FCS Final Week Preview

Everyone who’s not DIvision I is starting the playoff push today, but this is the final week of the regular season for Division I FCS. Let’s walk through the conferences and take a look at what’s at stake on the final Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Big Sky Conference

One team is in the driver’s seat here, but their task is not a simple one. #20 Southern Utah (7-3) can clinch the outright Big Sky title today with a win, but they’re hosting #24 Northern Arizona (7-3) at 5pm ET, so nothing is assured for the Thunderbirds.

If the Lumberjacks win, however, all hell breaks loose. There will be at least a three-way tie for the conference title, involving both Southern Utah and Northern Arizona as well as the winner of the game between #11 Portland State (8-2) and #18 Eastern Washington (6-4), 5pm at EWU. If #17 Montana (6-4) wins the Brawl of the Wild at Montana State (5-5), they’d be in as well. That’s a 2pm kickoff on ROOT Sports.

Tiebreaker scenarios in the event of a Northern Arizona win: if Portland State wins, they earn the automatic bid. If Eastern Washington and Montana win, Montana would claim the playoff spot; if Eastern Washington and Montana State win, Northern Arizona gets the free pass.

Every team we’ve mentioned so far except Montana State is also still in the at-large discussion should they win and fail to receive the autobid. (Portland State is probably in the playoff field regardless.) One other team is also on the hunt: North Dakota (6-4) would be on the fringe with a win at Cal Poly (4-6) at 9pm.

Big South Conference

The Big South isn’t very interesting today, as everything of relevance has already been settled. The autobid already belongs to #9 Charleston Southern (9-1), who will be 9-2 after they visit Alabama today at 3pm (SEC Network). An at-large bid surely belongs to #4 Coastal Carolina (9-2) despite losing to Liberty (6-5) Thursday night. Nobody else is in the picture, really; Kennesaw State (6-4) visits Presbyterian (1-9) today, but their non-conference schedule was horrid.

Colonial Athletic Association

The CAA is also up for grabs today. Either #7 William & Mary (8-2) will w1n at #14 Richmond (7-3) at noon ET (Comcast Mid-Atlantic) and therefore win the outright title, or there will be a three-way tie. Villanova (7-3) visits #12 James Madison (8-2), also at noon (Comcast Central Atlantic); the winner would be the third team involved. If James Madison and Richmond win, Richmond earns the autobid. If Villanova and Richmond win, the autobid would to to the team finishing highest in the Sagarin ratings, and in those ratings it’s really too close to predict who’ll end up on top come Sunday morning.

William & Mary and James Madison are certainly in the playoffs, autobid or not, regardless of results today. Both Villanova and Richmond would be in with wins, and might even get in even with a loss.

Ivy League

The playoffs aren’t a concern for the Ivies, of course. But the conference title is still in question, and thanks to Harvard’s loss to Penn last week it’s really complicated. The Ivy won’t bother breaking the tie; anyone at 6-1 in conference play will share the title, or of course win it outright if they’re the only one. The three teams currently tied at 5-1 are #19 Harvard (8-1), who visit Yale (6-3) at 2:30pm ET on NBCSN; #21 Dartmouth (8-1), playing host to Princeton (5-4) at noon on ASN; and Pennsylvania (6-3), beneficiaries of the easiest path to a share of the title by virtue of hosting Cornell (1-8) at 1pm.

If all three teams somehow lose, they’ll all share the title as well. If you’re really interested in declaring One True Champion, you’ll have to hope one team loses or just one team wins, and then you can sort it out for yourself easily: Harvard beat Dartmouth, who beat Penn, who beat Harvard.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

The MEAC no longer sends its champion to the playoffs, but the conference title still has importance; the winner plays in the Celebration Bowl against the SWAC champion (noon ET, December 19, ABC). Shooting for that title today is #16 North Carolina A&T (9-1), hosting North Carolina Central (7-3) at 1pm ET. A win would mean the outright title. A loss would result in a tie between the two schools, with an added complication: Bethune-Cookman (8-2) is almost certain to win today as they face Florida A&M (1-9) in the Florida Classic at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, at 2:30pm on ESPN Classic. A&T beat Bethune, but Bethune beat Central, so it’s a transitive tie as well. As a result, the MEAC’s point-based tiebreaker keyed on non-conference performance would eliminate Central, but A&T and Bethune would still be tied. The next step would be Sagarin rating. At present, A&T would earn the Celebration bid, but a loss and a Bethune win might change that.

Teams other than the conference champion are still eligible for at-large selection. A&T might have some hope with a loss. Bethune-Cookman might with a win and a failure to claim the Celebration bid.

Missouri Valley Football Conference

Once again, #6 Illinois State and #2 North Dakota State didn’t play during the regular season, and once again they’re tied atop the MVFC standings heading into the final Saturday. However, the Valley’s situation is actually pretty straightforward.

If NDSU (8-2) wins at home against Missouri State (1-9) at 3:30pm ET on ESPN3, and that’s almost a certainty, they claim the autobid. Even with a loss, the Bison will still get the bid with an Illinois State (8-2) loss at home to South Dakota (5-5) at 1pm on ESPN3.

Both NDSU and Illinois State would have to lose to set up a three-way tie, and that would require #5 South Dakota State (8-2) to win at Western Illinois (5-5), 2pm on ESPN3. The Jackrabbits would claim the autobid in this scenario.

Of course, this is all academic. The Bison, Redbirds, and Bunnies are all getting into the playoffs anyway. #15 Northern Iowa (6-4) will also get in, as long as they win at home today over Southern Illinois (3-7) in a 5pm ESPN3 game.

Northeast Conference

Simple as it can get: 6-3 Saint Francis (PA) visits Duquesne (7-3) at noon ET on ESPN3. The winner is the outright NEC champion, and earns the autobid.

Ohio Valley Conference

They’ve already clinched the autobid, but #1 Jacksonville State (9-1) can win the title outright with a win at home over 3-7 Murray State (2pm ET). Eastern Illinois (6-4) would share the title if the Gamecocks lose and the Panthers win at home over #23 Eastern Kentucky (6-4) at 2pm on ESPN3. The winner of that game is also a good bet for an at-large bid.

Patriot League

Idle this week, #13 Fordham (9-2) is probably in the field. They’ll need an at-large, though, because Colgate (6-4) has already won the autobid. The Red Raiders host 4-6 Bucknell today at 1pm ET. If Colgate loses, Fordham will share the Patriot title, but Colgate holds the tiebreaker.

Pioneer Football League

Dayton (10-0) has already won the automatic bid by virtue of a win over San Diego (9-1). The Flyers visit 4-6 Drake at 2pm ET; San Diego hosts 6-4 Butler at 4pm. A Dayton win or San Diego loss means an outright title for the Flyers; otherwise they’ll be co-champions. San Diego is almost certainly not getting an at-large bid, even at 10-1.

Southern Conference

The two best teams in the conference are facing FBS squads today. #8 Tennessee-Chattanooga won the automatic bid last week by beating #25 The Citadel; the two teams shared the conference title. Chattanooga (8-2) visits Florida State, while The Citadel (7-3) visits South Carolina. The Citadel is on the bubble, as they’ll likely be sitting at 7-4 tomorrow morning.

Southland Conference

For once, the Southland autobid is already settled heading into the final day. #3 McNeese State (9-0) visits 5-5 Lamar at 7pm ET on ESPN3. The Cowboys have already clinched the autobid. Central Arkansas (7-3) could claim a share of the title, but they’ll have to knock off #10 Sam Houston State (7-3) at home tonight, also at 7pm on ESPN3, combined with a McNeese loss.

