Pre Week 11 FCS Playoffs Snapshot
Hello all. With just two weeks left in the FCS season, I have decided to do a closer look at the bubble watch. I have categorized all playoff hopefuls into six categories.
-In: These teams will still make the playoffs even if they don’t win a game the rest of the season.
-In Good Shape: These teams have a margin for error and would really need to flame out to miss the playoffs (and maybe not even then).
-Work to Do: These teams have a probable path to the playoffs but still have work to do to get there.
-Needs Help: These teams need to win twice just to be in the conversation for an at-large, or need to win out and get help to win their league autobid.
-Longshot: These teams are on the outskirts of the discussion and need a lot of craziness to get back into it.
-Not Likely: Can still get to six wins, but are not playoff contenders.
IN (5 TEAMS)
These teams will still make the playoffs even if they don’t win a game the rest of the season.
o Sam Houston State (8-0, Massey #3): With eight DI wins an no losses, the defending champs are safely in the field no matter what happens the final two weeks. However, it seems unlikely they will lose both of their final games anyway. They are a candidate for the #1 seed.
o Montana State (8-1, Massey #5): Bobcats are undefeated against the FCS, have 8 DI wins, and wins at Weber and Eastern Washington. They’re in even if they falter the final two weeks. If they win their last two games they are also a candidate for the #1 seed.
o UC-Davis (8-1, Massey #12): They don’t have the strong FCS wins of Montana State (best is @ Weber) and have a bad loss, but have 8 DI wins, an FBS win and a 7-1 record against FCS. Losses to EWU and Sacramento wouldn’t keep them out and wins would put them in position for a very good seed.
o James Madison (8-1, Massey #9): Dukes 8-1 record is entirely against the FCS and they have no bad losses. No great wins, but losses to W&M and Towson wouldn’t keep them out and they’ll be seeded high with two wins.
o North Dakota State (8-1, Massey #1): Even with their loss to SDSU last week, Bison are in regardless what happens with 8 DI wins in the bank and a #1 computer ranking. Could still be one of the top seeds if they win out.
IN GOOD SHAPE (13 TEAMS)
These teams have a margin for error and would really need to flame out to miss the playoffs (and maybe not even then).
o Sacramento State (7-2, Massey #15): The Hornets have put together an undefeated Big Sky season but have mostly avoided the league’s top teams other than Montana. They are 7-1 against FCS with their only loss being to UNI. A win over either Portland State this week or Davis next week would likely wrap up a bid. Two wins would get them seeded.
o Eastern Washington (7-2, Massey #8): Two straight losses have left EWU’s playoff status somewhat in doubt but they are still in good position. The Eagles need only win one of their final two games (@ UC Davis, @ Portland State) to likely lock up a playoff spot as they have no bad losses and wisn over Montana and FBS UNLV.
o Montana (7-2, Massey #10): The Griz have a P5 win and no bad losses (Sac St and EWU) but do lack a signature win beyond the W over Washington week one. A win at Northern Arizona would likely sew it up in advance of their Brawl game with Montana State on the final week.
o Kennesaw State (8-1, Massey #39): The computers don’t care for KSU, but they are 7-0 against the FCS and rated very highly in the polls. If they don’t stub their toe against North Alabama this week, they are probably safely in in advance of their conference title clash with Monmouth (despite a lack of quality wins).
o Villanova (7-2, Massey #13): While their fans have probably moved onto basketball season, ‘Nova’s football team has put together a 7-1 record against the FCS with wins over James Madison and Rhode Island and only a loss to William and Mary. A win in either of their final two games (Stony Brook, @ Delaware) probably gets them safely in.
o South Dakota State (7-2, Massey #2): The computers love the Jackrabbits despite two FCS losses. Probably because they have a dominant FBS win over Colorado State and beat the Bison with forgivable losses to SIU and UNI. The Jacks may already be in, but a win at South Dakota or vs. North Dakota in the final two weeks would certainly take away any question. Win both and they’re probably seeded.
o Missouri State (6-3, Massey #6): The Bears have only six wins and have a bad loss to Youngstown State but are 6-2 against the FCS, have wins over South Dakota and SIU, and have a strong SOS. A win over UNI or winless Dixie State should get them in.
o Southern Illinois (6-3, Massey #7): Consecutive losses to UNI and Missouri State have dropped the Salukis from the heights they once achieved. However with a 6-2 FCS record, a strong SOS, no bad losses and a win at South Dakota State the Salukis need only to beat Indiana State OR Youngstown State to likely get in.
o Sacred Heart (6-3, Massey #88): The Pioneers have a game lead on the rest of the NEC field and contests against the league’s two worst teams in front of them. They’ve beaten three of the four teams tied behind them so even if they lose one, they still have a good shot of getting the league autobid.
o UT-Martin (8-1, Massey #27): The Skyhawks have not played a challenging schedule but are 8-0 against the FCS. Even if they lose their last game against SEMO and lose the autobid, they are probably safely in the field so long as they beat 3-6 Tennessee Tech this week.
o Davidson (7-1, Massey #103): The Wildcats clinch the automatic bid out of the Pioneer League with a win in either of their final two games at Dayton and vs. Drake.
o East Tennessee State (8-1, Massey #23): ETSU has no bad losses (@ Chattanooga), an FBS win (Vandy), another good win against VMI and is 7-1 against the FCS. A win at Western Carolina or vs. Mercer would probably lock up a bid.
o Southeast Lousiana (7-2, Massey #16): The Lions have no sparkling wins, but do have a 7-1 record against the FCS and no bad losses (@UIW). Playing at home their final two games, a win over Northwestern State (2-7) or Nicholls (5-4) probably gets it done.
