Sunday, December 14, 2008

FCS Playoffs 2008: Results, Final Prediction, and FBS comment

Semifinals Results

Montana 35 James Madison 27

Forget the injury to Rodney Landers. Forget the imbroglio surrounding the video reviews in the last minutes of the game. They did not matter, nor did the fact that Montana was out-gained by more than 100 yards. What did? It was a simple matter of execution by the Grizzlies on both sides of the ball in crucial moments in the game. On the offensive side, Montana went 8-12 on third down conversions, and scored all four times they entered the red zone. On the defensive side, Montana forced four turnovers, including two in the red zone. The Dukes will be kicking themselves for this one for quite some time. Here is a recap:

Montana (14-1) won its 10th straight, forcing four turnovers and twice turning James Madison’s fumbles on kickoffs into demoralizingly short, easy touchdown drives.

“This is the first time in my 32 years in coaching that I’ve been in a game where we never punted and we lost,” Dukes coach Mickey Matthews said. “I’ve never heard of that.”

The Dukes (12-2), who rose to No. 1 in the nation after beating three-time defending champion Appalachian State in September, lost Walter Payton Award finalist Landers to a right ankle sprain late in the second quarter while already trailing 14-10. James Madison never recovered, in part because it was as inept immediately after halftime as before.

“That’s something that we haven’t done all year,” said Landers, who fumbled once.

The Dukes did make it interesting, having the ball in the final 2 minutes needing a touchdown and 2-point conversion, but their drive ended on a fourth-and-20 incompletion.

Montana drove 56 yards in seven plays after the opening kickoff of the second half, Bergquist rolling left and throwing across the field to Reynolds at the goal line on the right, a 27-yard touchdown that made it 21-10. It was Reynolds’ third touchdown of the game and school-record 22nd of the season, and the first for the sophomore on a reception.

On the ensuing kickoff, Patrick Ward fumbled for James Madison and Ryan Fetherston recovered for Montana at the JMU 34, the second lost fumble on a kickoff for the Dukes. Five plays later, Bergquist hit Steven Pfahler from 16 yards, Pfahler’s first career TD catch.

Richmond 21 Northern Iowa 20

A 62 yard winning touchdown drive in the final two minutes is precisely what we have come to expect in the Dome. What was not expected was that it would come from the Spiders. And with that, the Curse of the Dome is lifted. It is clear that magic can happen there for teams other than the Panthers, and Richmond does one better than last year, and advances to the finals.
Eric Ward and the Richmond Spiders never doubted, never wavered.

Down 20-7 going into the fourth quarter? Well, get some stops on defense and start moving on offense.

Which is just what they did.

Eric Ward threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Joe Stewart with 14 seconds left and Andrew Howard kicked the extra point, giving Richmond a 21-20 victory over Northern Iowa on Saturday and sending the Spiders to the Football Championship Subdivision title game. . . .

The unseeded Spiders beat second-seeded Appalachian State in the quarterfinals before knocking off third-seeded Northern Iowa (12-3), which was seeking its second trip to the championship game in four years.

“A lot of people said you guys don’t belong here,” first-year Richmond coach Mike London said. “I think we belong. In the first three rounds we played conference champions. This is a significant accomplishment for these players.”

Richmond started the winning drive at its own 38 with 1:44 remaining and no timeouts left. Ward completed six passes in the march, including a 4-yarder to Shawn White on fourth-and-2 at the UNI 26—White’s only catch of the game.

Prediction success this week: 1/2 (Once again, as good as a monkey with a dartboard.)

Final Prediction

So how many of you who are not homers would have predicted these two teams to advance to the finals? I am certainly not one of them. Montana has put all the East Coast muttering about their being overrated to rest, and they find themselves in a familiar position, playing for the National Championship. Richmond, should they win, will have taken the most difficult path possible through the playoffs. They have already knocked off the #2 and #3 seeds, and now faced the #4 seed in the finals. So who to choose?

The teams had one common opponent, James Madison. Montana beat them by a touchdown on the road, while Richmond lost to the Dukes by a touchdown at home. Advantage Montana? Richmond, however, overcame a turnover, and it still required a last second score by James Madison to take the win. Richmond, as well, slightly out-gained the Dukes, unlike Montana, who won on the scoreboard, but lagged James Madison in yards gained. Furthermore, Richmond will travel with a large number of players who were last years national semifinal, so I am picking the Spiders to take home the National Championship.

FBS Comment

Lets try a thought experiment. What if the FCS worked like the FBS? Who would have been in the championship game? Who would have been in the bowls? Who would have been left out? Here, as far as I can tell, is how things would have panned out:

National Championship: Appalachian State vs. James Madison
Rose Bowl: Southern Illinois vs. Weber State
Orange Bowl: Colgate vs. Villanova
Sugar Bowl: Cal Poly vs. Wofford
Fiesta Bowl: Montana vs. Texas State

Note what would have happened here. Teams that bowed out in the quarterfinals and semifinals would have played for the championship. And note that not only is Northern Iowa missing from the mix, but so is Richmond. Sorry, no third school from the CAA is welcome!

This underlines the value of actually letting things be determined where it SHOULD count. On the playing field. Its high time for the NCAA to set up an alternative to the bowl system. Give all conference winners an automatic berth to a fully seeded 16-team playoff, and allow for five at-large bids with no conference restrictions. Would the bowls survive? The important ones. It should be noted that the best attended FCS game this year, as always, will not be the championship game. Back on November 29 there was the small matter of the Bayou Classic. . .

FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #1
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #2
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #3
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #4
FCS Afternoon: Countdown to the 2008 Playoffs
FCS Playoffs 2008: Bracket Projection
FCS Bracket Announced: Comment and Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Quarterfinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Semifinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results, Final Prediction, and FBS comment

Sunday, December 7, 2008

FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Semifinals Predictions

Quarterfinals Results

Richmond 33 Appalachian State 13

WOW. Who would have thunk it? Not many beyond the Richmond locker room certainly! This more or less sums things up:
The Mountaineers (11-3) finished with seven turnovers, as standout quarterback Armanti Edwards threw five interceptions in a game after never throwing more than two in one day before. . . .

The Spiders' defense had been shutting down running games for weeks. Six straight opponents had been held under 100 yards. ASU was No.7, gaining 39 yards on 23 carries.

On the other hand, Richmond used 6-foot, 232-pound running back Josh Vaughan to batter the Appalachian defense. The Spiders rushed for 238 yards, with Vaughan crashing forward for 133.

It was really rather straightforward. The visitors stopped the run, ran effectively themselves and didn't make mistakes (no turnovers) while the home team did.

Weber State 13 Montana 24

Meanwhile, Montana was making members of its own fan base look foolish:
MISSOULA — Perhaps you heard this remark from a University of Montana football fan last week:

"There's no way Montana can beat Weber State unless the Grizzlies get their heads out of their dens and score 35 points."

Or maybe this one:

"There's no way Montana can hold Weber State's offense to less than three touchdowns."

Oops! Twenty-four points looked pretty imposing on the UM side of the scoreboard Saturday afternoon.

Oops! Thirteen points on the Weber side of the scoreboard wasn't a typographical error, was it?

No, it wasn't. The only error made by Griz fans was in underestimating the strength and resiliency of the UM defense, which held the Wildcats 24 points under their season average.

And more importantly, the Griz held the Wildcats to 32 fewer points than they scored Oct. 4 in a victory against Montana.

Should we be surprised? No.

