FCS committee rankings are eye-catching

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - The intrigue flowed out of the NCAA Division I FCS selection committee's second and final set of Top 10 rankings Thursday night - just 10 days prior to the announcement of the 24-team playoff field.

Two more weekends of action can and likely will change the committee's rankings, but the current set would put national powers James Madison and North Dakota State on a semifinal-round collision course at No. 1 and 4, respectively. They met in last year's semifinals, with JMU winning at NDSU to end the Bison's five-year run as the national champion, before the Dukes went on to capture the title.

Also standing out Thursday night was unbeaten North Carolina A&T's inclusion in the rankings for the first time at No. 10. The Aggies are leading the MEAC and seek that conference's bid to the Air Force Celebration Bowl - not the playoffs - but if they don't move on to the third annual bowl, they'll be eligible for an at-large bid.

While James Madison (9-0) remained at No. 1, Jacksonville State (8-1) and Central Arkansas (8-1) moved up one spot each to 2 and 3, respectively. North Dakota State (8-1) fell two spots to No. 4 after its first loss and was followed by No. 5 Sam Houston State (8-1), which held steady.

Then it was: No. 6 Elon (8-1), up one spot; No. 7 South Dakota State (7-2), up three spots after beating NDSU; No. 8 Wofford (8-1), holding steady; No. 9 South Dakota (7-2), down four spots; and North Carolina A&T (9-0).

"I think the committee values strength of schedule," said committee chair Richard Johnson, who praised the CAA and the Missouri Valley, considered the two leading FCS conferences.

He added, "North Carolina A&T is a team the committee's been tracking all year and they were just lurking outside the Top 10 last week and with Northern Arizona's loss, they were able to get into the Top 10."

The rankings were announced to build excitement toward the release of the playoff field on Nov. 19 (11 a.m. ET, ESPNU).

Eight teams will receive seeds and first-round byes. If two teams from the same conference are seeded, the selection committee is charged with placing them on opposite sides of the bracket, even if it means changing seed lines. The new rankings reflected that policy, although it could have been coincidence for the three conferences that had two teams among the top eight - CAA Football, Missouri Valley and Southland.

The playoffs, consisting of 10 conference champions which receive automatic bids and 14 at-large selections, begin Nov. 25, and all games through the semifinals are played at campus sites. The 40th annual championship game will be held Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas.

Updated November 9, 2017

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