November 03, 2016

(STATS) - If you're seeing smoke, that's FCS social media on fire.

The NCAA Division I FCS selection committee announced a Top 10 ranking of playoff candidates for the first time Thursday and it didn't match the very top of the major polls, including the STATS FCS Top 25. Ohio Valley Conference leader Jacksonville State earned the committee's No. 1 seed with three weeks of action remaining before the 24-team field is announced Nov. 20.

The Gamecocks (7-1) were just ahead of Sam Houston State (8-0), ranked No. 1 in the STATS media poll but No. 2 by the committee. Those two were followed by Eastern Washington (7-1), five-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State (7-1), James Madison (7-1), The Citadel (8-0), Richmond (7-1), Chattanooga (8-1), Charleston Southern (5-2) and Central Arkansas (7-1).

"This changes nothing for us," Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler said. "The goal for us all along has been to win every game we possibly can, win the Southland Conference and position ourselves to win a national championship. I like that the committee is giving us a glimpse at where we stand right now, but there is still a lot of football yet to be played and our focus is on going out and competing and winning each week."

The committee rankings were likely going to draw the ire of some fan bases, it just depended on the order of the rankings. With the top two seeded teams in the playoffs set to play home games prior to the national championship game Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas, North Dakota State might have had the biggest complaint about the first set of rankings.

The NCAA's toughest schedule report that is included in its national statistics show the Bison with the nation's fifth-toughest schedule, with wins against Big Ten member Iowa, Eastern Washington, Charleston Southern and Western Illinois (6-2). The only blemish was a last-second loss to South Dakota State (5-3), which has the nation's third-toughest schedule based on cumulative opposition (the winning percentage of past and future opponents).

Jacksonville State, whose only loss was to SEC member LSU, had a strength of schedule that was 88th, Sam Houston's was 86th and Eastern Washington's was 30th, including the head-to-head overtime loss to the Bison. The second-best strength of schedule among the 10 ranked teams was Charleston Southern at 20.

Only eight teams will earn seeds for the playoffs and receive first-round byes; the other 16 qualifiers will open play in the first round on Nov. 26.

The selection committee will release additional sets of Top 10 rankings on Nov. 10 and 15.

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