Saturday, November 15, 2008

FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #3

Series:
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

27 comments:

John Emilian said...

What happens if Maine, Elon, and Richmond all win? All three of those teams you say are in if they win, but given your "locks," they are fighting for two open spots. Who do you think would make it in that case? (also assuming all your other locks win)

Profane said...

Egads John, I am one bid short am I not! Wins by all three teams would, as well, leave them each at 9-3. Richmond would be the safest, given that they defeated both Elon and Maine in the regular season. Maine would be the CAA North champion with a win, so I expect that they would be in as well. Elon would be left at home. Fuming.

It is interesting that after a couple years where the struggle was to find a worthy team to fill the final slot that there will be a very good team that stays home this year.

Anonymous said...

Liberty University's team name is the Flames, not the Panthers. Thanks.

Profane said...

Thanks for the correction anonymous 4:49 - I must have had UNI on the mind!

William said...

Weber is undefeated against FCS, and beat Montana soundly. The only way Montana gets a seed is if Weber gets a higher one. Head-to-head is the committee's top criteria for comparison of teams.

Profane said...

But not the only criteria william. Weber state played two non-DI opponents (Montana Western, Dixie State) as compared to Montana's one (Central Washington), and, of course, have another loss.

Matt said...

Not sure that UNH is yet a lock. I have a suspicion they would be left out in favor of an 8-3 Elon team, despite having a better resume.

Profane said...

The ace in the hole for UNH may be their FBS win, but they are one of several teams I may have prematurely pronounced as a lock as a result of my miscount. Of course if New Hampshire wins on Saturday my prediction will be proved right (for the wrong reasons!)

Anonymous said...

If UNI gets a win against Southern Utah, they are a lock for a seed. Unlike the over-rated Colonial Conference, the Missouri Valley beats up on eachother due to the 9 team conference. What would keep UNI from getting a seed after they beat Southern Utah?

Andrew said...

I thought you would have had Appalachian as a solid seeded team, where do you think they will stand by the time the playoffs come around? The SoCon is always an extremely challenging conference to play in and App has gone undefeated. One thing about the SoCon, you don't always know who is going to walk away with the 'W'. Appalachian seems to have had the toughest schedule also; playing the LSU powerhouse and then barely losing to James Madison who has been claimed to be the unanimous #1 seed. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated. And, by the way, thanks for creating this blog, it has been fun to read.

Profane said...

anonymous 6:08,

With a win over Southern Utah, UNI has a very good chance for a seed. That said, the MVFC and the Big Sky are very much analygous this year. (Lets assume for the moment that the four teams at the top of both conferences win on Saturday.) Will Montana take a seed over Weber State? Will UNI take a seed over Southern Illinois? Montana and UNI have better resumes despite the losses to Weber State and Southern Illinois, and it will be interesting to see how the committee handles this.

On top of that Cal Poly could win at Wisconsin and take a seed despite being in a conference without automatic qualification. More thoughts on these issues in my mid-week update.

Profane said...

andrew,

The entire FCS world issued a collective 'WOW' after the Wofford game, and I think that Appalachian State will be the #2 seed should they win on Saturday and Cal Poly loses - but at this point it is premature to call them a seed.

There is only one league tougher than the SOCON - and that it is the CAA. Although I am a MVFC partisan I cannot make the claim, YET, that it is the #1 or #2 league.

Anonymous said...

(Mark) Lets talk about Cal Poly for a second. Cal Poly is not deserving of a bid at all. They play in a conference that is, well let's just say it TERRIBLE!!! Their most impressive win this season will come to a 4 or 5 loss team in South Dakota State. I do not understand why they are even ranked as high as number 3. I do not even care if they beat Wisconsin, Cal Poly in no way should be considered for a seed let alone an at-large bid. This is just another team taking away a spot for a more deserving team. I would even go out on a limb to say Montana State is more deserving or second team out of the Ohio Valley Conference. GIVE ME A BREAK, RANKED #3.

Profane said...

anonymous 2:08,

I agree that Cal Poly is very overrated. That said, I believe they are deserving of a playoff spot. Their entire schedule was DI with the exception of South Dakota, which is in its first year transitioning to DI. Furthermore, they scheduled two FBS teams, defeating San Diego State on the road in their first game. In other words, they did everything possible to overcome the fact that they play in an awful conference. Should they pull off they upset at Wisconsin on Saturday, then they will deserve a seed.

Andrew said...

Profane,

Who do you predict to make it to the finals?

Anonymous said...

If everything falls the way you think it will this weekend, who gets the other two seeds?

Profane said...

andrew,

Until another team proves otherwise, James Madison is the best team in the FCS, and Appalachian State is the team which ran them the closest.

anonymous 10:39,

IF everything goes as I expect (this assumes a Cal Poly loss):

1-James Madison 10-1
2-Appalachian State 10-2
3-Weber State 10-2
4-Montana 11-1

More in my full update later today.

Anonymous said...

What determines home field advantage? Can Seeds get home field advantage over those whom have locked a playoff birth?

Profane said...

anonymous 1:26,

Seeds automatically get home field advantage. Home field advantage in games which do not involve seeded teams is determined by facility quality, attendance, and revenue potential.

Anonymous said...

With that said: What are the chances of the Griz getting home field advantage for round 1?

Profane said...

anonymous 2:18,

Even without a seed, I would put Montana's chances for a round 1 home game at about 95%.

Anonymous said...

Can a conference champion play one of the four seeds in a first round game?

Profane said...

anonymous 3:41,

Yes. Only the seeds are protected, and they occasionally are 'rewarded' with playing a team which might have been #5 if the entire field was seeded.

Anonymous said...

If Weber State and Cal Poly lose this weekend, whom has the best opportunity to take the final seed?

Profane said...

Anonymous 5:48,

Both will probably leave the seeding conversation with a loss, with the final seed taken by Northern Iowa or Villanova. Full discussion coming momentarily in my mid-week update.

Go L said...

Lafayette should get a at-large. A lot of people say the Patriot League is weak. I want to see some of these "In The Hunt" teams play in our stadiums and our games. It so hard to get a win. Colonial Athletic Association is overrated. They never come to play us even though we ask them to. I think there just scared that they'll get there ass handed to them

Profane said...

Go L,

Lafayette cannot feel hard done by this year. Although the Leopards beat Liberty on the road, they faced two tough teams at home this year, Harvard and Holy Cross, and lost on both occasions.

Personally, I do not think that the CAA is overrated - compare the playoff records of the CAA versus the Patriot League over the past few years.