The NCAA Div. I Football Championship Committee released its Top 10 rankings on Thursday, and Jacksonville State found itself at the top.
(Hear from head coach John Grass on the how the team will approach the rankings as they move through the season in the featured video)
For the first time in history, the committee released its rankings before the end of the season. The rankings currently have the Gamecocks (7-1, 4-0 Ohio Valley Conference) projected as the No. 1 seed in the FCA Playoffs. Thursday was the first of three-straight weeks releasing the rankings before the FCS Playoff Selection Show on Sunday, Nov. 20.
If the rankings hold for the remainder of the regular season, it would mark the second-straight season that JSU would be the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. In 2015, the Gamecocks used the No. 1 seed to stay at home throughout the playoffs and rolled into the Div. I Football Championship Game in Frisco, Texas.
Jacksonville State is currently ranked No. 2 in both major FCS Polls, with Sam Houston State occupying the top spot in both the STATS FCS Top 25 and the FCS Coaches Poll. JSU handed SHSU its last loss, a 62-10 decision in the 2015 FCS semifinals.
The Bearkats are second in the committee's initial top 10 rankings, while Eastern Washington is third. Defending champion North Dakota State is fourth. When the bracket is announced on Nov. 20, the top eight teams will receive national seeds and a bye during the first round of the 24-team field.
The Gamecocks are in the Top 10 in at least one of the two major polls for the 40th consecutive week, with NDSU the only other team to appear in the Top 10 in each of those weeks.
Thursday's release came during ESPNU's College Football Daily, which will also announce the rankings on Nov. 10. The final release will take place Nov. 15 on the ESPNU Championship Drive: Power Hour at 4 p.m. CT.
The Gamecocks are currently one of the most potent offenses and defenses in the nation. They lead the OVC in total defense and offense, with their 259.6 yards per game allowed ranked No. 1 nationally. JSU also ranks first in FCS in third down conversion defense and first in fewest first downs allowed. Jax State's 445 yards per game on offense ranks 16th nationally, while its 258 rushing yards per game are eighth-best in FCS.
The Gamecocks will put its No. 1 ranking on the line Saturday at Southeast Missouri, a game that will be the OVC's Game of the Week on ESPN3. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT at Houck Stadium in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Here are the committee's Top 10 rankings as of Nov. 3:
1. Jacksonville State
2. Sam Houston State
3. Eastern Washington
4. North Dakota State
5. James Madison
6. The Citadel
9. Charleston Southern
10. Central Arkansas
(Courtesy: JSU Sports Information: www.jsugamecocksports.com)