Tuesday, November 4, 2008

FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #1

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.

Auto Bid Conferences

Big Sky Conference

A surprise at the top.

Weber State (8-2; 6-0)
The Wildcats have all but clinched the auto-bid from the Big Sky Conference, and have the difficult part of their schedule behind them, including victories against perennial powerhouses Montana and Montana State. Any Montana loss clinches the conference, as would any win against their remaining opponents, Idaho State (0-9; 0-5) and Eastern Washington (3-5; 2-3). Winning out probably yields the Wildcats a top four seed.

Montana (8-1; 4-1)
While chances of a conference title are slim, the Grizzlies could afford to lose two of its last three games and still gain an at-large bid. Should they win out, they will probably garner a top four seed.

Northern Arizona (6-3; 4-2)
Just two weeks ago, the Lumberjacks were in the thick of the Big Sky race. After losses to Weber State and Montana on successive weekends, they now find themselves needing to win out to have a realistic chance of an at-large bid to the playoffs.

Key game this week:

Montana State at Northern Arizona
Montana State is out of the mix, but Northern Arizona needs a win here to keep their at-large hopes alive.

Colonial Athletic Association

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

James Madison (8-1; 6-0)
The Dukes are the consensus #1 FCS team in the country, with their only loss coming against FBS Duke. That said, it will be a couple weeks before there is any clarity on the CAA auto-bid, and it could very well go done to the final Saturday, as it did last year. James Madison is idle this week, as they rest up before a huge game with William & Mary on November 15. It does, however, come down to this. Should they win out they will be the #1 seed.

New Hampshire (7-1; 4-1)
While FBS scalps were frequently won last year, they have been rare this year, but the Wildcats posted a resounding win against Army in the opening game of their season. They remain one of the four contenders for the CAA auto-bid, but have a tough path ahead of them, with their remaining three games all coming against playoff contenders. Should they win out, they will likely receive a seed on the basis of their FBS victory.

William & Mary (6-2; 4-1)
Although a seed for the Tribe would be a long shot, they are still very much in the hunt for the CAA title, as they are responsible for New Hampshire's sole loss, and face James Madison in two weeks time. Should they win out, all that would be required for a championship would be a loss by Villanova.

Villanova (6-2; 4-1)
The bad news for the Wildcats is that they have almost entirely exhausted their margin of error for an at-large bid. The good news is that their schedule is soft beyond this Saturday’s matchup with New Hampshire. They are still alive in the hunt for the CAA crown, but having lost to James Madison earlier in the season, would need a lot of things to happen which are beyond their control.

Massachusetts (6-3; 3-2)
The Minutemen are one of three teams in the CAA who are one loss away from likely elimination from at-large consideration. The path will not be easy, as Massachusetts will be entertaining Maine this weekend, and must follow that up with a visit to New Hampshire next weekend.

Maine (6-3; 3-2)
Like Massachusetts, the Black Bears have not yet posted a win against a playoff contender this year. They must win out to have an at-large chance, which would include victories at Massachusetts and hosting New Hampshire.

Richmond (6-3; 3-2)
The Spiders have a more realistic chance to reach the playoffs than either Maine or Massachusetts, as their next two games come against CAA cellar dwellers Hofstra and Delaware. It may come down to the final game of the season, when they travel to William & Mary.

Key games this week:

Maine at Massachusetts
This is essentially an elimination game.

UNH at Villanova
This is an elimination game where the CAA auto-bid hopes of the two teams are concerned.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

The picture here is fairly simple, since none of the teams have a serious shot at an at-large bid. Three teams, South Carolina State (7-2; 5-0), Morgan State (6-3; 4-1) and Hampton (5-3; 4-1) are in serious contention for the auto-bid and Bethune-Cookman (6-2; 3-2) is still mathematically alive. Obviously, if South Carolina State wins out, they take the bid, but this requires a victory at Morgan State at November 15. If Morgan State won, they would, however, be forced to follow this up with a victory the next week when Hampton dropped in for a visit.

