I just keep getting the feeling that two OVC playoff berths is a lock this season after getting only one last year. Three OVC playoff teams is a distinct possibility. That means other conferences like the Missouri Valley or Colonial or others may lose a playoff spot. That's how it goes though.
Sure, FCS powerhouse Jacksonville State is still a mile above the rest of the OVC based on its resume, but there are three teams that I think are right on the cusp of becoming national conversation topics.
I will say this — for these three teams to receive serious playoff consideration, they need to be in the eight-win range. A 7-4 team would likely be edged out by a 7-win team from one of the more traditionally powerful FCS conferences.
Here are three OVC football teams that have impressed so far, regardless of what the records say:
For two years I’ve had a feeling about these guys and their head coach Mark Elder. I’ve followed first-hand what Elder and his staff have done in recruiting, and the facilities have been upgraded. Remember, this is one of the I-AA/FCS traditional powers.
Elder came from Tennessee, where he’d been with Butch Jones. He knows how a high-caliber program is built, and I honestly felt like we saw a sign of it this past weekend when the Colonels took the Kentucky Wildcats to the nervous edge. I could care less that EKU is 0-2 right now, as the Colonels have been very much in range of a win in the fourth quarter against two straight FBS teams (first was Western Kentucky).
EKU will have a winning record this year, the question is will it hit the eight-win threshold to guarantee a playoff spot? And if not, could a tough schedule carry a 7-4 EKU team into the playoffs?
It would still have to handle the two teams below — but both of those games will be at home.[divider]
The Skyhawks went 7-5 and 7-4 the past two seasons. But guess what? Four of those losses were to FBS teams, as they added a third FBS game last year and traveled to Hawai'i.
This has been a very strong FCS program for a while, and the way it fought Ole Miss this past weekend (leading at the half) makes one think coach Jason Simpson’s team may have the juice to push past last year’s 7-win mark.
A win this weekend at Chattanooga would go a long way in proving the Skyhawks are for real in 2017.[divider]
The Tigers already have an FBS win (Georgia State) and are 2-0 going into this weekend’s very winnable game vs. FAMU.
Coach Rod Reed has this team positioned well going into league play next week against UT-Martin on the road — and that game may end up ultimately settling a FCS Playoff berth, who are we kidding? With former Florida Gator QB Treon Harris under center and a proven receiver corps and a future NFL pick in stud DL Ebenezer Ogundeko, this is a talented group.[divider]
There just seems to be conference depth here that hasn’t been around in a few years. Eastern Illinois could also enter the conversation if it gets by in-state rival Illinois State this weekend — a program that will be one of the Missouri Valley’s top teams.
And here’s another nugget, don’t be surprised if Austin Peay’s FCS-worst 29-game losing streak comes to an end this weekend against Morehead State. The Governors haven’t laid down in their first two games against FBS opponents Cincinnati and Miami-Ohio, being competitive in both games in the fourth quarter.
The Governors’ streak ends this weekend, a couple of budding OVC potential playoff teams take another step forward, and the conference comes away with a weekend the collective can be proud of.