Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This is a test. This is only a test.
Had this been an actual emergency, the NCAA Division I football selection
committee would be in the middle of all the screaming, cursing and rioting.
It seems the potential FCS playoff field has more certainty than a Florida
presidential election. What you thought Saturday morning isn't what you're
thinking a day later.
And who knows what to expect next Sunday morning after a final Saturday of the
regular season determines the field of 20.
Maybe a recall?
There will be plenty of unhappy candidates after the final at-large teams are
determined in a season one year ahead of the 24-team bracket.
It's been a crazy final few weeks of the regular season, and many teams have
that sinking feeling they will be left on the outside by not getting it done
through their conference's automatic qualifying bid.
Lehigh could finish with 10 wins and be left on the sideline. Stony Brook has
completed its regular season with nine wins and is about to vomit. It seems
any Ohio Valley Conference team that is not named Eastern Illinois is
sweating it out.
The playoff bubble, seemingly adding teams each week when it should be
decreasing, is begging for an NIT bracket.
Here's a quick conference-by-conference look at the playoff picture heading
toward the final Saturday of the regular season:
Big Sky: The conference title race may seem messy with two-time defending
champion Montana State, Cal Poly, Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona all
tied for first place at 6-1. With all four at least 8-2 (Montana State is
9-1), they all have built playoff resumes. Either Cal Poly or NAU will be
knocked from first in the conference standings because they face each other in
Flagstaff. Montana State visits Montana, which is trying to salvage a winning
season, and EWU goes to Portland State. Sacramento State will fall short even
if it gets to 7-4.
Big South: Stony Brook's stumble at Liberty has opened the door to the strong
possibility of a three-way championship tie with Coastal Carolina and Liberty
for the second time in three years. If it happens, Coastal would claim the
automatic playoff bid - as it did in 2010 - this time on the conference's
fourth tiebreaker, road conference wins. They would be 3-0 compared to Stony
Brook and Liberty at 2-1 each. Stony Brook owns good non-conference wins over
Army and Colgate, but the Seawolves are hurt by the fact the conference isn't
particularly strong this season.
CAA: There's still six teams alive for playoff berths. The conference may not
get even half that amount, however. Still, the regular season's ending will be
terrific. New Hampshire hosts Towson with the chance to win an outright
conference title. A win might not be enough for red-hot Towson, which made the
mistake of scheduling two FBS losses, er, games. ODU, ineligible for the
conference title but playoff-bound, goes to James Madison, which needs to beat
the FCS' fourth-ranked team to get a bid. Villanova takes on rival Delaware
and Richmond goes to William & Mary. Yeah, just your typical Saturday
afternoon in the CAA,
MEAC: Bethune-Cookman (8-2) clinched the conference title and automatic bid.
The Wildcats (8-2) hope to build on a six-game winning streak in their finale
against rival Florida A&M, whose coach, Joe Taylor, stepped away from the team
last week because he felt his impending retirement was a distraction for the
Missouri Valley: Conference-leader North Dakota State is playoff-bound, but it
doesn't plan to take its foot off the pedal at Illinois State because a win
will clinch not only the MVFC title, but likely the top overall seed in the
playoffs. A nice home run in the playoffs could get the Bison back to Frisco,
Texas, where they won their first FCS national title last season. Illinois
State also will be in the playoffs and might be in the mix for a seed with a
win over NDSU. A South Dakota State win over South Dakota should get the
Jackrabbits in the field, but the bubble makes it hard to be confident of
that. They would likely fall behind Indiana State in the pecking order if the
Sycamores (7-3) go to dangerous Youngstown State, win and become playoff-
Northeast: Wagner, which has rebounded with seven straight wins after an 0-3
start, only has to beat Duquesne at home to earn the automatic bid. Albany,
having lost the head-to-head matchup, will return to the playoffs by beating
Central Connecticut State and having Wagner lose its game.
Ohio Valley: After back-to-back 2-9 seasons, Eastern Illinois (7-3) has won
the conference title in coach Dino Babers' first season. It's been a terrific
season for the conference, but so many of its teams are hovering on the
bubble. Eastern Kentucky (8-3) has finished its regular season and may come up
just short of an at-large bid. The Tennessee State-UT Martin matchup has
the feel of a playoff game already, but there's just no guarantee the winner
will get into the actual playoffs.
