(Article written in 2018) On Wednesday, the FCS playoff committee is going to reveal its Top 10 rankings during halftime of the Toledo vs. Ball State game, with kickoff beginning at 6:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2. These rankings are important because it will give teams, fans and media an idea of who the committee is looking at as far as potential seeds.
But past trends show these rankings should be taken with a grain of salt.
To offer more transparency after a 2015 bracket that featured five Missouri Valley Football Conference teams on the same side, which had people questioning the integrity of the playoff system, the committee decided to have these Top 10 reveals throughout the latter part of the 2016 season.
The number of reveals dropped to two last year, and Wednesday’s reveal will be the lone one in 2018.
The debut of the Top 10 rankings was a social media disaster in 2016. The thought from everyone was if the season ended today, these would be the eight seeds. So when the rankings came out and North Dakota State was behind Jacksonville State and Eastern Washington, outrage ensued in Fargo and even from fellow MVFC fan bases.
At the time of this ranking below, NDSU and JSU were both 8-1, but NDSU had the stronger resume with nonconference wins against FBS No. 11 Iowa and EWU, who was seeded higher than the Bison.
Morehead State Director of Athletics Brian Hutchinson, who was then chair of the playoff committee, joined a Fargo radio station to address the confusion. When asked if the season ended today, would these be the Top 8 seeds, Hutchinson replied no.
He then said the committee, which is made up of athletic directors from each conference eligible for the playoffs, hasn’t fully dived into each team’s resume and more homework will be done between now and the selection show. In other words, this was just another ranking and didn’t fully reflect what the seeds would look like, lessening the value.
JSU, EWU and NDSU all won out after the above rankings reveal. The eight seeds turned out to be:
6. The Citadel
The same thing happened in 2017.
James Madison, JSU, Central Arkansas and NDSU all won their remaining games after this reveal. The eight seeds turned out to be:
The point is Wednesday’s rankings are not set in stone. Just because Team A is ahead of Team B and both keep winning doesn’t mean Team B can’t jump Team A.
Keep in mind these are ADs with busy schedules. As proven above, they’ve shown that they will switch teams around when they really dig into resumes the night before Selection Sunday, which is on Nov. 18. And that’s a good thing. The committee should be commended for looking at every single data point out there to get its final Top 8 teams solidified when all 11 games are played.
So if you’re a team like Kennesaw State or UC Davis, a No. 3 ranking Wednesday doesn’t mean you can’t rise or drop, even if you win out. Same can be said for a team like JMU if it were to get a No. 5 ranking.
This Top 10 poll is important because it does show who’s on the committee’s radar. Maybe it’ll show Delaware is now in strong contention for a seed. Or it could show how they feel about South Dakota State’s loss last week at Northern Iowa.
But one thing fans shouldn’t do when this is revealed is cheer too loudly or complain too dramatically. Not only are there games left to be played, but wins don’t necessarily correlate to a team getting a seed that matches these rankings.
Sam’s coverage of the FCS began in 2012 as the sports editor and eventual editor-in-chief of NDSU’s The Spectrum. After graduating in 2015, he spent three years in the newspaper and magazine industry while starting his work for HERO Sports in the fall of 2016 as a freelancer. In May 2018, he joined the website full time as the Senior FCS Analyst.