Top 25 rankings are made up of “what have you done for me lately” votes. If you lose, you drop. And it’s tough to rise if the teams in front of you keep winning.
The HERO Sports FCS Playoff Power Poll looks at the entire body of work to decide what the top eight seeds should be if the season ended today. Strength of schedule, Division I wins, FBS wins, wins against ranked FCS opponents and results against common opponents are some of the criteria taken into consideration.
Teams will slide up and down, appear and disappear, as their resumes strengthen or weaken throughout the season. After one week of action, here is what FCS writers Brian McLaughlin and Sam Herder believe the playoff seeds should look like today.
Brian McLaughlin's seeds
1. James Madison – Let's use some basic Latin here for a second. Veni vidi vici … JMU came, it saw and it conquered and nobody who knows anything about the FCS was surprised. The Dukes picked right back up in dominant form, this time against an FBS opponent. Now the question is, is there at team in the CAA that could be a landmine for JMU. That remains to be seen.
2. North Dakota State – The Bison looked scary good in their opener, and rumor has it that they are still scoring touchdowns and it is Wednesday. Somebody forgot to turn off the TD spigot. NDSU has had some rough injury news, which seems like deja vu considering some of what happened last year, but this program is still a beast. Eastern Washington is up next on the road, and then the Valley schedule looms.
3. South Dakota State – The Jackrabbits may have their best team ever. Let that sink in, and then repeat-read it. Well coached, explosive on offense, tough on defense, great kicker with the surname of Vinatieri (that never hurts). Oh, and they get NDSU at home this year and were the last Valley team to beat the Bison. This team looks powerful.
4. Jacksonville State – Defense is where Top 10 teams win games, and the Gamecocks look like their SEC big brother neighbors. They play a stifling brand of football, and it'll be fascinating to see if it meshes well against a tricky Georgia Tech attack. Keep an eye on this weekend's game with the Rambling Wreck.
5. Sam Houston State – The Bearkats may have the most complete set of offensive skill players in the nation. Jeremiah Briscoe is the biggest NFL quarterback prospect in the FCS right now, he has three stellar receivers and two potential 1,000 yard backs. If P.J. Hall can come back and rally this defense, this will be interesting.
6. Youngstown State – The Penguins should have knocked off Pitt at Heinz Field, who are we kidding? This is a gritty, tough, rust-belt type of team and there's a reason it made it to Frisco last year for the national title game. They're well coached and can go toe to toe with anybody in the Missouri Valley.
7. Wofford – Don't be fooled by the score in the Terriers' opening game win with rival Furman, this team is going to be brutally tough to whip this year. They run the triple option, which is about as fun to defend as Castor Oil is to swallow. And defense and special teams is Wofford's forte. Nobody is going to fool veteran coach Mike Ayers.
8. Western Illinois – Sick of seeing MVFC teams in this list? Well, get used to it. We could easily see Illinois State here, too. Or what about South Dakota if the 'Yotes get rolling and knock off Bowling Green this weekend? We think the Valley is loaded this year, and the Leathernecks are one of those standout teams. The Tennessee Tech win was impressive.
Sam Herder's seeds
1. James Madison – The preseason discussion of who should be the national title favorites is settled as of right now. JMU and NDSU were flip-flopped as 1A and 1B. But with the Dukes’ dismantling of FBS East Carolina, it’s clear they are No. 1. And even if one loss happens somewhere down the road in the tough CAA, JMU won’t be sliding too far down. The way I look at it, an FBS win cancels out an FCS loss.
2. North Dakota State – We’ll find out more about the Bison when they visit ranked Eastern Washington this week. Their 72-7 win against Mississippi Valley State was as dominant as expected, but didn’t reveal everything. For what it’s worth, NDSU looked deep on defense, quarterback Easton Stick appeared extremely confident and the running backs looked like the most athletic group the Bison have had in awhile.
3. Sam Houston State – The Bearkats desperately needed this win against a top-10 team in Richmond. They showed they’re still legit offensively with 683 total yards. But giving up 652 yards leaves big question marks. They could very well go 11-0 now, but other teams’ strength of schedule may move their resume ahead of SHSU’s.
4. South Dakota State – SDSU unsurprisingly put up 51 points against Duquesne and seemed to throw the ball more than 20 yards downfield every other play in the first half. The Jacks’ schedule beefs up from here with a game at Montana State this weekend. Their playoff stock will rise if they continue to win games in the MVFC.
5. Jacksonville State – The Gamecocks may not have the passing game like they did the last few years, but their formula of a suffocating defense and feeding running back Roc Thomas the ball will work just fine. They got a big 27-13 win against No. 12 Chattanooga in the FCS Kickoff a couple weeks ago. Playing in a weaker Ohio Valley Conference, JSU needs to continue playing strong in the nonconference against FBS Georgia Tech and ranked FCS opponent Liberty.
6. Villanova – Head coach Mark Ferrante won his debut 38-35 in a ranked matchup with Lehigh. The 35 points was the most Villanova has given up since 2015. The Wildcats still led the entire game, though, behind senior running back Matt Gudzak’s 142-yard, two-touchdown performance.
7. Youngstown State – The only 0-1 team to make my list, but teams don’t get punished for an FBS loss, especially when the Penguins scored 21 unanswered points to force overtime against Pittsburgh. They eventually lost 28-21, but the 2016 national runner-ups showed they have filled some holes from last year’s talented senior class.
8. Tennessee State – The Tigers may not be on this list long, but being 1-0 with an FBS win against Georgia State makes them deserving after Week 1. They went 7-4 last season, yet didn't have the resume to earn them a playoff at-large bid. If TSU can improve its 4-3 record in the OVC, this FBS win may get them into the 24-team field.