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?
More FCS No. 3 discussion:
Eastern Washington | Jacksonville State
Kennesaw State | Sam Houston State | Weber State
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]
South Dakota State
Why the Jackrabbits deserve to be preseason No. 3
It’s impossible to ignore the seniors SDSU loses on the offensive side from a banner 2017 season. Tight end Dallas Goedert and Jake Wieneke are in the NFL now after combining for 137 catches, 2,076 yards and 23 touchdowns. Leading rusher Brady Mengarelli is also gone as is offensive line leader Jacob Ohnesorge.
But people forget the Jacks had a pretty good defense that could be stronger this year. Christian Rozeboom is a top linebacker in the FCS and Jordan Brown showed his playmaking ability at cornerback last season. The defense pestered NDSU, who finished second in the FCS in points per game, into five turnovers in a huge regular season win.
As far as the offense, the cupboard isn’t bare. For starters, having a senior quarterback in Taryn Christion, who was the 2016 Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year, helps a ton. Pass catchers like Cade Johnson, Marquise Lewis and Jacob Brown showed flashes last season as defenses zoned in on Goedert and Wieneke.
Don’t be surprised, though, to see a revamped SDSU offense. Offensive coordinator Eric Eidsness has shown the ability to adapt and alter his offense, like after 2014 with the graduation of Zach Zenner in a power-run system. While Mengarelli led the Jacks in rushing, Isaac Wallace showed plenty of explosion and Mikey Daniel brings the power. SDSU may benefit from a more balanced offensive approach this season.
This is a program that’s been in the playoffs every year since 2012. It’s a consistent team making big strides in each of the last two seasons. With a beautiful renovated stadium, a new-ish indoor practice facility and the national success, the Jackrabbits have likely cashed in on recruiting. We could be looking at a reloading year for SDSU instead of a rebuilding one.
MORE: Mel Kiper Says Dallas Goedert will be an Instant Impact NFL Rookie for Eagles
Why they don’t
The Jackrabbits had a historical season in 2016. They won a share of their first MVFC title and got an FCS playoff seed for the first time in program history. A 36-10 thrashing at the hands of NDSU, a team SDSU defeated in the regular and split the conference title with, put a buzzkill of an ending to the season.
But 2017 was supposed to be the year the Jacks made that next jump as a program. With essentially its entire offense back, expectations were as high as they could possibly be. SDSU wanted to win a national title. Another milestone was accomplished by making the national semifinals and facing the defending champs JMU. The Jacks were even a popular upset pick. But they put up a clunker and ended the season with another buzzkill loss, this time 51-16. SDSU turned the ball over on its first five possessions. The total by the end of the game was 10 turnovers.
While the Jacks have made tremendous strides the last two seasons, highlighted by handing the Bison their only two regular season losses, they’ve also shown they’re a ways from reaching the mountain top in December. And now it’s going to be a helluva challenge not to take a step back when you lose that amount of offensive weapons.
Will the Jackrabbits still be a solid program competing toward the top of the MVFC and earn a seventh straight trip to the playoffs? More than likely. But 2017 appeared to be SDSU’s best chance at getting a win in Frisco, Texas.