McNeese is in no matter what, and the Sam Houston-Central Arkansas winner probably is as well. The loser is firmly on the bubble.

Southwestern Athletic Conference

The SWAC doesn’t actually end this week, but they’re also irrelevant to the playoff picture. Alcorn State (6-3) is in the driver’s seat for the East Division title, and just needs to win one of their final two games. Their first chance is today, hosting Alabama A&M (2-7) at 3pm ET. Alabama State (5-5) is already done with conference play, and would be in the picture if Alcorn loses twice; the Hornets play Division II Miles (7-4) in the Turkey Day Classic at 3pm ET. Jackson State (3-6) is also miraculously alive. They need to beat Prairie View A&M (7-2) today, on the road at 2pm. Unlikely, but if they pull that off and Alcorn loses today, Jackson State hosts Alcorn next week with a chance to create a three-way tie.

Out west, Grambling State (8-2) has already clinched a berth in the SWAC Championship Game. They’re idle this week, as is Southern (6-4); they’ll play next week in the annual Bayou Classic.

NAIA Playoff Field Projection

The regular season is officially over, and very few teams that were supposed to win today lost. As such, a relatively coherent guess at the NAIA playoff field is possible. The key games today:

#1 Morningside‘s 55-7 win at home over #4 Doane, which doesn’t do anything to either team’s actual playoff fate, but does absolutely secure the top seed for the Mustangs.

#6 Montana Tech‘s 24-17 home win over #10 Montana Western. I project that the loss will drop Montana Western out of the field.

#3 Grand View won 26-14 at #19 William Penn, ending Penn’s playoff hopes.

#16 Benedictine (KS) lost 19-17 at unranked Peru State, ending their own hopes.

#23 Saint Ambrose won 27-7 at home against #20 Robert Morris (IL), and #22 Saint Francis (IL) beat Olivet Nazarene 40-0. The end result of all of that: idle Saint Xavier, ranked #17, wins the MSFA Midwest League title, and will earn a playoff bid; the other three teams are out of luck.

This, then, is my projected top 20 in the final NAIA poll:

  1. Morningside (9-2, GPAC autobid)
  2. Baker (10-1, HAAC South autobid)
  3. Grand View (9-2, HAAC North autobid)
  4. Saint Francis (IN) (9-0, MSFA Mideast autobid)
  5. Montana Tech (9-1, Frontier autobid)
  6. Marian (IN) (8-2, at-large #1)
  7. Southern Oregon (8-2, at-large #2)
  8. Doane (9-1, at-large #3)
  9. Tabor (10-1, KCAC autobid)
  10. Kansas Wesleyan (9-1, at-large #4)
  11. Campbellsville (7-3, MSC East autobid)
  12. Reinhardt (8-2, at-large #5)
  13. Lindsey Wilson (8-2, at-large #6)
  14. Montana Western (7-3, no bid)
  15. Saint Xavier (7-3, MSFA Midwest autobid)
  16. Dakota Wesleyan (9-2, no bid)
  17. Point (8-2, SUN autobid)
  18. Dickinson State (8-2, NSAA autobid)
  19. Saint Ambrose (8-2, no bid)
  20. Saint Francis (IL) (8-3, no bid)

The placement of the teams may differ by a spot or two tomorrow, but ultimately the order itself doesn’t matter so much as where they are. Two conferences will forfeit autobids: The CSFL, where I project 6-3 Arizona Christian, idle today, will only get up to #21, and the MSC East division, where currently unranked Georgetown (KY) will probably only get up to #22 at best. If either of those two teams sneak into the top 20, that would cost first Lindsey Wilson and then Reinhardt their playoff berths, but for that to happen the voters would have to either severely devalue Saint Francis (IL) and/or Saint Ambrose’s wins, or punish Montana Western far too harshly for a one-touchdown loss to a top-5 team.

We’ll see where things end up tomorrow.

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NAIA: Final Week Preview

We’re not going to bother with Division III here, because (a) time and (b) honestly, you should just go to d3football.com and rely on a team of dedicated experts. So we’ll just jump straight to the NAIA. And the first thing we have to do to talk about the NAIA’s final week is present the top 25 poll, because everything hinges on it.

  1. Morningside (9-1)
  2. Baker (9-1)
  3. Grand View (9-1)
  4. Doane (9-0)
  5. Saint Francis (IN) (8-0)
  6. Montana Tech (8-1)
  7. Marian (IN) (7-2)
  8. Southern Oregon (7-2)
  9. Tabor (9-1)
  10. Montana Western (7-2)
  11. Kansas Wesleyan (9-1)
  12. Campbellsville (8-2)
  13. Reinhardt (8-1)
  14. Lindsey Wilson (7-2)
  15. Dakota Wesleyan (8-2)
  16. Benedictine (KS) (7-3)
  17. Saint Xavier (7-3)
  18. Point (7-2)
  19. William Penn (7-3)
  20. Robert Morris (IL) (6-3)
  21. Dickinson State (8-2)
  22. Saint Francis (IL) (7-3)
  23. Saint Ambrose (7-3)
  24. Arizona Christian (6-3)
  25. Faulkner (6-3)

If the playoffs started this week, the field would be the top 15 teams plus Point, as the playoff field consists of all conference champions (including divisional champions in the HAAC, MSC, and MSFA) in the top 20, plus however many at-large teams are required to get to 16 teams. The NAIA poll determines everything.

But they don’t start this week, so let’s see what Saturday has to offer in terms of shaking things up.

Central States Football League

Arizona Christian is the only team in the league with even a remote chance to get into the playoffs. The Firestorm ran the table to win the conference title, and they’re idle this week. That’s good, insofar as it means they can’t lose Saturday. It’s bad because they’re ranked 24th, and therefore not only need four teams immediately ahead of them to lose but also not get leapfrogged. It’s possible, but unlikely.

Frontier Conference

Montana Tech has clinched a share of the conference title, and is probably secure no matter what happens Saturday. They host Montana Western, who probably cannot survive a loss, in a huge game at 2pm ET. Southern Oregon is also probably safe, although less so than Tech. The defending NAIA champion Raiders visit Eastern Oregon (4-6) at 3pm. Both Western and Southern are in position to share the Frontier title, sitting a game back of Tech. We’re mostly avoiding any discussion of irrelevant games this week, but there are a couple which need to be mentioned. The first: Carroll (MT), the conference’s traditional power, will miss the playoffs for only the second time this century. The Saints are only 4-5, and visit 3-7 College of Idaho at 2pm.

Great Plains Athletic Conference

Two GPAC teams are absolutely assured of a berth in the playoffs: top-ranked Morningside and 4th-ranked (and still unbeaten) Doane. They face one another in one of the biggest regular-season games of the NAIA season at 2pm ET Saturday, the winner claiming the outright GPAC title. It’s hard to envision Doane not jumping all the way to the top spot with a win given the magnitude of the game. Dakota Wesleyan is the last team in right now, but a win over Dordt (2-8) would alleviate those concerns entirely, as there will be attrition ahead of them in the poll.

Heart of America Athletic Conference

This is the most complicated conference in the NAIA. The easy part: Baker is securely in the playoff field, and with a win on the road at Evangel (3-7) they’ll clinch the South Division title outright. That’s a 2:30pm ET kickoff. Should they lose, the door is open for two teams to share the title, but neither will be making an appearance in the post-season. Missouri Valley (6-4) visits MidAmerica Nazarene (5-5) at 2pm, and the winner would share the division title with Baker should the Wildcats lose (though Baker still holds the tiebreaker for the automatic bid). It’s worth noting that Valley is ending a four-year playoff streak, while this is only Nazarene’s second failure to make the field in the last nine years.