That leaves 18 teams in the "In" or "In Good Shape" categories. If you assume all eighteen make it, that leaves six spots for the rest of the FCS. From here on out, we are talking about teams on the bubble.
WORK TO DO (11 TEAMS)
These teams have a probable path to the playoffs but still have work to do to get there.
o Eastern Kentucky (6-3, Massey #37): The Colonels have a bad loss to Indiana State and a relatively weak SOS. They are 6-2 against the FCS and their best win is probably at Central Arkansas (5-4). They play at Sam Houston State this weekend. If they win, they are in with the autobid if they win at Jacksonville State the following week as well. A tall order, but it is there in front of them.
o Monmouth (6-3, Massey #38): Monmouth has two not-terrible-but-not-great FCS losses to Princeton and Holy Cross and no wins of note. At 6-2 in the FCS, they are very much on the soft side of the bubble. However, they will win the Big South autobid if they beat Kennesaw State on the road on the final week of the season so there’s their path.
o William and Mary (6-3, Massey #30): The Tribe might be the bubbliest of bubble teams. They have a middle-of-the-road SOS, have a big win at Villanova, and a meh loss to Maine (and a sorta OK loss to Delaware). They are 6-2 against the FCS. A win over James Madison (followed by a win against Richmond) would give them two signature wins and certainly put them in the field. A loss to JMU puts them squarely on the bubble.
o South Dakota (6-3, Massey #11): At 6-3, and 6-2 against the FCS a wins over UNI and a mediocre loss to Illinois State, South Dakota probably need only split their final two games to get into the field. Unfortunately for the Coyotes, those games are against SDSU and NDSU. But if they win one, they are probably in.
o Northern Iowa (5-4, Massey #4): As indicated by their Massey rating, UNI probably has the most going for them of any 5-4 team. They have signature wins over Sacramento State, SIU and SDSU (two on the road) and the only mediocre loss came last week at Illinois State. If the Panthers can win at Missouri State this week (giving them a fourth signature win) and beat WIU at home next week, they are probably going to get in at 7-4. That is a big “if” however.
o Southeast Missouri State Maybe? (3-6, Massey #60): I honestly don’t know what is going on with this team. They have played several games against conference opponents that apparently haven’t counted in the league standings. Their two losses to Murray State and UT Martin didn’t count in the league standings it seems. If that is true, they can clinch the autobid (I think) with wins over MSU and UTM in their final two games. Weird stuff. Feels like if they did that it would be outright thievery.
o Holy Cross (7-2, Massey #36): The Crusaders clinch the Patriot League autobid with a win over Fordham this week. Failing that, they’d be a bubble team but on the soft side.
o Fordham (6-3, Massey #53): The Rams also clinch the Patriot League autobid with a win over Holy Cross this week AND a win over Colgate next week. A W over HC and a loss to Colgate would create a 3-way tie and I don’t know what would happen.
o Chattanooga (6-3, Massey #21): Based on their resume, the Mocs are a bubble team with a 6-2 FCS record, a good win over ETSU, a bad loss to Austin Peay and an average SOS. They can put all that behind them, though, with wins over Mercer and the Citadel to clinch the SoCon autobid.
o Mercer (6-2, Massey #32): The Bears have no bad losses and no good wins, and a 5-1 FCS record (only ten games scheduled and a D2 game). That’s pretty bubbly, but similar to Chatty they can clinch the SoCon autobid with a win over Chatty at home this week and a win at ETSU next week.
o Incarnate Word (7-2, Massey #18): The Cardinals are another interesting case. They have two bad losses, but an “FBS” win over Texas State and just got a signature win over Southeastern Louisiana. They too can clinch an autobid with win over Nicholls and Houston Baptist over the final two weeks.
