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 three weeks 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 (3-0) – The Dukes are cruising so far, but enter a tougher stretch of games within the CAA. They had a tough day on Saturday with the news of RB Trai Sharp's father's passing and Cardon Johnson's season-ending injury.
2. North Dakota State (2-0) – The Bison are a machine, what can we say? They'll have one more non-Valley tuneup this weekend with Robert Morris before they face two Valley teams that finished in the bottom half of the standings last year.
3. South Dakota State (3-0) – Can we just hurry up and have the South Dakota State-North Dakota State game this week and see who is better? When we get to that game in November, the winner likely would host the playoff rematch if it happens again.
4. Jacksonville State (1-1) – The Georgia Tech game seemed like an anomaly, or was it? That's the big question we want to see answered this weekend when the Gamecocks face off against the undefeated Liberty Flames, who are transitioning to the FBS soon.
5. Sam Houston State (2-0) – The Bearkats have been giving up some points, but then again they've been scoring a ton more. This weekend's game with upstart Nicholls will go a long way in determining if the Southland will be a tossup or Sam Houston's conference to toy with again.
6. Youngstown State (2-1) – 'Guins have looked stellar in two warm-up FCS wins after going to overtime with Pitt in week one. Things get really serious the next three weeks with South Dakota State and North Dakota State home, and a road trip to South Dakota.
7. Wofford (2-0) – The Terriers got better and better as the year went along last year, and I have a feeling they'll do the same this year after edging out Furman and a decent Mercer team.
8. South Dakota (3-0) – I'm torn on this spot between the Coyotes and Western Illinois, who was off last weekend. USD has been a machine thus far, and deserves a seeding if everything wraps today. But hey, things don't wrap today.
Sam Herder's seeds
1. James Madison (3-0) – Adversity hits JMU this week as stud running back Cardon Johnson is done for the year with an injury and fellow back Trai Sharp was given the news of his father passing away during the fourth quarter of last week’s game. The Dukes face a tough week of practice as a solid Maine team comes to town.
2. North Dakota State (2-0) – The Bison were off last week after an impressive 40-13 win against Eastern Washington. They should roll through Robert Morris before the MVFC grinder begins. The defense looks to be just fine as all-American linebacker Nick DeLuca recovers from meniscus surgery.
3. South Dakota State (3-0) – The Jackrabbits have scored 133 points in their three nonconference games. That offense, somehow, looks as good as ever. And if it continues to put up big numbers against Youngstown State on Sept. 30 … oh boy.
4. South Dakota (3-0) – South Dakota? The fourth best team in the FCS? As of right now, its resume says they are. The Coyotes have an FBS win and dismantled No. 10 North Dakota, the defending Big Sky champs, last weekend. Now they have to show they can pull out close wins against the top teams in the MVFC.
5. Sam Houston State (2-0) – SHSU has a chance to get its resume boosted back up after an underwhelming 44-31 win against Prairie View A&M. The Bearkats’ next two opponents, Nicholls State and Central Arkansas, are both ranked in the Top 25.
6. Jacksonville State (1-1) – The Gamecocks will surely want to head into its conference schedule 2-1 after they face Liberty this weekend. Liberty is a quality program transitioning to the FBS. A win here gets the Gamecocks two impressive FCS victories.
7. Youngstown State (2-1) – After a debacle of a first half in the season opener against Pittsburgh, YSU is looking better and better as the team gains experience. The Penguins haven’t exactly played strong FCS opponents yet, but deserve some respect after being national runner-ups a season ago.
8. Villanova (2-1) – The Wildcats own a ranked win against Lehigh and is 2-0 against FCS opponents. They looked strong in a 16-13 loss to Temple. Now it’s on to the CAA to see who can challenge JMU.