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Underdogs Poll: Here comes Air Force and... North Dakota State?

The five-time FCS champions pulled two stunners this weekend: Beating Iowa and cracking our poll.

NCAA Football: North Dakota State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

What is the Underdogs Poll? Every week, writers and editors from SB Nation's Group of Five blogs -- Bull Run, The Daily Stampede, Down the Drive, Hustle Belt, Miner Rush, Mountain West Connection, The UConn Blog, Underdog Dynasty, and Vanquish the Foe -- put their heads together to determine the best of the best, week in and week out, from the teams we cover.


Perhaps it was long overdue.

While the North Dakota State Bison have long been considered one of college football's favorite underdogs, it wasn't until one of our voters asked this week whether NDSU, fresh off a stunning win in Iowa City last Saturday, counted as an option for the poll. The answer: Why not?

1 Houston (12)* 120 1
2 Boise State 89 2
3 San Diego State 88 3
4 South Florida 87 4
5 Toledo 58 6
6 Western Michigan 49 8
7 BYU 34 5
8 Central Michigan 32 10
9 Navy 28 11
10 Western Kentucky 19 14
11 East Carolina 9 12
12 Georgia Southern 7 13
13 Cincinnati 6 15
14 North Dakota State 4 NR
15 Air Force 3 NR
Dropped out: Southern Mississippi, Appalachian StateOthers receiving votes: Memphis (2), Akron (1), Army (1)

Even for a program with a recent history of toppling FBS opponents, the upset over the Hawkeyes represents a new benchmark for the FCS team that has it all: Their first victory over a ranked opponent (and Iowa, remember, came into the week at #13) has them on the cusp of the actual Top 25.

And it's likely not a fluke, either. Once again, the Bison are strong favorites for yet another title, so while the opportunities to move up against overmatched FCS foes may be few, the door is now official open for everyone to consider just how many other Underdogs they could beat.

The other new team in the top fifteen is Air Force, who haven't played the toughest schedule so far but looked downright dominant in wins over Abilene Christian and Georgia State. It's no surprise that they currently lead the nation in team rushing, though their staggering 432.5 yards per game is well over 100 yards more than they averaged in 2015, nor is it surprising that the Falcons are first in Bill Connelly's Power Success Rate. On the strength of their running back depth -- Jacobi Owens and Tim McVey and Shayne Davern and D.J. Johnson and... we'll just stop there, you get the idea -- the Academy can't be easily dismissed in the race to the Mountain West championship.

Furthermore, that soft schedule features a few opportunities to turn heads in the next month: Road games at Utah State, Wyoming and New Mexico kick off their conference schedule, and a home date with Navy kicks off their first leg of the Commander-in-Chief Trophy round-robin.

Underdogs of the Week

Jamauri Bogan, RB, Western Michigan - 24 carries, 189 rushing yards, two touchdowns in a 34-10 win at Illinois

James Butler, RB, Nevada - 28 carries, 174 rushing yards, three touchdowns in a 38-14 vs. Buffalo

Quinton Flowers, QB, South Florida - 12-of-24, 183 passing yards, one touchdown; 51 yards rushing in a 45-20 win at Syracuse

I'Tavius Mathers, RB, Middle Tennessee State - 27 carries, 157 rushing yards; four catches, 107 receiving yards; four total touchdowns in a 41-21 win at Bowling Green

Nicholas Norris, WR, Western Kentucky - 11 catches, 187 receiving yards, one touchdown in a 31-24 win at Miami (OH)

Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State - 23 carries, 220 rushing yards, three touchdowns in a 42-28 win at Northern Illinois

Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan - 20-of-33, 352 passing yards, six touchdowns in a 44-21 win vs. UNLV

Dalton Sturm, QB, Texas-San Antonio - 19-of-37, 229 passing yards; 82 yards rushing; four total touchdowns in a 32-28 loss vs. Arizona State

Greg Ward Jr., QB, Houston - 24-of-36, 326 passing yards, 73 yards rushing; three total touchdowns in a 40-16 win at Cincinnati

Darnell Woolfork, RB, Army - 15 carries, 71 rushing yards, three touchdowns in a 66-14 win at UTEP

Top Underdogs Games of Week 2 (all times PT)

#13 Florida State vs. South Florida, 9:00 AM, September 24 (ABC) - It's rare that we at the Underdogs Poll get to indulge in #TalkinBoutTheNoles, but FSU just got dismantled by a dual-threat quarterback and now must prepare for another. Bulls fans will tell you this is the biggest home game in a long time, and Quinton Flowers is likely to play a significant role in any upset bid.

He hasn't been the AAC's most efficient quarterback, completing just 54.7% of his passes, but his QB rating leads the conference on the strength of big plays (9.5 yards per attempt, 14 plays of 20+ yards). The Seminoles defense will be motivated after Lamar Jackson ripped them to shreds last Saturday, but he's a judicious enough runner to keep them honest while looking for the explosive plays that have powered USF's offense thus far.

Georgia Southern vs. Western Michigan, 4:00 PM, September 24 (ESPN3) - The weekend's most exciting Group of 5 heavyweight bout, the Eagles and Broncos have looked every bit the conference contenders that were predicted. Georgia Southern's running attack hasn't been quite as explosive as they were last year, but their 5.27 yards-per-carry average is still well above average.

WMU's Zach Terrell, meanwhile, is one of five FBS quarterbacks with at least 70 pass attempts and zero interceptions, and the Broncos are one of three teams with zero turnovers. Period. Such luck can be fickle, and it's worth noting that Georgia Southern has forced two per game, on average, in its first three games.

Air Force vs. Utah State, 7:15 PM, September 24 (ESPNU) - The first Mountain West conference game of the year is a good one. The defenses are likely to lead the way on both sides, as Weston Steelhammer and the rest of the Falcons secondary figures to be a tough match for an Aggies passing game that's been short on explosive plays thus far (four plays of 20-plus yards in three games).

USU's best chance at holding serve at home will lie in their running game: Devante Mays should get plenty of work if healthy, but Tonny Lindsey stepped up in his absence last Saturday and the Aggies average a healthy 5.77 yards per carry as a team.

Other games of note: BYU vs. West Virginia, Louisiana Tech vs. Middle Tennessee State, Appalachian State vs. Akron, #3 Louisville vs. Marshall