By Ralph Wallace
The CSN Way
College Sporting News
The modified GPI measured all the criteria and #19 (20.20) Illinois State was "WOOFED!" by the NCAA Division I Football Championship Committee in their 2011 playoff field selection. Chosen instead of the 7-4 Redbirds, who hail from Normal, Illinois, was the #31 (32.20) Ohio Valley Conference co-champion Eastern Kentucky who also finished the regular season at 7-4.
Both teams had only beaten two teams with a winning record but the Colonels did it by a combined 5 points while the total margin for ISU was 28. Though each registered the mandated seven D-I victories, the biggest game for EKU was a 10-7 loss to start the year at FBS power Kansas State. ISU opened the season by losing to Eastern Illinois, a common opponent with EKU and one that EKU beat later in the season. It is correct that EIU was not their only common opponent but it was the one where the decision was different.
Finally the records of the teams are the same but they do not play similar strong schedules. Illinois State plays in the 2nd toughest conference in the FCS, the Missouri Valley and played ranked teams all year. In fact, after rattling off five straight wins it finished the year taking #3 Northern Iowa to double overtime before falling. Eastern Kentucky plays in 8th best OVC and beat #71 Tennessee-Martin to close out.
The only point that really matters in this discussion though is that Illinois State was #19 and the team in line to get the final at-large bid. Eastern Kentucky was #31 and there were several teams that were ranked ahead of them. So like the Wofford team of the early 2000s that was left out of the playoffs despite being ranked higher than the team chosen, hence "WOOFED!", the Redbirds of Illinois State are officially the 2011 winner of the WOOFED! Award (sadly, the prize is this article).
It turns out no major source picked Eastern Kentucky to be in the field of 10 at-larges this year except the only one that mattered, the NCAA selection committee. I'm sure no one at EKU minds one bit.
THE MODIFIED GPI WAS PERFECT, EXCEPT...
The modified GPI was perfect in indicating the selected at-larges which had seven D-I wins and had Illinois State all ready at the final spot until, well you know. Same goes for the Sports Network. The Coaches poll hasn't been revealed yet but I have a feeling that EKU wasn't in their top 10 at-larges seeing as how EKU was not even in their top 30 teams in last week's voting. The regular GPI comes out after the Coaches poll is unveiled to finalize the official award but we feel safe in announcing it now.
So here's to you NCAA Division I Football Championship Committee for once again providing us a reason to keep the WOOFED! Award in circulation and our head's scratched.
Next up will be the explanation why the tournament teams are "competing for the 2011 NCAA Division I Football Championship" but the final is called the "2012 NCAA Division I Football Championship Game." Hmmm.
[UPDATE: The final regular season GPI is out and the Coaches Poll too. Both indicated Illinois State as being in the eligible top 10 at-large selections and Eastern Kentucky behind them and many other eligible teams.]