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.
COMPARE: FCS Players | FCS Teams
MORE: Brian McLaughlin and Sam Herder's FCS Mailbag (Week 7)
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 seven 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 (6-0) – To me, the distance between JMU and North Dakota State for the top spot has narrowed to within an inch. The teams NDSU are disposing of … this past weekend on the road at Youngstown State … are incredible. The Dukes keep winning, too, but I think we’re starting to see the playoff picture in focus more and more. So, NDSU is closing in on this No. 1 spot. We’ll see what happens the next few weeks.
2. North Dakota State (6-0) – See the above if you want to see the present thoughts on the Bison. They’re dominating good teams, they’re dominating on offense and they’re dominating on defense. They look pretty darned scary.
3. South Dakota (6-0) – The Coyotes are a true power offensively, and are going to shred a few more teams before this year is out … but what is truly going to define this program is that trip to Fargo in November. Hey, USD won that game when Carson Wentz was still roaming the field for NDSU two years ago. Could it happen again?
4. Youngstown State (3-3) – If the season ended today, I think the Penguins would be on JMU’s side of the bracket since they’re the closest Valley team (geographically) being in Ohio and the powers-that-be won’t put all the Valley teams in the same side of the bracket. So how about that? There may be the potential of a national title game rematch in the FCS semifinals – this time in Harrisonburg.
5. Jacksonville State (5-1) – As things continue to materialize, this is clearly the top non-Valley/CAA team in the FCS nation. The Gamecocks are going to finish 10-1 with a first-round bye and two home games to open the playoffs at least.
6. Central Arkansas (5-1) – There is potential for other teams to pop into this top eight seeding over UCA, but then again if the Bears keep winning like they have, they could fight them off. This No. 6 through No. 8 spot could go many directions right now.
7. Western Illinois (5-1) – The Leathernecks are 5-1 with a 5-point loss to undefeated South Dakota above. The next three games will tell us everything we want to know about this team: At NDSU, vs. SDSU and at Illinois State. But so far? So good.
8. Eastern Washington (5-2) – Wofford could easily fit here, too. The Eagles have shaken off their rust, but then again, was it really rust? Consider this: The first two games were blowouts for sure. I mean, 96-23 against anyone doesn’t look good. But Texas Tech is a Power Five team, and North Dakota State? Um, we’ll call them a Power Five level team too. Since then it’s been five straight wins. There’s a a chance this team finishes 9-2 with a first-round bye in the FCS Playoffs – with a Big Sky title to boot.
Sam Herder's seeds
1. James Madison (6-0) – We all knew the Dukes had the talent to go undefeated this season, but it would be a grind. That grind is showing as JMU has been in more battles than scores might indicate. They’re showing the qualities of a championship team: finding ways to win no matter the circumstance. The Dukes may not need to score 35-40 points a game if their defense continues to play the way it is.
2. North Dakota State (6-0) – The Bison passed perhaps their toughest test of the season, going to No. 8 Youngstown State in a jacked-up environment and escaping with an overtime win. NDSU had moments of greatness with its offensive line against a tough, physical YSU defense. But it’s on to the next one with another Top 10 team this weekend, Western Illinois. The Bison will have to be great again to win.
3. South Dakota (6-0) – Chris Streveler continues to prove he’s a favorite to win the Walter Payton Award. He’s No. 2 in the FCS with 385.5 yards of total offense per game. One FBS team and three ranked FCS teams are four of the victims of the USD offensive attack. The ‘Yotes are looking good for a team that’s never reached the FCS playoffs before.
4. Western Illinois (5-1) – WIU’s only loss is a narrow one to USD. One FBS win and one ranked FCS win is on its resume with three potential ranked games remaining. The big one is this weekend at the Fargodome. The Bison are likely feeling the effects of a physical and emotional win at YSU. The Leathernecks have been road warriors this season (4-0). Keep an eye on this one.
5. Wofford (6-0) – Wofford is finally getting people’s attention. The Terriers had underwhelming wins to start, but now have two wins in a row against teams ranked in the 20s. They get another one Saturday against No. 14 Samford. A win there could slide Wofford into the Top 3 later in the season as NDSU and USD have yet to play each other.
6. Elon (5-1) – Elon quietly has one of the best resumes in the FCS. Its only loss is to an FBS team while racking up three wins against ranked FCS teams. The Phoenix play in the second best conference in the FCS, which helps their case. They have challenging games remaining against Villanova, New Hampshire and JMU. The CAA deserves to get two seeds and Elon is a frontrunner to get that second one.
7. Jacksonville State (5-1) – Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, they continue to slide down as other resumes surpass theirs. Plus a 16-point win against Eastern Kentucky, now 1-5, doesn’t exactly make them jump off the paper compared to other teams. JSU will need to have some blowout wins or hope for some losses to climb the seeding.
8. Central Arkansas (5-1) – The Bears have yet to lose to an FCS team and will carry their win over No. 3 Sam Houston State as far as they can. Technically SHSU has a better resume at 5-1 and two ranked wins. But the Bears have the head-to-head win and the Southland Conference isn’t good enough to have two teams seeded. Just keep winning and UCA will find itself somewhere in the Top 8.