Villanova 27 James Madison 31

The Dukes and Wildcats did it again. Same plot. Not quite as dramatic. Bigger stakes. One helluva football game. And more grudges for Villanova to chew on:
Landers threw for 157 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 143 yards and the game-winning 1-yard score. On that clinching drive, JMU chewed up 5 minutes and 16 seconds on 11 plays, leaving Villanova with only 1:38 to mount a comeback.

That hope ended when Villanova quarterback Chris Whitney was intercepted at midfield by safety Marcus Haywood with 40 seconds remaining, allowing James Madison to run out the clock.

Villanova finished 10-3, with two of those losses coming against JMU (12-1). The Dukes won the previous game, 23-19, on a Hail Mary pass. JMU will play Montana on Saturday in one of the Division I-AA semifinals.

Villanova got the short end of two controversial calls. Wildcats defensive back Ross Vetrone appeared to intercept a jump-ball pass from Landers to tight end Mike Caussin in the end zone, but officials ruled that Caussin had possession. Receiver Phil Atkinson fumbled to set up JMU's second touchdown, but replays appeared to show that Atkinson was down before he fumbled, and that a Dukes player pulled his face mask in the process.

It should be quite a game next fall!

New Hampshire 34 Northern Iowa 36

The game was not decided until the final seconds, but the Curse of the Dome lives on, helped by sloppy play from the Wildcats:
The Panthers (12-2) needed a stop on New Hampshire's final possession as the Wildcats (10-3) moved into position for a possible game-winning field goal. There wasn't a comfortable stomach in the house, except possibly for James Ruffin's.

Ruffin, the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, sacked New Hampshire quarterback R.J. Toman for a 7-yard loss, giving the Wildcats a fourth-and-9 predicament at their own 38 with 73 seconds left.

Toman had an open receiver on the next play, but he threw the ball too high for T.J. Wright, and the celebration began. . . .

Northern Iowa's defense forced six turnovers, including four interceptions, but the Panthers had problems of their own. Grace lost a fumble at the New Hampshire 6-yard line late in the first half, then threw an interception on UNI's next possession that was returned 100 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the half by John Clements that gave the Wildcats a 27-26 lead with the PAT.

"It was a careless interception," Grace said. "Thank goodness the defense played awesome all day."

Grace responded by leading UNI on a 39-yard drive on the first possession of the third quarter, leading to a 35-yard field goal by Billy Hallgren that gave the Panthers a 29-27 lead. They held on to the end, but just barely.

Terrell McMoore made a huge play for the Panthers when he intercepted a pass by Toman and raced 36 yards for a touchdown that gave UNI a 36-27 lead with 2:26 left in the third period.
Prediction success this week: 2/4 (In other words, as good as a monkey with a dartboard.)

Semifinals Predictions

#4 Montana at #1 James Madison

This is a fairly easy call, despite the two close escapes by the Dukes in the playoffs this year. Why? No other FCS team has played so well against top opposition this year. They beat the defending national champion, Appalachian State, and the other SOCON standout this year, Wofford. They shut down Maine on the road. They beat fellow CAA semifinalist Richmond by a touchdown on the road. The two wins against Villanova establish that they play cool even when requiring scoring drives in the final minutes. No disrespect to the Grizzlies, but James Madison is way too good this year.

Richmond at #3 Northern Iowa

This is a tougher call. Both teams won on Saturday in large part as a consequence of errors by their opponents. Richmond, however, posted a resounding victory, on the road at the defending national champions. Northern Iowa squeaked it out, at home, against a very fine New Hampshire team which, realistically, is not on the same level as Appalachian State. Just as the Spiders ended the playoff streak of the Mountaineers, they should go on to exorcise the Curse of the Dome, and set up an all-CAA final.

FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #1
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #2
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #3
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #4
FCS Afternoon: Countdown to the 2008 Playoffs
FCS Playoffs 2008: Bracket Projection
FCS Bracket Announced: Comment and Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Quarterfinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Semifinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results, Final Prediction, and FBS comment

Sunday, November 30, 2008

FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Quarterfinals Predictions

FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #1
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #2
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #3
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #4
FCS Afternoon: Countdown to the 2008 Playoffs
FCS Playoffs 2008: Bracket Projection
FCS Bracket Announced: Comment and Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Quarterfinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Semifinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results, Final Prediction, and FBS comment

First Round Results

South Carolina State proved to be a tougher opponent that many, including myself, expected, but Appalachian State moved on after a 37-21 victory.

Colgate established why the Patriot is a perennial one bid league, and Villanova established why they should have received a seed during this 55-28 thrashing.

Eastern Kentucky's weak performance in a 38-10 demolition by Richmond puts an end to a season that the OVC wishes it could forget.

Turnovers threatened to undo New Hampshire, but ultimately undid host Southern Illinois 29-20, who had a 'down year' with a rookie coach.

Texas State made waves early, but ultimately Montana proved that they were way to good in their 31-13 victory.

Wofford unsurprisingly hung tough with James Madison, but the #1 seed edged into the quarterfinals with a 38-35 win.

Maine looked looked all out of sorts, indeed, like a team that should have been left out of the playoffs, in a 40-15 loss at Northern Iowa.

Cal Poly completed the self-destruction of their season, throwing more interceptions in their 49-35 loss to Weber State than they missed extra points last week.

Prediction Success this week: 7/8 (miscalled the Cal Poly/Weber State game)

Quarterfinal Predictions

Villanova gets sweet revenge for their home loss to James Madison on October 25, and the #1 seed fails to advance for the second year running.

Weber State struggles mightily to become the road warriors of this years tournament, but are undone by the weather, not to mention Montana.

Appalachian State proves to Richmond that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

New Hampshire once again fails to exorcise the Curse of the Dome, and Northern Iowa wins the catfight.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Faculty Athletic Representatives Roused into Action?

Yes, occasionally the NCAA proposes something so outrageous, in this case softening academic demands on men's basketball programs, that it happens, as reported by Doug Lederman at Inside Higher Ed:
“The general feeling [of faculty athletics representatives] is that some of what’s in the early stages of the document takes the approach of fixing the APR by tinkering with the matrix instead of getting substantively at why the APR is low in the first place,” said Josephine R. Potuto, the Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law and faculty representative at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, who heads a group of faculty representatives from NCAA Division I-A universities that wrote to NCAA leaders last week. “The predominant if not exclusive focus should be on the root causes, not on the APR.” . . .

Faculty athletics representatives from the Pacific-10 Conference, in a November 3 letter to Myles Brand and Dan Guerrero, the athletics director at the University of California at Los Angeles who heads the basketball academic enhancement group, said the problem isn’t that basketball players as a group are less academically prepared, but that the players many Division I colleges have historically chosen to recruit and admit are less prepared for academic success.

“Now, faced with academic penalties as a consequence of such recruitment practices, these programs seek to blame the students they recruited for the lack of success they have experienced,” the Pac-10 faculty leaders write. “[W]e are concerned that this opening statement ... is really meant to provide a justification for recommendations ... that would reduce the impact of the NCAA’s Academic Performance Program ... on men’s basketball.” . . .

The basketball working group’s report does offer several substantive proposals aimed at bolstering the academic performance of basketball players once they’re in college, including performing adequately in several credit hours of required summer school.

But its report focuses heavily on a set of changes that would limit the pain that teams feel when their players fail to make progress toward a degree. One would grant exceptions so that teams would not be punished under the Academic Progress Rate when athletes leave a college because of a coaching change. Another would give teams an extra point when a player graduates early (perhaps making up for points they’ve lost because players haven’t graduated at all). Yet another would provide more leeway (some if already granted) if players leave college early to go pro.

