The final FCS Playoffs rankings were revealed on Tuesday night and to many people’s surprise, North Dakota State is in the top spot. This continues a curious three weeks for the playoff committee, where the Bison started fourth a couple weeks ago. The part that really gets confusing is that none of the top four teams have lost over the last couple of weeks, but yet Sam Houston and Jacksonville State have dropped. While in my mind that was the right move, they never should have been ranked ahead of the Bison and Eagles in the first place. Now if NDSU and Eastern win this weekend, each will lock up the top two seeds and with it, home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The other interesting piece is in the back end of the top ten with North Dakota and South Dakota State coming in at nine and ten respectively. The Fighting Hawks are done for the regular season at 9-2, but have the opportunity to move up, mostly because Central Arkansas (8) plays at Sam Houston State (5). If the Bears knock off the Bearkats, I expect SHSU drops to playing on Thanksgiving and UND into the top eight. SDSU is the other player here. The Jacks as we know have a showdown at Northern Iowa Saturday. A win would put the Jacks into the top eight, based on the win over NDSU in my opinion, and possibly go ahead of UND. That said, I think it’s a safe bet that either SDSU or UND will see the Bison sometime in either the second or third round of the playoffs.
The argument here is that North Dakota beat Cal Poly, who handily beat the Jacks in Brookings. A valid point, no doubt, but I, repeat I, would value the Jacks win in Fargo over the overall top seed, rather than UND’s win over Cal Poly, who may not make the playoff field. To be honest, UND should be a seed and this shouldn’t be a discussion.
The arguments I have a feeling; are only just the beginning. To my colleagues at Jacksonville State, who seemed perturbed about my tweet about playing someone, here’s what I mean.
JSU this season played North Alabama, a Division 2 team, yes a good D-2 team, but still D-2. They also beat Coastal Carolina at home (CCU is transitioning up to FBS, not eligible for the playoffs) and Liberty, who’s 6-4. The Gamecocks resume is also not helped by a weak Ohio Valley Conference, which will only get one team into the playoffs. Why is NDSU and Eastern ranked ahead of JSU? Strength of schedule for starters. Yes, JSU has not lost a game to FCS opponents. But they also have just 8 Division One wins, trailing NDSU and Eastern Washington in that category. NDSU and EWU have FBS, Power 5 wins. JSU does not.
Why doesn’t the Coastal and Liberty wins help? The Flames are 6-4 on the year and best win is over Gardner-Webb in overtime. They lost by 22 to Charleston Southern. That’s not a great win. Now, Coastal Carolina. The Chants are 8-2, but as we know are ineligible for the FCS Playoffs as they transition up to FBS. It’s a solid win for JSU there, no doubt, but against a team that doesn’t count for the postseason, how am I to value it? They’re playing with more scholarship players than FCS schools, and while that should help, in my mind, I can’t give JSU a huge boost for winning
I didn’t put JSU first in the rankings. But those facts alone show why they deserve to be behind the Bison and Eagles.
We’ll see what happens on Saturday.