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My Vote for the FCS Top 25, 10/14/2013

My vote for the FCS Top 25 for the week ending 10/7/2013 follows below the flip.

But first, check out this great picture from James Madison of QB Michael Birdsong as he's crossing the goal line against Richmond last week  (Photo Credit: Joe Mahoney/The Richmond Times-Dispatch)

The sad thing is, this picture was a great one - but Birdsong's ostrich-like touchdown pose would not count for any points, since it would be called back for holding.

James Madsion would go into halftime with a 7-6 lead, but both teams would erupt in the second half, ending in a 38-31 marathon.  Dukes KR Dejor Simmons would take the second-half kickoff for a 100 yard touchdown run, and James Madison wouldn't trail by any more than 5 after that point.

1: North Dakota State Bison
2: Sam Houston State Bearkats
3: Fordham Rams
4: Eastern Illinois Panthers
5: Villanova Wildcats
6: Eastern Washington Eagles
7: Towson Tigers
8: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
9: Montana State Bobcats
10: Maine Black Bears
11: McNeese State Cowboys
12: Southern Illinois Salukis
13: Northern Iowa Panthers
14: Youngstown State Penguins
15: Harvard Crimson
16: Bethune-Cookman Wildcats
17: Lehigh Mountain Hawks
18: Wofford Terriers
19: Samford Bulldogs
20: Montana Grizzlies
21: Princeton Tigers
22: William & Mary Tribe
23: Tennessee State Tigers
24: Southeastern Louisiana Lions
25: Charleston Southern Buccaneers
  • Most significant win:  Finally - week where I don't have to talk about Fordham!  How can you not have Villanova as the most significant win last week, with a fairly surprising 45-35 win over last weeks' No. 2 team in the country, Towson.  It wasn't so much exciting as it was stunning: the previously undefeated Tigers coughed up the ball three times on their first three drives, then went for the jugular, converting all three miscues into touchdowns to leap to a 21-0 lead.  The Wildcats never really looked back from there.
  • Villanova's emergence came as little surprise to me: navigating a tough early-season schedule, with games against FBS Boston College, Fordham, William & Mary and another team that has spent time in the Top 25, Stony Brook, the Wildcats have rolled out four very impressive wins behind the stupendous play of QB John Robertson, an athletic quarterback that has been equally devastating running the ball (593 yards, 8 TDs) and passing (1,064 yards, 7 TDs, 71% completion percentage).  He is executing Villanova's spread-option at a very high level right now.
  • Which begs the question - how on earth is Villanova out of the Top 10 right now?  
  • With the Sports Network having them at No. 12 and the coaches' poll slotting them at 11, I have to wonder if they're watching the same games I am.  I put the Wildcats at 5, and to me, it's a no-doubt-about-it 5.
  • It amazes me that a team can start the season unranked, like Fordham, beat a nationally-ranked team in a shocker at home, like Villanova, and then everything that defeated team does, no matter how impressive, simply doesn't move the needle on those national polls, even after Fordham later proves themselves to be one of the top teams in the nation.  I mean, don't people ever take second looks at these teams and re-evaluate their wins and losses?
  • For example, Montana State is No. 5 in the Sports Network poll instead of Villanova.  Their best win by far is against Northern Arizona, who is ranked No. 22 in the coaches' poll and unranked in the TSN poll.  Their worst loss came against Stephen F. Austin, who is 2-4 and just got smoked by Southeast Louisiana at home, 35-3.  Does this make an iota of sense that the Bobcats are five spots ahead of the Wildcats, when Villanova played, by any measure, a vastly tougher schedule and has multiple Top 25 wins, including a victory against the No. 2 team in the country?
  • Here's another bit of lunacy: Towson stayed at No. 7 in both polls, when Villanova went on the road, and beat them IN THEIR HOUSE, and are ranked four spots below them!
  • One of the interesting subplots in the CAA this season is the conference game that won't be played.  With an 11 team conference, not every team can play each other, and two Top 25 teams, Towson and 5-1 Maine, won't face off this season unless it's in the FCS playoffs.
  • If Maine beats Villanova, and Maine loses, to, say, New Hampshire, it will mean that every CAA team will have one conference loss.  So if Maine and Towson go undefeated the rest of the way, there won't be a CAA conference champion.
  • Where things really get messy is if, as seems quite possible, several teams have two conference losses but sit with a 7-4 or 8-4 record.  What if, as has happened before, there are quad-champs?  What if, say, Delaware loses one more conference game but sweeps through the rest of their conference schedule?  Would they get the autobid?  Should they get in at all?
  • About all you can say for sure is that the CAA is going to have a fascinating stretch run, with pretty much every game being very, very meaningful.
  • Most Significant Loss:  To me, it was a slam-dunk that Northern Iowa, with back-to-back losses to North Dakota State and Southern Illinois, respectively, had the most significant loss.  
  • I dropped the Panthers to No. 13, below, perhaps, where most people dropped them, because I thought their overtime loss at home to the Salukis, 24-17, was significant enough to drop them below Southern Illinois, whom I had at the bottom of my poll last week.
  • When is it important to reverse the order of two teams in a Top 25 ranking in a head-to-head victory?  In my mind, critical to this is whether the game is at home, or away.  For a variety of reasons it is very hard to win any sort of road game in the FCS, so personally I give a lot of credit for a team that can go into a hostile environment (and the UNI-Dome certainly qualifies), and come away with a W.
  • Momentum, too, is important in my decision-making process.  If the loss is isolated, or the win is isolated, maybe I don't have them leap up as much, but when Southern Illinois goes on the road twice and pulls off huge wins, that makes me take notice.  Despite a 3-3 record, those two wins over Top 25 teams means Southern Illinois should be ranked above both UNI and South Dakota State to me - and that's what I did.
  • Forgotten Team: Tennessee State.  They've been on my radar a while, but with their only loss being the season opener to another team I've ranked, Bethune-Cookman, the 6-1 Tigers are on a very good roll winning their last six games, including a resounding 38-15 win over Jacksonville State.  RB Tim Broughton led the Tigers to the win last weekend, and sandwiched in there is also a win over who is likely the class of the SWAC, Jackson State, 26-16.  The really tough part of their schedule is coming up - Eastern Illinois, UT Martin and Eastern Kentucky loom in a brutal stretch in a resurgent OVC - but the Tigers could be on the verge of qualifying for their first-ever FCS playoff appearance with a couple of wins in these three games.
  • Incidentally, don't you hate when last week's "Forgotten Team" turns around and delivers an unforgettable loss?  That's what Murray State did to me, following up a surprising 4-2 start by suffering a triple-overtime loss to Southeast Missouri State, 37-34, for the Redhawks' first win on the season.


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