In other words, the proposals would serve to further enable behavior which, with the exception of quick graduation, the NCAA should be discouraging. Progression please Myles, not regression.

Grats to the Lady Eagles/Graduation Rates

Many congratulations to the Lady Eagles of Emory University on their 16-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-22 win over the University of La Verne in the finals of the DIII volleyball championships on Saturday night. Senior middle hitter Dani Huffman led the team with 13 kills, 4 blocks, and 4 digs, and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Freshman setter Natalie Schonefeld, who posted 47 assists, and freshman outside hitter Alexandra Wright, who scored 11 kills, joined her on the all-tournament team. Crista Jones and Brianna Gonzales of the University of La Verne, Liz Schnelle of Ohio Northern, and Erin Albert of Juniata also received all-tournament honors.

Specific graduation rates are not available for non-scholarship Division III schools, but Emory students as a whole post one of the best graduation rates in the country at 87%. Semifinalist Juniata comes close at 78%, while Ohio Northern, at 65%, and La Verne, at 51%, lag behind. So yet again. Are success on the court and in the classroom compatible with each other? Absolutely!

Links to USA Today Special Report

There was an excellent series of reports at USA today last week on the demands, stresses, and problems inherent in intercollegiate athletics. This sort of journalism validates the necessity of and active press - there is only so much that a blogger can accomplish. Read away!

College athletes studies guided towards 'major in elibigility'

My comments here.

Same team, same major

This illustrates the widespread existence of major clusters, which the NCAA used to claim were not widespread, and now claim are not a problem.

'You could consider football a full-time job'

This story, and the accompanying video, follows a day in the life of model STUDENT-athlete and Illinois center Ryan McDonald.

Athletes' academic choices put advisers in tough balancing act

This story exposes the problems in the academic advising system for athletes. It would not be so much of a problem if most advisers did not report to the Athletic Director. . .

UNLV athletes question degrees in university studies

Some Universities are issuing degrees which their recipients are embarrassed of. YIKES!

Thank You to My Readers!

Yesterday was a landmark day for Profane. I went into it guessing that there would be 1000 visitors in a day for the first time. It turned out that there was a 1000 visit hour, and nearly 4000 visits over the course of the day. The FCS championships are endless fun, but I hope all of you will stick around and join me in considering the serious purpose of this blog - making intercollegiate athletics better. Best wishes!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

FCS Bracket Announced: Comment and Predictions

FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #1
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #2
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #3
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #4
FCS Afternoon: Countdown to the 2008 Playoffs
FCS Playoffs 2008: Bracket Projection
FCS Bracket Announced: Comment and Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Quarterfinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Semifinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results, Final Prediction, and FBS comment


Click here for a printable bracket.

Wofford (9-2, At-Large)
#1 James Madison (10-1, CAA Auto-Bid)

Colgate (9-2, Patriot Auto-Bid)

Villanova (9-2, At-Large)

Texas State (8-4, Southland Auto-Bid)
#4 Montana (11-1, At-Large)

Weber State (9-3, Big Sky Auto-Bid)

Cal Poly (8-2, At-Large)

South Carolina State (10-2, MEAC Auto-Bid)
#2 Appalachian State (10-2, SOCON Auto-Bid)

Eastern Kentucky (8-3, OVC Auto-Bid)
Richmond (9-3, At-Large)

Maine (8-4, At-Large)
Northern Iowa (10-2, At-Large)

New Hampshire (9-2, At-Large)
Southern Illinois (9-2, MVFC Auto-Bid)

Prediction success:
At-Large Bids: 7/8 (8/8 last year)
Seeds: 3/4 (4/4 last year)
Home Teams: 6/8 (8/8 last year)
Pairings: 1/8 (4/8 last year)


This was not the finest hour of the FCS Selection Committee. Did they jump the shark? No, but that said, they made a number of perplexing decisions:

The Maine At-Large Bid
[Note to Black Bears fans, I am one of you, although my primary loyalties are now directed towards Southern Illinois. I grew up in Maine, and am delighted to see them in the field, but do not think the bid was deserved.]

If Maine excelled at anything this year, it was in racking up losses against the top teams. Maine lost to FBS Iowa, and went a perfect 0-3 against FCS teams in the field, losing at Richmond, and to James Madison and New Hampshire at home. They also posted only 2 wins against teams with winning records: a narrow 21-17 win at 7-4 Monmouth of the NEC, and a one point win at Massachusetts, a team which was not itself this year. There is nothing in their resume which suggests playoff success. If the goal was to reward the tough CAA with a fifth bid, there was a better choice - William & Mary. Like Maine, they lost to an FBS team, and to three FCS teams in the field, Villanova, James Madison, and Richmond. Unlike Maine, they proved they could defeat a top team, when they took down New Hampshire.

It is not, however, William & Mary who should be upset but rather Liberty. They dominated an Elon team, which would have gone to the playoffs with a win, in the final game of the regular season. They posted 8 FCS wins, including two over teams from automatic qualifying conferences. They rose to #14 in the final poll of the year. And they got left out. The Committee has alot of explaining to do.

[Update 3:05 PM Tuesday

Liberty finished #14 in the Sports Network poll, #15 in the coaches poll, and an average of #22 in the computer rankings (Massey #24; Wolf #22; Asburn #21; Self #25; #17 Laz). This averages out to #17, which shows you how close the committee came to expressly violating its own rules.]

The UNI #3 Seed

Did UNI deserve the #4 seed? Maybe. Did they deserve the #3 seed? Absolutely not. This is best illustrated by a comparison with unseeded Villanova. In quality of losses, Villanova does slightly better. Both teams lost to FBS opponents and their conference champion, but, although I bleed Saluki maroon, I must acknowledge that James Madison is the better team this year than Southern Illinois. Villanova, however, posted two wins against teams in the field, Richmond and New Hampshire. UNI defeated no teams which are in the field, with their best win coming at home against South Dakota State. Villanova was clearly more deserving.

The Central East Coast Pairings

While I thought it made more sense to send Eastern Kentucky to Southern Illinois, I can see why they went east instead, as it gave the committee six teams in Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia to produce three pairings. What the committee ending up doing, however, was producing the longest trips possible utilizing those six teams. It would have made far more sense to send Wofford to South Carolina State, Eastern Kentucky to James Madison, and Richmond to Appalachian State. In all likelihood, money trumped these common sense pairings, and it means that Eastern Kentucky must make a very long trip to Richmond for the second year running.


But enough bellyaching already.

James Madison makes the home field advantage stick and takes down Wofford in a tough battle.

Villanova shows the FCS world why they should have received a seed, and dismantles Colgate

Montana happily disposes of Texas State, while Central Arkansas sits at home dreaming of years to come.

Cal Poly shows that it is good enough to defeat most FCS teams, including Weber State, with or without successful PATs.

Appalachian State engages in a live-fire scrimmage versus South Carolina State.

Richmond proves to be way too strong for Eastern Kentucky, the best of the OVC in a down year.

Northern Iowa ends Maine's season one week after it should have ground to a halt.