Key game this week:

Bethune-Cookman at Hampton
Bethune-Cookman is eliminated by a loss, and Hampton is eliminated by a loss and wins by Morgan State and South Carolina State.

Missouri Valley

The new-look MVFC has become a black and blue conference with the addition of both South and North Dakota State. Four teams are still alive in the conference title race, and three teams have at-large hopes.

Northern Iowa (7-2; 5-1)
While the Panthers lead the conference in the win column, they do not have their fate in their hands as a result of a loss at Southern Illinois on September 27. Should there be no slip-up by SIU, an at-large bid looks to be all but a formality, given that their final three games are against weak opposition. Winning out puts them in contention for a seed.

Southern Illinois (6-2; 4-1)
The Salukis are the only team left in the MVFC with their fate entirely in their own hands, as they will take the auto-bid, and put themselves into contention for a seed should they win out. The path is, however, difficult, as they must defeat fellow contenders Western Illinois and South Dakota State on successive weekends, and follow that up by taking care of business at Illinois State on the final weekend of the season. Taking two of the last three should result in an at-large bid.

South Dakota State (5-4; 4-1)
The at-large hopes of the Jackrabbits effectively ended with the loss to Cal Poly on October 18, but they retain a slim chance to take the MVFC auto-bid. That scenario requires winning out coupled with a loss by Northern Iowa in one of their final two conference games.

Western Illinois (5-3; 3-2)

The Leathernecks are still mathematically (but outlandishly) alive in the quest for the MVFC auto-bid, but would probably clinch an at-large bid by winning out. The crunch game comes this weekend when they visit Southern Illinois.

Key game this week:

Western Illinois at Southern Illinois
A loss here ends both the auto-bid and at-large chances for Western Illinois, while a loss by Southern Illinois puts them squarely on the bubble.

Ohio Valley Conference

The race for the conference title is still in question, but the computer numbers may not be strong enough this year for serious at-large contention.

Tennessee-Martin (7-2; 5-1)
The Skyhawks have a straightforward path to the OVC championship. They must defeat Southeast Missouri State (3-6; 1-4) on the road in two weeks time, follow that up with a win against Eastern Kentucky in the final game of the season, and hope that Tennessee State slips up. Absent that, an at-large bid seems unlikely barring a win against FBS Auburn this weekend.

Eastern Kentucky (6-3; 5-1)
After losing three of their first four games, the Colonels have rattled off five straight, and put themselves into contention for the auto-bid. This would require a home win against Murray State (3-6; 2-3) in two weeks, followed by a win at Tennessee-Martin, and at least one Tennessee State loss. Even if they win out, an at-large bid would be an extreme long shot.

Tennessee State (7-2; 4-1)
Having already defeated Tennesse-Martin and Eastern Kentucky, the Tigers have their fate in their hands. If they win out, they take the OVC auto-bid. The crunch game comes on November 15 when they visit Jacksonville State.

Jacksonville State (6-3; 4-2)

Losses to Tennessee-Martin and Eastern Kentucky mean that the Gamecocks chances of an OVC title and auto-bid are slim, but it could happen should they take down Tennessee State at home.

Key game this week:

Tennesse-Martin at Auburn
After starting 4-1, Auburn has lost its last four. Could the Skyhawks head down and steal one, and revive their at-large hopes in the process?

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.

Colgate (7-2; 3-0)
The Raiders hold the whip hand in the Patriot League only because they face Holy Cross at home in the final game of the season. Of course should Colgate slip up this weekend when they visit Lehigh, that game might only be part of a very complicated picture.

Holy Cross (5-3; 3-0)
While Fordham should not give the Crusaders any problems, they face a tough road to the championship, as their final two games are road games against Lafayette and Colgate.

