system seemed to be a success and both Jake Dunniway and Asher O'Hara will be returning. They also return RB Cameron Skattebo, WR Pierre Williams, and TE Marshel Martin. Sac State's defense ranked No. 15 in points allowed per game and six of their top tacklers will be returning.
6. Southern Illinois
The Salukis had eight top 25 wins between the spring and fall 2021 seasons. On offense, they return a multitude of weapons. Quarterback Nic Baker, wide receiver Avante Cox, along with running backs Javon Williams Jr., Romeir Elliott, and Justin Strong all return to power the Salukis offense. On defense they should be strong on the defensive line as well as the secondary. They also brought on former VMI defensive line coach Pat Kuntz.
ETSU's historic 2021 season came to an end with a loss against NDSU 27-3 in the quarterfinals. George Quarles takes over as head coach following a surprising retirement from Randy Sanders. The Bucs lose Quay Holmes to the NFL Draft along with Tre'mond Shorts and Donovan Manuel who are transferring to FBS schools. This upcoming season will be a test to see if 2021 was just experience and talent coming together or was there something more.
8. Kennesaw State
Kennesaw State was extremely close to making the quarterfinals, holding a 31-17 lead against No. 7 seed ETSU late into the fourth quarter. Their quarterback Xavier Shepherd led the FCS with 23 rushing touchdowns and 15 more through the air. One defense they return nine starters, including their secondary and defensive line.
9. UT Martin
Jason Simpson has been putting together quite the program in Martin, Tennessee. UT Martin gains a couple of FBS transfers in Georgia State QB Cornelious Brown, Georgia State DB Tyler Gore, and Akron WR George Qualls. Furthermore, they added two staffers from Kansas, AC Carter as their defensive line coach, and Travis Partridge as their quarterbacks and passing game coordinator.
Richmond is certainly a wild card here as they went 6-5 overall and 4-4 in conference. Over the offseason, they hired up and coming offensive coordinator Billy Cosh. Furthermore, they have been able to reunite him with Reece Udinksi (QB) from Maryland (previously VMI), and Jakob Herres (WR) from VMI. Billy will bring a high powered offense to Richmond capable of putting up big numbers. With JMU leaving the FCS for the FBS, it comes down to Richmond, Villanova, and Delaware to win the CAA.