It happens every college football season. Pollsters are too enamored by a team’s performance the previous year and don’t see that the current season’s version is not the same as it was before.
Let’s take a look at five of the programs that we believe are ranked too high in the preseason FCS Top 25 poll.
1. Sam Houston State Bearkats – You might think it’s crazy to consider a team that should win eight or nine games and a conference title overrated, but putting the Bearkats at No. 3 is way too high.
Just because this team brings back the sensational Jeremiah Briscoe doesn’t mean that it will be any better than it was in 2016. Sam Houston State returns its skill position talent, but it has a new offensive coordinator and some major concerns along the offensive line.
The defense is still a mess, too. It was throttled by James Madison in the playoffs last season, and the unit might be even worse in 2017. Even if things are a disaster, this team should win its last five and make the playoffs, but the Bearkats are liable to get creamed against a quality opponent.
2. Richmond Spiders – This team checks in at No. 7 in the preseason rankings despite having a lot of questions heading into the season. The Spiders lost head coach Danny Rocco to rival Delaware, and their star quarterback spent all offseason recovering from a torn ACL.
The defense has a lot of holes to fill. The school brought in Russ Huesman, who was the defensive coordinator on its national championship team in the mid-2000s, to be the new head coach in the hope that this unit makes a quick turnaround after a poor showing in 2016.
The Spiders have a brutal road schedule, and it feels like nine wins is the absolute max for this team, with 7-4 or 8-3 more likely. That’s not worthy of a Top 10 preseason ranking.
3. Youngstown State Penguins – Bo Pelini’s squad had a Cinderella run through the FCS postseason in 2016, but this team lost way too much talent to repeat last year’s feat.
Youngstown State finally looks like it has a quarterback, but Pelini’s teams have always relied on the running game and a stout defense. Those are both issues heading into this season.
The Penguins lost both of their 1,000-yard rushers from last season and now will rely on Tevin McCaster to carry the load. He averaged a full half-yard less than both of the stars last season, and the running game will take a hit because of it.
A bigger concern is on defense. Youngstown State’s entire secondary must be replaced as well as a pair of defensive ends that were hard to stop. Avery Moss and Derek Rivers put up amazing numbers last season and not having them back hurts greatly.
4. The Citadel Bulldogs – Last season, this team started off 10-0 and looked like a real threat to win it all. The Bulldogs had earned a No. 6 seed in the FCS Playoffs, and their only loss all year was in the season finale against North Carolina.
The Citadel was unable to move the ball at all against Wofford, though, and ended up one-and-done in the postseason.
Just three offensive starters return from last year’s squad, so it’s going to be tough for The Citadel to post anything close to the numbers it achieved last season. The triple option relies on experience and discipline, and it’s hard to get the same results when most of your players are much greener.
The Bulldogs also lost sensational defensive back Dee Delaney to an FBS transfer, which will make stopping some of the passing attacks in the Southern Conference that much tougher.
5. Western Illinois Leathernecks – WIU rounds out the Top 25, but it will be out of the rankings by the time October rolls around. The Leathernecks play an incredibly challenging schedule, beginning the season with three straight road games against teams in different parts of the country.
They must travel to face Tennessee Tech and Northern Arizona in successive weeks before a tilt with Coastal Carolina after a bye. The week off is fortunate after so much travel, but it also means that Western Illinois has to play nine straight conference games without a week off.
WIU only has four home games this season, and it’s hard to imagine this team finishing with even seven wins given its schedule. It’s way too daunting, and a team that should be able to rebound from a poor performance last season won’t get the chance to because of this schedule.