Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2011 FCS Playoff Projections...Who's In/Who's Out

Here are our most up to date playoff projections heading into the last two weeks of full play in FCS Football. This is our third look into the projections.

The Big Sky
In: Montana State, Montana, Portland State
Bubble: None
MSU and Montana are hurtling towards a November 19th showdown for the Big Sky title. Montana, after a slow start, has come raging back in conference play. Montana State has been fairly dominant since losing to Utah, and would be the favorite here. Portland State is the surprise team of the season, and has winnable games remaining against putrid Northern Colorado and Weber State, which should be enough to push the Vikings into the playoffs. No other members are close to making a push. Montana State ranks 3rd in the PRS rankings this week, while Montana ranks 11th. Portland State has not cracked the top 35.

The Big South
In: Liberty
Bubble: Stony Brook
Liberty must travel to Stony Brook after a bye week this week to play for what should be the Big South Title. Liberty collapsed late last season to fumble away a title and playoff birth. Stony Brook has been solid in recent weeks, and they must take on Gardner-Webb this week before hosting Liberty in a title tilt the following week to close the regular season. Liberty is ranked 20th in the PRS Rankings this week, while Stony Brook ranks 24th. Only one of thsese schools is likely to see a playoff birth.

In: Towson, Maine, New Hampshire, Old Dominion
Bubble: James Madison, Delaware
The top four are knocking eachother around a bit, but they are a solid unit. Towson controls their own destiny for the CAA title after beating Maine last weekend, but UNH visits this weekend and can turn the tables. UNH then plays Maine the following weekend, so there is still some fluctuation highly possible. Old Dominion could looks solid to push in as well, and is the highest ranked team in the CAA in this week's PRS at #6. Towson ranks #10, New Hampshire #12, and Maine #15 in the PRS as well. James Madison and Delaware could steal spots, but both must win out at this point.

Great West
In: None
Bubble: Cal Poly
There is no auto bid for this conference, but Cal Poly, by winning out, may stand a shot at gaining an at-large bid. That is highly unlikely at this point. This is the final season for this conference.

In: Norfolk State
Bubble: Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman, South Carolina State
Norfolk State wraps up their season this weekend against Morgan State on the road, and with a win would lock up the MEAC title. The Spartans rank 9th in this week's PRS rankings, and should be a shoe-in for a playoff bid. The MEAC placed two teams in the FCS playoffs in 2010, so Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman could use late runs to try and grab a spot, but that looks like an outside chance at this point. South Carolina is also slightly alive, but has four losses. That record is an illusion, as SC State lost to two FBS opponents. SC State ranks 31st, Bethune-Cookman ranks 33rd, and Florida A&M ranks 34th this week, so they are far outside possibilities until Norfolk wraps up the title.

Missouri Valley
In: North Dakota State, Northern Iowa, Illinois State
Bubble: Indiana State, Youngstown State
North Dakota State has been swapping 1 and 2 in the PRS rankings, and the Bison are currently #2, just 104 points behind Sam Houston State. They are automatic at this point. Northern Iowa, ranked 14th, lost to NDSU last week, but is still a solid bet to get in on their own merit. Illinois State has been quietly running a solid season, and they should be solid enough to push their way in for a second at-large bid from the MVC. The Redbirds cracked our PRS rankings at #22 this week. Indiana State has been fading, but a late push could do some good, while Youngstown State is also a loss away from slipping out entirely.

In: Albany
Bubble: Duquesne
Albany is in the drivers seat for the auto bid this season. That being said, there are two games remaining for both, and anything can happen. Duquesne needs Albany to lose twice, as Albany has already beaten the Dukes. Monmouth and Sacred Heart remain on the schedule for the Great Danes.

Ohio Valley
In: Eastern Kentucky
Bubble: Tennessee Tech, Jacksonville State, UT-Martin, Murray State
Anything can happen in the topsy turvy OVC. This is the land where everyone beats up on everyone else, and it is creating chaos when trying to break it all down. EKU is now in control, but has games remaining against Tennessee TEch and UT-Martin, both bubble teams. Other than their date with EKU, Tech has a very winnable date with Austin Peay. JSU has two very winnable dates remaining against Tennessee State andSE Missouri State, but both are on the road. UTM has road dates at Tennessee State and EKU, while Murray State, the most unlikely candidate, has Austin Peay and SE Missouri State.EKU is the only PRS ranked team in the country this week at 25.

Patriot League
In: Lehigh
Bubble: Georgetown
In my opinion, both have the right to stake claim to a playoff spot, but only one likely will get in. This all comes down to the final game of the season, as PRS 8th ranked Georgetown travels to 4th ranked Lehigh for a final showdown for all of the marbles. Get ready for a war!

Pioneer Football
In: None
Bubble: Drake, Jacksonville, San Diego
It's highly likely that none of these schools get into the playoffs yet again, as no auto bid exists, and all three have issues. Drake played an exhibition game in Africa, eliminating them from contention, while Jacksonville failed against an upgraded schedule, losing to Citadel and Western Illinois, and falling to Drake last Saturday. San Diego has a very unattractive schedule for the committee having played Azusa Pacific and Western New Mexico. Drake ranks 23rd in the PRS rankings, while Jacksonville fell to 28th, and San Diego sits at #30.

In: Georgia Southern, Wofford, Appalacahian State, Furman
Bubble: None
It's all or nothing for this group, as I see all four having strong credentials for getting in. They have also all beaten eachother at some point, making things murky at best. GSU can take Wofford out of the race this weekend when the Eagles travel to face the Terriers. They then finish up with a likely meaningless loss to Alabama. Wofford follows their home date with GSU with a potential trap game against Chattanooga, who plays spoiler. Furman has beaten Wofford and Appalachian State, and has Elon and Florida left on the schedule. App. State has the easiest road by far, as they take on Elon and Western Carolina. he drawback to the Mountaineers are that they have lost to Wofford and Furman. Georgia Southern ranks 7th this week in the PRS, while Wofford follows at #17. App. State is #26, while Furman ranks 32nd, placing App. State and Furman closer to the bubble.

In: Sam Houston State
Bubble: Central Arkansas
In my opinion, both merit a shot at a playoff bid, with SHSU being the automatic, as they rank #1 in the new PRS FCS Rankings. SHSU is starting to open up their lead on the #1 spot, and are seemingly pulling away for our FCS regular season championship. Central Arkansas is one of the rising stars of FCS football, and after just missing out last season, they are pushing for a strong bid this fall. The Bears are ranked #19 in this weeks PRS Rankings, and are a fast climber. The Bears close out their season against Texas State this weekend, and then they wait and see. SHSU has two tough dates remaining against Northwestern State and Texas State.

Note: The Ivy League and SWAC do not participate in the FCS playoffs. The Independents, Pioneer League, and Great West do not have automatic bids to the playoffs.

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