Lafayette (6-2; 2-1)
The loss to Colgate this weekend was a serious blow to the Leopards championship hopes. They must now win out, and hope that Colgate loses its last two games. At 9-2, Lafayette would, however, be in serious contention for an at-large bid.

Lehigh (3-5; 2-1)
Despite an awful OOC season, Lehigh is still alive for the conference championship. It would require them to win out, including victories at home this weekend versus Colgate and at Lafayette in the final game of the season, topped with two losses by Holy Cross.

Key game this week:

Colgate at Lehigh
Colgate can keep the conference race simple with a win, and Lehigh's hopes evaporate with a loss.

Southern Conference

Four teams with conference championship and at-large hopes remain in the Southern Conference.

Appalachian State (7-2; 5-0)

Despite getting thumped by FBS LSU and losing a close one at James Madison the Mountaineers look every bit as good as last year, a point emphasized by their 70-24 trouncing of Wofford on Saturday. They face only one remaining top-shelf opponent, Elon, at home in two weeks. Winning out would result in the SOCON title and a likely seed. One win in the final three games would clinch an at-large bid.

Elon (7-2; 5-1)
The Phoenix still have SOCON title hopes. All they have to do is take care of business against Western Carolina this weekend, and then visit Appalachian State and come away with a win, and a possible seed. (Should this scenario occur, and Wofford also wins out, we will all be researching tie-breakers) They can still afford one slip-up and receive an at-large bid.

Wofford (6-2; 4-1)
Before Friday, Wofford had to have fancied their chances for the SOCON title, given that they had trounced Elon, and had only one loss, to FBS South Carolina. Their title hopes rely winning out, and an Elon victory against Appalachian State. Whatever the scenario there, their at-large chances look solid should they win two out of their last three.

Furman (7-3; 4-2)

The Paladins remain mathematically alive in the title hunt, but, realistically, are hoping to win out and receive at at-large berth. Their most significant barrier? Visiting Wofford in the final game of the season.

Southland Conference

This conference race remains a mess, with all teams still alive with the ironic exception of Central Arkansas, the team at the top of the table (they still have probationary DI status and are ineligible for the playoffs). Northwestern State is a game ahead of all other contenders, but must face, you guessed it, Central Arkansas this weekend. Along with Northwestern State, McNeese State remains in the hunt for an at-large bid, but I will defer on further analysis of this conference until the next update. Hopefully there will be some clarity, or at minimum some separation after the results on Saturday.

Other at-large contenders

Cal Poly (6-0; 2-1)
In past seasons Caly Poly posted gaudy records against weak opposition, and found itself disappointed when it came time for selection. This year, they scheduled meaningful opposition, and posted wins against Northwestern State and South Dakota State, in addition to FBS San Diego State. They lost a heartbreaker to Montana, and had a game against McNeese State cancelled. Winning two out of their last three is realistic, and it would probably give them an at-large bid.

Liberty (7-2; 3-0)
The fact that Flames scheduled both MVFC and SOCON opposition OOC gives them a chance at an at-large bid should they win two of their last three games (which would give them seven DI wins). Should one of those wins come against Elon, EXPECT an at-large bid.

Sacred Heart (8-1; 4-1)
While the two of the Pioneers' victories were over DII opposition, winning out would give Sacred Heart a 10-1 record, including eight DI wins, with only a narrow loss to NEC leader Albany. At minimum, they would be under consideration.

Prairie View A&M (7-1; 4-1)
Winning out would give the Panthers a 9-1 record, and the bare minimum of seven DI wins necessary for consideration. As in past years, however, SWAC participation in the DI playoffs will likely be trumped by the Bayou Classic.

Dayton (8-1; 5-0)
As usual, the Pioneer Conference will, in all likelihood, get left out, even if Dayton does win out and post an 11-1 record. Their strongest non-conference tilts were against mid to lower range teams from two of the weaker conferences, the NEC and the Patriot League. The Selection Committee has been consistent in leaving out teams with profiles like this.

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