New Hampshire storms the Mac and ends the season for the overachieving Salukis. *SNIFF*

Saturday, November 22, 2008

FCS Playoffs 2008: Bracket Projection

FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #1
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #2
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #3
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #4
FCS Afternoon: Countdown to the 2008 Playoffs
FCS Playoffs 2008: Bracket Projection
FCS Bracket Announced: Comment and Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Quarterfinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Semifinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results, Final Prediction, and FBS comment


Liberty (10-2, At-Large)
#1 James Madison (10-1, CAA Auto-Bid)

Eastern Kentucky (8-3, OVC Auto-Bid)
Southern Illinois (9-2, MVFC Auto-Bid)

Colgate (9-2, Patriot Auto-Bid)
#4 Villanova (9-2, At-Large)

Texas State (8-4, Southland Auto-Bid)

New Hampshire (9-2, At-Large)

Richmond (9-3, At-Large)
#2 Appalachian State (10-2, SOCON Auto-Bid)

Wofford (9-2, At-Large)
South Carolina State (10-2, MEAC Auto-Bid)
[EDIT 11:02 Sunday. From my time living in South Carolina, I should have remembered that SCSU can seat 9000 more fans than Wofford, so I am guessing that the game will go there.]

Cal Poly (8-2, At-Large)

#3 Montana (11-1, At-Large)

Weber State (9-3, Big Sky Auto-Bid)
Northern Iowa (10-2, At-Large)

There are a number of things not to like here, perhaps most notably the pairing of Richmond and Appalachian State in the first round, and both seeds from the CAA ending up on the same side of the bracket (as did SIU and UNI last year). It must be remembered, however, that beyond choosing seeds, the most significant consideration in pairings is geographic location. I did not write the rules, I am just doing my best top interpret them, and it remains to be seen whether the selection committee does anything similar. For seeding rationale, see update #4.

Bids by conference

CAA: 4
Big Sky: 2
Big South: 1
Great West: 1
OVC: 1
Patriot: 1
Southlands: 1

At Large Rationale

Seven of the eight at-large bids were easy to choose this year, those of Montana, Northern Iowa, Villanova, Wofford, Cal Poly, New Hampshire, and Richmond.

The final spot is a bit more difficult. How about a team from the OVC or Patriot League? The computer numbers of Jacksonville State, Tennessee State, Holy Cross, and Lafayette are weak. Tennessee-Martin failed to post seven DI wins. So what are we left with? Three teams from top conferences, Elon, Maine, and William & Mary, and a wild card, Liberty, to whom I have given my final choice. Why?

Elon (8-4), Maine (8-4), and William & Mary (7-4) each had several chances over the course of the season to beat top opposition. They are, however, a collective 1-9 versus teams I already have in the field; only William & Mary picked up a win against elite opposition, at New Hampshire.

Liberty (10-2) finished as undefeated champions of the Big South, a conference which will, shortly, receive an auto-bid to the playoffs. They have also met two of the three conditions for automatic inclusion in the field: they have eight Division I wins, and have won two games against teams from automatic qualifying conferences. They MIGHT fulfill the third requirement, an average of 16 or better in the Sports Network Poll, the FCS Coaches Poll, and the computer numbers, but that is information which I am not privy to. But, ultimately, I do not think it matters. One could argue endlessly about whether Liberty is a better team than Elon, Maine, and William & Mary. What matters is that they are the better choice to fill out the field.

Update (1) 3:54 PM Sunday

Liberty came in at #14 in the Sports Network poll.

FCS Afternoon: Countdown to the 2008 Playoffs

FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #1
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #2
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #3
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #4
FCS Afternoon: Countdown to the 2008 Playoffs
FCS Playoffs 2008: Bracket Projection
FCS Bracket Announced: Comment and Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Quarterfinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Semifinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results, Final Prediction, and FBS comment

Consequential scores and updates as the afternoon progresses:

Three important games have reached halftime:

Richmond 20
William and Mary 0
It looks like the Spiders are heading back to the playoffs. The Tribe now needs a miracle.

New Hampshire 14
Maine 10
An animal mascot battle royale in Orono.

Furman 10
Wofford 21
It looks like the Terriers will complete their recovery from their thrashing at Appalachian State three weeks ago.

Update (1) 2:22 PM
At the half:

Holy Cross 24
Colgate 14
The Crusaders are attempting to steal a bid on the road.

Elon 3
Liberty 13
If this result holds it would be huge. It has the potential to make the race for the final at-large spots as clear as mud, especially given that Maine is up 3 against New Hampshire after 3 quarters.

James Madison 37
Towson 13
The Dukes are 30 minutes away from the #1 seed.

Eastern Kentucky 24
Tennessee Martin 6
This one is not going to form, but, then, that is why we play!

Update (2) 2:52 PM

Furman 10
Wofford 35
What does a dancing Terrier look like?

UNH 28
Maine 24
UNH escapes, and the playoff picture becomes a great deal clearer.

Update (3) 2:57
William & Mary just tied it up at 20 with 18 sections left in the fourth quarter (!!!). Just when you thought things were clear.

Update (4) 3:01
William & Mary and Richmond are going into overtime

Update (5) 3:08
Richmond blocks William & Mary's FG attempt in overtime.

Update (6) 3:13

William & Mary 20
Richmond 23
A 37 yard field goal wins it in the first overtime for the Spiders, who move on to the playoffs. It looks like the Tribe is staying at home. Meanwhile, Liberty has extended their lead to 16-3 verson Elon, and Colgate has recovered to take a 28-27 lead.

Update (7) 3:31 PM
At the half:

Montana State 3
Montana 14

Eastern Washington 20
Weber State 7
This result could 0pen up another seed, probably for Villanova, perhaps for Northern Iowa.

Southern Illinois 3
Illinois State 3
Gooooooooo Saloooooooookis!!!!!!!!!

Update (8) 3:51 PM

Colgate 28
Holy Cross 27
The Raiders will be representing the Patriot League. Meanwhile, Liberty has extended their lead against Elon to 19-3, and Villanova takes a 14-0 lead at Delaware into halftime.

Update (9) 3:58 PM
Cal Poly has taken a 7-0 lead at Wisconsin (!!!).

Update (10) 4:05 PM
Elon is running out of time at Liberty, Tennessee-Martin has clawed back to a two-point deficit in the OVC deciding game versus Eastern Kentucky, and Texas State is down 21-7 at Sam Houston State, which means that we could be waiting quite some time before the Southlands auto-bid is decided.

Update (11) 4:07 PM

Elon 3
Liberty 26
Will we see the Flames in the playoffs? I think so!

Update (12) 4:17 PM

James Madison 58
Towson 27
The Dukes are our #1 seed.

Eastern Kentucky 33
Tennessee-Martin 31
The Skyhawks fall short, and the Colonels will represent the OVC.

Update (13) 4:27 PM
Cal Poly has taken a 13-0 lead at Wisconsin after a punt return for a TD, but missed the PAT.

Update (14) 4:31 PM
That woke Wisconsin up. Cal Poly now up 13-7.

At the half:
Texas State 13
Sam Houston State 21

Northern Iowa 17
Southern Utah 17

Appalachian State 7
Western Carolina 10

One auto-bid contender and two seed contenders are playing flat, not to mention my Salukis, who are still in a 3-3 tie in the fourth quarter.

Update (15) 4:56 PM

Montana State 7
Montana 35
The Grizzlies now become Wisconsin fans:

Cal Poly 20
Wisconsin 14

Update (16) 5:12 PM

Eastern Washington 33
Weber State 26
Eastern Washington does not have a shot at an at-large, but they probably just cost Weber State a seed. Meanwhile, Southern Illinois goes into overtime at Illinois State at 10-10. GRRRR.

