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.
MORE: Brian McLaughlin and Sam Herder's FCS Mailbag (Week 6)
COMPARISON TOOL: Compare FCS Players | Compare FCS Teams
Teams will slide up and down, appear and disappear, as their resumes strengthen or weaken throughout the season. After six 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 (5-0) – ESPN College Gameday is in town. Villanova is in town and has one of the nation’s top defenses, even with stud DB Rob Rolle injured and two of last year’s studs in the NFL (Tanoh Kpassagnon and Austin Calitro). This weekend will be a test, but the Dukes have had adversity before in the last season and a half and faced up well.
2. South Dakota (5-0) – Out of respect, I put the Coyotes at the No. 2 spot. Their schedule so far versus North Dakota State’s schedule so far puts USD ahead. Now, can that change in a few days? Of course. But based on the body of work up to this point – which is the idea of this seeding, to measure work so far, not to project – USD deserves the No. 2 spot.
3. North Dakota State (5-0) – Are the Bison facing their toughest challenge of the season? Possibly. Youngstown State is going to be brutally tough this year. So far nobody has challenged the Bison, but that is about to change. If NDSU has a win at YSU this weekend, we’ll likely slip it right back into that No. 2 spot because any win at YSU looks a bit better than a nail-biter at home like USD’s
4. Youngstown State (3-2) – I don’t care that YSU has lost in OT to Pittsburgh, nor do I care that the Penguins fell by a field goal at South Dakota. They’re still one of the elite teams in the FCS and the way they handled South Dakota State’s offense at home earlier this year has me really curious about what’s going to happen this weekend.
5. South Dakota State (4-1) – REPEAT: Sick of the Valley teams yet? The rest of the FCS will be sick of them too when it comes time to release the playoff bracket. Youngstown State shut down the Jackrabbits’ vaunted offense, but we all know at some point in the next month’s SDSU’s offense is going to blow up on one or more of the top half of the Valley. It's the nature of the MVFC beast.
6. Jacksonville State (4-1) – I’m just about ready to bump up the Gamecocks into the No. 5 spot and if/when one of the above Valley teams trips up, it may be time to let them float upwards. JSU is still undefeated against FCS opposition and they were last year too and the year before – at least in the regular season.
7. Weber State (4-1) – What can I say? The body of work has been solid so far in a conference that is a bit down. The Wildcats hung tough with Pac 12 Cal and has played well against FCS competitions. That Eastern Washington game will be interesting soon, but based on body of work so far – Weber State deserves this spot.
8. Central Arkansas (4-1) – It’s too bad three teams can’t share a seed, eh? Western Illinois and Wofford are really just one more great game away from slipping into the seeding, in my opinion. Central Arkansas has been strong so far and its convincing showing against Sam Houston State put it at No. 8, but the Leathernecks and Terrier are right on the cusp.
Sam Herder's seeds
1. James Madison (5-0) – The Dukes have faced two CAA opponents so far this season and have been tested both times. But now brings a whole new challenge with Villanova coming to town. 'Nova's defense isn't the only show coming to town either, as "College GameDay" will be showcasing JMU. This is the game we point to when we make the argument if the Dukes are or aren't the favorites to win the national title.
2. North Dakota State (5-0) – Let's say JMU squeaks by Wildcats and the Bison get a convincing win at No. 8 Youngstown State. Then things get interesting for that No. 1 seed. Or let's say NDSU loses. YSU jumps right back into the national title picture with the Bison not straying far away. Honestly, this game in Youngstown is a 50/50 tossup. This is the first true test for NDSU this season and YSU is up to the task.
3. South Dakota (5-0) – The Coyotes continue to pad the nation's best resume. It looks like this: undefeated with an FBS win and three wins against ranked FCS opponents. They took down No. 3 YSU last week and out of nowhere you can't leave the Coyotes out of the national conversation any longer. USD is legit and pulling out the close games unlike last year. Look out NDSU and SDSU.
4. Jacksonville State (4-1) – JSU is just going to keep on rolling through this season, aren't they? And again, it's going to be hard to move the Gamecocks up. They have two ranked wins, but all of their remaining opponents aren't in the Top 25. A seed is guaranteed for JSU barring a huge letdown. The question is where does the team stand with the others by November?
5. Western Illinois (4-1) – The Leathernecks have an FBS win, one ranked FCS win and a quality loss to South Dakota. They are sitting pretty good right now, but will be rising or falling fast soon. After this week's winnable game against Missouri State, WIU faces NDSU, SDSU and Illinois State all in a row.
6. Wofford (5-0) – Wofford's 4-0 start was quite underwhelming. But then the Terriers took down No. 22 Western Carolina to show they are legit. They have won four of their five games by a touchdown or less. They certainly have a chance now to go undefeated against FCS opponents before facing South Carolina in the final game. But is a 10-1 Wofford resume better than a 9-2 CAA or MVFC resume?
7. Central Arkansas (4-1) – As the season hits November, the Bears are going to be an interesting team. They have a chance to win out, making their only loss being at Kansas State. With a huge ranked win against Sam Houston State, the Bears now control their own destiny. No hiccups can lead to a couple home games in the playoffs.
8. New Hampshire (4-1) – Like Brian mentioned, it's a battle for this No. 8 spot right now. I believe Weber State is very good, but one of its wins is a non-counter against an NAIA school. SDSU will probably sneak its way back into the Top 8 if the Jacks start gathering ranked wins in the MVFC. Right now, UNH's FBS win gives them this spot. That Holy Cross loss still bugs me, though. We'll see if the Wildcats hold this spot with wins against more CAA competition.