On the flip side of the coin, however, here we are talking about TLU having a legitimate chance of competing with and/or defeating UMHB. If this truly is the sentiment, how do you justify TLU's lack of ranking nationally?
Obviously a win changes everything immediately. But what if TLU competed and lost by, say 14, would that actually increase perception of their ranking in voters' minds?
I don't think there are too many neutral observers who think TLU stands very much of a chance. Within 14? Maybe. The game is at home and if UMHB is up by 17 or 21 in the fourth I could see backups getting scored on late. But I don't think too many people not associated with either program would take TLU with UMHB giving 14.
Could we all be surprised? Of course. But TLU really hasn't done anything to make people believe they can compete at that level. TLU hasn't faced a real playoff caliber team over their run. They won some close games against some mediocre teams in 2013, Trinity (5-5) by 4, MC (4-6) by 3, and got creamed by HSU (4-6) by 29. They did beat 7-3 LC by a couple, and that is where TLU is hanging their hat. This year TLU is looking better, only ETBU (3-3) and LC (2-4 on a BRUTAL schedule) have come within a TD, but there still isn't much of a signature win.
So lets look at the other teams in the bottom of the Top 25. Most have 1 loss, so it looks like TLU should be ahead. But Chapman lost to an elite Linfield by 7, H-SC lost to a top 10 Wabash by 13, Del Val is undefeated with wins over Lycoming and Montclair State (both 5-1), St. Thomas lost to ranked St. Johns by 10, St. Johns lost to ranked Concordia-Moorhead by 9, Concordia-Moorhead lost to top 11 Bethel by 10, and UW-SP who lost to ranked UW-P beat ranked NCC by 7.
If you take off your TLU blinders, TLU doesn't have anything to justify moving over teams that have all played someone important, and either won or played them tough. Now at some point the MIAC trio will bathe each other in blood and so will the UWW trio. That may open up room for TLU, if they play UMHB well and win the games they are supposed to win. Or any of the other close to the bottom teams could lose, opening up space for essentially number 26 TLU. But there just isn't a reason right now to move TLU into that grouping, and certainly not into the SJF, Witt, Bethel, Wabash, JHU, Hobart tier.
TLU has won 15 of 16? SJF ran to the final 8 last year. Witt is 25-5 in the last 3 years. Of those 5 loses, 2 are to D1 Butler, 2 are playoff loses, and one was to a ranked Wabash team. Bethel is 26-5. Of those loses, 2 are playoff loses, one was to national runner-up St. Thomas in conference, one was to a 7-3 St. Olaf team, and one is to the currently ranked Wartburg team. Wabash is 23-3. Two of those loses aren't great, one was to playoff team Witt last year. This year they own a win over currently ranked H-SC. Over the last four seasons, JHU is 36-4. 3 of those loses came in the playoffs, one to a 7-4 F&M team. Hobart over the last 3 seasons is 28-2. Both loses came in the playoffs.
What's the point of all this data? 16-1 with no playoff caliber teams on the schedule is not going to get you up a few tiers. There are a bunch of teams that have similar outcomes including playoff caliber teams.
TLU is doing well. They have come a long way from the 2007-2012 teams that couldn't break .500. But the proof is in winning big games, something TLU over the last season and a half hasn't played. This weekend is a big game for TLU. Give UMHB a good run for their money and you'll enter the Top 25 eventually (if the Bulldogs keep winning). Get blown out and you still have nothing to hang your hat on.