So FCS fans, where do the conferences stand now with potential playoff bids with a week to go? I'm going to try to project this these last few Saturday evenings around 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 tomorrow/Sunday), I'm just trying to react to what happened today and take a look at each of their roads ahead in the next week — 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:
The only thing that brings me peace? The thought that all of this craziness is over exactly seven days from tonight. Goodness gracious.
My total count after all results this week? We have six automatic berths locked in, and seven at-large (or better) positions locked in. That's right, 13 of the 24 spots are done, wrapped with a bow, but 11 spots are up in the air for this next, final, crazy weekend — four of which are automatic berths in the Big Sky, OVC, Patriot League and Southland. When you're in the "Power Three" conferences in the FCS? You're in with eight wins. History proves it, actually. When you hit nine wins in the OVC, SoCon and Southland? You're 99-percent sure to be "in". Anybody else? You have to hit 10 wins in a 12-game season to be guaranteed "in". This has been the history of the 24-game field since 2013, I've researched it. I'm not trying to be a jerk here, folks, I'm just trying to speak the truth.
Now let's take a look at the conferences and their potential "total" playoff spots:
BIG SKY (4 berths): The Big Sky isn't settled now, thanks to Montana's win over Weber State. The certainly though? Is that Montana, Weber State, Sacramento State and Montana State are in. There are no more outliers now that UC Davis lost at home to Montana State. We may not know who exactly is the "automatic bid' winner in the Big Sky, but we do know now that this is a four-bid league. Now the real debate is … who will be a seed? The Brawl of the Wild in Bozeman (hi Sam, who will attend this) will settle the question of whether Montana is one of them, but it's looking pretty damned good for the Griz. Sacramento State and Weber State both have a good shot too. Montana State must beat the Griz to be in that discussion, but the Bobcats are in the playoffs, folks, no matter what happens next weekend.
BIG SOUTH (1-to-2): Monmouth locked up the automatic bid today with a decisive win against the No. 3 team in the Big South, Campbell. Kennesaw State also won convincingly and is now one win away from hitting the 10-win mark overall, and 8-1 in the committee's eyes (2 lower division wins dropped, 1 FBS overtime loss to Kent State dropped). I'm curious as to how the FCS Playoff Committee views an OT loss, actually. To me? That's a positive that Georgia's KSU could go toe-to-toe with … ahem … the "FBS" KSU up in Ohio. And folks, this is the point in the season where I begin to become an Owls advocate instead of somebody questioning them in September and October for schedule issues: Folks … these kids? They didn't make the schedule. They were presented one. And they are on the verge of conquering that schedule. These kids are on the verge of going 10-2 overall and 8-1 with an FBS OT loss on the resume that will be considered. If the Owls win next week, based on what I'm seeing nationwide? They deserve one of the last spots in to play in week one. Period. I'm ready to be the first to say the KSU bashing should end if these guys get the job done next weekend. This has been a great program for a few years, has been one of the textbook stories of how you start a program from scratch (2014-15) … and KSU is going to be a force in coming years. These kids shouldn't be considered "at fault" because of scheduling blips this past year. If KSU wins next week, let them in as an at-large. All they've done is win the games they were supposed to. Period. End of story. DON'T discount them at 10-2 when these kids didn't make this schedule, and the "power" conference competition went 7-5. This is a rare instance with this.
CAA (3-to-4): JMU locked up the auto-bid and will be a seed. Villanova also locked up at least an at-large bid by hitting eight wins in the CAA. That's two lead-pipe playoff locks. The two teams I'm looking at now are Towson and Albany, who continue to do massive things against CAA opponents and come into the final week in position to lock up at-large berths because of the 8-win potential. Albany is at Stony Brook and Towson hosts Elon. Neither of these matchups is a gimme, but both are winnable. The wildcard at this point continues to be Maine. If the Black Bears go to New Hampshire and win? That's five wins in a row to hit the 7-win mark, with two FBS losses (albeit close ones, Ga. Southern and Liberty) wiped off the record. Maine would be 7-3. So Towson, Albany and Maine really needs wins. All three are more than capable, but all three opponents will be a challenge.
