By Kent Schmidt
CSN West columnist
College Sporting News
First, the following are the seeded teams in the 20-team tournament from the West—
#1 Seed—Sam Houston State
#2 Seed—North Dakota State
#5 Seed—Northern Iowa
Other West teams in the playoffs:
Montana State-Bye First Round and Host Second Round
Central Arkansas-Play First Round on the Road
The one surprise I had was Eastern Kentucky getting in and Illinois State begin left out.
Somehow Illinois State despite the same record as Eastern Kentucky lost out. It might be the common opponent of Eastern Illinois that may have done in the Redbirds.
EKU defeated EIU later in the season and Illinois State lost at EIU in their opener. EKU was not even ranked in the final modified GPI Top 25 so it is a bit surprising. To note, Illinois State was ranked #19 after their overtime loss to Northern Iowa.
Other than that, I thought the seeds were well deserved and about what I thought they would be overall.
To note, the only non-West seed is Georgia Southern at the #3 spot.
Who will the six West teams be playing?
We only know three definite games right now.
First Round—Central Arkansas @ Tennessee Tech
Second Round—New Hampshire @ Montana State
Second Round—Wofford @ #5 Northern Iowa
The other three games will pit the first round victors at the other seeds.
Second Round—Stony Brook or Albany @ #1 Sam Houston State
Second Round—Eastern Kentucky or James Madison @ #2 North Dakota State
Second Round—Central Arkansas or Tennessee Tech @ #4 Montana
What are my early thoughts on how the field will go?
As you can see with the seeds, it could be two West teams that play each other in the title game and on one side of the bracket there are three seeds all from the West so the chances are pretty good that side will see a West team advance of either Northern Iowa, Montana, or Sam Houston State. Montana State is also on this side.
On this side, I could see a Montana – Montana State rematch in the semi-finals.
The other side has North Dakota State as the #2 seed and would have to advance to the title game to have my dream of two West teams playing each other come true.
I think this might be possible. NDSU will see a near sellout for all games in the Fargodome. It might be fate that Georgia Southern and NDSU are bracketed together as the two teams had been scheduled to play an early season game this year but the Eagles backed out in favor of a home game.
So, I think the NDSU – Montana championship could be in order. Both teams have great home field advantages and I believe have teams that can win in the playoffs.
This border title game may bring back memories to many of the older Griz and Bison fans of bowl games in the late 1960s and early 1970s in what was the old College Division of football, before playoffs and the current divisions were introduced.
But we shall see. There are twenty teams and around 16, I believe, could have a realistic chance at getting hot and going all the way to Frisco.
The next month and a half should be fun to see how this really plays out.