New Hampshire Football Report

UNH third in Athlon poll


1. North Dakota State

(14-1, 7-1 Missouri Valley)

The defending FCS champion Bison, winners of six of the last seven national titles, seek to break their tie with Georgia Southern for the most FCS championships of all time. Head coach Chris Klieman, who has led the Bison to three of those titles and been a part of all six, brings back seven starters on both sides of the ball as well as All-America defensive end Greg Menard, who missed last season with an ACL tear. The nation’s best defense also features sophomore linebacker Jabril Cox and strong safety Robbie Grimsley, who leads a deep and talented secondary. The offense overflows with seniors, led by quarterback Easton Stick, who’s 34-3 as a starter in his career, and running backs Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn, who both could surpass 1,000 rushing yards. The Missouri Valley title race might be a mere formality with the Bison seeking their eighth in a row. Plus, with seven of their 11 regular-season games at the Fargodome, the Bison should gain home-field advantage in the playoffs again. Dynasty, indeed.

2. James Madison

(14-1, 8-0 CAA)

The 2016 national champ and ’17 runner-up lost more key players in the offseason than North Dakota State, but the Dukes are a clear notch above the next tier of contenders. Whoever takes over at quarterback — likely two-year backup Cole Johnson or Pittsburgh transfer Ben DiNucci — is surrounded by terrific skill players, including running backs Marcus Marshall, Trai Sharp and Cardon Johnson and wide receiver Riley Stapleton. The defense must retool, but it could have the nation’s best set of cornerbacks in seniors Jimmy Moreland and Rashad Robinson.

3. New Hampshire

(9-5, 5-3 CAA)

In head coach Sean McDonnell’s 20th season, the Wildcats expect to make a deep run in what would be their 15th straight playoff appearance. Last year’s national quarterfinals team returns 18 starters. QB Trevor Knight (3,433 yards, 26 TDs) has go-to targets in Neil O’Connor (97 receptions, 1,396 yards, 10 TDs) and Malik Love, but the offensive line must do a better job with pass protection. An improved run game will make a difference. The 4-2-5 defense features linebackers Quinlen Dean, the team’s leading tackler, and Jared Kuehl, plus cornerback Prince Smith Jr.


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