Some FCS programs would rather not be on the playoff bubble, while several are just happy to be in the discussion. Northern Arizona is one of those programs that would love to make the playoffs … so being on the bubble isn't exactly a negative. The Lumberjacks want to punch their ticket.
So let's take a look at what Northern Arizona needs to do next week, and how it helped itself today:
NORTHERN ARIZONA (7-3) IN A NUTSHELL
TODAY'S RESULT: Barely survived at home vs. Montana State – 37-36.
HOW DID TODAY HELP/HURT?: Based on what went on around the country, and the fact this one was close at home, I'm not so sure this one pushed the needle in either direction. I realize a win is a win, but a more decisive win would have been a lot better for the resume.
WHAT'S NEXT?: At one of the Big Sky's best teams – Southern Utah
THE SKINNY?: The competition around the country among FCS teams with 7 or 8 wins is going to be insane next week. So next week is critical for NAU to solidly punch its ticket. If it doesn't happen at Big Sky leader Southern Utah, it'll be a tossup. Strength of schedule will be an argument for NAU, having played two strong Missouri Valley teams in Western Illinois (loss) and Illinois State (decisive win), and of course the loss to Pac 12 Arizona will be jettisoned. Possibly the big problem is NAU not facing Eastern Washington and Weber State in league play, for a barometer.
IF IT MAKES PLAYOFFS, WHO COULD IT FACE?: It would depend on if NAU were hosting or not. If it is, it may get Pioneer League champ San Diego, otherwise it may end up at Montana or maybe Sam Houston State. It would depend on the million variables it would appear we have going into the final weekend.