Some FCS programs would rather not be on the playoff bubble, while several are just happy to be in the discussion. Illinois State is one of those programs that would love to make the playoffs … so being on the bubble isn't exactly a compliment. The Redbirds were in the national championship three seasons ago and haven't missed the playoffs since. They want to punch their ticket.
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So let's take a look at what Illinois State needs to do next week, and how it helped itself today:
ILLINOIS STATE (6-4) IN A NUTSHELL
TODAY'S RESULT: Lost in overtime at South Dakota State
TODAY'S STARS?: KR Christian Uphoff (100-yard kickoff return TD); RB James Robinson (83 yards rushing, 2 TDs).
HOW DID TODAY HELP/HURT?: Obviously a loss doesn't help things, and with North Dakota State looming next week it's looking like 6-5 is a possibility this year. A win in overtime could have changed the whole situation and probably puts the Redbirds in with at least 7 wins.
WHAT'S NEXT?: Plays host to North Dakota State
THE SKINNY?: Obviously a win at home next week against NDSU gets the Redbirds in. That's a no brainer. A 7-4 finish with wins over NDSU, South Dakota and a shutout win over the defending national runners up in Youngstown State are nice resume points. But a loss next week is going to make it very tough to get in.
The program will literally be battling non-conference teams like Northern Arizona for those last few playoff bids and NAU beat Illinois State by 21 points on Oct. 7. Stuff like that will come into play. ISU is going to be one of the more perplexing teams to figure out come next week if they finish 6-5, because last year they were the only 6-5 team and they very nearly knocked off a 9-2 Central Arkansas team. We'll see.
IF IT MAKES PLAYOFFS, WHO COULD IT FACE?: One has to think another trip to a Southland team (Sam Houston State?) may be in order, or maybe to one of the more western Southern Conference teams (Samford?).
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