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My Vote for the FCS Top 25, 10/21/2013

My vote for the FCS Top 25 for the week ending 10/21/2013 follows below the flip.

But first, check out this great picture from New Hampshire of OL Ricky Archer and OL Joe Coccia celebrating what may have been the most thrilling game of the weekend, a thrilling 29-28 win by New Hampshire over Villanova that featured a tie and two lead changes in the final two minutes.  (Photo Credit: John Tully/Concord Monitor)

From the article:
The season’s playoff hopes were about dead after Villanova (4-3) scored two touchdowns in a span of 46 seconds to take a 28-21 lead with 1:09 left in the game. But UNH got a 35-yard kickoff return from RS Dalton Crossan, plus 15 yards on a late-hit personal foul, to take over at the 50 with 1:02 on the clock. New Hampshire survived a fumble on an attempted hook-and-ladder play, got a pair of catches from RB Chris Setian for 24 total yards, and then QB Sean Goldrich (21-for-28, 236 yards, touchdown) turned a broken play into a 4-yard touchdown scramble to pull his team within one, 28-27, with just under 14 seconds remaining.
That put the pressure on head coach Sean McDonnell to decide whether or not to go for two. He said that offensive coordinator Ryan Carty “was pretty adamant” about going for the win. 
“And I just felt, too, that if we were going to win it, we were going to win it there,” McDonell said. “Just felt like the momentum was there and I thought maybe they’d be a little bit on their heels.” 
It turned out that Villanova was ready for Setian, but the senior captain bulled to the game-winning conversion anyway, capping a stellar day – career-high 88 yards on 12 carries and three catches for 28 yards.



1: North Dakota State Bison
2: Fordham Rams
3: Eastern Illinois Panthers
4: Maine Black Bears
5: McNeese State Cowboys
6: Towson Tigers
7: Sam Houston State Bearkats
8: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
9: Eastern Washington Eagles
10: Harvard Crimson
11: Youngstown State Penguins
12: Montana State Bobcats
13: Bethune-Cookman Wildcats
14: Villanova Wildcats
15: Lehigh Mountain Hawks
16: Princeton Tigers
17: Samford Bulldogs
18: Montana Grizzlies
19: New Hampshire Wildcats
20: Southern Illinois Salukis
21: Northern Iowa Panthers
22: Southeastern Louisiana Lions
23: Tennessee State Tigers
24: Wofford Terriers
25: Charleston Southern Buccaneers
  • It was a particularly difficult week.  Why?  Because it was a week where I felt that the transitive property no longer the be-all and end-all of judging the teams.  It helped that Northern Iowa, my candidate for "Most Significant Loss", has lost its third straight, most recently to lightly-regarded South Dakota in 38-31 in double overtime this weekend.
  • When the Panthers upended Iowa State, one of the big FBS upsets the first weekend of the year, they had a Buck Buchanan award candidate LB Jake Farley, manning the middle.  But after the son of UNI head coach Mark Farley broke his leg and was ruled out the rest of the season, the Panthers haven't been the same team, losing 3 straight.
  • It's the classic Top 25 rater's dilemma: do you reward past performance (Iowa State win, dominating win over McNeese State) or how the team looks right now, losing to a lesser light of the MVFC and victims of 3 straight?  Ultimately, I decided plummeting them to the lower reaches of the Top 25 was the correct call.
  • The trouble is, when you do that, it fundamentally wrecks evaluating head-to-head performance.  That's why McNeese State (my Most Significant Win) soared up to No. 5 after putting in a great performance in a win against Sam Houston State, 31-24 that was more dominating than the final score might indicate.
  • There were a boatload of these types of re-evaluations that needed to occur from last week's upsets.  Take, for example, Fordham.  With Villanova's loss, how does that affect the Rams?  Is that win now less of a "quality win" than it seemed back in September?  At 4-3, how good, really, are the Wildcats?
  • Similarly, was New Hampshire a bit hastily judged?  They're back at 3-3 with what is, without question, a quality win vs. Villanova, while their losses were to FBS Central Michigan, and two nationally-ranked FCS teams, Towson and Lehigh.
  • This week was filled with land mines like these - I actually had to group teams together, freely swapping teams like, say, Eastern Washington up and down tiers thanks to their loss earlier in the season to Sam Houston State
  • It also killed me to keep Southern Illinois in my Top 25 as well.  Ordinarily I hate putting 4-loss teams in my Top 25, but I felt I had to since I had raised them up after beating Northern Iowa but dropped them after getting curb-stomped by North Dakota State at home in the second half on Saturday.
  • Furthermore, who was I really forgetting in my Top 25?  While the top teams in the so-called "power conferences" are still the best teams in the country, it's very clear there is no SEC at the FCS level this season. The cream, like North Dakota State, McNeese State, Eastern Washington and perhaps Maine have already risen to the top, and once you get out of the Top 9 (and I'd argue Harvard belongs in the Top 10), the dropoff is substantial.
  • It's more like FCS is right now more like a bunch of ACC's, with a Florida State that can compete for the championship, and the rest clearly a step, or two, or three below.
  • Forgotten Team: Princeton.  You can argue that, perhaps, 4-1 Princeton has beaten a whole lot of teams they should have beaten (Georgetown, Lafayette, Columbia, Brown).  But the truth is, if they find a way to beat Harvard in Cambridge this weekend, they have a real strong shot at sweeping their way through the Ivy Legaue this year.  In fact, Tiger fans might be kicking themselves about their one point loss to Lehigh, and wondering what could have been.

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