NEEDS HELP (5 TEAMS)
These teams need to win twice just to be in the conversation for an at-large, or need to win out and get help to win their league autobid.
o Stephen F Austin (6-3, Massey #31): The Lumberjacks recently beat Eastern Kentucky to stay in the conversation, but are just 5-2 against the FCS and have no wins more impressive than EKU. A mediocre loss to Jacksonville State doesn’t help, but close losses to Sam Houston State and Texas Tech don’t hurt. They need to win their last two (@UCA, @Lamar) and cross their fingers.
o Rhode Island (6-3, Massey #46): The Rams looked outstanding when they started 5-0, but a three game losing streak knocked them onto the soft side of the bubble. Mediocre losses to Towson and Maine don’t help, and OK wins against Delaware and “FBS” UMass might not be enough. Like SFA they need to win their last two and hope for chaos or a favor from the committee.
o Delaware (5-4, Massey #42): A highly rated team to start the year, UD has probably amassed too many losses at this point and losing to URI head-to-head doesn’t help either. A chance on the final week against Villanova would give them a great win to go along with a good win against William and Mary (and counteract their bad loss to Stony Brook). Not out of the conversation but hanging by a thread.
o VMI (6-3, Massey #41): The Keydets have one of the strongest profiles of any team on this part of the list and I almost put them in the “work to do” category. They are 6-2 against the FCS and have good wins over Chatanooga and Mercer. The problem is their bad loss to the Citadel puts them fourth in the SoCon standings. Not out of it, but I don’t know if I feel strongly that two wins would get them in.
o Florida A&M (7-2, Massey #68): This is probably the most interesting profile, for better or worse, on this entire sheet. FAMU is going to miss the SWAC title game in favor of Deion Sanders’ Jackson State squad after they lost to the Tigers 7-6. They are 6-2 against FCS with no particularly good wins. No SWAC team has been included in the playoffs since they went to the SWAC title game format. FAMU has the most compelling case of any. Hard to say what the committee might be thinking with these guys, but they are unlikely to lose either of their last two games.
LONGSHOTS (11 TEAMS)
These teams are on the outskirts of the discussion and need a lot of craziness to get back into it. You can't fully count these squads out, but there odds are very slim.
o Central Arkansas (5-4, Massey #29): The Bears could creep back to 7-4 with two wins. They have a decent schedule, but also have a D2 win and would be 6-3 against FCS at the end of the day with no bad losses but only SFA as a noteworthy win (if they get it). Probably not enough there.
o Portland State (5-4, Massey #26): The Vikings started with two FBS games and a D2 game so their entire FCS resume is against the Big Sky. They have a bad loss to Idaho and their best win is against Weber but if they do win their final two against Sac State and EWU (which is unlikely) they’d be 6-2 against FCS with two signature wins. Weirder things have happened.
o Weber State (4-5, Massey #17): If we do start looking at 6-5 teams, which I think is unlikely this year, Weber would become a candidate. They have a good computer profile, no bad losses at all, and a huge win at EWU. If the bubble falls to them, they could be in the conversation.
o Illinois State (4-5, Massey #19): With wins over South Dakota and Northern Iowa, Illinois State could also get a look at 6-5 (although a loss at Western Illinois would hurt their odds).
o North Dakota (4-5, Massey #14): Currently the highest rated Massey team with a losing record, the Fighting Hawks might be in the best position of any 4-5 team. They have only lost to FBS and playoff hunt teams (losing by 7 or less in all their FCS losses) and would have a win over South Dakota State should they get to 6-5.
o Bryant (5-4, Massey #94), Duquesne (5-3, Massey #82), St. Francis PA (4-5, Massey #91), Central Connecticut (3-6, Massey #110): Should Sacred Heart falter in the NEC (unlikely as they’re playing the league’s two worst teams), one of these teams could fill their spot as they are all tied and a game behind the Pioneers. Bryant is in the best position as they beat Sacred Heart and the rest lost.
o Tennessee State (5-4, Massey #71): The Tigers have four FCS losses, a bad one at SEMO and no good wins. However, they play Mississippi State on the final day. Would a win there be enough? Probably not and probably irrelevant, but it gets them in the convo.
o Colgate (3-6, Massey #90): The Raiders could force a three-way tie for the Patriot League title with a win over Fordham coupled with a Fordham win over Holy Cross. Looking at the PL tiebreakers, though, it seems unlikely they’d make it in that scenario. More likely would be for HC to lose twice (including a loss to last place Bucknell) and Colgate to win twice. Unlikely.
o San Diego (6-1, Massey #106): If Davidson loses its final two games to Dayton and Drake and San Diego beats Stetson they’re in.
o Nicholls (5-4, Massey #22): The Colonels could force a tie for the Southland title with wins over SELA an UIW. Tiebreakers don’t look good for them, but they’d be 7-4 with two good wins, no bad losses and a 7-2 FCS record so they’d be in the convo.
NOT LIKELY (24 TEAMS)
Can still get to six wins, but are not playoff contenders.
o Jacksonville State (4-5)
o Abilene Christian (4-5)
o Northern Arizona (4-5)
o North Carolina A&T (4-5)
o Hampton (4-5)
o Towson (4-5)
o Stony Brook (4-5)
o Elon (4-5)
o Maine (4-5)
o Richmond (4-5)
o SC State (5-4)
o NC Central (4-5)
o Norfolk State (6-3)
o Delaware State (4-5)
o Indiana State (4-5)
o Austin Peay (4-5)
o Murray State (4-5)
o Morehead State (5-4)
o Marist (4-4)
o Dayton (5-4)
o Furman (4-5)
o Alabama A&M (5-3)
o Alcorn State (5-4)
o Southern (4-5)
And that is the playoff situation as it currently stands. That’s all for me. GO VALLEY!