Now that we have the playoff bracket in hand and the official seedings, let’s agree to disagree a little bit, shall we? My poll ballot this week will reflect my disagreements, not only with the playoff committee but also with how the overall poll vote will likely fall when it is released Monday.
Sam Houston in the No. 2 spot, James Madison in the No. 3, and Jacksonville State in the No. 4 just isn’t correct, folks. SDSU at No. 1 or maybe JMU at No. 1? Totally acceptable. I may have James Madison at No. 2 on my ballot, but I could see the No. 1 seed go either way and could make the argument for it. SDSU clearly played a tougher schedule than the Dukes and its loss to North Dakota was in February.
Jacksonville State lost to Austin Peay just a few weeks ago. Granted the Gamecocks did have a nice FBS win (FIU) on the resume dating back to the fall, and that is considered. I still disagree there. I could maybe see an argument for Sam Houston or Weber State in the No. 4 spot, and another Missouri Valley team to join SDSU and JMU in the top four. You’ll see that reflected in my poll ballot below.
My ballot is based on a simple thought process, especially once we have several weeks’ worth of results to help set the order. It’s based on me thinking the team in the 14th spot could beat the teams below it, and generally would fall to the teams above it. And many times the results help back that up.
That’s why you won’t see all of the automatic qualifiers on my ballot in our final stab at this. I think it’s awesome that Davidson is in the FCS playoffs for the first time, and what coach Scott Abell and his staff have done there in recruiting and on the field is remarkable. My only problem is, Davidson fell to Elon – a CAA team that finished 1-5 this spring. If I rank Davidson, I have to rank Elon, catch my logic?
The same goes for Holy Cross and Sacred Heart. Now, I’ve ranked Patriot League and NEC teams before. When Colgate was stellar? I had no problem ranking it, or Fordham, or Lehigh – when those programs have been good. But this time around I just didn’t feel I’d be doing my poll vote justice if I ranked them – even though they made the playoffs as AQs.
So enough of that. I just want our poll followers to know that I’m trying to give you an idea of how I think it’d go if Team A played Team B. I can assure you that a 3-4 Northern Iowa team would wipe the mat with many of the teams ranked this week and in the playoffs.
In fact at No. 18? I still may even have the Panthers too low and their season is now over. They lost to the No. 1, No. 3, No. 11, and No. 13 teams (all playoff-bound MVFC programs) by a total of 11 points.
Do you really think Northern Iowa would lose to Sacred Heart just because Sacred Heart made the playoffs and UNI didn’t? And that’s zero offense to SHU, who played stellar football in the NEC this spring.
Last shout-out, this time a positive one for the NCAA Playoff Committee. I thought the group made the gutsiest call in the six years I’ve followed the FCS as a writer. In the fall of 2019, they probably should have included Southern Illinois in the playoffs. Now I’m not saying this was a makeup decision, but they made a gutsy call and included SIU in this year’s field – which was the right thing to do.
The Salukis beat NDSU and Northern Iowa this year and lost only to teams ranked No. 11 or higher that are playoff bound. That first-round matchup with Weber State should be great. I was actually a bit surprised Richmond didn’t get in, and that undoubtedly had something to do with SIU getting in.
NEW BLOOD: Northern Arizona’s win over Idaho was impressive. The Lumberjacks played great defense, and their only two losses this year were to playoff-bound Eastern Washington and Weber State (which was close). Between a spark of positivity this spring and some great recruiting by Chris Ball’s staff, you can see NAU is heading in the right direction.
Also, Samford was added. The Bulldogs lost twice in overtime this spring, and they closed with an impressive win over Mercer.
DROPPED: I had to drop Mercer and Gardner-Webb. They both fell convincingly to teams that coming into the weekend you thought they could definitely play with.
Top 25 Ballot
5. Weber State
6. Sam Houston
8. Eastern Washington
9. Jacksonville State
10. UC Davis
11. Missouri State
20. Austin Peay
21. SE Louisiana
25. Ark Pine-Bluff