Update (17) 5:27 PM

Southern Illinois 17
Illinois State 10
Not the way to head into the championships, but, then, an MVFC championship and an auto-bid is not bad for a rookie coach. And now I do not have to figure out whether an 8-3 Southern Illinois would have been worthy of an at-large bid. *PHEW* Elsewhere, Villanova is about to wrap things up at Delaware, Appalachian State and Northern Iowa are exercising second half domination, Cal Poly is holding on to a 20-14 lead at Wisconsin, and Texas State has recovered to take a 35-28 lead at Sam Houston State.

Update (18) 5:37 PM

Seeding thoughts:

With a Cal Poly win:

1. James Madison
2. Cal Poly
3. Appalachian State
4. Montana

With a Wisconsin win:

1. James Madison
2. Appalachian State
3. Montana
4. Villanova

Villanova 21
Delaware 7

Update (19) 5:52 PM

Northern Iowa 34
Southern Utah 24
Northern Iowa probably has the second best case after Villanova for a seed should Wisconsin prevail, but Cal Poly is still up, 23-21.

Update (20) 6:00 PM

Cal Poly 29
Wisconsin 21
8:12 4th
Another missed PAT for Cal Poly

Update (21) 6:08 PM

Texas State and Sam Houston State are tied at 42 heading into overtime.

Appalachian State 35
Western Carolina 10
Appalachian State is looking at the #2 or #3 seed.

Update (22) 6:23 PM

Cal Poly 29
Wisconsin 29
1:42 left
Cal Poly displayed both prevent-winning office and defense, and followed that up by letting Wisconsin in on a 2 point conversion.

Update (23) 6:26 PM

Texas State 48
Sam Houston State 45
Texas State clinches the Southlands auto-bid, so the only remaining game of significance is Cal Poly/Wisconsin

Update (24) 6:35 PM
Cal Poly misses a 46-yard field goal to win it at the end, and it looks like it is headed for overtime. *HOLD THAT* Cal Poly interception - they have another shot at it. Time expires. OT it is.

Update (25) 6:42 PM
Cal Poly 36
Wisconsin 37
Another missed extra point by Cal Poly, the third of the game, was the deciding factor.

Time to pull out the atlas and figure out playoff pairings. A bracket projection will follow some time this evening.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #4: Midweek Update and Predictions

FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #1
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #2
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #3
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #4
FCS Afternoon: Countdown to the 2008 Playoffs
FCS Playoffs 2008: Bracket Projection
FCS Bracket Announced: Comment and Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Quarterfinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Semifinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results, Final Prediction, and FBS comment

First, a mea culpa. In my haste to get a post up on Saturday night after spending Saturday afternoon and evening doing, well, what football fans do, I erroneously promised one more at-large bid than was available. In other words, some of the teams which I labeled as locks are not, in fact locks, although all would be safe with a win on Saturday. With so many teams moving to a 12 game schedule, the old arithmetic which meant that an 8-3 record for a team in a top conference would likely yeild an at-large bid is obsolete. There will be 8-3 teams left out, and there are some scenarios in which a 9-3 team will be left out. That out of the way, my predictions follow, and please join me on Saturday as I live blog the significant results as they come in.


1. James Madison
2. Appalachian State
3. Weber State
4. Montana

Weber State (Big Sky)
James Madison (CAA)
South Carolina State (MEAC)
Southern Illinois (MVFC)
Tennessee-Martin (OVC)
Colgate (Patriot)
Appalachian State (SOCON)
Texas State (Southland)

At-Large Bids: (in order of comfort)
Montana (Big Sky)
Cal Poly (Great West)
Northern Iowa (MVFC)
Villanova (CAA)
Wofford (SOCON)
New Hampshire (CAA)
Richmond (CAA)
Elon (SOCON)

Seeding Discussion

Why are James Madison and Appalachian State the #1 and #2 seeds (assuming they win on Saturday)? It is simple. Appalachian State is the reigning national champion, and their only FCS loss this season is to James Madison. James Madison, for their part, is undefeated versus the FCS this year, with their only loss coming against an FBS team, and are the champions of the toughest conference in the FCS. Beyond this, the seeding discussion is more difficult. I have placed Weber State #3 (assuming a win on Saturday) because that would make them an undefeated team in one of the top four conferences, with their only losses coming against FBS teams. They did, however, play a softer schedule, including two non-DI teams, than some other seed contenders. Should Montana win on Saturday I would make them the #4 seed on the strength of an 11-1 season, with their only loss coming against Weber State. Would the committee give two seeds to one conference? They have in the past. Just last year, both Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois of the Gateway Conference (now the MVFC) were seeded.

All other teams, with one exception, would require a slip-up by one of those four teams to have a serious shot at a seed:

Cal Poly (8-1; 3-0)
If Cal Poly wins at Wisconsin on Saturday, they will finish at 9-1, with two FBS wins, with their other coming in the first game of the season at San Diego State. Although they do not come from an automatic-qualifying conference, those two FBS wins would be one more than any other FCS team. This would knock either Weber State or Montana (likely Montana) out of one of the seeded spots. Do I think they will do it? NO.

Who else has a chance? A Villanova win at Delaware would leave them at 9-2, with their only losses coming against James Madison and FBS West Virginia. A number of people have projected them as the #3 seed, but in my opinion they need a slip-up by Appalachian State, Weber State, or Montana to move into one of the seeded spots. How about Northern Iowa? A win on Saturday would leave them at 10-2, but without the MVFC auto-bid unless Southern Illinois loses. That scenario would probably give them the #4 seed over Montana, given that they would be a 10-2 conference champion with no bad losses. Southern Illinois? Although I bleed Saluki maroon, I am not going to drink the Kool Aid. If you want a seed, you had best beat teams like North Dakota State on the road. Wofford? 70-24. Enough said.

The At-Large Picture

Ultimately, there are twelve teams with a serious chance to take the eight at-large spots:

Cal Poly: Elon; Liberty; Maine; Montana; New Hampshire; Northern Iowa; Richmond; Southern Illinois; Villanova; William & Mary; Wofford.

Furthermore, either Northern Iowa or Southern Illinois will take the MVFC auto-bid, which leaves eleven teams chasing eight spots. Are any of those spots truly and entirely locked up? Can any team afford a loss on Saturday and still be comfortable? Only two. A Cal Poly loss at Wisconsin would not do them any harm, and a Montana loss against Montana State would still leave them at ten wins on the season. There are also a number of teams which face opposition which they SHOULD handle on Saturday, but where a loss could still result in them backing into a playoff spot:

Northern Iowa (9-2) at Southern Utah (4-6)
Southern Illinois (8-2) at Illinois State (3-7)
Villanova (8-2) at Delaware (4-7)
Wofford (8-2) vs Furman (7-4)

The other six teams under consideration are playing head-to-head, so, assuming everything else goes to form, there are effectively three play-in games on Saturday.

Richmond (8-3) at William & Mary (7-3)

Both Richmond and William & Mary have lost to James Madison and Villanova, in addition to an FBS team: Richmond lost at Virginia and William & Mary lost at North Carolina State. In other words, both teams lack bad losses, and Richmond would still have a shot at 8-4 if one of the current 8-2 teams lost.

New Hampshire (8-2) at Maine (8-3)

Like Richmond and William and Mary, both these teams lack bad losses. Maine lost to James Madison and at Richmond, and at FBS Iowa. New Hampshire lost to William & Mary and at Villanova, and also picked up one of the rare FBS scalps this year by winning at Army. Consequently, they have a good chance of backing into a playoff spot with a slip-up further up the board. Maine’s weaker computer numbers make this a must-win.

