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My FCS Top 25, 10/17/2011

Below the flip, see my Top 25 for this week.

1: Georgia Southern Eagles
2: Northern Iowa Panthers
3: North Dakota State Bison
4: Wofford Terriers
5: Montana State Bobcats
6: Lehigh Mountain Hawks
7: Maine Black Bears
8: Sam Houston State Bearkats
9: Appalachian State Mountaineers
10: Montana Grizzlies
11: New Hampshire Wildcats
12: James Madison Dukes
13: Harvard Crimson
14: Jacksonville State Gamecocks
15: Indiana State Sycamores
16: Norfolk State Spartans
17: Towson Tigers
18: Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens
19: Liberty Flames
20: Alabama State Hornets
21: Albany Great Danes
22: North Dakota Fighting Sioux
23: Brown Bears
24: Holy Cross Crusaders
25: Jacksonville Dolphins

Three quick hits about my Top 25:

* Man, picking 18-25 was a very tough exercise.

4-2 Delaware at No. 18 wasn't as difficult a pick - I rate them lower than most people, not giving the Hens too much of respect for three wins over Old Dominion, Delaware State and D-II West Chester - and it was easy to put 3-3 Liberty at No. 19, after their 63-27 payback shellacking of Coastal Carolina this weekend, considering their losses were to FBS North Carolina State and two Top 15 teams in James Madison and Lehigh.

But 20-25 were real struggles.  To me, 3-3 Richmond and 4-3 William & Mary were out - the Tribe only beat one team with a winning record, while Richmond is 0-3 in conference play.  5-2 Old Dominion weren't in my Top 25 last week, and their 39-35 loss to Towson wasn't going to be where I start putting the Monarchs in.  4-2 Samford got that way without beating a ranked team - and padding their schedule with 1-5 Gardner-Webb and D-II Stillman.

Overall, my feeling is that while the top teams in the power conferences certainly deserve recognition (Maine, Towson, James Madison, Wofford), the mid-range teams in these divisions have really failed to impress me very much.  I mean, is beating 1-6 Villanova all that impressive just because they share a conference with Maine?  Personally, I'd rate a win over Harvard a lot more than that.

* I settled on 6-1 Alabama State, 4-2 North Dakota, 4-2 Albany, 4-1 Brown, 3-3 Holy Cross, and 4-2 Jacksonville to fill out my Top 25.  I'm not thrilled with the picks, but I think in the end they're worthy picks.

Alabama State, the best team in the SWAC, has beaten every FCS team they've faced, and has only lost to an FBS opponent.  Albany's only losses have been to 3-3 Colgate in overtime, and No. 7 Maine - not a bad resume, along with four resounding wins.  Brown's only loss came to No. 13 Harvard, and they handled Rhode Island, Holy Cross, and Stony Book out-of-conference.

North Dakota felt like more of a reach to me - while they're 4-2, they have lost to two FBS teams and beaten two sub-Division-I teams.  So did Holy Cross to some extent - mostly fuelled by their win over No. 13 Harvard and their "close losses" to No. 11 New Hampshire and unranked UMass.  And Jacksonville, who has been impressive in wins over non-scholarship Pioneer Football League foes, also seemed like a bit of a reach with losses to 2-4 Western Illinois and 2-4 The Citadel.  But I felt a lot more comfortable giving them a spot in the Top 25 with full Division I schedules and a realistic chance to win their respective conferences.

* No. 8 Sam Houston State has done something impressive - they've gone 6-0, including a win over 3-3 New Mexico State out of the WAC.  For that, they're more than worthy of a Top Ten spot.

But do they deserve to be any higher?  They've only beaten one team with a winning record - 4-3 Central Arkansas - and the combined record of all their FCS opponents is 8-19, including two teams, Stephen F. Austin and Nicholls, who are looking for their second win on the season.

Some folks tend to overrate wins over FBS opponents, simply because they're FBS.  But while I give the Bearkats some credit for doing that, they'll have to really beat a big-time team before I start thinking of them as a Top 5 squad.

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