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Mocs hold highest ranking in 19 years. So what does that mean?
“I don’t think anyone is scared of us right now,” Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman told members of the media on Tuesday.
The number next to the Mocs’ name says otherwise.
Coming off a dominant performance over then-10th-ranked Jacksonville St. over the weekend, Chattanooga rose to No. 14 in the Sports Network top 25 poll and No. 17 in the FCS coaches poll this week. The latter status represents the program’s highest national ranking since reaching No. 9 in 1992.
These are signs. Signs of growth. Signs of success. Signs to rally around.
Huesman believes, though, that in the big picture, the rankings carry slightly more weight. They aren’t simply data for fans to fuss over. They’re more than a reason to brag.
“The FCS rankings are huge and we should put a lot of stock in them,” Huesman said. “They are huge because the top five ranked teams get seeds (in the FCS playoffs). (The selection committee) probably uses some of those season rankings to place teams. The bottom line is you want to be a top-five seed and get home-field advantage the whole time.”
Southland Conference commissioner Tom Burnett, a member of last year’s NCAA Division I Football Committee, downplayed that notion, but said the rankings certainly are not ignored.
“The rankings are not a measure the committee takes into account, at least officially,” Burnett said by phone Tuesday from the Southland league office in Frisco, Texas, the home of the FCS national title game. “All of (the committee members) are somewhat caught up in the fact that we’re personally aware of the rankings. We know who is ranked No. 1. We might know of teams that have been ranked all year. But the rankings by themselves are not utilized in a manner for selection in an official capacity.”
According to Burnett, the Gridiron Power Index (GPI), an index rating which combines computer rankings and polls, carries more leverage than both the coaches poll and the Sports Network poll. Think of college basketball’s RPI. Similarly to the BCS standings, the first GPI is not unveiled until October.
“The rankings by themselves, I don’t know them to be a determinant in what we were working with when I was in the room,” said Burnett, who will not be returning to the committee this winter.
“I don’t recall any question or comment or anything brought up about polls,” Burnett continued. “I think that the committee mainly relies on the regional subcommittees that really keep their eyes on a certain part of a country. They then report back to the committee so that the members come in well informed on what the best teams are in that part of the country. That all sort of comes together in the selection process.”
With it being just two weeks into the season, take the rankings with a few grains of salt. Teams will rise and fall. Due to early season matchups with FBS teams, only four teams ranked in the coaches poll have winning records — No. 1 Georgia Southern, No. 6 North Dakota St., No. 9 Richmond and No. 25 Massachusetts. The poll’s preseason No. 1 team, defending national champion Eastern Washington, is 0-2 with a loss to South Dakota last weekend and now sits at No. 10.
Huesman’s Mocs, meanwhile, who hammered Jacksonville St. by three touchdowns on Saturday, are somehow ranked one spot below the Gamecocks.
“There’s a lot of weird things about the poll that I see,” Huesman said.
Whether the number next to the name plays a roll come playoff time or not doesn’t matter in mid-September. At this point in time, it’s something for Chattanooga to deservedly feel good about. Take the positive vibes and run with them. A win on the road at (unranked) Eastern Kentucky this weekend would clear the way for a showdown at SoCon kingpin Appalachian State the next — a potential top-10 showdown that no Mocs fan could have envisioned when the team went 1-11 three years ago.
“I talk to the players about the buzz and what people are saying — not the polls or opposing teams — but what people close to our program are saying and what the city is saying,” Huesman said. “I make sure our guys know that. I make sure our guys know that they’re not only playing for themselves, but they’re playing for this city, all the former players and this athletic department.”
The number next to the Mocs’ name doesn’t mean much, the buzz it yields does.
You can’t rank that.
By Brendan F. Quinn, Nooga.com