In the North Division, Grand View has already won a share of the title in their first year in the HAAC. The conference’s other new member, William Penn, could stake their own claim Saturday; Grand View visits Penn at noon ET (on ESPN3). Grand View is in the field no matter what, but a Penn win would be huge; it would secure Penn’s place in the field. Also hoping to sneak in is Benedictine (KS), who will visit Peru State (6-4) at 2pm. The Ravens are currently the first team out, but a win would probably push them in. If Penn wins, Benedictine would also share the division crown with a win.

Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference

It hasn’t been a wonderful year for the KCAC, but the conference season did manage to separate a couple of teams from the pack, and both should be securely in the playoffs with easy Saturdays this week. Tabor, who already holds a share of the conference title, hosts 3-6 Bethel (KS) and Kansas Wesleyan hosts 3-7 Saint Mary (KS), both games at 2:30pm ET. Wesleyan would share the title with a win and a Tabor loss, but that’s really unlikely. Sterling (6-3) is receiving votes, but there’s really no way they can jump the 12 spots they’d need to with a win over 3-7 Southwestern (KS).

Mid-South Conference

Campbellsville has already clinched a playoff bid, as they’re the outright West Division champions and they’re idle this week. The conference is heavily weighted to the west this year; Reinhardt and Lindsey Wilson are in the field at present, both also from the west. Neither can afford a loss, however. Reinhardt hosts 4-6 Bethel (TN) at noon ET, while Lindsey Wilson — who spent all of October as the #1 team in the NAIA before losing to Reinhardt — hosts 3-7 Cumberland (TN) at 2:30. Faulkner is ranked, but a home win over 1-8 Union (KY) at 2:30 is not going to convince anyone to move them up ten-plus spots on their ballot. They’re out after making two straight appearances.

In the East, there will probably be no playoff participant. 5-4 Georgetown (KY) visits Pikeville (4-6) at 1:30, and would win the East outright with a win; if they lose, they’ll share the title with Pikeville and 7-3 Cumberlands (KY), who is idle this week. But Georgetown would need a lot of help to move up into the top 20 and claim the automatic playoff bid. If they do, the Tigers — who have made 20 playoff appearances since 1987 — will miraculously extend their current playoff streak to seven years.

Mid-States Football Association

The Mid-States also gets two potential automatic bids. In the Mideast League, unbeaten Saint Francis (IN) visits 0-9 Missouri Baptist at 2pm ET, and it’s hard to imagine a more certain win on the schedule. The Cougars will clinch the outright Mideast League crown and secure their playoff bid. Marian hosts Siena Heights (4-5) at 1pm; they might survive a loss, but shouldn’t depend on it. Marian would share the title with a win and a Saint Francis loss, but the Cougars would still win the tiebreaker.

In the Midwest League, nobody is secure at all. Saint Xavier might slide up a couple of spots to safety simply by sitting at home and doing nothing, but that’s not assured. They have a share of the conference title, but that’s also not good enough — because if Robert Morris wins on the road at Saint Ambrose (2pm), there will be a tie. If Saint Francis (IL) also wins a 2pm game at home over Olivet Nazarene (3-7), it would be a three-way tie, and we’ll be honest: we have no idea which team gets the “automatic” bid in that scenario.

One of these three teams will be in the top 20 regardless, and therefore one of them will earn the “automatic” playoff bid. Saint Ambrose can’t win the league title, so they’ll have to win and hope they jump about 8 spots to get in; that’s unlikely.

North Star Athletic Association

With the exception of the utterly pointless non-conference game between Waldorf (2-7) and Trinity Bible (1-8), the NSAA is done for the year. Dickinson State is the conference champion, and would earn a playoff bid if they can move up one more spot in the rankings while being idle. The situation in the MSFA makes that more difficult that it would be otherwise, as the winner of that Robert Morris-Saint Ambrose game is almost certain to jump Dickinson.

The Sun Conference

Point, who has already won the outright Sun title, plays a non-conference game against 1-8 Concordia (AL) at 6pm ET. It’s the last game of the NAIA regular season, and naturally it’s marginally relevant to the entire playoff picture. Point is in the playoffs as long as they avoid the upset.

 

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Division II: Final Week Preview

So hey, hi, how ya doin’? It’s been awhile, I know. What can I say? Running Bring on the Cats for the last two years has been pretty time-consuming, so I haven’t been able to keep up on this site.

But I figured it would be nice to get in here as this year’s playoffs loom and do the old season-end roundups. So here we go with what’s up in Division II this weekend, the final weekend of the regular season. We’ll hit up each of the four super-regions, starting with their rankings going into the final weekend, and then a quick hit on each conference in that super-region and what’s important on Saturday. Important reminder about regional rankings: the committees only consider games against Division II teams. Not even wins over FCS squads count, which is sort of silly but what are you gonna do?

Also important: the playoffs have expanded from 24 to 28 teams, meaning seven teams from each super-region, with the #1 seed getting a first round bye.

Super Region I

  1. Shepherd (9-0)
  2. Bowie State (9-1)
  3. Charleston (WV) (9-1)
  4. Slippery Rock (9-1)
  5. Assumption (9-1)
  6. Indiana (PA) (7-2)
  7. Virginia Union (8-2)
  8. California (PA) (7-3)
  9. New Haven (7-3)
  10. Glenville State (7-3)
Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association

Only one game in the CIAA this week: the CIAA Championship game, at 2pm ET in Durham NC. The South Division champions: 5-5 Winston-Salem State, who started the season off horribly before rebounding to roll through the division schedule at a 4-1 clip. The problem for the Rams is that they may only be the sixth- or seventh-best team in the CIAA as a whole, and they’re up against North Division champs Bowie State. Bowie, ranked 22nd in the AFCA D-II poll, can’t relax, though. A loss to WSSU here might drop them out of the playoffs altogether, because it would be a pretty bad setback. I don’t mean to suggest that’s likely; just a possibility.

Virginia Union, sitting at home, clings to the final playoff spot; they’re hoping Bowie State wins, because although they lost to Bowie State the Panthers didn’t play Winston-Salem. A win by a team they lost to helps idle VUU more than a win by a team they didn’t play.

Mountain East Conference

Shepherd, ranked 5th in the country, hosts 2-8 Urbana at noon ET Saturday. They should have no problem holding on to the top spot in SR1 and securing the first-round bye. The Rams have already clinched a share of the MEC title, and although it means nothing in the absence of actual automatic bids they have the tiebreaker over Charleston anyway.

Charleston should likewise have little difficulty securing a playoff bid on Saturday; the Golden Eagles play tonight at 7pm ET, visiting the UVA-Wise Cavaliers. The Clinch Valley lads, in their first full season of D-II competition, are currently 1-9 and no threat to Charleston. The Golden Eagles could share the MEC title with a win, but that would require a Shepherd loss and that’s unlikely.

On the outside looking in is Glenville State, who host their arch-rivals Fairmont State (5-4). That’s also a 7pm kickoff tonight. A lot would have to happen to get the Pioneers into the playoffs, including a complete meltdown by all three PSAC teams in the regional top ten.

Northeast 10 Conference

The Northeast 10 also holds a championship game, although the other eight teams also play based on their conference finish. Only one game really matters, though: 23rd-ranked Assumption, the NE-10’s top seed, hosts New Haven at noon ET. The winner is virtually assured of a playoff bid, and will be crowned Northeast 10 champs.

Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference

Slippery Rock, ranked 9th in the nation, won the West Division. They travel to 7-3 West Chester, the East Division champions, for the State Game at noon ET. The winner is the PSAC champion. A loss might well cost the Rock a playoff bid. Why?

