So FCS fans, where do the conferences stand now with potential playoff bids with two weeks to go? I'm going to try to project this these last few Saturday evenings around 10 to 11 p.m. ET, ahead of when Sam Herder and I give our "final call" on the actual team-by-team "seeding take" after the Nov. 23 games.
Again, I'm not trying to put teams in order with this piece (Sam and I do that on Mondays), just trying to react to what happened today and take a look at each of their roads ahead in the next two weeks — what is realistic? Who is a realistic candidate for a playoff spot? Who isn't? We address all of this in the piece below. Hey FCS Nation … it's November, baby. It's holiday time.
[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
Hold onto your hats, folks. Hold onto your kids (if they're younger, otherwise … maybe just text them). Hold on to your adult beverage … or if you're reading this Sunday morning? Hold onto your coffee. The foo-foo variety is OK (I guess).
Man, I'm tired of the mundane "this weekend was crazy" line but I don't know what else to say. I'm not going to lie to you. This weekend was insane. Again. One weekend, I'd love to report that "everything went as planned in the FCS weather report we gave you last night, and all is boring" but that's not how the FCS rolls. I had printed out my picks for this week. I already tore up the printout. It's now lining the bottom of … my trash can. You thought I'd say my birdcage, didn't you? You were expecting that cliche. I don't blame you. But I don't have any birds I cage. We just have a birdfeeder in the backyard. They're free to roam, just like we all should be free to roam.
With two weeks to go? I dunno what's going to happen. I can try to project, but key quarterback injuries, weather changes, earthquakes, tsunamis, Elvis and Tupac sightings, Ouija Board consultings (just kidding, I don't do that … cough cough) … yeah, all of it leads to a mess. But why don't we get to that FCS Playoff mess, conference by conference, shall we? I will predict this: Next week SHOULD be a bit more clear because we only have to project with one more week. But geez, this past week didn't help folks. It may have made it worse.
Now let's take a look at the conferences and their potential "total" playoff spots:
BIG SKY (3-to-5 berths): Why do I say "3 to 5"? Because Montana State traveling to UC Davis this week now becomes really interesting. If UC Davis wins, it might keep the Aggies in the picture by the hair of Dan Hawkins' chinny-chin-chin, because there's a scenario where they win their final two games, finish by winning 5 out of the last 6 … and maybe they're still in. And Montana State may still survive even with a loss (that's a big maybe, but possible). Now, if Montana State goes to California and disposes of UC Davis … now the Big Sky is pretty much locked in with four playoff teams and the discussion in the final week turns from "how many get in" to "how many seeds does the Big Sky get"? Mark it down … Weber State, Sac. State and Montana are now in the playoffs based on what they've done and what they should clearly do in the final two weeks. The question is, could a fifth sneak in … or could an outlier screw it all up and drop the league to three bids? And sorry, Eastern Washington, I honestly think even with two more wins to close the year … the lower division win vs. Lindenwood ends the discussion. Just my take. We all know you'll be back.
BIG SOUTH (1-to-2): I still think Kennesaw State could end up being a bubble at-large team, but man oh man did the Owls flirt with disaster today, nearly falling at Campbell. That would have ended their chances. Monmouth followed up its big win over KSU with a bit of a "hangover" win against North Alabama, but like we've said many times … good teams do this.
CAA (3-to-4): Let this sink in folks … the CAA now has 11 of its 12 teams with two to four conference losses. And as people blast this collective … I'm telling you, this is just a very, very deep group of teams. Folks … 12 of the 13 teams control their own destiny to finish .500 or better this year with two weeks left to go. That's not the mark of a garbage league, it's the mark of a strong league. However … this level of parity could hurt the league when it comes to playoff representation. My guess is? The playoff committee will probably take a look at the final CAA standings to differentiate because otherwise it's like a ball-of-yarn that your precious kitten has gnarled up so nastily that even a high-end coroner couldn't make a positive ID on. So, considering that — obviously behind league-leader James Madison — Villanova at 7 wins now looks pretty strong for at least an at-large bid. After Villanova (with the very realistic potential of 9 wins), it gets muddy … I'd say Albany and Towson control their own destinies because they can hit 8 wins, which will guarantee them a spot in the playoffs. New Hampshire, Richmond, Maine and Stony Brook have the potential to win out and also hope for a ton of good stuff to happen to help their cases. I will say this though … this probably is the kind of year a 7-win CAA team could get in, barely.
