Playoff rankings drop Bearkats to No. 5

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(STATS) - Sam Houston State's six sacks allowed this season are tied for the sixth-lowest total among FCS teams.

On Thursday, the NCAA Division I FCS selection committee delivered a sack against the unbeaten Bearkats that's more important than any on the field.

The committee lowered the No. 1 team in the STATS FCS Top 25 three spots to No. 5 in their second of three sets of Top 10 rankings preceding its announcement of the 24-team pairings on Nov. 20.

Jacksonville State (8-1) had the top spot for the second straight week, followed by Eastern Washington (8-1), five-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State (8-1) and James Madison (8-1), which moved up one spot each. After Sam Houston, The Citadel (9-0) was sixth, followed by Chattanooga (8-1), Richmond (7-2), Central Arkansas (8-1) and North Dakota (8-2).

Sam Houston (9-0) hasn't trailed in a game this season, but coach K.C. Keeler's squad has fallen behind in the selection committee rankings. The top two seeded teams in the playoffs are guaranteed home games through the semifinals, whose winners will advance to the FCS championship game Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.

Second in the committee rankings last week, the Bearkats' fall to No. 5 ironically comes after one of their bigger wins of the season, 56-43 over rival McNeese (5-5).

While Sam Houston's 89th ranking in the NCAA's toughest schedule report would be cause for a drop with the committee, it doesn't compute with Jacksonville State's 101st-ranked schedule based on cumulative opposition (the winning percentage of past and future opponents). The Gamecocks, last year's FCS runners-up, are coming off a less impressive win than Sam Houston - 17-10 over Southeast Missouri (3-6).

Should the teams in front of Sam Houston continue to win this weekend, the Bearkats may not gain with the committee because they play a 1-8 Northwestern State squad. However, their final regular-season game on Nov. 19 could leave a lasting impression as they will host Central Arkansas in a likely pseudo-Southland Conference championship game. Both teams are 7-0 in conference play.

The playoffs consist of 10 conference champions which receive automatic bids and 14 at-large selections. Eight teams will be seeded and receive first-round byes, and 16 open play in the first round on Nov. 26.

The selection committee will release one more set of rankings on Tuesday during the "Championship Drive: Power Hour," beginning at 10 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

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