The Big Green and Harvard, whom I've had in my Top 25 all season, played a game last Friday that was as great as a game between Top 25 teams can be.
For 3 1/2 quarters, Dartmouth controlled the game, up 13-0 and the Big Green's defense, somewhat surprisingly, completely smothering Harvard's potent offense.
Then, in the span of about six and a half, Harvard, amazingly, pulled out the win.
One touchdown pass to WR Seitu Smith, one Dartmouth fumble and another touchdown throw from QB Scott Hosch to RB Justice Shelton-Mosley, and Harvard took their first lead of the game with 36 seconds left in the game.
It was a great game to watch, and amply showed that both teams were worthy of Top 25 status, but it is impossible, as a neutral fan, to not feel for the Big Green, who had them right there.
It feels like every week I beat the drum for the Ivy League's relative worth in the FCS landscape. It shouldn't have to be like that.
Though the game on national television last Friday was great, and anyone would have enjoyed it, I certainly understand why a fan of a school looking for an FCS playoff bid might not want to spend precious time watching it.
That's because the Ivy League elects not to participate in the FCS playoffs, a fact that I've gone over for years. The Ivy League should participate, because not participating is hypocritical, discriminatory, and senseless.
But that doesn't mean that when asked to rank a Top 25 that you should leave them out, if you're being honest with yourself.
I feel like the Ivy League should join the 20th century and join the FCS playoffs, which, as I discovered years ago, is not actually in violation of the 1945 Ivy League agreement that is the basis of the league. The actual text makes an exception for "NCAA Championships", a fact that the Ivy League Presidents choose to disgracefully ignore.
But the fact that the Ivy League presidents can't seem to figure out how to read their own 1945 agreement doesn't mean I should exclude them from my ballot.
1: Illinois State Redbirds
2: Jacksonville State Gamecocks
3: Harvard Crimson
4: Richmond Spiders
5: Chattanooga Mocs
6: Portland State Vikings
7: North Dakota State Bison
8: McNeese State Cowboys
9: William & Mary Tribe
10: James Madison Dukes
11: Eastern Washington Eagles
12: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
13: Dartmouth Big Green
14: South Dakota State Jackrabbits
15: Southern Utah Thunderbirds
16: Sam Houston State Bearkats
17: Charleston Southern Buccaneers
18: Fordham Rams
19: The Citadel Bulldogs
20: Northern Iowa Panthers
21: Pennsylvania Quakers
22: North Carolina A&T Aggies
23: Eastern Illinois Panthers
24: Colgate Raiders
25: Western Illinois Leathernecks
- Bucs! Bucs! Bucs!. Charleston Southern, at 7-1, upset Coastal Carolina last week, and went up in my rankings. Just not above the team they beat last weekend. Why? Because sometimes, when the gap is too great, I can't bridge them. I couldn't put them in front of the second-best team in the Southland, Sam Houston State, or the Big Sky title contender Southern Utah. I did, however, put them above a team they beat earlier in the season: The Citadel. The Bucs seem destined to climb in my poll as long as they keep winning (and others lose around them), but I'd like to see one more convincing win, like a stomping of Liberty in two weeks, to really have them as a Top 16 team and a potential seed in the FCS Playoffs.
- James Madison at 10? What do you do with a team that's lost its best player yet come agonizingly close to beating the two best teams in their conference? With their backup QB, the Dukes put up more than 40 points on both Richmond and William and Mary but lost both games. Not sure if I'm biased because I've watched JMU in action and been impressed with the Spiders and Tribe as well, but I felt like they were all strong Top Ten candidates, especially with Eastern Washington continuing to look less impressive against lesser competition. It could change in the last few weeks, but I think the Dukes at 10 is still justified.
- Four-Loss Panthers Back In Top 20? To me, there was no more justified return to the Top 25 than Northern Iowa, who is 4-4 but has played one of the most brutal schedules in the nation, barely losing to Iowa State, North Dakota State, Illinois State and Western Illinois. Compared to a team like 4-4 Indiana State, who isn't in my Top 25, the schedules aren't even close. The Panthers have faced all teams that are either FBS or have spent some period of time in the Top 25 - they have earned their place.