Indiana may as well prepare for the playoffs. At noon, the Crimson Hawks visit Cheyney, who are 0-10 and riding the nation’s longest losing streak at any level, having dropped 42 straight.

Meanwhile, California visits the team that has the longest losing streak in D-II history at 1pm. Lock Haven lost 52 in a row, a streak that ended recently enough that I wrote about it in this very space; the Bald Eagles won on November 10, 2012… against Cheyney. It was the tenth loss in Cheyney’s current losing streak. California should come away with the win here, but the Vulcans are going to need help to get into the playoffs. West Chester may well provide it.

Super Region II

  1. West Georgia (9-1)
  2. North Alabama (7-2)
  3. Catawba (8-2)
  4. Carson-Newman (8-2)
  5. Tuskegee (8-2)
  6. Florida Tech (7-3)
  7. Valdosta State (7-2)
  8. Newberry (6-4)
  9. North Greenville (6-3)
  10. West Alabama (7-3)
Gulf South Conference

The situation in SR2 is, um, fluid, as evidenced by the presence of five (of the seven eligible) Gulf South teams in the top 10. It is theoretically possible that a team which isn’t even on the radar could slide into the playoffs, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

West Georgia, ranked 7th in the country, remains atop the regional rankings despite last week’s stunning loss to Florida Tech. The Wolves, a national semifinalist last year, had spent a few weeks in the #1 spot in the AFCA D-II poll before that loss. But they do have the easiest path this week, hosting Shorter (2-7) at 3pm ET Saturday. Barring an upset, they’re in.

Meanwhile, West Alabama visits 15th-ranked North Alabama at 2:30. The Lions would secure that second seed with a win; the Tigers would almost certainly snake a playoff bid if they win. In other words, this game is no help for teams looking for an opening, and might be a devastating blow.

After last week’s upset win, Florida Tech heads to 18th-ranked Valdosta State in what is effectively an opening-round playoff game for both. The winner is almost certainly in, the loser is almost certainly out — unless, of course, nobody beneath Valdosta steps up to claim the final spot. This is big, heady stuff for Florida Tech. The Panthers, based in Melbourne, are in only their third season of football. They could be staring at a two-week span where they knocked off the #1 team in the country and then earned their first-ever playoff bid.

Irrelevant, and shockingly so: 3-6 Mississippi College, still ineligible as they continue their transition back to D-II after a long stretch in D-III, hosts Delta State. The Fighting Okra started the season ranked 14th, rose to 5th by the end of September… and then promptly went into the tank once conference play started. A perennial playoff team, 5-5 Delta has suffered through a miserable 1-5 conference season, although they should cap 2015 off with a win to stay over .500 on the year.

The conference title? It’s complicated. West Georgia, North Alabama, and Florida Tech are all knotted at 5-1 in conference. Any of them that win this week get to claim a share of the title. If none of them win, it’s a four-way tie which also includes Valdosta. Again, nobody really applies tiebreakers in Division II, but if they did and only two of the three were to win, West Georgia would have the edge if Florida Tech loses, North Alabama if West Georgia loses, and Florida Tech if North Alabama loses.

Any of the ranked teams, or Delta State, are candidates for the Heart of Texas Bowl should they miss the playoffs.

Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

Only one game this week, the SIAC championship game at the Crampton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama at 7pm ET Saturday. Miles (6-4) stole the West Division title last week with a 26-23 upset at Tuskegee; they’ll face Albany State (6-3), the East Division champion. If Albany State wins, they might have a shot at getting into the playoff field if North Alabama, Florida Tech, and Wingate all win, and if Carson-Newman or Catawba lose that would help too. Albany would probably be fighting with Wingate over that last position, but would not be guaranteed the spot under the earned access rule because of Tuskegee. The conference title might give them a tiny edge, although that is not an official selection criteria the committee considers. (Why just Albany and not Miles? Miles is FCS Alabama State‘s opponent in next week’s Turkey Day Classic, and as a result withdrew themselves from eligibility for the 2015 Division II Playoffs.)

Tuskegee, meanwhile, only fell to 5th in the regional rankings as a result of the loss. The 24th-ranked Golden Tigers are idle this week, and are basically a lock for a playoff bid.

South Atlantic Conference

No game in the SAC, a league which mostly devoured itself this season, is irrelevant this week. Mars Hill (5-5) visits Brevard (0-10), and you’d think that wouldn’t matter… but, see, Mars Hill went 1-3 in non-conference play, and they could clinch a share of the conference title with a win and losses by Catawba and Carson-Newman. Brevard’s playing out the string before departing to reclassify to Division III.

Catawba has clinched a share of the conference title, and holds the tiebreaker over both Carson-Newman and Mars Hill. The Indians — yes, the Indians, as they get to retain that nickname due to the support of the North Carolina branch of the Cherokee Nation — would secure a playoff spot with a win over Lenoir-Rhyne (5-4) at 1:30pm ET. A loss, and they’re in danger.

In an almost identical situation is 25th-ranked Carson-Newman, who would also secure a bid by defeating Tusculum (4-6). The Eagles would claim a share of the SAC title with a win and a Catawba loss; they would also, like Catawba, be in big trouble if they don’t win.

Finally, Newberry visits Wingate (6-4) at 1:30. Newberry will grab a playoff spot if they win. If Wingate wins, they’d be in the same boat as, and competing with, Albany State as noted above.

SR II Independents

Four of the six remaining D-II independents reside in SR II, but realistically only one matters this week. That’s North Greenville, who are theoretically in play for the final playoff spot except for one small problem: at 1pm ET they’re scheduled to play Virginia College of Lynchburg, a school which is no longer considered a countable opponent. In other words, as far as the committee is concerned the Tigers are idle this week. That puts them at a disadvantage in the Wingate/SIAC conversation, and will likely keep them out of the field unless utter chaos ensues.

Super Region III

  1. Northwest Missouri State (10-0)
  2. Minnesota State-Mankato (9-1)
  3. Humboldt State (8-1)
  4. Henderson State (8-2)
  5. Augustana (SD) (8-2)
  6. Emporia State (8-2)
  7. Sioux Falls (8-2)
  8. Central Missouri (8-2)
  9. Southwest Minnesota State (6-4)
  10. Western Oregon (7-3)
Great American Conference

The GAC, like the SAC, ate itself this year. Like the MIAA and NSIC, the GAC does not play non-conference games; it’s a 12-team league playing an 11-game round robin. As a result, Henderson State is the only team in the league with fewer than three losses, and has already clinched the outright conference title. The Reddies, ranked 8th nationally, take on arch-rivals Ouachita Baptist (7-3) at 2pm ET Saturday in the Battle of the Ravine, the oldest and most storied rivalry in Division II. The two schools are literally located across the highway from each other in Arkadelphia, Arkansas; the visiting team dresses in their own locker room then jogs across Arkansas Highway 7 to the opposing team’s stadium. The passion’s higher than usual; seven people have been arrested as a result of pranks gone overboard. A loss might knock Henderson State out of the playoffs, but given the other high-profile game in the conference on Saturday it’s likely that at least one GAC team makes the field regardless.

That game: Harding (7-3) at Arkansas Tech (7-3), 3pm CT. Although neither are ranked regionally, the winner could climb into playoff position if they get some help. Both teams, like Ouachita, were ranked at some point this season. There are two other 7-3 teams in the conference — that’s right, half the conference is 7-3 or better despite playing a full round-robin — but because Harding and Arkansas Tech get to play one another the winner of that game has a much better chance of sneaking in. Those two: Southern Arkansas, hosting 1-9 Arkansas-Monticello, and Southwestern Oklahoma State, who visits Northwestern Oklahoma State (3-7).

