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 four 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 (4-0) – The Dukes were given fits by a feisty Maine team last weekend — at least for awhile. Then they pulled away like championship teams tend to do and put the game away. This weekend could be similar as they travel to Delaware and find out how good the Blue Hens are.
2. North Dakota State (3-0) – The Bison and the Missouri Valley as a whole are a machine. RB Lance Dunn is lighting things up offensively and the defense is squeezing the life out of opponents. But now the Bison face Valley teams from here on out. This should be fun to watch.
3. South Dakota State (3-0) – The Jackrabbits face an incredible challenge this weekend on the road in Youngstown State. The Penguins were national runners up, they're at home, and are one overtime loss to FBS Pittsburgh away from being undefeated. Break out the popcorn and cream soda, folks.
4. Sam Houston State (3-0) – The win over Nicholls was very impressive, and gave a glimpse of what the Bearkats can do. P.J. Hall is back on defense and basically it boils down to this: If Sam wins this weekend at Central Arkansas, it'll win the Southland Conference and finish 11-0 in November. Book it.
5. Jacksonville State (2-1) – The Gamecocks hammered an undefeated Liberty team that beat a Power Five Conference team (Baylor). The game at Tennessee-Martin on Nov. 11 is looking more and more interesting every week.
6. Youngstown State (2-1) – 'Guins can take a massive leap forward with a win at home over South Dakota State. All the way up to No. 3 in my book if they pull that off. They looked like they needed to replace a lot of key players after last year, but it is going well.
7. South Dakota (3-0) – The winner of South Dakota/Western Illinois this weekend takes this spot (or higher, depending on other teams) in my seeding vote for next week. The Missouri Valley is loaded.
8. Western Illinois (3-0) – Bet you Coastal Carolina didn't see THAT coming last week. The Leathernecks annihilated the newest FBS team (the Chants) to the tune of 52-10 last weekend, and sorry folks … The Valley deserves five of these eight seeds, and maybe more (Illinois State? Southern Illinois?).
Sam Herder's seeds
1. James Madison (4-0) – Maine showed the Dukes the CAA won't be an easy path to a No. 1 seed. But JMU battled through adversity and still won by three scores despite a slow start. The Dukes return some playmakers from suspensions this week as a trip to visit Danny Rocco and Delaware awaits.
2. North Dakota State (3-0) – Running back Lance Dunn is an all-American talent. It'd be fun to see how big his numbers would get if he played in some of the conferences down south. He has NDSU's run game rolling and the Bison defense is looking as strong as ever despite not being at full strength.
3. South Dakota State (3-0) – It's go time now for the Jackrabbits after relatively smooth sailing through the nonconference schedule. Their road to another MVFC title gets bumpy right away with a trip to the defending national runner-ups, Youngstown State. The conference schedule is where SDSU proves it can live up to the hype as the third best team in the country.
4. South Dakota (3-0) – Just how good are the Coyotes? We're about to find out real quick. They go to Western Illinois this week and host YSU next weekend. Not only is it WIU's first home game of the season, it's Homecoming. And it's the first time former head coach and current USD head coach Bob Nielson returns to Macomb. The Coyotes need to go just 4-4 in conference to make the playoffs. But a 1-0 start would be huge.
5. Sam Houston State (3-0) – The Beakats now have two ranked wins on their resume and face a third one Saturday against Central Arkansas. After this, it's going to be a cakewalk. SHSU absolutely needs to win this game to get a high seed. In fact, the Bearkats need to pound the Bears to try and prove to the playoff committee they're a top team in the FCS.
6. Jacksonville State (2-1) – JSU did a nice job beefing up its nonconference schedule and got two quality wins (at the time) against Chattanooga and Liberty. But both teams don't appear to be as strong as they were expected to be. Nonetheless, it's two ranked wins for the Gamecocks. And the OVC looks to be a bit stronger this season, making another potential undefeated conference mark for JSU very impressive.
7. Youngstown State (2-1) – The 2016 national runner-ups are lingering around the FCS as a Top 5-8 team. But doesn't it seem the Penguins are flying under the radar a bit just months after being in Frisco? A reason for that is people are still probably trying to figure out how good this team is. Beatdowns of Robert Morris and Central Connecticut and a close loss to FBS Pittsburg don't tell us much. Their first three conference games against SDSU, USD and NDSU will tell us a bunch.
8. Western Illinois (3-0) – Sick of all the MVFC hype? Well for one, the conference is as legit as it's ever been. Five 3-0 teams and a 2-1 YSU team makes for an interesting case as to how many teams will make the playoffs. And second, just wait a few weeks. The Valley will beat up on each other as these teams will fall in the rankings and polls. WIU and USD are both 3-0 with FBS wins. Those are top eight resumes. But who's better between the two? We'll find out Saturday.