Preseason polls are always interesting. Many people say they don’t put much stock into them, yet it always turns into a debate when released. When it comes to the FCS Preseason Top 25, there are a couple methods voters use. They either take last year’s playoffs results as a measurement to where they vote teams. Or they look ahead and predict which teams are actually going to be better than the others.
The latter, in my opinion, is much better. The defending national champions don't have to be voted No. 1. And a team that made the quarterfinals doesn’t have to be voted in the Top 10. For the 2018 season, though, it’s quite obvious reigning champs North Dakota State and runner-ups James Madison will be voted No. 1 and 2. But who exactly deserves to be No. 3?
Some may say Sam Houston State or South Dakota State because they made the 2017 semifinals. Others might say quarterfinalists Kennesaw State should be No. 3 because the Owls bring back more than SHSU and SDSU. Or how about Weber State, who played JMU the toughest in the playoffs before the title game? Some may even do their homework and realize a team who didn’t even make the playoffs last year potentially has the third best chance to win a national title. Eastern Washington sure looks to be solid. Or how about Jacksonville State, who has been bounced out of the playoffs early the last couple years but brings in some pieces that could get the Gamecocks back to Frisco?
Those are six worthy teams to be voted preseason No. 3. Or maybe they’re not worthy, depending on how you feel a preseason poll should be voted. So let’s discuss each team.
We’ll break them down in six articles and explain why they deserve to be No. 3 and why they don’t. Then a seventh article will give fans a chance to give their thoughts with an opportunity to vote for the most deserving team. Because even if preseason polls don’t matter in the long run, people sure like to voice their opinions on them. [divider]
Why the Owls deserve to be preseason No. 3
KSU is exactly what the FCS needed. While multiple teams have jumped ship to that one subdivision where one corporate-sponsored bowl game decides if your season was successful or not, the Owls have not only added a team to the FCS, but have quickly become a national contender.
From 6-5 in their first season in 2015 to 8-3 and then to 12-2 with a trip to the quarterfinals, this program is on a rapid rise. And since 2018 will be its fourth year as a program, a lot of its 22 seniors are multi-year starters. The Owls had just 12 seniors on last year’s team that lost 34-27 to FCS blue blood SHSU. Nine offensive starters from that game return.
KSU runs the triple option and led the FCS in rushing last season with 330.2 yards per game. The top four options are back: quarterback Chandler Burks (1,103 yards rushing), Shaquil Terry (806 yards), Jake Mckenzie (731 yards) and Darnell Holland (727 yards). That’s not to mention 6-foot-3 receiver Justin Sumpter, who has some interest from NFL scouts, on the outside to keep the defense honest.
The Owls play a hard-nosed kind of defense, ranked No. 7 in 2017 in scoring at 15.5, needed for lengthy playoff runs. Last year’s FCS Freshman of the Year Bryson Armstrong anchors that experienced unit at linebacker.
The trajectory of the Owls leads to high expectations. All signs point to them taking that next step and making a big splash into the national title conversation.
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Why they don’t
KSU lost to SHSU, who got obliterated by eventual national champs NDSU 55-13 in the semifinals. Now, had the Owls played the Bison, it likely would’ve been a closer game because of their tougher defense and ball control offense. But it still shows KSU was a ways away from being a true threat to win a national title.
While the Owls are a veteran team, they are still inexperienced when it comes to the playoffs. SHSU jumped out to a 24-7 first-half lead before KSU settled into the game and climbed back. Teams like NDSU and JMU have been on the big stage before. KSU has not.
It's also fair to point out the Bearkats did lose some key players, but still return a ton of talent. Human nature may suggest SHSU deserves a higher ranking over the team it defeated in the playoffs.