Thursday, November 17, 2011

FCS Playoffs...20 That Should Be In

Here we go with yet another look at how the FCS playoffs should shake out. We use our PRS rankings and conference standings to gauge the 20 team field, and we look at which games this weekend should effect the field overall. Let's take a look!

Big Sky: Montana or Montana State
Big South: Liberty or Stony Brook
Colonial: Towson
MEAC: Norfolk State
Missouri Valley: North Dakota State
Northeast: Albany
Ohio Valley: Tennessee Tech
Patriot League: Lehigh
Southern: Georgia Southern
Southland: Sam Houston State*
* Regular Season PRS FCS Champion

As you can see, 8 of 10 spots have been locked up, but the Big Sky, traditionally a power spot, and the Big South will be decided this weekend with two wars on top. Montana State has the edge coming into their tilt with Montana, as they are ranked 3rd in the PRS. Montana would be top ten if they had not played an ill advised late season game against D2 Western Oregon, which essentially gets the Grizzlies zero credit in the PRS rankings.
Last season, Liberty seemed to be cruising to the FCS playoffs before a late season stumble sent them into a three way tie for the conference title, which Liberty lost out to Coastal Carolina on the breaker. Liberty has much to prove in this game against streaking Stony Brook, as the Sea Wolves have won 7 straight since a 1 point loss to Brown back in September. Stony Brook looks primed to steal the game and the bid behind one of the best rushing attacks in the country.
Sam Houston State is our regular season PRS FCS Champion, regardless of a win or loss this weekend. They have accumulated 2471 points, and now boast a 452 point lead on the Bison of North Dakota State.
Let's take a look at the hard part now, which is filling the remaining 10 bids in our at-large section!

At-Large Bids
1. Montana State/Montana Loser
This is as automatic and no-brainer as the sun rising and setting in the sky. The Big Sky is a power conference, and that makes this as easy to pick as can be.
2. Old Dominion
The Monarchs have seriously earned this spot. They are 9-2 and rank #6 in our PRS rankings. Their only losses were to Delaware and Towson, both being quality losses. The non-conference schedule could be argued, as they have out of conference wins against Campbell, Georgia State, and a weakened Hampton. Will finish in a tie for 2nd in the Colonial.
3. Northern Iowa
The Panthers will finish 2nd in the Missouri Valley behind North Dakota State, and are currently ranked 10th in our PRS rankings. The Panthers lost only to NDSU in conference play, with their other loss coming by 1 point to FBS Iowa State. No major stand out out of conference wins, as they have defeated Stephen F. Austin (down year) and Southern Utah. That being said, still a lock that I would bet the farm on for receiving the bid.
4. Maine
The Bears are ranked 11th in our PRS rankings, and they deserve a solid shot at an at-large bid as the third member of the powerful CAA to grab a bid. With one game left at New Hampshire, Maine's only two losses were to CAA Champ Towson and FBS Pittsburgh. Maine has a win over FCS playoff potential participant Albany, and beat Bryant as well in non-conference play. A loss to UNH could upset things, but we'll cross that bridge this weekend.
5. Central Arkansas
I figure that we'll hear it on this one, but here we go!. The Bears are a strong football team at 8-3. Their losses came against FBS members Louisiana Tech and Arkansas State, and FCS #1 Sam Houston State, meaning that only two of their losses actualyy really count at the end of the day. The only drawback is that their wins came mostly in SLC play and against D2 Henderson State. If I had to take a flyer on a shocker for an at-large, it would be UCA.
6. New Hampshire
The Wildcats are a solid football team and rank 19th in the PRS FCS Rankings. An upset win over Maine this weekend would likely lock this spot up, with a loss really outting them on the fringe. Their three losses were a mixed bag with great (FBS Toledo), solid (Towson), and kind of bad (William & Mary). Really crushed FCS Playoff auto-bid member Lehigh (48-21), making UNH an intriguing entry. That being said, UNH is only 3-2 in their last 5 games. Still an in for me.
7. Appalachian State
This is not your typical season for Jerry Moore's Mountaineers, but ASU is still having a solid season by the gauge of most everyone else. Losses came against Virginia Tech, Wofford, and Furman, which were all decent losses. Out of conference wins were fairly weak as they came against North Carolina A&T and Savannah State. ASU ranks 21st in the PRS Rankings, and they are 4-1 in their last five games.
8. Illinois State
The Redbirds have been a quiet group this season, but they are a solid program on the rise. ISU is 5-0 in their last 5 games, with all three losses coming early to Eastern Illinois (really bad), Youngsotwn State (respectable), and North Dakota State (quality). ISU has one last hurdle, as they take on Northern Iowa thhis weekend. An upset would cement ISU in the playoff picture.
9. Wofford
The Terriers sneak in as the 3rd SoCon member, as the SoCon always calls for three bids, and should. Wofford has three quality losses to Clemson, Furman, and Georgia Southern, while they defeated App. State. They have one game left at upset minded Chattanooga which if lost, could change this picture a bit.
10. Wide Open
This spot is a bit close to call for me. There are a few teams that all could stake a claim this weekend with big wins. The list includes Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M, James Madison, Delaware, South Carolina State, Indiana State, Youngstown State, Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, and Furman. There is also some push for some one bid leagues to break the mold in Duquesne and Georgetown, both in our PRS Top 25. Portland State also makes a case, but has two wins against D2 or NAIA opponents.

We will be assessing the bids when they release this Sunday, and will break down the field for you on Monday afternoon. Good luck to your school as we push on for the FCS National Championship!


  1. Your analysis of New Hampshire is flawed. When did they crush Lehigh 48-21. The game was won by New Hampshire 48-41 in overtime. That can't be considered a crushing.

  2. tom has it right. it was a 48-41 OT win in which they had to kick a FG as the clock expired to send it to OT. They scored the go-ahead TD on a questionable, I might add.