MVFC (4-to-5): Nothing much has changed here, folks — even with Illinois State's win over SDSU. In fact, it may have even strengthened things because now ISU is a lock (Mo. State next week a 95-percent guarantee win to hit eight wins). Eight wins in the MVFC means you're already in. SDSU, even with the key injury at QB, should hit eight wins by season's end, and Northern Iowa with its strength of schedule needs to be talking about seeding situation, not whether it gets in or not. NDSU is NDSU, enough said. The real discussion topic here is Southern Illinois — the Salukis are crushing it down the stretch folks, and I think if they go to Western Illinois and win next week? I think they've sealed up a playoff spot regardless of what happens at NDSU in Week 13. Right now? I'd put my wager on this being a five-bid league if I did that wager kind of stuff.
OVC (2): Both Austin Peay and SEMO face Eastern Illinois and Murray State to wrap the season to try to win 9 games apiece. EIU and Murray State are a combined 5-15 at this point. Now, the OVC has been known to pull some post-Halloween tricks, so don't book the postseason tickets just yet, but I'm going to project that Austin Peay wins its first Ohio Valley Conference title since I was a toddler (and I have gray hair now – late 1970s) and make the FCS Playoffs for the first time in school history. And SEMO? Coach Tuke has done it again and the big question is? Can the Redhawks go a couple of rounds like last year? Figuring in greatly to SEMO getting an at-large bid? I think that Southern Illinois win in week one and a challenging trip to Montana State in week two give an indication of where this team falls. I honestly think its rock-solid now — this league gets two teams in.
SOCON (1-to-2): I'm going to continue to put 1-to-2 because of the three potential berth teams? Furman, Wofford and The Citadel? They have to chop each other up in the final two weeks and I firmly believe one of these teams won't survive that and there's a slight chance two of the three might not survive it. Wofford and Furman still have to play this weekend in Spartanburg, and Wofford has to go to The Citadel next weekend. Furman has two FBS losses (both by a hair) but wraps the season with a lower-division school … that could make things tricky if the Paladins lose at Wofford this weekend. And The Citadel? The Bulldogs possess the big resume exclamation point with their massive win on the road over P5 Georgia Tech. That's why I think they're in with 7 wins if they win at Chattanooga this weekend, regardless of what happens with Wofford the final weekend … and if they beat Wofford at home too? El Cid is beyond a lock.
SOUTHLAND (1-to-2): This week's situation got a little muddier and potentially a little better for the league when SE Louisiana completely shut down Central Arkansas. See, UCA could win out, has an FBS win and would be at nine wins. Now, depending on how the league shapes up (good luck projecting that, by the way), the Southland may be hoping as a collective for UCA to get an at-large bid and another team (SE Louisiana? Sam Houston State? Nicholls?) to finish strongly down the stretch and supplant UCA for the Southland title and give it two playoff teams. I just can't see three teams going to the postseason from this group. Sam Houston plays NW St and HBU at home to close out and should hit 8 wins. The real biggie, matchup wise? It's on a Thursday night and playoff implications will be there, again: Nicholls at SE Louisiana. But the truth is? Eight wins guarantees nothing this year in the Southland. Nine wins? Likely.
THE OTHERS (1 apiece): The NEC was interesting today, as it set up this weekend's Robert Morris at Central Connecticut State game as a potential league championship game (though CCSU still has to go to Duquesne, tricky) … The Patriot League is all jacked up after 3-7 Lafayette beat what looked like a tough as nails Holy Cross team and holds the head-to-head lead over the Crusaders to potentially lock up the automatic bid at 5-7. This isn't a good look for the Patriot — which mathematically could finish the season with zero teams with winning records. That's a far cry from what we saw last year with that stellar Colgate team, or what we saw when that Chase Edmonds guy was running for touchdowns for Fordham and Colgate was also strong. It wasn't long ago. And who are we kidding? San Diego will win the Pioneer League again … like a broken record … and scare the hell out of a Big Sky and probably beat it. Again. And no, there are no MEAC teams at this point that have a chance at the FCS Playoffs as a runner up. That ship sailed today.[divider]
SWING AND A B-MAC WHIFF
WEEK 11 PICKS: See which ones B-Mac messed up
This was a bad week for me. Illinois State, Robert Morris and SE Louisiana … along with the big one that divided Sam and I? Towson at Stony Brook, where I went with SB and Sam went with the winner, Towson? Yeah, that's all I need is to listen to Sam trash talk me this week on the picks. But he was right. The Tigers went on the road and kept their FCS Playoff hopes alive this week with a big win, as did ISU, RMU and SE Louisiana. Honestly? Every program I picked to lose? They may all be playing postseason football. It's a testament to these programs. Congrats to all of them.[divider]
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