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My FCS Top 25, 10/31/2011

Below the flip, see my Top 25 for this week.
1: North Dakota State Bison
2: Lehigh Mountain Hawks
3: Maine Black Bears
4: Appalachian State Mountaineers
5: Montana State Bobcats
6: Sam Houston State Bearkats
7: Montana Grizzlies
8: Georgia Southern Eagles
9: Northern Iowa Panthers
10: Wofford Terriers
11: New Hampshire Wildcats
12: Harvard Crimson
13: Old Dominion Monarchs
14: Liberty Flames
15: Brown Bears
16: James Madison Dukes
17: Albany Great Danes
18: Central Arkansas Bears
19: Norfolk State Spartans
20: Towson Tigers
21: Cal Poly Mustangs
22: Georgetown Hoyas
23: Stony Brook Seawolves
24: Duquesne Dukes
25: Jacksonville Dolphins

Three quick hits about my Top 25:

* I cannot recall a poll where my picks diverge so greatly from the ones released by the Sports Network and the Coaches' Poll.

I literally have eight teams not included the Sports Network poll, and nine - nine! - teams different than the Coaches.

Part of the reason this is the case is that I refuse to put four loss teams in my poll at this point when there are still many quality teams available with three losses or fewer.

I can't see in good conscience, for example, why anybody on God's Green Earth would put 4-4 William & Mary  in the Top 25 at this point.  The Tribe have only beaten three Division I opponents, including 1-8 Villanova and 1-7 VMI!  While their home win over New Hampshire was great, it's hard to see it as anything but an aberration.

And 5-4 Delaware at No. 16?  Please.  The Hens have only 4 Division I wins, and while some might think wins over Towson, William & Mary and UMass make Delaware worthy of a national ranking, I sure as heck do not. Only 6-2 Towson, at No. 20, makes my Top 25 at all.

I cannot see why anyone would, say, deny 7-2 Georgetown, 6-2 Norfolk State, a Top 25 ranking over a 4-4 team with 3 D-I wins.  While critics will reflexively critique them by saying they play in 'weak conferences', the fact remains that they've beaten the teams on their schedule, and William & Mary have not.  And - news flash - the Hoyas and Spartans have played harder opponents than D-II New Haven, VMI and Villanova.

* There is simply a lot of strangeness at the bottom of the Top 25 polls that defy any real logic.

How does 5-3 (3-0) Cal Poly stay out of both Top 25s - yet leaguemates 5-3 North Dakota and 5-4 South Dakota, with significantly weaker schedules, remain ranked?  I corrected this major error by putting the Mustangs in my Top 25 - but other pollsters didn't bother, or didn't care.

How does any team in the OVC make Top 25 consideration at this point?  All three OVC title contenders have no true quality wins (5-2 Tennessee Tech, 5-3 Jacksonville State, 5-3 Eastern Kentucky) and all have at least one questionable loss (to Tennessee State, Chattanooga, and Austin Peay respectively).  Do people just like Jacksonville, Alabama, and throw them in there for that reason?

A better question might be: what has the OVC or second-tier Great West teams done to deserve consideration over, say, NEC squads?

While 6-2 Albany lost an early overtime game to a full-strength Colgate squad and a nationally-ranked Maine team, they've ripped off six impressive double-digit wins, against an all-Division-I schedule.  And 7-2 Duquesne, after a opening season loss to 4-4 Bucknell and a defeat against Albany, have ripped through the rest of their NEC schedule as well.

What's strange is that pollsters automatically discount the NEC, saying their "schedule is bad", but don't similarly discount, say, Tennessee Tech's schedule because they've scheduled NAIA Maryville.

That's because they also have FBS Iowa on the schedule - that walloped them 56-3.

There seems to be this fallacy out there these days that if your team faces an FBS opponent, they must be "good", and if they don't, they must have a "weak schedule".  But plenty of terrible FCS teams face FBS squads, and there are some great FCS teams that don't schedule FBS teams.

Yet some folks, apparently, are so dazzled at seeing Iowa, Idaho, or Kentucky, that they seem to forget that the rest of their schedule is not all that strong.

A team like Albany is really good - and they deserve to be there a lot more than North Dakota, who scheduled three sub-D-I teams this year.

* You know who a real diamond in the rough might be in the coming weeks?  5-3 Stony Brook, whom I put into my poll this week at No. 23.

People may not realize it, but two of their two losses came to two FBS opponents - UTEP and Buffalo - and the Seawolves darn near upset the Miners, taking them to overtime.

Their last loss - to 6-1 Brown - wasn't exactly chopped liver, either.

They haven't proven themselves against a really good team yet - though they drilled 4-4 Coastal Carolina this weekend, 42-0 - but with a showdown against No.14 Liberty to close out the year, they'll get their chance to prove themselves, and possibly even get the programs' first FCS postseason bid.

It's no secret I like to rank hot teams, no matter where they're from, and 5-3 Stony Brook fits the bill.  That season-ending clash could be an awfully interesting one at the end of the year.


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