CARBONDALE — For the first time in over five years, the SIU football team moved into the top-25 rankings on Monday.
The Salukis (7-4, 5-2 Missouri Valley Football Conference) came in tied for 25th place with Yale (8-1) in the American Football Coaches Association FCS top 25. SIU came in 26th in the STATS top-25 poll, 23 points behind No. 25 North Carolina A&T (7-3), in a poll from a national panel of media, sports information directors and other dignitaries. The Salukis won their fifth straight game Saturday at Western Illinois, 45-21, and own one of only three wins by an FCS program over an FBS program this season when they torched UMass 45-20. Yale beat previous No. 19 Princeton 51-14 to jump into the poll after not being ranked last week.
SIU hadn't been in the top 25 in the coaches poll since coming in 22nd on Nov. 10, 2014. The Salukis haven't appeared in the STATS/media poll since Oct. 20, 2014, when they came in 20th. If they win Saturday they will surely be in both, with No. 1 North Dakota State (11-0, 7-0) coming to Carbondale for a 2 p.m. kickoff at Saluki Stadium. The Bison have won 32 straight games, one off tying their FCS-record stretch of 33 consecutive wins.
SIU gave the MVFC five teams in the AFCA top 25, and four in the STATS poll. NDSU was No. 1 in both polls, followed by No. 2 James Madison (10-1), No. 3 Montana (9-2), No. 4 Sacramento State (8-3) and No. 5 South Dakota State (8-3, 5-2). Illinois State (8-3, 5-2) was sixth in the AFCA poll, followed by No. 10 Northern Iowa (7-4, 5-2).
In the STATS poll, Illinois State was seventh and Northern Iowa was ninth. SIU, SDSU, Illinois State and Northern Iowa are all tied for second place in the MVFC heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
Notably, SIU's FCS opponents continued to win. Southeast Missouri State (8-3) was 16th in the AFCA poll and 13th in the STATS list after defeating Eastern Illinois 26-12 for its fifth straight victory. UT Martin (7-4) received votes in both polls after defeating Tennessee State 28-17. The Skyhawks close the season at Kentucky, an FBS program.
SIU's two FBS opponents continued to go opposite directions. Arkansas State (6-4) became bowl eligible last weekend with its sixth win of the year, while UMass (1-10) lost its sixth straight game, 45-6 at Northwestern.
• Williams named national freshman of the week: Javon Williams Jr. was named the STATS national freshman of the week on Monday after rushing for three touchdowns against Western Illinois Saturday.
The 6-foot-1, 239-pound redshirt freshman from Centralia rushed for a career-high 149 yards and completed both of his passes for 48 yards to take home MVFC newcomer of the week honors Sunday night. Williams set a new conference record for freshmen with his 18th touchdown of the season against the Leathernecks.
Williams rushed for touchdowns from 1, 2 and 8 yards away in SIU's 45-21 victory in Macomb.
On Twitter: @THefferman
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