Also in play for all these 7-3 teams: a bid to the LiveUnited Texarkana Bowl against an MIAA team, which will go to the highest-placed GAC team which does not make the playoffs. The selection order for that bid, due to tiebreakers, is Southwestern Oklahoma State > Arkansas Tech > Ouachita Baptist > Harding. (Of course, if Henderson loses and somehow misses the playoffs, the bid is theirs.)

There’s also the Heart of Texas Bowl, which does not officially have a tie-in with the GAC but for travel purposes would obviously prefer a GAC or Gulf South team. The host team for the Heart of Texas Bowl will be a Lone Star Conference squad.

Great Northwest Athletic Conference

For a few years, the GNAC struggled, at one point shrinking to only four teams. But they’ve battled back and replenished the ranks (including the NCAA’s only Canadian team, Simon Fraser), and finally got back into the playoffs last year when Azusa Pacific snagged a bid. They’re not a factor this year, though, and the key game Saturday is the 4pm ET clash between 12th-ranked Humboldt State and Western Oregon. Humboldt has already clinched a share of the conference title; Western would share it, and have the mythical tiebreaker, if they win.

You’d suspect the winner would secure a playoff bid, but in the event of a WOU upset it’s possible they could both get in, or possible that Humboldt still gets in while Western Oregon is still left out. The NSIC game between Sioux Falls and Upper Iowa is of critical import here.

MidAmerica Intercollegiate Athletic Association

Northwest Missouri State, the #1 team in the nation this week and the outright MIAA champion, is in the playoffs no matter what happens on Saturday. They visit Washburn (5-5) at 2pm ET, hoping to complete the perfect 11-0 conference season in yet another conference which doesn’t play non-conference games.

Ranked 19th, Emporia State would also appear to be a playoff lock despite being ranked 6th in the region. That’s because their opponent is 0-10 Nebraska-Kearney, kicking off at 3pm ET. However, it’s possible the Hornets could find themselves on the outside simply because a win over UNK is almost as bad as not playing at all, and there are teams with better opportunities to make a statement Saturday.

One of those teams is 20th-ranked Central Missouri, who plays at Fort Hays State (7-3) at 3pm. Obviously a win for the Mules would be a lot more impressive than Emporia winning, and that might cost Emporia.

Two bowl bids are open for the MIAA. The conference hosts the Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. That bid goes to the highest-placed team which misses the playoffs, which would be Emporia State if they win and don’t get in, or Central Missouri if they win and don’t overtake Emporia, or Fort Hays if they beat Central Missouri. The second bid is the other slot in the LiveUnited Texarkana Bowl, which will go to the next team in line.

Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference

The last of the “no non-conference games” leagues, the NSIC was more balanced this year than ever before. Minnesota State-Mankato, ranked first nationally through most of the season before a stunning defeat at the hands of Winona State back on October 24 and now ranked sixth, hosts 4-6 Wayne State (NE) at 2pm ET Saturday. They’re probably in no matter what, but losing would put them at risk depending on what happens down the line. They also own at least a share of the conference title, and tiebreakers over both Sioux Falls and Augustana; if Mankato loses, both of those teams have a chance to share in the title by winning.

If 17th-ranked Sioux Falls beats 6-4 Upper Iowa, they’re definitely in the playoffs. Lose, and they definitely aren’t. Augustana (SD) isn’t ranked nationally, and they aren’t really going to help themselves much with a win Saturday over Concordia-Saint Paul (1-9). But a win should still be enough to remain in the field, even if it means sliding to the seventh seed.

Southwest Minnesota State visits Winona State (5-5) at 1pm ET; assuming they win, they’ll be desperately hoping that Sioux Falls and Augustana both lose, because that would probably mean a playoff spot.

Meanwhile, there’s a team missing from the regional rankings who has no hope of a playoff spot… but is still sort of relevant. Minnesota-Duluth (7-3) hosts Minot State (1-9) at 2pm, and they’re going to win that game because Minot State’s really bad. That sets Duluth up for the NSIC’s bid to the Mineral Water Bowl, and only a loss by Augustana or Sioux Falls can possibly wreck Duluth’s postseason dreams. Possibly, because UMD might still get the nod anyway.

Finally, it’s not relevant at all to the proceedings, but there is one more NSIC game Saturday between teams with winning records. Bemidji State visits Northern State at 2pm; both are 6-4.

Super Region IV

  1. Ferris State (9-0)
  2. Ashland (10-0)
  3. Texas A&M-Commerce (8-2)
  4. Midwestern State (9-1)
  5. Colorado State-Pueblo (9-1)
  6. Indianapolis (9-1)
  7. Grand Valley State (8-2)
  8. Colorado Mesa (8-2)
  9. Colorado Mines (7-3)
  10. Michigan Tech (6-3)
Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

A huge changing of the guard in the GLIAC sees Ashland — ranked third in the nation and idle this week — with a share of the conference title, and Ferris State with a punching bag standing in the way of sharing said crown. The 2nd-ranked Bulldogs are led by Jason Vander Laan, already the NCAA’s all-time leader in rushing yards by a quarterback and still only a junior. They’ll host Walsh (2-7) at noon ET, and should join Ashland at 10-0. At that point, it’ll be up to the committee to decide whether beating Walsh was better than sitting at home watching television as they determine which of the GLIAC co-champs gets a bye next week. (It plays no part in the official selection criteria, but odds are they’ll quietly decide to give the bye to Ferris since Ashland was off this week.)

Grand Valley State, ranked 14th nationally, is clinging onto their playoff hopes for dear life, and need a win over visiting archrival Saginaw Valley State to get there. On the one hand, the Lakers should have little trouble as Saginaw has uncharacteristically lost the plot this year, stumbling to a 1-9 record. On the other, simply playing the game might hurt GVSU. That game is at 1pm ET.

There’s really not much hope for Michigan Tech to reach the playoffs, even though they have a 1pm kickoff at 2-8 Lake Erie.

It’s highly unlikely, but a complete meltdown could see Ohio Dominican (7-3) sneak back into the picture should they win at home over Tiffin (5-5). Don’t hold your breath on that one, though.

Great Lakes Valley Conference

Only one team here really matters. Indianapolis, ranked 13th nationally, is already the outright champion. A 1pm win at 4-5 Saint Joseph’s (IN) would clinch a playoff bid. McKendree (7-2) visits Truman State (5-5) at 2pm, a win and a whole bunch of chaos could slip the Bearcats into the field, but I don’t know that even Arioch is capable of that much discombobulation.

Lone Star Conference

The winner of Saturday’s 3:30pm ET Lone Star Championship Game is definitely in. Top seed Texas A&M-Commerce, ranked 11th nationally, takes on 10th-ranked Midwestern State in that one. Why is Midwestern State ranked behind TAMUC in the regional rankings despite being 9-1? Because one of Commerce’s losses was two weeks ago to FCS Sam Houston State, and that doesn’t count against them. As far as the NCAA committee is concerned, Commerce is 8-1, and they’ve already beaten Midwestern head-to-head once this year.

The loser may still sneak into the field, but it would probably require at least someone in the 5-9 range in the regional rankings to lose. If the loser doesn’t make the playoffs, they’ll host the Heart of Texas Bowl in Copperas Cove on December 5; otherwise, that honor will go to the winner of the LSC’s 3 vs 4 game. Fourth seed Angelo State (5-4) visits third seed Eastern New Mexico (6-4) at 2pm.

Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference

Colorado State-Pueblo has clinched a share of the title, and will almost certainly own it outright after a 4pm ET visit to New Mexico Highlands (2-8). As has been the case in recent years, the Thunderwolves are ranked higher nationally (4th) than they are in the region, and they need to win in order to stay in the playoff mix.

