YOUNGSTOWN — Count Doug Phillips is among those who believe Youngstown State did enough to earn a playoff bid.
“We play at the toughest FCS in the country and have won our last five out of six games,” said the YSU head coach. “It doesn’t matter how you win – we found a way to win the last five games out of six. We have the best running back in the country and in FCS history.”
But, he lamented, there were a couple of games this season that could have given the Penguins a lot more breathing room judging by tonight’s selection, which airs at 12:30 p.m. on ESPNU
“You put your record out and you always reflect back” he said. “North Dakota was the game where we had the ball in under two minutes on the 29th, but there’s nothing we can do about it, they’re a very good football team. … So once again, control what we can control, and these are games we can’t get back (on top of last week’s loss at Missouri State).
Even then, YSU used Mitch Davidson as the starting quarterback, and under him the Penguins went 5-2 over the past seven weeks and won five of their last six games, all in the vaunted Missouri Valley.
“He has won five of his last six starts. I think that’s pretty impressive. I hope the committee looks at this quarterback (and sees) that he’s had six starts to finish the season and we’ve won five of them. Phillips said.
Certainly the momentum is on YSU’s side. But the only baggage of this Penguin postseason push remains the lack of a Signatures win. That might hurt, but with so many FCS teams with seven wins and similar résumés, it might not matter. YSU also has a schedule rating strength of No. 22, which is something the committee might well consider.
The FCS takes 11 automatic bids from conference masters, leaving 13 free bids to be picked up by the remaining programs.
The automatic bids are: South Dakota State (MVFC), Sacramento State (Big Sky), Gardner Webb (Big South), William and Mary (Colonial), St. Francis (NEC), Samford (SoCon), Holy Cross (Patriot) , Davidson (Pioneer), Eastern Kentucky from the ASun-WAC hybrid (the conferences have an automatic bid together), Southeast Missouri (OVC), and Southeastern Louisiana (Southland).
Of the 13 open applications, consensus is that you can count on the following teams: North Dakota State, Montana State, Incarnate Word, Elon, North Dakota, Furman, Richmond, New Hampshire and Weber State. NDSU and Montana State are likely to earn first-round byes as seeded teams, and UIW has a shot at it, too.
This leaves four free bids for an overfilled field. Including: Youngstown State, Montana, Idaho, Chattanooga, Rhode Island, Delaware, UC Davis, Mercer and Florida A&M.
Idaho (7-4, 6-2 Big Sky) has a win over Montana and a top 15 strength on the schedule. Two of the Vandals’ losses go to Power 5 teams, and one to Sacramento State, which could end up No. 1 if that’s decided. As such, Idaho probably has the best claim of the remaining teams.
Montana (7-4, 4-4 Big Sky) was among FCS’ top-five teams at times but collapsed after a 5-0 start to the new year. After winning for the fifth time in a row, the Grizzlies lost three times in a row. Their fourth loss came against Montana State on Saturday, a 55-21 drubbing that may have sealed their fate. Montana’s other two losses go to Weber State and Sacramento State.
Chattanooga (7-4, 5-3 SoCon) seemed like a safe bet up until the last few weeks. The Mocs have lost three of their last four games, although two of those have gone to Samford and Furman, an auto bid team and a safe lock on an at-large bid, respectively. However, on Saturday, Chattanooga was knocked off by Western Carolina, which could really hurt. Still, the Mocs have a win over Mercer, who was a playoff bubble team until they also lost three of their last four.
According to Mercer (7-4, 5-3 SoCon), the Bears are almost certainly out because SoCon wasn’t supposed to get four teams. Nevertheless, they are at least in conversation.
Delaware (7-4, 4-4 CAA) potentially played its way out of a bid by losing three of its last four. The worst came on Saturday when the Blue Hens were defeated by Villanova unranked 29-26. Delaware’s best win came over Rhode Island on September 17 (also 7-4 but 5-3 in the CAA). To that end, it’s hard to see Rhody coming in unless Delaware does.
UC Davis (6-5, 5-3 Big Sky) is the only six-win team that I think realistically has a chance, although Northern Iowa would certainly disagree. UC Davis has four FCS losses, all to teams that were in the top 10 of this week’s Stats Perform FCS Top 25. The fifth loss was a Power 5 loss to Cal. Also, the Aggies have a 44-26 win over Idaho on Nov. 12 and the No. 6 schedule rating strength according to Massey ratings.
UNI ended its season with victories in four of the last five, including victories over Missouri State and Southern Illinois. But a 2-4 start that included losses to North Dakota and Illinois State could be too much for the Panthers to come back.
Finally, Florida A&M is an interesting case because the Rattlers are 9-2 but have a terrible 108 schedule-rating strength according to Massey ratings. FAMU’s only losses were Power 5 North Carolina and SWAC champion Jackson State, the latter a 59-3 drubbing.
Put it all together, and it’s clear the committee has their work cut out for them in deciding this year’s field. Simply put, teams that get left out will have pretty reasonable problems they deserve, no matter who the field ends up holding.
We’ll hear at 12:30 if the committee is positive about the penguins.
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