With three games to go before FCS Selection Sunday, the positioning for playoff bids has hit a new level of importance. One race, in particular, that is tight is in the SoCon.
The conference will surely get two total bids, and possibly three. But with the Big Sky and MVFC looking like they will grab a combined eight at-large bids and the CAA probably taking two, three at-large bids will be up for grabs between the No. 2 and 3 SoCon teams, the No. 2 Big South team, the No. 2 AQ7 team, and the No. 2 Southland team.
The SoCon has four one-loss teams in conference play. Mercer is 5-1 and ETSU, VMI, and Chattanooga are 4-1.
Here’s the path to the playoffs for the four teams fighting for the two or three playoff bids.
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What The SoCon Wants To Happen Out Of Conference
In order to free up at-large bids and loosen up the bubble, SoCon teams are cheering for these things to happen across the country:
Hope some upsets happen in the MVFC and Big Sky where the third, fourth, or fifth place teams get beaten by a bottom-half team.
Hope UMass beats the CAA’s Rhode Island and Maine, or else both may finish 7-4 with an FBS win and be on the bubble.
Hope Kennesaw beats Monmouth on Nov. 20 and gets the Big South’s AQ because Monmouth may not have a resume worthy of an at-large bid, but Kennesaw will.
Hope SLU beats UIW this weekend, knocking down UIW’s chance at an at-large bid.
Hope UT Martin runs the table and wins the OVC auto-bid, or else UT Martin could get at-large consideration.
Hope SHSU doesn’t get upset by EKU on Nov. 13, and also hope EKU drops another game to SFA or Jacksonville State. EKU is currently 6-2 overall and 6-1 against the FCS out of the AQ7 but is lacking quality wins.
Mercer has the most conference wins right now and is receiving votes in the Stats Perform Top 25. The Bears are 6-2 overall with an understandable loss to Alabama. Looking good, right?
The problem is one of the wins is a non-counter, the lone FCS loss is a 45-7 drubbing at the hands of VMI, and they are only playing 10 games this year. Plus, Mercer still has to play UTC and at ETSU after this week’s bye.
Right now, its playoff resume is not that great despite its overall record. The Bears have to beat both UTC and ETSU to make the playoffs. Going 1-1 means a 7-3 record with only six D1 wins, which is a long shot to get an at-large bid.
Playing only two non-conference games and both being non-FCS opponents may be a killer.
The Buccaneers are ranked No. 14 and are 7-1 overall, including a 23-3 FBS win at Vanderbilt and a non-counter win against UVA Wise.
The FBS win will carry a lot of weight for ETSU if it does not get the SoCon’s auto-bid. ETSU’s lone loss is 21-16 at UTC, and the Bucs host VMI this weekend before going to WCU and hosting Mercer. If ETSU and UTC both win out, UTC would earn the auto-bid with the same conference record and the head-to-head win. The Bucs will want to win out and see UTC drop a game.
Going 3-0 gets ETSU in the playoffs, whether that be as the AQ (depending on what happens with UTC) or an at-large bid. A 2-1 finish gives ETSU an OK shot at an at-large bid with a 9-2 record, eight wins against D1 opponents highlighted by the FBS win. However, if ETSU goes 2-1 with a loss to VMI, VMI wins out, and UTC wins out … UTC and VMI would get playoff bids, and ETSU will be hoping a third SoCon team gets a bid from the playoff committee.
If the Bucs drop two games, 8-3 puts them on the bubble.
The spring conference champs are ranked No. 18. VMI is 6-2 overall and 6-1 against the FCS. The one FCS loss is to rival The Citadel, but the Keydets responded well after the L by beating UTC in overtime, annihilating Mercer 45-7 on the road, and last week came back to beat Samford 46-45.
This weekend’s game at ETSU is huge. The Keydets then finish at Furman and vs. WCU.
If they win out, the Keydets will be the SoCon’s auto-bid with help from tiebreakers, beating ETSU, UTC, and Mercer. Losing to ETSU and then beating Furman and WCU likely gets VMI into the field as an at-large bid because of the wins over UTC and Mercer. Finishing 1-2 would not be good for VMI, and next weekend’s game at Furman won’t be easy. A win this weekend is key.
UTC is 5-3 overall and 5-2 against the FCS. The Mocs are receiving Top 25 votes and would be the No. 27-ranked team. A season-opening loss to Austin Peay, who was No. 20 at the time but no longer looks to be a playoff team at 1-2 in the OVC, could be a problem on their resume. But their 21-16 win vs. ETSU will carry plenty of weight.
UTC has a head-to-head loss against VMI and a head-to-head win against ETSU. That’s key in tiebreaker scenarios for the AQ.
The Mocs finish with games at Wofford, at Mercer, and vs. The Citadel. Going 2-1 may not be enough for them to make the playoffs, but that depends on how ETSU, Mercer, and VMI finish their seasons.
Finishing 3-0 gives UTC a chance at the auto-bid. If not, an at-large bid is likely. If UTC and ETSU win out, the Mocs would get the AQ due to the head-to-head tiebreaker. If UTC and VMI win out, VMI gets the AQ due to the head-to-head tiebreaker and UTC is the No. 2 team with one loss ahead of two-loss Mercer and ETSU.
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