We're halfway through the 2018 FCS season, which means the margin for error for playoff hopefuls is getting smaller. While there may be some clear answers at the top of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, there are still a lot of uncertainties on who's all going to make the postseason.
The Valley routinely has the most teams in the playoffs year after year. Either four or five bids is the magic number. That appears to be the range once again after a solid nonconference performance. 7-4 is usually a lock for a Valley team to make the playoffs. A 6-5 team with a strong resume also has a shot.
So just like we did with the Big Sky, let's look at every MVFC team at this point in the season and guess what percentage they have to make the 24-team bracket.
Record: 4-1 overall, 1-1 MVFC
Remaining Games: vs. SIU, @ NDSU, vs. SDSU, @ UNI, @ Indiana St., vs. YSU
70 percent – Besides one bad hangover loss to Mo State, the Redbirds have looked legit this year, highlighted by a 35-19 dominant win at FBS Colorado State. The stretch of games after this week is as tough as it gets in the Valley. And ISU's season-opening win against Saint Xavier is a non-counter, which could hurt. But the Redbirds should get three more wins somewhere on this remaining schedule, getting them into the playoffs.
Record: 2-3, 0-2
Remaining Games: vs. Mo St., @ SIU, @ YSU, vs. USD, vs. Ill. St., @ WIU
25 percent – The Sycamores showed something against No. 3 SDSU, taking the Jacks to overtime in Brookings before losing 54-51. That should build a ton of momentum and their remaining games aren't necessarily the toughest of slates. Indiana State has a decent chance to go 2-0 in the next two games. After that, it needs to get some quality wins and pull off some upsets, especially after having one non-counter game on its resume. Those last three won't be easy, though.
Record: 3-2, 1-1
Remaining Games: @ Ind. St., vs. WIU, vs. SIU, @ SDSU, vs. NDSU, @ UNI
30 percent – The Bears looked like they would be a team to shake up the MVFC standings in Week 1 of conference play with a win against then No. 9 Illinois State. MSU then competed well, but ultimately lost at USD. Its nonconference resume is decent, with an FBS loss and a win against No. 20 Northern Arizona, but there is a non-counter win in there. The Bears need wins now, because those last three games are brutal.
Record: 5-0, 2-0
Remaining Games: @ WIU, vs. Ill. St., @ USD, vs. YSU, @ Mo St., vs. SIU
99 percent – If the Bison can get a win in Macomb, their toughest slate of games is behind them. Even with a loss, NDSU is sitting just fine to obviously make the playoffs, but also to get a high playoff seed. Something drastic has to happen for the Bison to play in the first round. Something really drastic has to happen for the reigning national champs to miss out on the postseason altogether. But technically, it's not a 100 percent lock just yet.
Record: 2-3, 1-1
Remaining Games: @ USD, vs. SDSU, @ WIU, vs. Ill. St., @ YSU, vs. Mo St.
50 percent – What do ya know, UNI is in playoff mode already. It seems every year, the Panthers weather an early storm of tough nonconference games and an early MVFC loss to win out and make the playoffs with 3-4 losses. At 2-3, UNI is fighting with its back against the wall again. Like they showed last week against NDSU, the Panthers are a very good football team. But there's always that bad loss somewhere in the Valley that makes one scratch their head. UNI has five tough games in a row. Who knows which team will show up.
Record: 3-2, 2-0
Remaining Games: vs. UNI, @ YSU, vs. NDSU, @ Ind. St., vs. WIU, @ SDSU
60 Percent – USD has two "quality losses" against an FBS team and a ranked FCS opponent. It's already out to a 2-0 start in the Valley. But looking at the remaining games, it's still pretty unclear which way this season is going to go. The Coyotes played Kansas State tough, then got whooped at Weber. The two conference wins were one-touchdown games against teams typically at the bottom of the standings. USD has an above-average chance right now to make the playoffs for the second year in a row. But the wiggle room is going to get smaller against some stronger opponents.
Record: 3-1, 1-1
Remaining Games: vs. YSU, @ UNI, @ Ill. St., vs. Mo St., @ SIU, vs. USD
75 percent – What team are we going to see these next three crucial weeks? The Jackrabbits that nearly beat No. 1 NDSU in the Fargodome? Or the Jacks that needed overtime to beat Indiana State at home? If SDSU needed a wake-up call, it got one. This team can't afford a defensive performance like that again in these next few weeks and will have to overcome some health issues. The Jacks are still in good position to earn a playoff seed, and possibly a high one. But talks of them being the No. 3 team in the country cooled off after narrowly beating the Sycamores. The upcoming three games are a good opportunity to get some mojo back.
Record: 1-4, 0-2
Remaining Games: @ Ill. St., vs. Ind. St., @ Mo St., vs. WIU, vs. SDSU, @ NDSU
5 percent – A bad loss to SEMO really hurt the Salukis entering Valley play, where they're already 0-2. For a team that played Ole Miss tough, SIU has completely lost momentum. Already with four losses, the Salukis can rattle off four wins in a row, but then still face those last two opponents. Nick Hill is bringing in some strong recruiting classes. But it doesn't appear 2018 is the year we see big strides happening.
Record: 2-3, 1-1
Remaining Games: vs. NDSU, @ Mo St., vs. UNI, @ SIU, @ USD, vs. Ind. St.
40 percent – The Leathernecks are in a tough spot. A 2-3 record with NDSU coming to town means a signature win is crucial. From there on, this WIU team is certainly good enough to defeat its remaining five opponents. Actually doing it is another matter. The Leathernecks have squeaked into the playoffs before at 6-5. They can make things interesting with a huge upset Saturday.
Record: 2-3, 1-1
Remaining Games: @ SDSU, vs. USD, vs. Ind. St., @ NDSU, vs. UNI, @ Ill. St.
35 percent – YSU lost to WIU a couple weeks ago and also faces a much tougher road to close the season. The season-opening loss against non-scholarship Butler sticks out like a sore thumb. The Penguins need some big-time upsets to make the playoff committee forget about that one. The next two games against the teams from South Dakota aren't easy. Then having two of the last three games against playoff caliber teams being on the road makes for a tough schedule. Like YSU showed a couple seasons ago, when it's hot, it's really hot. The Penguins need some of that late-season magic again to make the postseason.