Elon (8-3) at Liberty (9-2)

Elon played Appalachian State tough on the road, but bad losses to Richmond and Wofford make this game a must-win for Elon. A loss would, potentially, open up another at-large spot, which brings us to the case of Liberty, which would finish at 10-2 with a win. This would also make them the undefeated champions of the Big South, with eight wins against DI opponents, and two wins against teams from auto-bid FCS conferences. In other words, they would have satisfied two of the three criteria for automatic inclusion based upon FCS selection criteria. The one which may be lacking is their poll numbers, which are currently in the low 20s, and their computer numbers, which range from the low 20s to the mid 30s. Would a win against Elon move Liberty into the top sixteen? Maybe.

Auto-Bids Still Contested

Eastern Kentucky visits Tennesse-Martin, and the winner takes the auto-bid.

Patriot League
Holy Cross visits Colgate, and the winner takes the auto-bid.

Texas State takes the auto bid with a win at Sam Houston State, McNeese State takes the auto-bid with a win at Central Arkansas and a Texas State loss. A loss by both teams and a win by Northwestern State at Stephen F. Austin will leave us all researching tie-breaking procedures.

Schedule of Games to Follow Saturday (All Times Eastern)

Richmond at William & Mary – one of the three potential play-in games
New Hampshire at Maine – another of the potential play-in games
Furman at Wofford – Wofford needs the win to be entirely comfortable

James Madison at Towson – a win should clinch the #1 seed for James Madison
Eastern Kentucky at Tennessee-Martin – the deciding game for the OVC auto-bid
Holy Cross at Colgate – the deciding game for the Patriot League auto-bid
Elon at Liberty – the third of the potential play-in games

Montana State at Montana – a win by Montana probably locks up a seed
Eastern Washington at Weber State – a win by Weber state probably locks up a seed

Villanova at Delaware – Villanova needs the win to be entirely comfortable, and retain its chance for a seed
Southern Illinois at Illinois St. – a win for Southern Illinois clinches the MVFC auto-bid

Northern Iowa at Southern Utah – Northern Iowa needs the win to be entirely comfortable, and retain its chance for a seed
Appalachian St. at W. Carolina – a win by Appalachian St. should clinch the #2 seed
Texas State at Sam Houston State – a win by Texas State clinches the Southland auto-bid

Cal Poly at Wisconsin – a Cal Poly win probably garners them the #3 or #4 seed

McNeese State at Central Arkansas – McNeese State takes the Southland auto-bid with a win if Texas State loses

Northwestern State at Stephen F. Austin – If Texas State and McNeese State lose, and Northwestern State wins, we will be researching tie-breakers to discover who will win the Southland auto-bid

Grats to the Lady Huskies/Graduation Data

Congratulations to the Lady Huskies of Bloomsburg on taking their third straight Division II field hockey title, and their sixth in the last seven years, by defeating 6-2 on Sunday the Lady River Hawks of UMass-Lowell, who were the 2005 champions and last years' defeated finalist. Senior Jamie Vanartsdalen, who scored two goals in the finals last year, bested that performance by scoring three goals and assisting on one other. Over the course of the season, she scored 40 goals and posted 22 assists, which bested the DII record which she set last year, and she was named Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference field hockey athlete of the year for the second year running. Maggey Bloskey, Chelsea Due, and Ashley Miller rounded out the scoring for the Huskies, while Jaci Moulton and and Missy Seeley added the goals for the River Hawks. This also marks the fifteenth national title in field hockey for head coach Jan Hutchinson.

Bloomsburg also posts a 70% graduation rate in women's sports other than basketball, cross country, and track. Their final four rivals have even better numbers. Defeated finalist UMass-Lowell posts a 81% graduation rate, with semi-finalists Shippensburg and Bentley coming it at 82% and 91% respectively. Once again, there is clear evidence that academic and on-field success are not mutually exclusive. Many congratulations to all of the fine STUDENT-athletes who participated.

"A major in eligibility, with a minor in beating the system"

This sums up the academic atmosphere for all too many NCAA student-athletes today, as exposed in some excellent investigative journalism by USA Today. The entire series of articles is in the must-read category. Here are some of the most telling passages from the central piece:
Steven Cline left Kansas State University last spring with memories of two years as a starting defensive lineman for a major-college football team. He left with a diploma, credits toward a master's degree and a place on the 2007 Big 12 Conference all-academic team.

He also left with regrets about accomplishing all of this by majoring in social sciences — a program that drew 34% of the football team's juniors and seniors last season, compared with about 4% of all juniors and seniors at Kansas State. Cline says he found not-so-demanding courses that helped him have success in the classroom and on the field but did little for his dream of becoming a veterinarian. . . .

His experience reflects how the NCAA's toughening of academic requirements for athletes has helped create an environment in which they are more likely to graduate than other students — but also more likely to be clustered in programs without the academic demands most students face.

Some athletes say they have pursued — or have been steered to — degree programs that helped keep them eligible for sports but didn't prepare them for post-sports careers.

"A major in eligibility, with a minor in beating the system," says C. Keith Harrison, an associate professor at the University of Central Florida, where he is associate director of the Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sports.

Note that NCAA President Myles Brand wrote quite recently:

Across the spectrum of Division I, there is little evidence of "clustering," or disproportionate numbers of student-athletes in certain majors.

Let me be clear! You can find examples of football or men's basketball programs with unacceptably low graduation rates. You can also find teams where unexplainably large numbers of football or men's basketball athletes are clustered in certain majors.

The USA Today report explodes Brand's talking point:

A USA TODAY study of the majors of juniors and seniors in five prominent sports at 142 of the NCAA's top-level schools shows athletes at many institutions clustering in certain majors, in some cases at rates highly disproportionate to those of all students.

The study involved the fall 2007 student rolls and the 2007-08 rosters for Division I teams in five sports — football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball and softball.

All 120 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) were included, as were 22 other Division I schools with standout men's or women's basketball teams. Nearly 9,300 athletes across 654 teams were covered by the study. Among the findings:

•83% of the schools (118 of 142) had at least one team in which at least 25% of the juniors and seniors majored in the same thing. For example, seven of the 19 players on Stanford's baseball team majored in sociology.

•34% of the teams (222 of 654) had at least one such cluster of student-athletes.

More than half of the clusters are what some analysts refer to as "extreme," in which at least 40% of athletes on a team are in the same major (125 of 235). All seven of the juniors and seniors on Texas-El Paso's men's basketball team majored in multidisciplinary studies, for example. . . .

Brand's response?

"Clustering by itself is replicated in many parts of the university. It's not necessarily bad," NCAA President Myles Brand says.

Ah, what an excellent rhetorical shift Myles. When the evidence shows that it is a widespread issue, just claim that it is not a problem. Or, sort of a problem. Maybe:

"But when you have extreme clustering … you really do have to ask some hard questions: Is there an adviser who's pushing students into this? Are there some faculty members who are too friendly with student-athletes? I'm not saying that's the case. But I think you have to ask those questions."

The NCAA is going to get on this immediately. Right?

Brand adds that it's up to each school to do so. "There are limits to what the national office can, and should, do," he says. "Anything to do with the academic programs really falls entirely within the purview of the individual institutions." . . .

Silly me for asking the question - way to pass the buck Myles. Where are the students left in all of this?