MVFC (4-to-5): NDSU locked up the auto-bid and will be a seed, and SDSU and Illinois State have hit the 8-win mark and are now locks to make the playoffs. Northern Iowa likely is in too considering with eight wins as it has 1-10 Western Illlinois at home next week. So go ahead and pencil in four MVFC locks at this point. The big question is how will the committee look at Southern Illinois' resume? Yes the Salukis lost to SEMO, but the Redhawks now look like a 9-win playoff team out the Ohio Valley who … honestly … are all but in the playoffs at this point. In fact, SEMO didn't just beat SIU, it actually pounded the Salukis … but, SIU also hammered an FBS team (UMass) and the Arkansas State loss will drop and they'll be considered 7-4 with one of the rare FBS winners (only three this year) with three MVFC losses to seedable teams (NDSU, SDSU and Ill. St) and a likely OVC playoff team (SEMO). SIU needs to root for SEMO next week … along with SDSU and Ill. St. … and a strong showing against NDSU wouldn't hurt either. SIU is the wildcard here.
OVC (2): Based on the opponents this weekend? I honestly think Austin Peay nabs the automatic bid in the final weekend and hits the 9-win mark for the first time in school history. That's massive for the Governors, who got things rolling starting in 2017 and now with Coach Hudspeth at the helm have taken this to the next level. And the aforementioned SEMO? I'm not so sure the Redhawks haven't already clinched at least an at-large playoff berth by hitting the 8-win mark. They probably have. Austin Peay is really the team that doesn't have wiggle room, the Govs really need to win this weekend against Eastern Illinois (very winnable) to lock up the automatic berth. SEMO is pretty much already in.
SOCON (1-to-2): So Wofford has clinched the automatic bid for the SoCon, and Furman is now on the outside looking in. How will the playoff committee look at the Paladins with a 7-2 FCS record with zero truly signature wins? That's why I felt Furman needed to secure the automatic bid, and maybe Wofford and/or The Citadel could wrap up at-large bids. There's a chance now that Wofford might be the only team "in" from the SoCon, depending on the national dynamics. Granted Furman had really competitive games with Virginia Tech and Georgia State from the FBS ranks, but will that even be considered? And this final non-FCS game with Point won't help make the argument this week (it will be ignored). Longshot Chattanooga could potentially hit seven wins next week and The Citadel could do the same by beating Wofford — and again, The Citadel beat the only P5 this year in the FCS ranks (Ga. Tech).
SOUTHLAND (1-to-2): Nicholls at this point looks like the team that controls its destiny most of all for the automatic bid. That doesn't mean it is easy because on Thursday night it has to go to SE Louisiana … who has been red hot (four straight wins) since a couple of Southland blips against McNeese and UIW (by 10 total points). The Lions — if they'd not had that very winnable game against a good Bethune-Cookman team canceled — would easily be staring at nine potential wins this week with a tight Ole Miss loss tossed out. SE Louisiana and Nicholls this week is for all the automatic bid marbles, and Central Arkansas is the lone dawg in the Southland who has the potential to clearly get an at-large bid, with its FBS win (Western Kentucky) and potential to hit the 9-win mark (and of course the FBS loss at Hawaii would also drop).
THE OTHERS (1 apiece): Central Connecticut State and San Diego clinched automatic berths today and are absolute landmines for the competition in the CAA and Big Sky in the 1st round after Turkey Day (just watch). The Patriot League isn't settled yet (it's a mess). The Patriot League is a question mark heading into the final week.[divider]
SWING AND A B-MAC WHIFF
WEEK 12 PICKS: See which ones B-Mac messed up
Ya know what? I missed one pick — UC Davis over Montana State. It was a very impressive win, but I'm not in the Darriere La Maison (that's French, BTW) kissin' mood. I just went 10-1 on "50/50" picks. I'm smiling. As my nearly 10-year old daughter always says … deal with it.
Hey Herd. Wanna talk about THAT on the Podcast this week? #SCHEDULED[divider]
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