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 | South Dakota State | Sam Houston 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]
Why the Wildcats deserve to be preseason No. 3
Weber State put the FCS on notice in last year’s quarterfinals. The Wildcats were up by eight points with 3:14 to play at defending national champs JMU. But the Dukes tied the game a minute later, then hit a game-winning field goal as time expired to win 31-28.
Weber State had every right to win that game. Two dropped interceptions could’ve sealed it in those late minutes. But credit JMU for making the winning plays. That leaves a hungry Wildcats group looking to step into that top tier of the FCS.
A huge senior class of 17 players is gone, though. Defensive tackle Mckay Murphy, tight end Andrew Vollert and cornerback Taron Johnson are all getting a chance in the NFL. And quarterback Stefan Cantwell combined for 37 touchdowns as the heart and soul of that offense.
Weber State is building something special under Jay Hill. In his fourth season last year, the Wildcats went 11-3 overall and 7-1 in the competitive Big Sky to share the conference title with Southern Utah. Hill has been able to load his program up with talent. Last season, he had eight All-Americans and 17 players earn Big Sky All-Conference honors. Only six of the 17 were seniors.
This is a team that plays a hard-nosed style of football needed to make a long playoff run. Treshawn Garrett is going to be looked at to step up at running back along with receiver Rashid Shaheed, who was electric as a returner. The defense will remain stingy with four of the six top tacklers back.
The Wildcats made a run last season as an unseeded team. This year, they hope to take care of business to get set up for another push toward Frisco.
MORE: Every NFL Draft Pick From Weber State
Why they don’t
While the Wildcats certainly earned respect by taking it to JMU, it should also be pointed out that the Dukes played probably their worst game under Mike Houston. Some of that is because of Weber State. But some of it was just uncharacteristic mistakes by the home team.
It won’t be easy replacing that senior class. Cantwell made the offense go and Johnson was one of the best defensive players in the country and an NFL Draft pick. Add in Vollert, a top tight end in the FCS, and those are big holes to fill.
We’ll see early if this team is rebuilding or reloading in 2018. A season opener at Utah and a home game vs. South Dakota, a playoff team last year, makes for a tough nonconference slate.
Not long ago, Weber State was a struggling program. Win totals in 2012, 2013 and 2014 were just two. A 2016 playoff appearance was a big step. And last year was another big step. Do the Wildcats have the talent back to keep climbing the ladder?