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 10 weeks of action, here is what FCS writers Brian McLaughlin and Sam Herder believe the playoff seeds should look like today.
Brian has started to break down the playoff bracket with seeds, first round matchups and host sites. Check back tomorrow as he breaks down why he chose his eight seeds and their order.
Sam Herder's seeds
1. James Madison (9-0) – A 7-3 lead against Rhode Island (2-7) in the third quarter made you wonder what was going on with the Dukes last weekend. But they showed how tough it is to keep up with them for four quarters, winning 38-3. The slow starts should be a concern, especially with Richmond and Elon to finish the regular season. We'll see if JMU comes out aggressive against the Spiders.
2. North Dakota State (8-1) – Yes, the Bison suffered their first loss. But there's still not two resumes out there better than NDSU's. The Bison own four ranked wins and are still alone in first place of the toughest conference in the FCS. NDSU has suffered worse losses in the past than SDSU and have still gotten a Top 2 seed. This team shouldn't move down unless a second loss happens.
3. Elon (8-1) – A couple weeks ago, I said I expected the Phoenix to start to slip. That has yet to happen, and they even picked up another ranked win against Villanova, but then had to use two overtimes to defeat a mediocre Towson team. Yet they still own four ranked wins and have yet to lose to an FCS team. The last two games, though, are against No. 17 New Hampshire and No. 1 JMU.
4. Jacksonville State (8-1) – There's a chance the playoff committee gives the Gameocks the No. 2 seed in Thursday's rankings just because NDSU lost. But I still don't think you can look at what JSU has accomplished as a whole this season and move them past the Bison. Sure, their two ranked wins in the nonconference turned out to not be so impressive. But you can't fault the Gamecocks for that. The truth is simply the OVC isn't very good, and a MVFC team with one FCS loss is more impressive than an OVC team with zero FCS losses. It's like comparing a 3.8 chemistry student to a 4.0 journalism student.
5. South Dakota State (7-2) – After two early losses in the conference schedule and looking like their preseason national championship aspirations were premature, the Jackrabbits are back in the national conversation. They handled NDSU at home and their big three in the passing game are in peak form. Add in a solid showing by the defense, and SDSU looks good. A Top 4 seed could happen with two more wins against ranked opponents.
6. Central Arkansas (8-1) – UCA continues to cruise through the Southland schedule and will continue to do so to finish this season. The Bears are a solid team and showed it even last season by beating the MVFC's Illinois State in the playoffs. No arguments for having them high in these rankings. But it's seeding another Southland team (Sam Houston State) where we have some issues. Previous years have shown that conference just isn't at the same level as others in the FCS.
7. Southern Utah (7-2) – The Thunderbirds improved to 4-0 at home with a win against North Dakota. Their last regular season game is in Utah against Northern Arizona, which could decide the Big Sky title. Two more wins should find SUU somewhere in the Top 8.
8. South Dakota (7-2) – Once the hottest team in the FCS, the Coyotes have dropped two of their last three games. To go along with games remaining at NDSU and versus SDSU, it's going to be an uphill climb to remaining in the seedings. Dual-threat quarterback Chris Streveler threw the ball 114 total times in those two losses. In the win in between those losses, he missed most of the game against Southern Illinois with an injury. Streveler is beat up, but he's going to have to be unleashed for the Coyotes to get wins down the stretch.