While its players may not have expressed it openly to HERO Sports during interviews this week, one has to think Sam Houston State is sick of listening to the outsiders.
When Selection Sunday came nearly two weeks ago, the Bearkats were the only team not doing backflips when their team's fate was announced. Other programs were elated to travel 2,000 miles for a first-round game, while some were cheering because they received a first-round home game.
Sam Houston State received a first-round bye, a second-round home game that comes with it and also received a No. 5 seed–yet its players and coaches sat rather stoically when their spot and potential opponents were announced.
What do you have to do to get a high seed when you're 11-0 and have stomped every single team you've played–with nothing close to a hiccup? Do you have to do a tap-dance routine and serve caviar and Dom Perignon for breakfast? Thus the reason for the looks around the room.
As it stands, this weekend's game against Chattanooga could end up being the Bearkats' lone home game when there could be an argument for it potentially hosting three rounds this month. Oh, and the Mocs? They're not exactly a sweet Christmas gift for a job well done. They're more like getting a lump of coal in your stocking–there's nothing gift-like about facing this challenging Mocs team.
"We really had no idea what we were going to get going into it," Sam Houston State star QB Jeremiah Briscoe told HERO Sports this week. "We had a team meeting and we talked about 'whatever happens, happens'. Eventually we have to beat everybody to get all the way anyway.
"So, they put us at No. 5, and those were the cards we were dealt. So we stopped watching the show right when we found out which winner we would face. It was all about those two teams (Chattanooga or Weber State). Then we took our team picture and put our focus on our bye week."
"I still honestly couldn't tell you what the rest of the bracket looks like." – SHSU QB Jeremiah Briscoe
Sam Houston State's players say they'll only be thinking about 'next week', not why they weren't seeded higher (SHSU Athletics)
So why would an 11-0 team not have one of the top two seeds? The answer is simple: Sam Houston State holds the FCS' No. 84 schedule strength, according to the Bennett Rank computer power ratings, and that truly is the only reason.
And of course last year's 62-10 drubbing in the FCS semifinals against Jacksonville State lingers in the minds of many. But in 2016, the Bearkats have decimated the competition in the first halves along during all 11 of their games, including a 38-10 lead at the half over 2nd-round FCS playoff participant Central Arkansas (10-2).
In the first half, Sam Houston State outscored its opponents 380-93 this year … then for the most part the starters were pulled. Weak schedule or not, that's incredible.
The lone FBS team that would originally schedule Sam Houston State–New Mexico–for week one backed out four months prior to the first game and then turned around and rescheduled another FCS team, a rebuilding South Dakota team that it only beat by 21 points.
The Lobos are now 8-4 and bowl bound–but it is quite possible they'd be 7-5 if they'd played Sam Houston State. The Bearkats scrambled to find a replacement and ended up with a Division II team, and the Southland Conference was relatively down this year, with defending champion McNeese rebuilding, Lamar struggling, etc. etc. So the regular season was a cakewalk, and the season finale for the Southland Conference against then 9-1 Central Arkansas ended up being more of the same.
The Bearkats concede that the schedule may not have been as strong as other teams, it's just that they never slipped up one iota at any point.
"I think Coach (K.C.) Keeler was frustrated because the last two years at the end of the season we came out very good but still got low seeds, and the last two times we got into the playoffs we were unranked and still made it all the way to the semifinals," star Bearkats wide receiver Yedidiah Louis told HERO Sports this week. "I can see a little frustration with Coach Keeler.
"Personally I don't get too frustrated. We're used to doing good and people still doubting us. The people who make the polls, they're not out there with us. We can't really get mad."
Louis is right, why waste time with anger when you can get even with the world–starting this weekend. A curious FCS will be watching.