A first-round bye and home-field advantage are keys to a deep playoff run, says Citadel football coach Brent Thompson.
The 8-0 Bulldogs could be in line for both, according to the first playoff rankings released by the FCS selection committee on Thursday.
The Citadel is No. 6 and Charleston Southern is No. 9 in the top 10 announced by the committee. The top eight seeds in the 24-team playoff receive a first-round bye and play at home in the second round (if they put in the minimum bid to the NCAA).
The Citadel can clinch the Southern Conference's automatic bid to the playoffs with a homecoming victory over Samford at 2 p.m. Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
The FCS committee will release two more weekly rankings before the playoff field is announced on Nov. 20.
"If we win, we'll get what we want out of it," said Thompson, who with Mike Houston at Lenoir-Rhyne advanced through the Division II playoffs to the national title game.
"To make a good, deep run in the playoffs, it's first-round bye and home-field advantage," he said. "That's how we did it at Lenoir-Rhyne, and the only way I know to do that is to keep on winning."
Last season, the Bulldogs received an at-large playoff bid after sharing the SoCon title with Chattanooga. The Citadel won a first-round game at Coastal Carolina before losing in the second round at Charleston Southern.
Charleston Southern, 6-2 heading into a Big South game against Gardner-Webb on Saturday, looks to be on the bubble for a top-eight seed at No. 9 in the initial ranking.
The Bucs are aiming for a second straight Big South title and automatic bid to the playoffs.
Jacksonville State is No. 1 in the playoff rankings, with Sam Houston State - one of two unbeaten FCS teams, along with The Citadel - at No. 2
Rounding out the top five are Eastern Washington, five-time defending FCS champ North Dakota State and James Madison, led by former Citadel coach Mike Houston.
After The Citadel at No. 6 comes Richmond, Chattanooga, CSU and Central Arkansas.