"There's a mixed message being sent out here" about the importance of academics in college sports, Georgia Tech men's basketball coach Paul Hewitt said in June before the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

Several athletes echo Hewitt's sentiments.

Former Boise State safety Marty Tadman was among the 48% of the football team's juniors and seniors majoring in communication during the 2007-08 academic year. Boise State's communication program also drew 50% of the juniors and seniors on the men's basketball and women's basketball teams.

"You hear which majors, and which classes, are the easiest and you take them," Tadman says. "You're going to school so you can stay in sports. You're not going for a degree. … It's a joke." . . .

This is, in part, a consequence of the law of unintended consequences:

There also is a new NCAA rule that threatens penalties for teams with too many players who become academically ineligible or fail to graduate. Based on their annually published Academic Progress Rate (APR), teams can lose scholarships and eventually become ineligible for postseason play, either of which can embarrass a school and affect a team's ability to win.

Hewitt, the Georgia Tech men's basketball coach, bluntly articulated many coaches' view of the "unintended consequences" of the APR system at the Knight Commission meeting in June. He said then that when an NCAA official came to the Atlantic Coast Conference meetings four years ago to discuss the APR system, "almost every coach said: 'You understand what you're basically telling us. We're going to encourage our kids to take the easiest path to eligibility.'

"So if I'm at a Georgia Tech, I'm not going to tell a young man he can't major in engineering," Hewitt said. "But I certainly will counsel him before he takes that first class that … if you decide to go down this road and for some reason you find it harder than you expected and you decide to change your major, you're probably more than likely going to end up being ineligible" for sports.

Why not recruit more players with the capacity to both major in engineering and play basketball? Its not like they are not out there. The truth is that they would do nothing for Hewitt's job security. This will remain the case so long as coaches are rewarded for teams successful in competition but incompetent in the classroom, but get fired for graduating players at high rates while posting mediocre records.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #3

FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #1
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #2
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #3
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #4
FCS Afternoon: Countdown to the 2008 Playoffs
FCS Playoffs 2008: Bracket Projection
FCS Bracket Announced: Comment and Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Quarterfinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Semifinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results, Final Prediction, and FBS comment

This will be a weekly feature until selection day. Comments, corrections, and (constructive) criticism are most welcome. I will post a mid-week update with a full seeding discussion after the release of the polls and the GPI.

Seeds (2): James Madison; Montana

Locks (9): Appalachian State; Cal Poly; New Hampshire; Northern Iowa; South Carolina State; Southern Illinois; Villanova; Weber State; Wofford

In the Hunt (12): Colgate; Eastern Kentucky; Elon; Holy Cross; Liberty; Maine; McNeese State; Richmond; Tennessee-Martin; Tennessee State; Texas State; William & Mary

Livin’ on a Prayer (7): Albany; Bethune-Cookman; Furman; Jacksonville State; Lafayette; Northwestern State; Prairie View A&M

Off the Board: Dayton; Massachusetts; Montana State; Morgan State; Nicholls State; South Dakota State; Sam Houston State; Stephen F. Austin

Auto Bid Conferences

Big Sky Conference

A surprise at the top.

Weber State (9-2; 6-0)
Their 59-27 win over Idaho State last week clinched the Big Sky auto-bid for the Wildcats. With a win against Montana under their belt, finishing the season with a win against Eastern Washington on Saturday would give them a 10-2 record and a shot at a top four seed.
Status: Lock

Montana (10-1; 6-1)
While the Grizzlies chance for the Big-Sky auto-bid are long gone, they are still very much in the running for a seed. They confirmed this Saturday with a comfortable 29-10 victory over Big Sky cellar dweller Idaho State. A seed would be locked up with a win against Montana State next weekend, but 10 wins in a top conference looks like the threshold this year.
Status: Seed

Montana State (7-4; 5-2)
My compatriots at Valley Talk pointed out that the Bobcats’ win against South Dakota does not count as a Division 1 win, since the Coyotes are in their first year transition to Division I. As such, they cannot reach seven DI wins, and are off the board despite their victory against Portland State on Saturday.
Status: Off the Board

Colonial Athletic Association

Once again this year, the CAA is both the biggest and baddest conference, with six of its twelve teams still alive in the playoff hunt.

James Madison (9-1; 7-0)

The Dukes reminded us why they are consensus #1 FCS team in the country when they demolished an excellent William & Mary team on Saturday. This clinches the CAA auto-bid. Given that they only lost to FBS Duke and they face CAA cellar-dweller Towson next Saturday, the #1 seeds looks likely.
Status: Seed

Villanova (8-2; 6-1)
The Wildcats faced a much tougher challenge than expected from a visiting Towson team on Saturday, but escaped with a 34-31 win and move into lock status. Should they emerge from a visit to Delaware victorious next Saturday they should be in the conversation for the #4 seed, but they will need some slip-ups from other contenders for that to be a realistic hope.
Status: Lock

New Hampshire (8-2; 5-2)
The Wildcats thumped, by a score of 52-21, what turned out to be a very disappointing Massachusetts team on Saturday, and move into lock status. They face a tough Maine team on the road next Saturday who will be looking for a win to clinch an at-large bid. Last week, I prematurely pronounced the end of the seed hopes, but a win at Maine would leave them at 9-2, with an FBS win and a good shot at the #4 seed.
Status: Lock

Maine (8-3; 5-2)
It has been too long since the Black Bears of my home state have made it to the playoffs, but their 37-7 win at Rhode Island on Saturday leaves them one win away from returning. Their task? Take down a New Hampshire squad gunning for a seed. If they win the Bears are in. If they lose, they will be sweating things out on selection day with an 8-4 record.
Status: In the Hunt

Richmond (8-3; 5-2)
The Spiders posted a solid win against Delaware on Saturday, and, like Maine, need one more win to lock up an at-large bid. They must, however, win on the road at William & Mary to pull this off. If they win, they are in. If they lose, they would join Maine in sweating out selection day with an 8-4 record.
Status: In the Hunt

William & Mary (7-3; 5-2)

Prior to the loss to James Madison on Saturday, the Tribe still had a shot at the CAA auto-bid, but now face a visit from Richmond next weekend in what may be an elimination game. Win and they are in. Lose, and they are 7-4 and hoping for a miracle.
Status: In the Hunt

Massachusetts (6-5; 3-4)
Back to back losses to northern New England rivals Maine and New Hampshire have blown up the playoff hopes of the Minutemen.
Status: Off the Board

Key games this week:

Richmond at William & Mary
The winner locks up an at-large bid while the loser will likely stay home.

New Hampshire at Maine
New Hampshire is in, but needs a win to stay in the seeding conversation, while Maine needs a win to lock up an at-large bid.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

South Carolina State (9-2; 7-0)
The Bulldogs clinched the MEAC auto-bid by blanking Morgan State on the road 32-0. Their lack of out of conference wins means they are not in the seeding conversation.
Status: Lock

Bethune-Cookman (8-2; 5-2)
The Wildcats stay on the board, barely, by surviving Howard 14-12 at home. If they win at Florida A&M next Saturday they will finish 9-2, and will be in the conversation for one of the final at-large bids. In all likelihood, however, that will got to an 8-3 or 8-4 team from a stronger conference.
Status: Livin’ on a Prayer

Morgan State (6-5; 4-3)
The loss to South Carolina State on Saturday ended the slim chance which the Bears had for the MEAC auto-bid.
Status: Off the Board

Missouri Valley

The new-look MVFC has become a black and blue conference with the addition of both South and North Dakota State, but both newcomers are now out of the picture.