The RMAC hosts the two teams most desperately hoping for help. Colorado Mesa, ranked 21st, visits 3-7 Western State Colorado at 3pm. Because Western isn’t much of an opponent, they may not get enough juice to bypass the loser of the Lone Star Championship Game, meaning their hopes hinge on Grand Valley and/or Indianapolis stumbling. The same problem afflicts Colorado Mines, also playing a 3pm road game at 3-7 Adams State.

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FCS: Week 12 Recap, Final Week Preview

EDIT: I missed a detail. Two days ago, San Diego removed themselves from consideration for the Pioneer League title and autobid due to a violation of conference rules. The PFL is a non-scholarship league, and apparently some players were receiving benefits related to their athletic participation. The post has been updated; see the Pioneer section for the new status.

Some things got sorted, some others quite patently did not (including two teams which started the day in the driver’s seat finding themselves standing on the side of the road with their luggage by day’s end and a third being kicked to the back seat). Quick and dirty, the following six teams have secured entry into the FCS playoffs: Eastern Washington, Maine, North Dakota State, Sacred Heart, Eastern Illinois, and Southeastern Louisiana. Northern Arizona, Montana, Coastal Carolina, Charleston Southern, Towson, Bethune-Cookman, Youngstown State, Jacksonville State, Fordham, Chattanooga, McNeese State, and Sam Houston State are probably securely in the field as at-larges (or, if italicized, still have a shot at an autobid but probably don’t need it).

After the jump, the more detailed breakdown of the conference races. We won’t get into at-large possibilities; the 19 teams above plus three other teams which might steal two of the remaining autobids make up 20 teams of the 24-team field, and speculating as to the final three is sort of foolish with a week remaining. Anything can happen.

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NAIA: Final Week 2013

We wrap up this week’s spurt of posts with the NAIA, which is always a fun time because of the simple method they use to determine the playoff participants. The top 16 teams in the final poll get in, with one exception: if a team wins its conference’s autobid and is ranked 17-20, they steal a spot from the top 16. If an autobid falls outside the top 20, it simply vanishes into thin air. For what seems like a decade, poor William Penn has been the victim of this setup, repeatedly finishing 15th or 16th in the final poll only to lose a playoff spot to a conference champion ranked 17th-20th. Luckily, that’s not going to happen this year. Not only does there appear to be no serious threat of a stolen spot, but William Penn has solved the problem themselves by stumbling through a 4-6 season to date.

Anyway, we’ll get right to the breakdowns after the jump.

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D-III: Final Week 2013

Things are more cut and dried in D-III than they were in D-II, thanks to the fact that D-III actually has automatic bids. That means that we can outline actual scenarios with absolute certainty, and they won’t be so complex you need an abacus to sort them out. Other than some brief thoughts, I’m not going to try and sort out the at-large bids; you can go visit our pals at d3football.com for that. They’re the experts.

So we’ll get right to it, since we’ve got 28 conferences to sort out here after the jump. Teams in bold are already in the playoff field.
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D-II Final Week 2013

Most of the conference races in D-II are already settled, or at least settled to the point where two teams are playing for the conference title one way or another. We’ll sort of blow through those; the more important thing this week is the super-regional rankings, which determine the playoff field.

For the uninitiated, Division II does things a little differently than the other divisions. In most sports, the top six teams in each region (with some exceptions — we’ll address the Earned Access Rule in a moment) make the playoffs. In football, it’s the top six teams in each super-region, which is simply a combination of two regions, thus reducing things from eight regions to four super-regions.

There’s a catch, though. If a conference doesn’t have a team in the top six of its super-region, but its champion is ranked seventh or eighth… they get into the playoffs, and the lowest-ranked team in the top six (who wouldn’t immediately have to be put back into the field for the exact same reason, of course) stays home. That’s relevant at the moment in two of the four super-regions, though it may clear itself up by Sunday.

I’m sure that’s as clear as mud. Anyway, we’ll go through each super-region here, and cover each conference within same, and lay out some possibilities.

Super Region 1

Regional Rankings (11/11):
1. Shepherd (9-0)
2. Winston-Salem State (8-1)
3. Bloomsburg (9-1)
4. West Chester (9-1)
5. Slippery Rock (9-1)
6. Virginia State (9-1)
7. American International (8-2)
8. Stonehill (8-2)
9. Concord (8-2)
10. Indiana (PA) (8-2)
Note: records in regional rankings reflect games against D-II competition only.

And here’s the first of those two earned access cases. It may not matter come Sunday, because American International hosts Stonehill in the Northeast-10 championship game, while Winston-Salem State faces Virginia State in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship game. However, if Virginia State were to win, it’s possible that the AIU/Stonehill winner might still be stuck in seventh, and the #6 team would go home.

Central IAA

Still Alive: Winston-Salem State (9-1/7-0), Virginia State (9-1/7-0)

As noted, they’ll play in the CIAA title game on Saturday.

Mountain East

Still Alive: Shepherd (9-0/8-0), Concord (8-2/7-1)

It’s not an actual championship game, but Concord hosts Shepherd Saturday. Winner claims the initial conference title (the conference was just formed this year out of the burning ashes of the old West Virginia IAC), although if it’s Shepherd it’s outright and if it’s Concord they’ll share it.

Northeast-10

Still Alive: American International (8-2/8-1), Stonehill (8-2/8-1)

The Northeast-10 leaves the final week of the schedule open and pairs everyone up based on their record after the penultimate weekend; as such, the #2 team visits the #1 team for the title (unless, of course, the #1 team has a two-game lead, but I digress). In this case, AIU beat Stonehill earlier in the season, so they get to host; the winner is the conference champion, period.

Pennsylvania

Still Alive: Slippery Rock (9-1/7-1), Bloomsburg (9-1/6-1)

The PSAC does sort of the same thing, although they go ahead and schedule the final week as normal with cross-divisional games in which all the teams from one division visit the other division. The “visiting” division champion then switches off with the team originally scheduled to visit the “home” division champion. Well, this year, they didn’t have to adjust anyone’s schedule, as Bloomsburg was already slated to visit Slippery Rock anyway. The winner, of course, claims the PSAC title. 9-1 West Chester hosts 4-6 Clarion, so they’re probably safely in the playoff field; 8-2 Indiana visits 7-3 Shippensburg, so their chances of sneaking up into the field are pretty slim.

Super-Region 2

Regional Rankings (11/11):
1. Lenoir-Rhyne (8-1)
2. North Carolina-Pembroke (7-1)
3. North Alabama (7-1)
4. Carson-Newman (8-2)
5. Newberry (8-2)
6. West Alabama (6-2)
7. Tuskegee (7-2)
8. Delta State (5-2)
9. Miles (6-3)
10. Lane (5-3)
Note: records in regional rankings reflect games against D-II competition only.

Earned access comes into play here as well, and with a major twist. Tuskegee is #7, but they finished second in their division to #9 Miles. Miles will probably move into the top 8 with a win Saturday, and it’ll be interesting to see how things shuffle in the top 7. Can the HBCU SIAC get two teams in? Also of note: UNC-Pembroke is an independent; their final game is against Virginia University of Lynchburg, a body-bag that isn’t even in the NAIA. That means that their game won’t affect their ranking, and they’re a lock for the playoffs.

Gulf South

Still Alive: North Alabama (7-2/5-1), West Alabama (7-3/5-1), Delta State (7-2/4-1)

There’s no tiebreaker, so North Alabama and West Alabama already have shares of the crown. Delta State can grab a piece with a win at West Georgia on Saturday while the rest of the conference is farting around with non-conference shenanigans. Those shenanigans, however, are important: West Alabama has a likely walkover at Central State (OH), while UNA has to face Lone Star Conference-leading Tarleton State; a loss might well keep the Lions at home for the playoffs. West Alabama’s in trouble even with a win, thanks to the presence of the two SIAC teams. Delta State is probably out of luck no matter what.

