This story starts out three years ago. As KC and I watched college football, we had fun with a team named William and Mary. They play in the Football Championship Subdivision, which is NCAA for "the teams that aren't big enough to warrant bowl games, and have a playoff to determine their champions". Last year I decided to follow Wm & Mary after they upset Football Bowl Subdivision (NCAA for, "the big boys") member Virginia in their opener. This was a couple seasons after Appalachian St. (also FCS) upset Michigan in that much ballyhooed game. Actually managed to watch a couple of their games, as they ended up ranked 4th and losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Villanova.
When I would check on their national ranking on CBSSports.com (which otherwise is the best general sports site) I would find that their ranking had them listed by abbreviations ( i.e. W&M, App, Vil) which you often couldn't tell who's who. Last year, at least, you could click the name and get a team page that had their names and schedules, if no news like the big boys. This year, on the new improved CBSSports.com, you can still click the link, but it takes you to a page with NO info. So I finally fought my way through the NCAA site, only to question their poll. Why? Well, for one thing, the 5th through 9th teams have one win and 2 losses, and the #20 is 0-2! So, I looked at the factors that led to this(i.e. that they all play a certain amount of big boy teams; the poll is heavily skewed to the bigger conferences-16 of the top 25 come from 4 conferences, and 10 come from just 2- and the conference mates tend to beat each other up; a tendency of the voters to name recognition rather than quality of results), and decided I could do better.
Thus, I came up with a rather ill-defined point system based on how they fared against a) big boy teams, b) teams at their level of assumed quality, and c) "guys they should have beat". This gave me a workable framework which, while not perfect, is better than the "official" rankings. Here then is my first FCS top 15 (my one caveat to my non-expertness is that I'm only including teams in the official top 25).
1. James Madison (2-0, ranked 3 on the "official" poll), Harrisonburg, VA. Member of the Colonial Athletic Conf. They combined the aforementioned upset of #16 big boy VA Tech with a 48-7 rout of Morehead St.
2. Jacksonville State (3-0, #4) Jacksonville, FL, Ohio Valley Conf. Among their wins is a 49-48, 2OT win over Ole Miss.
3.South Dakota (2-1, #25) Vermillion, SD, Great West Conf. They've actually had 2 big boy games, including a 41-38 win over Minnesota.
4. North Dakota State (2-1, #23) Fargo, ND, Missouri Valley Conf. Among their wins is the 6-3 opening upset of Kansas, and their loss was to perennial power Northern Iowa.
5. Delaware (3-0, #11) Newark, DE, Colonial Ath. While they don't have a big boy on the schedule, they have outscored three opponents 87-9.
6. Liberty (2-1, # 15) Lynchburg, VA, Big South Conf. They beat big boy Ball State 27-23, and lost to always tough Robert Morris.
7. Montana State (2-1, #22) Bozeman, MT, Big Sky Conf. Their big boy game was a 23-22 loss to Washington State.
8. UMass (2-1, #16) Amhearst, MA, Colonial Ath. Not only did they top William and Mary in their opener 27-23, but narrowly lost to Michigan 42-37 this weekend.
9.Villanova (2-1, #1) Radnor Township (near Philly), PA, Colonial Ath. Blasted two kids their own size by a combined 78-7, but lost their big boy game to Temple 31-24.
10. Appalaichian State (3-0, #2) Boone, NC, Southern Conf. A couple of easy games weighed down by a narrow 42-41 win vs Chattanooga.
11. Stephen F. Austin (2-1, #10) Nacogdoches, TX, Southland Conf. Blown out in their big boy game 48-7 by Texas A&M and a 22-20 win over Northern Iowa (that knocked NI off my list).
12. Elon (1-2, #7) Elon, NC, Southern Conf. They were competitive in a 41-27 loss to big boy Duke, and lost in OT to Richmond (who just misses my list).
13.South Carolina State (2-1, #14) Orangeburg, SC, Mid- East Athletic Conf. While they lost their big boy game to GA Tech 41-10, they've outscored their other opponents 105-20.
14. Eastern Washington (2-1, #18) Cheney, WA, Big Sky. They were competitive in 49-24 loss to big boy Nevada, and upset "official" #6 Montana 36-27.
15. William and Mary (2-1, #12) Williamsburg, VA, Colonial Ath. Did you think I'd leave them out? Their only loss was the opener to UMass.
And there it is, the first FCS Martin poll.