Wednesday, November 18, 2009

FCS Playoff Watch 2009 #3: Midweek Update and Predictions

Series:
FCS Playoff Watch 2009 #1
FCS Playoff Watch 2009 #2
FCS Playoff Watch 2009 #3: Midweek Update and Predictions
FCS Afternoon: Countdown to the 2009 Playoffs
FCS Playoffs 2009: Bracket Projection
FCS Bracket Announced: Comment and Predictions

Comments, corrections, and (constructive) criticism are most welcome, but be mindful of the rules of engagement at this blog. Please join me on Saturday while I live-blog the significant results as they come in.

Predictions

Seeds:
1. Villanova
2. Southern Illinois
3. Montana
4. Richmond

Auto-Bids:
Montana (Big Sky)
Villanova (CAA)
South Carolina State (MEAC)
Southern Illinois (MVFC)
Eastern Illinois (OVC)
Holy Cross (Patriot)
Appalachian State (SOCON)
Stephen F. Austin (Southland)

At-Large Bids: (in order of comfort)
Richmond (CAA)
William & Mary (CAA)
Northern Iowa (MVFC)
New Hampshire (CAA)
Elon (SOCON)
South Dakota State (MVFC)
Eastern Washington (Big Sky)
McNeese State (Southland)

Bubble:
Lafayette (Patriot)
Weber State (Big Sky)
Liberty (Big South)


Seeding Discussion

Why is Villanova predicted as #1 seed over two teams, Southern Illinois and Montana, which have so far run the table in their conferences? They have two advantages. The Wildcats picked up an FBS win, and they had nothing but DI teams on their schedule. Southern Illinois would have been the #1 seed had they not lost by three points at FBS Marshall, but they have gone undefeated in the FCS, with only one team, Northern Iowa, getting within a touchdown. Montana might feel hard done by with a #3 seed given their undefeated season so far (which I expect to continue on Saturday – if it does not, they should slip to the #4 spot at best). It should be noted, however, that they both had a soft out of conference schedule, and have been run close by teams that they should have dominated – most notably by 1-10 Idaho State, who they beat on a last second field goal.

The biggest question mark surrounds the #4 seed. Will the committee decide to share the wealth? If they do, then Appalachian State will slot in at #4. If they choose the final slot based on this seasons’ performances, then expect to see a second seeded CAA team – whoever wins when William & Mary visits Richmond. Ironically, should Delaware pull an upset of Villanova, then the winner of the WM Richmond game could end up in the #1 slot. But beyond the five teams discussed, there are no serious contenders for seeds.


The At-Large Picture


Ultimately, there are nine teams who will fancy their chances to take the eight at-large bids:

Elon; Eastern Washington; McNeese State; Montana State; New Hampshire; Northern Iowa; Richmond; South Dakota State; William & Mary

Of these teams, four, Elon, New Hampshire, Richmond, and William & Mary are safe bet for an at-large bid should they lose on Saturday. Three of them, Eastern Washington, Northern Iowa, and South Dakota State are probably safe with a win. McNeese State and Montana State will be sweating even should they win.

The good news for the Cowboys and the Bobcats, and indeed other bubble teams like Lafayette, Weber State, and Liberty, is that there are multiple scenarios which would free up slots:

1. Losses by Eastern Washington, Northern Iowa, or South Dakota State.
2. A loss by Stephen F. Austin, along with a McNeese State win would give an auto-bid, rather than an at-large to the Cowboys. Stephen F. Austin’s numbers are weak enough that they would probably not be an at-large contender.

Who would this allow in? We would have a choice of three teams with imperfect resumes:

Lafayette (8-2; 4-1)
Lafayette can reach 9 DI wins with a victory in THE RIVALRY. Although their computer numbers are soft, the fact that this comes from a team in an auto-qualifying conference means that the committee will be tempted to take them – indeed Patriot League teams have received at-large bids with numbers worse than Lafayette’s would be with a victory on Saturday.

Weber State (6-4; 6-2)
Weber State is still in the conversation since they scheduled tougher than any other FCS team, taking on, and narrowly losing to, two FBS teams. A win on Saturday would leave them at 7-4, and by no means ruled out given that the committee has awarded at-large bids to 4 loss teams in each of the last two years.

Liberty (8-2; 5-0)
Liberty would have been in a much stronger position had they scheduled beatable FCS teams instead of West Virginia and DII West Virginia Wesleyan. The consequence of this is that they have failed to pick up two wins against FCS teams from auto-qualifying conferences, and find themselves with soft computer numbers. An at-large bid might be justice, but justice for the wrong reasons.


Auto-Bids Still Contested


CAA

Villanova takes the auto-bid with a win. The winner of the William & Mary/Richmond game takes the auto-bid with a Villanova loss.

Southland
Stephen F. Austin takes the auto-bid with a win. McNeese State takes the auto-bid with a win and a Stephen F. Austin loss. Should both teams lose, and Texas State wins, there will need to be some serious researching of tie-breaking procedures.


Schedule of Games to Follow Saturday (All Times Eastern)

12:00 PM
William & Mary at Richmond – seeding and potential auto-bid impact

12:30 PM
Lafayette at Lehigh – Lafayette needs the win for a shot at an at-large

1:00 PM
Drake at Butler – Pioneer League honors at stake
Central Connecticut State at St. Francis – NEC honors, and long-shot at-large hopes on the line for CCS
Northern Iowa at Illinois State – Play in, or play out for Northern Iowa
Liberty at Stony Brook – Flames need a win to have a hope of dancing

2:00 PM
Cal Poly at Weber State – Wildcats need a win to have a hope of dancing
Southern Illinois at SEMO – Seed cement for the Salukis
Arkansas Pine-Bluff at Prairie View A&M – Panthers keep long-shot at-large hopes alive with a win

2:05 PM
South Dakota State at Western Illinois – Play in, or play out for the Jackrabbits
Montana at Montana State – seeding implications for Montana, survival implications for State

2:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman at Florida A&M – Rattlers keep the most remote of at-large chances alive with a win

3:00 PM
Sam Houston State at Texas State – Texas State keeps remote chances for an auto-bid alive with a win
Stephen F. Austin at Northwestern State – Lumberjacks take an auto-bid with a win

3:30 PM
Delaware at Villanova – Wildcats take the #1 seed, and a CAA auto-bid, with a win
Western Carolina at Appalachian State – Mountaineers keep seeding chances alive with a win

5:05 PM
Eastern Washington at Northern Arizona – Play in, or play out for the Eagles

8:00 PM
Central Arkansas at McNeese State – The Cowboys probably dance with a win, so the final spot will likely not be settled until late in the evening

4 comments:

Mark said...

Profane,

Chances of UNI getting a home game appear slim even with a win today?

Profane said...

Mark,

It will all come down to the size of the UNI bid - if the AD thinks that the Dome will be packed, then expect to host a first round game.

Tony said...

It should also be noted that the reason Montana didn't play an FBS team is that financially it doesn't make sense. Montana sells out almost every home game making over half a million dollars, why travel, risk getting players hurt, just to get the exposure of playing an FBS team for less money? I would love to see the Griz play an FBS team every season, but who would be willing to pay $1M to have the Griz come to town?......and what if the Griz win, shattering any chance of a bowl game for that FBS team.
I think FCS football is the best, why do we need to judge our teams against the FBS teams anyway?

Profane said...

Tony,

Justly or not, the FBS win has become one of the markers of the seeded teams in recent years. If it does not make financial sense for Montana, fair enough.

An argument for seeding Montana higher would have more merit, however, if they played an entirely DI schedule, as that is one of the explicit criteria for selection.