South Atlantic

Still Alive: Lenoir-Rhyne (9-1/6-0) has clinched the SAC title, as they’ve got a two-game lead over everyone.

Lenoir-Rhyne is a lock; even a loss to 6-4 Catawba isn’t going to send them out of the top six. 8-2 Newberry hosts 5-5 North Greenville; they’re in a precarious position, but a win would be more impressive than West Alabama’s win and would likely keep them at least in the #5 slot and save their¬† bacon. 8-2 Carson-Newman visits 4-5 Wingate, and will definitely survive with a win.

Southern IAC

Still Alive: Albany State (5-4/4-0), Miles (6-3/4-1)

Albany State and Miles will hook up in Atlanta on Saturday for the SIAC title. If Miles wins, they’re almost certainly going to squeak into the field, possibly at the expense of a team ranked ahead of them. Meanwhile, idle Tuskegee, at 8-2, awaits their fate; losses ahead of them could propel them into the playoffs.

Super-Region 3

Regional Rankings (11/11):
1. Northwest Missouri State (10-0)
2. Minnesota State-Mankato (10-0)
3. Henderson State (10-0)
4. Minnesota-Duluth (9-1)
5. Pittsburg State (8-1)
6. Emporia State (8-1)
7. Saint Cloud State (9-1)
8. Missouri Western State (8-2)
9. Washburn (8-2)
10. Harding (7-2)
Note: records in regional rankings reflect games against D-II competition only.

No worries about earned access here. Three of the four conferences in the super-region have unbeaten teams; the fourth doesn’t even have a team ranked. So the top six after Saturday’s games get the tickets, period.

Great American

Still Alive: Henderson State (10-0/9-0) has clinched the conference title outright.

Henderson visits cross-town archrival 7-2 Ouachita Baptist on Saturday. A loss won’t hurt, other than costing the Reddies a home playoff game. It might, however, vault Ouachita into the picture. Harding visits 5-5 Arkansas Tech, but that’s not going to inspire the same sort of fireworks; the Bison are done thanks to all the MIAA action ahead of them.

Great Northwest

Still Alive: Azusa Pacific (8-2/8-1) has clinched the GNAC title, in only their second year in Division II.

Alas, that’s not going to get them into the playoffs.

Mid-America IAA

Still Alive: Northwest Missouri State (10-0/9-0) has clinched a share of the title, and if such things mattered would hold the tiebreak over the other two teams which can still claim a piece of it with wins and a Northwest loss: Pittsburg State (9-1/8-1) and Emporia State (8-1/8-1).

Northwest visits 8-2 Missouri Western State, and is a lock. If MWSU wins, though, they’re likely to bull their way into the field. 8-2 Washburn visits Emporia State. An Emporia win will probably secure their position, while a Washburn win will definitely send Emporia home and will likely not be enough to move the Ichabods up from #9 to a playoff spot. Pittsburg hosts 6-3 Missouri Southern State. They’re a lock if they win, and out if they don’t.

Northern Sun

Still Alive: Minnesota State-Mankato (10-0/10-0) has a four-game lead in the South Division; they clinched it two weeks ago. Minnesota-Duluth (9-1/9-1) and Saint Cloud State (9-1/9-1) are tied for the North Division lead going into the final weekend, and could claim a share of the conference title with wins and a Mankato loss.

Mankato visits 6-4 Upper Iowa; they’re a lock. Duluth visits 3-7 Northern State, and will be safely in the field with a win. Saint Cloud hosts 3-7 Minnesota State-Moorhead. They need to win, of course; they’re also Washburn’s biggest fans this week, as they’re going to require some help to climb into the bracket.

Super-Region 4

Regional Rankings (11/11):
1. Colorado State-Pueblo (9-0)
2. Ohio Dominican (8-0)
3. Saginaw Valley State (9-1)
4. Indianapolis (8-0)
5. Grand Valley State (8-2)
6. Tarleton State (6-2)
7. West Texas A&M (8-2)
8. Chadron State (8-2)
9. Midwestern State (6-2)
10. Ferris State (7-2)
Note: records in regional rankings reflect games against D-II competition only.

No earned access issues here, either. At least not at the moment. Should Indianapolis stumble this week, that may change.

Great Lakes

Still Alive: Saginaw Valley State (9-1/9-0) has clinched the North Division title; the South Division crown has been sealed by Ohio Dominican (9-0/8-0). There is no “conference” champion, as there is an uneven number of conference games.

Ohio Dominican visits 2-8 Malone, and are probably a lock even if you ignore the fact that they’re not going to lose this game. Saginaw visits Grand Valley State. A loss probably won’t knock Saginaw out of the picture, but it would keep Grand Valley from tumbling out of it.¬† Ferris State hosts 3-6 Northern Michigan; I don’t think there’s enough help to get Ferris into the field with a win.

Great Lakes Valley

Still Alive: Indianapolis (9-1/6-0), Truman State (7-3/5-1)

Truman visits Indy Saturday. Indy would, of course, clinch the outright title with a win; they’d share it with a loss. That loss would probably drop Indianapolis out of the playoffs; the question is whether the win would boost Truman into the rankings and, more importantly, into the top eight. I’d say it was unlikely, but if Saginaw beats Grand Valley as expected and Tarleton loses to North Alabama and Chadron slips up… well, all of those things are possible, and if they happen Truman may well sneak in.

Lone Star

Still Alive: Tarleton State (7-2/5-1), Eastern New Mexico (6-3/4-1)

Tarleton’s conference schedule is done, and they’ve sealed up a share of the title. ENMU can swipe half of it, though, with a win at 7-3 Texas A&M-Commerce. Meanwhile, West Texas A&M visits Midwestern State. A WTAMU win would be a good leg up toward slipping into the field. If Midwestern wins, well, see discussion of Truman above. As for Tarleton, as mentioned they’ve got to play North Alabama, and their very playoff lives are at stake here. They can’t survive a loss unless the other teams vying for the first round road games all trip over themselves.

Rocky Mountain

Still Alive: Colorado State-Pueblo (10-0/8-0), Chadron State (8-2/7-1)

Pueblo claims the title outright with a win at home over 2-7 Western State. Easy peasy. They’re a lock. Chadron needs a Pueblo loss and a win at 7-3 Colorado Mines. That’s a tall order. If Chadron wins, though, they’ve got a reasonable shot at sliding into the six slot in the rankings, and barring a GLVC-related disaster that’ll be good enough for a playoff ticket.

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FCS Title Chases, Week of 11.16

We’ve been away awhile, eh? My other “job” has really made trying to do this all by myself untenable, and I’m terribly sorry to the 6 of you who’d been reading this blog regularly. But I can still pop in now and again, and for the next couple of weeks expect some frequent (albeit brief) activity.

And on that note, here’s a breakdown of the conference title races in FCS with two weeks remaining.

TL;DR version: Eastern Washington, Maine, Princeton, Bethune-Cookman, North Dakota State, Robert Morris (PA), Sacred Heart, Eastern Illinois, Colgate, San Diego, Marist, Tennessee-Chattanooga, and Southeastern Louisiana are all capable of clinching conference titles this week (and in the case of all but Princeton, that means an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs).

