It may sound like a broken record when coaches, players, fans and many others keep preaching the 2012 season has been one of the most competitive in recent years. But it's warranted based on what's happened through 11 weeks.
In 2009, when the FCS playoffs last consisted of just 16 teams, it seemed as if there were always going to be arguments about which teams got left out.
It was crazy, then right?
Now, after two years of getting used to an expanded 20-team playoff system, the bickering will strengthen because of the quality (or poor judgment) of scheduling and competitiveness. With just one week left in the regular season, prepare yourself for playoff projection hell.
Heading into Week 11, both Stony Brook and Lehigh had equal chances to control their own destiny. All season long, they were overlooked and, quite honestly, not taken serious in the polls or by the power conferences. Just when they had a chance to punch a ticket to the FCS playoffs, things got interesting.
On Saturday, Stony Brook lost to Liberty, 28-14, falling to 9-2, and it looks like they won't win the Big South's automatic qualifying bid with Coastal Carolina and Liberty also fighting for it. SBU now has to anxiously wait around at home (because its regular season had ended) and hope it has done enough to impress the playoff committee.
Lehigh had a chance to clinch a share of its third straight Patriot League title and a third straight trip to the FCS playoffs with a win over Colgate, but the Mountain Hawks were outplayed and shut out in the second half before falling, 35-24. The Raiders and their dangerous "Double-Mac Attack" of quarterback Gavin McCarney and running back Jordan McCord will represent the Patriot in the playoffs, although they still have to play Fordham next weekend.
Lehigh still plays rival Lafayette on Nov. 17 and has a chance to finish 10-1. Regardless of its strength of schedule, record or conference, can you really leave a 10-1 team out of the playoffs?
On the other hand, Stony Brook has a win over Colgate and FBS member Army. Plus it has sensational Walter Payton Award nominee Miguel Maysonet at running back. No matter if both, one or neither team makes the playoffs come Selection Sunday, it's guaranteed there will be some controversy.
With CAA Football, the Big Sky, Missouri Valley Conference and the Southern Conference still very active in terms of playoff-worthy teams, plenty of schools all over the FCS are hoping the selection committee won't take more than one team from the so-called weaker conferences.
For all the promise in its teams, some things can never be ignored.
Whether it be scores, statistics or standout performances, the numbers never lie.
Here are some important figures from Week 11 of the 2012 FCS season that should not be overlooked:
Seven players rushed for 189 yards or more in Week 11 while accounting for 13 total touchdowns, all in wins. They were Samford's Fabian Truss (219 yards, two touchdowns), Jacksonville's Keith Dawson (217 yards, two touchdowns), Eastern Kentucky's Matt Denham (214 yards, three touchdowns), Georgia Southern's Jerick McKinnon (198 yards, three touchdowns), San Diego's Dallas Kessman (190 yards, two touchdowns), Tennessee Tech's Darian Stone (190 yards) and Fordham's Carlton Koonce (189 yards, one touchdown).
Through 11 weeks of the 2012 season, five teams have at least nine wins, 16 teams have at least eight wins and 15 teams have at least seven wins. Rhode Island is the only team in the FCS which has not won a game this season.
In Wofford's 16-13 overtime victory versus Chattanooga, senior fullback Eric Breitenstein broke the school's all-time rushing record on his second carry of the game, which went for 41 yards. He passed Shawn Graves at 5,128 yards in the school record book. The FCS' active career rushing leader now has 5,223 career rushing yards, while Stony Brook's Miguel Maysonet is the next closest player with 4,482 career rushing yards. Breitenstein's 61 career touchdowns also lead the FCS.
Seven teams play FBS opponents next week in their final regular-season games of the 2012 season. Every FBS foe is a member of the Southeastern Conference. Western Carolina plays at Alabama, Jacksonville State plays at Florida, Wofford plays at South Carolina, Georgia Southern plays at Georgia, Alabama A&M plays at Auburn, Sam Houston State plays at Texas A&M and Samford plays at Kentucky. The combined record of those FCS teams is 45-25.
Eastern Illinois not only clinched at least a share of its sixth Ohio Valley Conference title since 2001 with a 39-20 win over Southeast Missouri State, but receiver Erik Lora also broke the OVC single-season receiving record. Lora caught 15 passes for 178 yards and one touchdown, breaking the previous mark set by Southeast Missouri State's Willie Ponder (2002). He now has 1,479 yards this season, which ranks 14th all-time on the FCS single-season history. Lora's 115 catches through 10 games ties for fifth all-time on the FCS single- season list.
Seven teams ranked in the FCS Top 25 lost in Week 11. They were No. 6 Stony Brook, No. 8 Lehigh, No. 9 James Madison, No. 11 Northern Arizona, No. 16 South Dakota State, No. 23 UT Martin and No. 25 Harvard. Every team currently ranked in the Top 10 which won in Week 11 - except No. 1 North Dakota State - ranks in the Top 25 of the FCS in total offense. They are Old Dominion (556 yards per game), Sam Houston State (490), Georgia Southern (467) Montana State (440) and Eastern Washington (431).
In Coastal Carolina's 65-7 thumping of Presbyterian, quarterback Aramis Hillary tied school and Big South record with five touchdown passes - all of which came in the first half. The Chanticleers finished with 625 yards of offense, 365 came on the ground. In the last two games, Coastal has amassed 1,221 yards of offense.
Montana State scored a touchdown on offense, defense and special teams, and totaled 59 points - in the first half - before running away with a 65-30 victory over Portland State. Running back Cody Kirk rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns and caught one pass for 54 yards and one touchdown. He has now scored eight total touchdowns in the team's last three games. Coach Rob Ash became MSU's all-time winningest coach with his 48th victory.
Richmond leads the FCS with 23 interceptions and ranks first with a plus-2 turnover margin this season. The Spiders also are tied for third in the FCS with nine turnovers lost. Youngstown State and Rhode Island are tied for last in the FCS with only two interceptions in 10 games, respectively.
With a 35-24 home loss versus Colgate, Lehigh not only ended an FCS-best 18 straight regular-season winning streak, but the Mountain Hawks also lost a Patriot League contest for the first time since Nov. 7, 2009. Lehigh's 18-game league winning streak ended just one game shy of the Patriot record, set by Holy Cross from 1988-92.