Northern Iowa (9-2; 7-1)
The Panthers finished their MVFC by blanking Indiana State 28-0, and face a Southern Utah team in the final week which is not quite as hapless as last years’ incarnation. Should they win, they will be 10-2 and in the conversation for a seed. Even with an unlikely loss, they have locked up an at-large bid.
Status: Lock

Southern Illinois (8-2; 6-1)
In a battle of mascots, a Saluki is a clear winner over a Jackrabbit. On the field, the Dawgs escaped with another close home victory in a game which clinches their playoff spot. Even if they do not hand Illinois State an expected loss and take the MVFC auto-bid, an at-large bid will be in the offing. Even if they do win, however, a seed looks unlikely given that Southern Illinois has not defeated an opponent with a winning record on the road this year.
Status: Lock

South Dakota State (6-5; 5-2)
With the loss at Southern Illinois, the chances of an MVFC auto-bid, and a playoff spot, evaporated for the JackRabbits.
Status: Off the Board

Ohio Valley Conference

Although chaos was looming as in past years, the race for the OVC auto-bid is now clear cut.

Tennessee-Martin (8-3; 6-1)
After winning at Southeast Missouri on Saturday, things are clear cut for the Skyhawks. If they take down visiting Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, they take the OVC auto-bid. If they lose, they only have six DI wins and will say home.
Status: In the Hunt

Eastern Kentucky (7-3; 6-1)

The Colonels continued their winning streak on Saturday by easily handling a visiting team from Murray State. Their reward is a shot at the OVC auto-bid when they visit Tennessee-Martin next Saturday. If they lose, they will be 7-4 with seven DI wins, but in all likelihood seeing the final at-large spots going to teams from stronger conferences.
Status: In the Hunt

Tennessee State (8-3; 5-2)

Jacksonville State spoiled the Tigers chances for the OVC auto-bid by defeating them 26-21 on Saturday. Closing out their regular season with a win at Murray State would leave them at 9-3, and in the conversation for one of the final at-large bids given that Tennessee State played a 100% DI schedule.
Status: In the Hunt

Jacksonville State (8-3; 5-2)
The Gamecocks did what they needed to do by taking down Tennessee State on Saturday, and have qualified for at-large consideration, but have in all likelihood played their last game of the season.
Status: Livin’ on a Prayer

Key game this week:

Eastern Kentucky at Tennessee-Martin
The final showdown for the OVC title and auto-bid.

Patriot League

As with the OVC, the computer numbers may not be strong enough for an at-large bid, but the conference title is still wide open.

Holy Cross (7-3; 5-0)

The Crusaders won a thrilling 27-26 victory over Lafayette on Saturday and kept their Patriot League auto-bid hopes alive. They face the daunting task of visiting Colgate next Saturday in a final showdown for the auto-bid, but a loss would leave them at 7-4 – not strong enough for serious at-large consideration.
Status: In the Hunt

Colgate (8-2; 4-0)
The Raiders had the luxury to rest up this week in preparation for next weeks’ showdown with Holy Cross. If they win, they are in they playoffs with the auto-bid. If they lose they will be sweating things out with an 8-3 record and praying for one of the final at-large bids.
Status: In the Hunt

Lafayette (7-3; 3-2)

The Leopards say their auto-bid chances evaporate last weekend, and in all likelihood saw their at-large chances evaporate this weekend with the loss to Holy Cross. A win in the traditional season-ending showdown with Lehigh would leave them at 8-3, but in all likelihood on the outside looking in when the at-large bids are handed out.
Status: Livin’ on a Prayer

Key game this week:

Holy Cross at Colgate
The final showdown for the Patriot League title and auto-bid.

Southern Conference

There is a familiar sight at the top, with three other teams still in contention for at-large bids.

Appalachian State (9-2; 7-0)
The Mountaineers locked up the SOCON by defeating rival Elon in a tight 24-16 game. Should they close out their regular season with an expected win against Western Carolina, they will likely take a seed, but will be considered alongside teams like Cal Poly, New Hampshire, Northern Iowa, and Weber State should those teams take their final games as well.
Status: Lock

Wofford (8-2; 6-1)
While the Terriers chance for the SOCON auto-bid have come and gone, they locked up an at-large bid on Saturday with their road win against Samford. Next weekend, they will be visited by a Furman team that will be desperate to salvage their playoff hopes.
Status: Lock

Elon (8-3; 6-2)
The Phoenix failed to take down Appalachian State on the road on Saturday, and now must defeat a visiting Liberty team to book their place in the playoffs. Liberty is gunning for an at-large spot as well, so this game will be no formality.
Status: In the Hunt

Furman (7-4; 4-3)
The playoff hopes of the Paladins have been shredded over the past three weeks, with the latest hit coming from an inexplicable home loss to Georgia Southern. A win against Wofford next Saturday is necessary to reach even the seven DI wins which represent the bare minimum for at-large consideration.
Status: Livin’ on a Prayer

Key game this week:

Liberty (non-conference) at Elon
This could pan out as an elimination game for one of the at-large spots.

Southland Conference

The race for this auto-bid has cleared up considerably.

Texas State (7-4; 4-2)
Thanks to their wins over McNeese State on October 11, and Nicholls State on Saturday, the Bobcats have their fate in their own hands. Should they survive their visit to Sam Houston State next weekend they will take the Southland auto-bid. Status: In the Hunt

McNeese State (7-3; 4-2)
The Cowboys defeated Northwestern State on Saturday, but face the daunting task of winning at Central Arkansas (the best Southland team, but, alas not eligible) next weekend. Even if they do, they will have to hope for a loss by Texas State to have a chance for the auto-bid.
Status: In the Hunt

Northwestern State (6-4; 3-3)
The loss to McNeese State means that the Demons must now hope for both McNeese State and Texas State to lose next weekend, and win on the road at Stephen F. Austin. This would leave us all research tie-breaking procedures. . .
Status: Livin’ on a Prayer

Sam Houston State (4-5; 2-4), Stephen F. Austin (4-7; 2-4), and Nicholls State (2-6; 2-4) all go Off the Board after their losses.

Other at-large contenders

Cal Poly (8-1; 3-0)
As a result of their win on Saturday versus California-Davis, and their win against FBS San Diego State in week one, the Mustangs are now a lock for an at-large bid. Should they pull off an unlikely win at Wisconsin next weekend, they will be in the conversation for a seed as well.
Status: Lock

Liberty (9-2; 4-0)
The Flames continued their winning ways on Saturday with a comfortable win over Gardner-Webb. They face their crunch game of the season when they visit Elon next weekend. A win there would give them a 10-2 record, with eight wins, including two against teams from auto-qualifying conferences. This would likely give them an at-large bid as well. (Some would disagree!)
Status: In the Hunt

Albany (8-3; 7-0)
The Great Danes did what they had to do this weekend. Now all they can do is hope and pray, as their at-large hopes will likely be trumped by a team from a stronger conference with a similar record.
Status: Livin' on a Prayer

Prairie View A&M (9-1; 6-1)

Like Albany, the Panthers did what they had to do, and knocked off Alcorn State in their final regular-season game. They have, however, only the bare minimum of seven DI wins necessary for consideration, and will be left out in all likelihood.
Status: Livin' on a Prayer

Dayton (9-2; 6-1)

Whatever slim chance which Dayton had remaining was cooked with their loss, at home, to Morehead State on Saturday.
Status: Off the Board