Big Sky

Leading the pack: Eastern Washington (8-2/6-0)
Still alive: Northern Arizona (7-2/5-1), Montana State (7-3/5-1), Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo (5-5/4-2), Montana (8-2/4-2), Southern Utah (7-3/4-2)

The Big Sky’s tiebreaker procedure for the auto-bid is complex: head-to-head, then record in scheduled conference games against conference opponents in descending order, then record in all games against conference opponents in descending order, then common non-conference opponents, then Sagarin, then a coin flip. You may be scratching your head over tiebreakers two and three there; the 13-team Big Sky plays eight conference games, but some teams play other Big Sky members in games which are deemed non-conference games (mostly to preserve rivalries).

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Eastern Washington: win at Cal Poly this week. Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona did not play this year, and Northern Arizona’s loss is to Montana State, who lost to EWU. Barring a shift in the standings which would pull Cal Poly ahead of Montana State (and such a thing is certainly possible), EWU would hold all tiebreakers. They can absolutely seal the deal by knocking off Cal Poly this week, as that will prevent that possibility altogether.

Big South

Leading the Pack: Charleston Southern (10-1/3-0)
Still alive: Liberty (6-4/3-1), Coastal Carolina (9-1/3-1)

The Big South is at it again. Coastal Carolina has already beaten Liberty. Charleston Southern has already beaten Coastal Carolina. Should Liberty beat Charleston Southern next week, well… we could be in for fun times.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Nobody can. Wait till next week.

Colonial

Leading the Pack: Maine (9-1/6-0)
Still alive: Towson (8-2/4-2), Delaware (7-3/4-2), William & Mary (7-3/4-2), New Hampshire (5-4/4-2)

We’re only going to consider the immediate situation here this week, as the potential for Maine to not win the title is so convoluted it would take 1000 words. If Maine loses at home to 3-8 Rhode Island this week, we’ll get back into this, but that’s so unlikely it’s not worth the effort.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Maine: beat Rhode Island.

Ivy

Leading the Pack: Princeton (7-1/5-0)
Still Alive: Harvard (7-1/4-1), Yale (5-3/3-2), Dartmouth (4-4/3-2), Pennsylvania (4-4/3-2)

Of course, the Ivy doesn’t participate in the FCS playoffs, so there’s no autobid to be won here. There are also no tiebreakers, so things are fairly simple.

In order to win the outright title:
Princeton: Beat Yale at home this week while Harvard loses at home to Penn.

In order to share the title:
Princeton: Beat Yale at home this week.

Mid-Eastern

Leading the Pack: Bethune-Cookman (8-2/5-1)
Still Alive: South Carolina State (7-3/5-1), Delaware State (4-5/4-2), Hampton (4-6/4-2), Morgan State (4-6/4-2), Norfolk State (3-7/3-3)

Yeah, the upper-middle tier of the conference went 0-fer non-conference, but they’re all still scrapping around the heels of the leaders in conference play. Norfolk State is really only listed as a courtesy; they can’t claim the auto-bid but can manage to stumble into a horrible tie for first at 5-3. Bethune-Cookman had a chance to very nearly ice things last week, but inexplicably lost to Norfolk. They can put it away this week, but they’ll need a hand.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Bethune-Cookman: needs to beat Hampton at home while South Carolina State loses, at home, to Morgan State.

Missouri Valley

Leading the Pack: North Dakota State (9-0/6-0)
Still Alive: Youngstown State (8-2/5-1), Missouri State (5-6/5-2)

Missouri State can’t win the autobid, as a three-way tie between the three schools would go to Youngstown State. But the idea of a team which started the season 0-4 managing to claim a share of the Missouri Valley title is just mind-boggling, so it needs to be acknowledged. This week is the titanic showdown to end all titanic showdowns, though…

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
North Dakota State: needs to beat Youngstown State. Simple as pie.

Northeast

Leading the Pack: Robert Morris (PA) (5-4/3-1)
Still Alive: Sacred Heart (9-2/3-2), Duquesne (5-4/3-2), Saint Francis (PA) (4-5/2-2), Central Connecticut State (4-6/2-2)

What a mess. A lot will get sorted out this week, as two different schools (or neither one!) can clinch depending on how things shake out.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Robert Morris (PA): needs to beat Sacred Heart at home, and needs Duquesne to lose to Central Connecticut State.
Sacred Heart: needs to win at Robert Morris, and needs Saint Francis to lose to Wagner.

Ohio Valley

Leading the Pack: Eastern Illinois (10-0/6-0)
Still Alive: Tennessee State (8-3/5-2), Jacksonville State (9-1/4-2), Eastern Kentucky (6-4/4-2), Tennessee-Martin (6-4/4-2)

This is potentially a mess, but some stuff’s going to have to happen to get there. For now, things are pretty simple this week. No matter what, either Eastern Kentucky or UT-Martin are gone after Saturday, as they play this week.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Eastern Illinois: needs to win at home against Jacksonville State.

Patriot

Leading the Pack: Colgate (4-6/3-1)
Still Alive: Lafayette (3-6/3-1), Lehigh (7-2/2-1)

A glance at the standings might make you think that Bucknell (4-5/2-2) is still alive, but because of who plays who in the final two weeks that’s not going to happen. Lehigh visits Colgate this week; if Lehigh wins, then the Lehigh-Lafayette winner will finish with only one conference loss. If Colgate wins, well…

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Colgate: needs to win at home against Lehigh.

Pioneer

Leading the Pack: San Diego (7-3/6-1)
Still Alive: Butler (8-3/6-1), Marist (7-3/6-1), Mercer (9-1/5-1)

San Diego has a commanding lead in this discussion for one very pertinent reason: all three of those other one-loss teams suffered their only loss to San Diego, so the only way any of them are winning the conference title — and the conference’s first automatic playoff bid — is if San Diego stumbles. San Diego is not, however, the only team that can clinch on Saturday…

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
San Diego: win at home against 6-4 Drake.
Marist: win at home against Mercer, and San Diego lose to Drake, and Butler loses at 3-7 Morehead State.

Southern

Leading the Pack: Tennessee-Chattanooga (8-2/6-1)
Still Alive: Samford (6-4/4-2), Wofford (5-4/4-2), Furman (5-5/4-2)

How weird is it that Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, who aren’t actually eligible to win the conference title anyway since they’re in the process of moving to FBS, aren’t even theoretically in the picture? Yeah. It’s really weird. This race could end Saturday, or we could have wild and crazy times next week.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Tennessee-Chattanooga: needs to win at Samford.

Southland

Leading the Pack: Southeastern Louisiana (8-2/5-0)
Still Alive: McNeese State (8-2/4-1), Sam Houston State (8-2/4-1)

McNeese has lost to Southeastern, and Sam Houston lost to McNeese. Southeastern hosts Sam Houston this week, so we’ll either have a conference champion or a two- or three-way tie heading into the final weekend.

In order to clinch the autobid this week:
Southeastern Louisiana: needs to beat Sam Houston State at home.

Southwestern

It’s all over except the championship game. Jackson State (7-2/7-0) has won the East, and Southern (6-4/6-2) has clinched the West; they’ll play on December 7 in Houston for the conference title. Remember, the SWAC doesn’t send their champion to the FCS playoffs, so there’s no autobid up for grabs here.

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NAIA: Week Six Recap.

NAIA Spreadsheet: (Excel2003, 194 kb)

Apologies:
As I’d warned earlier in the week, this week wasn’t going to go swimmingly. And so here we are, with an NAIA recap which consists solely of the bare minimum information that I mine first thing Sunday morning. I could have discussed #5 William Penn’s 19-8 win over Saint Francis (IL), or #4 Morningside’s 28-3 victory at #18 Doane, or Southern Oregon’s 68-22 destruction of #24 Eastern Oregon; that these were the three most interesting games of the week should make you realize you’re not missing much this week.

And with that, on with the bare bones:
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