No. 4 South Dakota State heads to No. 2 North Dakota State this weekend to conclude the FCS spring regular season. The game was originally scheduled for April 3 but was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols in the NDSU program.
There is a ton on the line in this Dakota Marker matchup, both in the conference and the playoff picture.
The winner gets a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference title along with Missouri State and North Dakota. Mo State finished 5-1 in the conference standings. UND’s game this weekend at Youngstown State was canceled, so the Fighting Hawks finish 4-1. NDSU is currently 5-1 in the standings, and SDSU is 4-1. Due to the number of cancellations and the imbalanced schedule this year, teams with the same number of conference losses but a different number of conference wins shall be considered tied.
So if the Jackrabbits beat NDSU, we’d be living in a world where the Bison are not conference champs for the first time since 2010 and UND (in its first season in the Valley) and Missouri State (who went a combined 8-40 in the conference from 2014-19) are Valley champs along with SDSU (who won a share of the title in 2016). This spring season, man.
So that’s what is at stake in the conference. But nationally, which more people care about, the MVFC’s auto-bid and a top-two playoff seed go to the winner.
An NDSU win means…
The Bison were No. 2 in the playoff committee’s Top 10 rankings released on April 1. James Madison was No. 1. The Dukes are currently 4-0 and play No. 11 Richmond this weekend. Even if they win and finish 5-0, there’s a good chance NDSU jumps them for the No. 1 seed.
JMU = 5-0, one ranked win, Massey strength of schedule is 74th
NDSU = 7-1, five ranked wins, Massey SOS is 17th
Who has the better resume for the No. 1 seed? Truthfully, the No. 1 and No. 2 seed doesn’t make a difference, especially for this 16-team playoff bracket where there are only four seeds. The first-round matchups and the four pods of the bracket will be the same no matter if NDSU is the No. 1 seed or the No. 2 seed.
What happens to the Jacks in this scenario?
SDSU was No. 3 in the committee’s Top 10. The Jacks are currently 4-1 with two ranked wins. Are they in as an at-large bid if they lose? Probably, but it’s far from a guarantee. Dropping SDSU from No. 3 all the way to the wrong side of the bubble just because it lost to NDSU seems dramatic.
But if the Jacks lose and it isn’t a competitive game, does a 4-2 SDSU team get jumped by a 5-1 (5-4 overall) Mo State team or a 4-1 UND team that beat SDSU earlier in the season? It’s possible. If the committee only gives the MVFC two at-large bids, who gets left out between Mo State, UND, and SDSU?
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An SDSU win means…
The Jacks get a top-two seed. If JMU beats Richmond, the Dukes may claim the No. 1 seed over SDSU. While SDSU would have a better resume than JMU, the best chance for someone to jump an undefeated Dukes team for the No. 1 spot is NDSU.
A top-two seed guarantees home-field advantage until the national title game in Frisco, Texas. SDSU fans would enjoy some nice weather for home playoff games, that’s for sure.
Unlike SDSU with a loss, the Bison are guaranteed an at-large bid in this scenario. There is no way a 6-2 Bison squad with head-to-head wins over Mo State and UND is left out.
NEXT: FCS Playoff Bracketology