One Wild Weekend In FCS
There were plenty of winners and losers as FCS teams rustled for position inn the NCAA Division I playoffs. One writer's take on the possible playoff field and pairings is broken down below
By David Coulson
Executive Editor/Managing Partner
College Sporting News
PHILADELPHIA — After all these years of covering the Football Championship Subdivision, you would think I'd be used to the craziness of the final weekend of the regular season.
Maybe it is because of all of the rivalry games, or because there is so much on the line as teams audition for the final time for postseason positions. But every year, it seems like things get a little wilder.
On this weekend, we watched the three top-ranked teams in the country, Delaware, Appalachian State and Jacksonville State get beaten.
We saw last year's national finalists play games that they needed to win to reach the playoffs.
In defending national champion Villanova's case, the result was a 28-21 overtime victory against Delaware.
For 2010 national runner-up Montana, a 21-16 loss to Montana State likely ended an NCAA-record 18-year run in the playoffs and definitely stopped a 12-year string of Big Sky championships.
Montana State managed to go to Missoula, Mt. and Washington-Grizzly Stadium for the 110th Brawl of the Wild and win for just the third time there since the Bobcats won the national championship in 1984. That victory gave the Bobcats the Big Sky auto bid and probably earned them a top-four seed in the playoffs.
The Bobcats shared the Big Sky title with Eastern Washington, which dispatched Idaho State 34-7.
Squads from William & Mary, Coastal Carolina, Stephen F. Austin joined Montana State as auto bid winners in the Colonial Athletic Association, the Big South Conference and the Southland Conference.
William & Mary crushed Richmond 41-3, beating the Spiders fort the first time in five years as the oldest rivalry in the south turned 120.
The loss eliminated Richmond from playoff consideration after the Spiders had made it three years in a row and four out of the past five years.
Coastal Carolina bombarded Charleston Southern 70-3 and got some help from Liberty as the Flames dropped Stony Brook 54-28. With CCU, Liberty and Stony Brook tying for the league title, Coastal Carolina earned the auto bid by defensive points allowed as the Flames shredded the Seawolves defense.
Stephen F. Austin retained Chief Caddo, the 7-foot-6, 320-pound wooden indian, and won the Southland outright with a 36-13 win over Northwestern State.
McNeese State had a shot at winning a share of the Southland title, but fell at Central Arkansas, 28-24 on a late touchdown.
Southeast Missouri State and Bethune-Cookman backed into titles and auto bids.
The Redhawks looked like they were going to need an at-large bid to get into the field, but Jacksonville State's 28-point collapse in the fourth quarter against a mediocre Tennessee Tech squad resulted in a 35-24 loss and gave the Ohio Valley Conference to Southeast Missouri State just a week after the Redhawks lost 29-27 to the Gamecocks.
Bethune-Cookman watched quarterback Michael Johnson (11-of-16, 209 yards passing, two TDs, eight carries for 30 yards rushing) go out with an injury in the Florida Classic after the Wildcats had raced to a 27-14 halftime lead against Florida A&M.
FAMU roared back to win 38-27 to throw the MEAC into a three-way tie, but South Carolina State's 48-3 victory at North Carolina A&T gave the Bulldogs a share of the crown and cost the Rattlers the auto bid, giving it to Bethune-Cookman instead.
The win probably secured an at-large bid for South Carolina State.
Teams like New Hampshire, Wofford, Georgia Southern and Western Illinois picked up wins to pretty much secure playoff bids. Others such as Massachusetts and North Dakota State came up short.
New Hampshire toppled Towson 38-19 at home, Wofford eliminated Chattanooga 45-14, Georgia Southern came back late to stop Furman 32-28 on Jaybo Shaw's four-yard scoring run with 1:07 left and Western Illinois crushed Missouri Valley Football Conference champ Northern Iowa 30-14.
North Dakota State had a possible at-large bid in its hands, but the Bison planted themselves firmly on the playoff bubble with an ugly 3-0 loss to Missouri State.
Appalachian State couldn't find any Michigan-type magic at Florida and lost 48-10 to the previously-stumbling Gators.
Several teams kept their slim playoff hopes alive.
Old Dominion defeated North Carolina Central 33-21, Jackson State dropped Alcorn State 27-14, Colgate smashed Fordham 47-12 and Central Connecticut State nipped St. Francis 23-13.
Perhaps the best team not eligible for the playoffs, due to archaic conference rules, is Penn. The Quakers went undefeated in the Ivy League for the second year in a row by beating Cornell on the road, 31-7.
Other rivalry games of note were Lehigh's 20-13 victory at Lafayette in the 146th installment of the most played college series and Harvard's 28-21 home victory over Yale in the 126th edition of "The Game."
Heavy rain and a halftime lightning storm couldn't stop UC Davis from beating Sacramento State 17-16 in the Causeway Classic.
With that in mind, here are my picks for the 20-team playoff field and potential pairings. The brackets will be released officially by the NCAA at 10 a.m. Sunday on ESPNU.
Big Sky Conference: Montana State, 9-2
Big South Conference: Coastal Carolina, 6-5
Colonial Athletic Association: William & Mary, 8-3
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference: Bethune-Cookman, 10-1
Missouri Valley Football Conference: Northern Iowa, 7-4
Northeast Conference: Robert Morris, 9-2
Ohio Valley Conference: Southeast Missouri State, 9-2
Patriot League: Lehigh, 9-2
Southern Conference: Appalachian State, 9-2
Southland Conference: Stephen F. Austin, 9-2
MY AT-LARGE BIDS
1. Delaware, 9-2
2. Eastern Washington, 9-2
3. Wofford, 9-2
4. Jacksonville State, 9-2
5. Villanova, 7-4
6. New Hampshire, 7-4
7. South Carolina State, 9-2
8. Georgia Southern, 7-4
9. Western Illinois, 7-4
10. Jacksonville, 10-1
LAST TEAMS OUT
1. Liberty, 8-3
2. North Dakota State 8-3
3. Florida A&M, 8-3
4. Dayton, 10-1
5. Central Connecticut State, 8-3
6. Colgate, 7-4
7. Jackson State 8-3
8. Old Dominion, 8-3
MY TOP FIVE SEEDS
1. Appalachian State
2. Montana State
3. Stephen F. Austin
4. William & Mary
THE OTHER TEAMS TO RECEIVE FIRST-ROUND BYES
6. Eastern Washington
8. Southeast Missouri State
9. Jacksonville State
11. Northern Iowa
Coastal Carolina at South Carolina State
Jacksonville at Georgia Southern
Robert Morris at Lehigh
New Hampshire at Western Illinois
SECOND ROUND MATCHUPS
Coastal Carolina/South Carolina State winner at No. 1 Appalachian State
Eastern Washington at Villanova
Robert Morris/Lehigh winner at No. 4 William & Mary
Wofford at No. 5 Delaware
New Hampshire/Western Illinois winner at No. 2 Montana State
Southeast Missouri State at Northern Iowa
Jacksonville/Georgia Southern winner at No. 3 Stephen F. Austin
Bethune-Cookman at Jacksonville State