Patriot: Colgate has roared into the playoffs with seven straight wins and the
Patriot League championship. Lehigh is feeling sucker-punched after becoming
the last unbeaten team to fall, and the Mountain Hawks hope a 10-1 record
(with a win over Lafayette) will be enough for an at-large bid. It
probably won't be, though, considering their strength of schedule.
Southern: Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Wofford are sharing the
conference title after each went 1-1 in their little round-robin tournament.
The tiebreaker for the automatic bid will be determined after the battle for
fourth place in the final standings. Each seems secure for a playoff berth.
Southland: Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State will represent the
conference in the playoffs as co-champions, although UCA won the automatic bid
because of a win in a head-to-head meeting. Sam Houston State (8-2) has been
outstanding in winning seven straight games and may still get one of the five
playoff seeds even if it loses at Texas A&M next Saturday.
THE OTHER THREE
The three FCS conferences that won't have teams in the FCS playoffs:
Ivy - Oddly, Penn sits alone in first place and its only league loss is to
last-place Yale, which hasn't beaten any other league team. The Quakers (5-4)
have clinched a share of the title and can win an outright crown by winning at
Cornell or having both Harvard, which hosts Yale, and Princeton, which hosts
Dartmouth, lose their games. What a job by Quakers coach Al Bagnoli again.
Pioneer - Butler (8-3, 7-1) still sits in first place, but after losing to
Drake on Saturday, it can be caught for a share of the title. Drake must win a
difficult finale at Jacksonville, while San Diego must win two more cross-
country games at Davidson (next Saturday) and Marist (Dec. 1 in the Hurricane
Sandy makeup game).
SWAC - Arkansas-Pine Bluff has a four-game lead in the West Division, which is
an absurd amount. The Golden Lions will face either Alabama State or Jackson
State in the SWAC Championship Game on Dec. 8 in Birmingham, Ala. The East
Division champion will be Jackson State if it beats Alcorn State next
Saturday. Otherwise, Alabama State, which lost the head-to-head meeting, will
be the representative.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
A recap of games in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at
STOCK RISING, STOCK FALLING
Rising: The story's been new coach Joe Moglia all season, but now it's a
potential FCS playoff berth with Coastal Carolina. For most of the season, the
Chanticleers (6-4) weren't in anybody's playoff conversation - maybe not even
in Conway, S.C. But with a four-game winning streak, they need to beat
Charleston Southern and have Liberty top VMI - both likely scenarios next
Saturday - to earn a share of the Big South title between those two teams and
Stony Brook, and win the tie-breaker for the automatic playoff berth.
Falling: The FCS rushing title is starting to elude South Dakota State running
back Zach Zenner the way he was eluding tacklers earlier this season. He was
on pace for over 2,000 yards, but has only 179 yards in his last three games.
He has 1,539 yards heading into the Jackrabbits' final game of the regular
A LOOK AHEAD
The final Saturday of the regular season is littered with important games.
Among the bigger rivalry games are No. 2 Montana State at Montana, Yale at
Harvard and Lehigh at Lafayette (in the 148th meeting).
Other rivalries or key conference games: Big Sky, Cal Poly at Northern Arizona
and Sacramento State at UC Davis in coach Bob Biggs' final game at UC Davis;
Big South, Liberty at VMI and Charleston Southern at Coastal Carolina; CAA,
Towson at New Hampshire, Richmond at William & Mary, Villanova at Delaware
and Old Dominion at James Madison; Ivy, Penn at Cornell; Missouri Valley, No.
1 North Dakota State at Illinois State, Indiana State at Youngstown State and
South Dakota at South Dakota State; NEC, Duquesne at Wagner and Central
Connecticut State at Albany; OVC, Tennessee State at UT Martin; PFL, Drake at
Jacksonville; and SWAC, Alcorn State at Jackson State.
Eastern Illinois visits Central Arkansas in a potential high-scoring non-
conference game between playoff-bound squads.
Also, plenty of FCS teams are playing FBS opponents, which is an odd way for a
team to either end a season or go into the playoffs. Among SoCon teams, the
matchups are Western Carolina at Alabama (huh?), Wofford at South Carolina,
Georgia Southern at Georgia and Samford at Kentucky.
Also, Sam Houston State from the Southland goes to Texas A&M, Jacksonville
State from the OVC wraps up its season at Florida and Alabama A&M from the
SWAC visits Auburn.
The Sports Network