In the FCS Huddle: Too many teams, not enough playoff spots

Philadelphia, PA ( - With the expansion of the FCS playoffs this season, it would seem there are plenty of spots to go around.

Yeah, right. They could let any team with one win into the field and the winless teams would voice an argument.

The playoff bubble is going to be unmanageable on Nov. 24.

Conference play is supposed to eliminate teams, but it's doing the opposite and bringing many teams into the picture, all saying their resume is worthy.

Consider just from some of the power conferences:

CAA Football could range anywhere from three to five qualifiers, and the preseason favorite, Villanova, isn't even in the conversation. The Big Sky has four or five teams ready to claim bids. The Southland Conference should put in three squads this year. The Ohio Valley Conference has a slew of playoff contenders like last year, and Jacksonville State and Tennessee State could both get to nine wins yet not feel secure.

Clearly, as some of the FCS conference races seem to get better by the week - will some team separate itself in the Northeast Conference, please! - the bubble for possible FCS at-large selections grows and grows.

Let's peg these 11 teams as conference champions which will receive automatic bids: Bethune-Cookman, Charleston Southern, Chattanooga (but Samford is still a possibility), Eastern Illinois, Eastern Washington, Lehigh (although Colgate could win the bid next Saturday), Maine, North Dakota State, Northeast Conference (yeah, we refuse to pick a team), San Diego and Southeastern Louisiana.

Let's pencil in these teams for at-large bids: Montana, Montana State, Northern Arizona, Coastal Carolina, Towson, Youngstown State, Fordham, McNeese State and Sam Houston State. That's nine of the 13 spots.

Now, with four spots remaining, here are the legitimate possibilities: Southern Utah from the Big Sky; William & Mary, Delaware, New Hampshire and James Madison from CAA Football; South Carolina State from the MEAC; South Dakota State from the Missouri Valley; Tennessee State, Jacksonville State and UT Martin from the Ohio Valley; and Samford and Wofford from the Southern Conference. You need vision for this, but we'll go with William & Mary, South Dakota State, Tennessee State and Samford.

Granted, the final two weeks of the season will knock some off the list, but there won't be enough gone. Just remember last year when a 10-1 Lehigh team was left stunned by the playoff selection committee.

So consider the next two weeks to be playoff weeks because it's loss-and-stay- home for a lot of these postseason hopefuls.


A roundup of games in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at


Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference: Norfolk State 27, No. 12 Bethune-Cookman 24. Few saw that coming.

Missouri Valley Conference: Northern Iowa 22, No. 9 Youngstown State 20 (on Tyler Sievertsen's game-ending field goal). Youngstown was one play away from having a showdown of Missouri Valley unbeatens with No. 1 North Dakota State.

Big South: No. 18 Charleston Southern 31, No. 5 (and previously unbeaten) Coastal Carolina 26. Just a wonderful story line no matter which team got to its 10th win first. It kept the Big South race is open as well.


Two days before Veterans Day, Dartmouth's Kevin Price, a 31-year-old Army Ranger veteran, carried the ball twice for one yard in the final minutes of the Big Green's 34-6 Ivy League win over Cornell.

Price, a walk-on, was made an honorary captain before his second game this season. A father of two, he did six tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Rising: Robert Morris throttled Central Connecticut State, 54-21, with a 30- point second quarter and took over first place in the Northeast Conference as it tries to send retiring head coach Joe Walton out with a conference title and FCS playoff bid. The Colonials (5-4, 3-1) finish the regular season by hosting Sacred Heart and visiting Saint Francis (Pa.). But the harsh reality of the Colonials' NEC lead? Sacred Heart would win the automatic bid by beating RMU.

Falling: One week after looking like possible playoff teams, James Madison (6-4), Eastern Kentucky (6-4) and Southern Illinois (5-5) suffered key conference losses. Samford (6-4) and Wofford (5-4) also must now win their final two games following two-game losing streaks in the Southern Conference.


After Appalachian State lost to Georgia and UT Martin to Memphis, Old Dominion beat Idaho, 59-38. Junior Taylor Heinicke, the 2012 Walter Payton Award recipient, completed 40-of-56 passes for 533 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing for 20 yards and a touchdown.

As Old Dominion continues to transition out of the FCS, the win counts toward the FCS' single-second record of 15 wins against FBS opponents. FCS teams are 15-86 overall.


As top-ranked North Dakota State defeated Illinois State, 28-10, to extend its Missouri Valley Conference record to 18 straight wins, senior quarterback Brock Jensen neared an impressive milestone as well. He won for the 42nd time and the 41st time as a starter. The FCS record for a starter is 43 wins, set by Armanti Edwards of Appalachian State from 2006-09. J.R. Revere of Georgia Southern had 42 from 1998-2001. Note that NDSU linebacker Grant Olson suffered a left leg injury in the win over Illinois State. ... Vernon Adams' four touchdown passes in No. 3 Eastern Washington's 54-29 win over No. 4 Montana State gave him 38 this season - an Eagles single-season record. Eagles freshman wide receiver Cooper Kupp has caught a touchdown pass in all 10 games, one shy of the FCS record. ... Not only did Greg Hardin catch the winning touchdown in the final three minutes, but he set the North Dakota career receiving yards mark (3,404) in a 24-21 triumph over Northern Colorado. ... The SWAC Championship Game is set: East Division winner Jackson State (for the second straight year) against West Division champ Southern. ... D.J. Adams rushed for 201 yards and two touchdowns as Portland State (6-4) beat Idaho State, 38-31, and clinched at least a .500 season. ... Senior Diontae Spencer scored on two kickoff returns, one punt return and two receptions to power McNeese State's 69-38 rout of Stephen F. Austin. The three special teams touchdowns tied an FCS single-game record. ... Three weeks after Abilene Christian beat Incarnate Word, 40-6, in a matchup of transitioning Southland Conference teams, Incarnate Word won the second meeting, 34-31. ... Dayton senior defensive end Pat Dowd had six sacks - an FCS season high - in a 36-10 loss to Drake. Meanwhile in the Pioneer Football League, impressive Marist senior defensive end Terrence Fede set a program record for career sacks (29.5) in a 55-28 victory over Campbell. ... Four teams have only one PFL loss, but San Diego can claim the league's first automatic bid to the playoffs by beating Drake at home next Saturday. The Toreros (7-3, 6-1) have handed Butler, Marist and Mercer their only PFL losses. ... Furman (5-5) has won its last three FCS games - an impressive run against Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Samford. ... Samford quarterback Andy Summerlin completed 44 passes out of 69 attempts in the loss to Furman. They went for 372 yards, but Summerlin didn't throw for a touchdown while being intercepted twice. ... Sacred Heart improved to 9-2 just one season after going 2-9 with a 10-0 shutout of Duquesne in the wacky Northeast Conference race. ... With its 31-6 victory over Austin Peay, Tennessee State (8-3) captured the Sgt. York championship for the fifth time in the seven-year history of the competition between the Ohio Valley Conference's four teams in Tennessee. ... Bethune-Cookman linebacker Jarkevis Fields had 21 tackles in the Wildcats' surprising, 27-24 loss to Norfolk State. ... What a job by Hampton and coach Donovan Rose by overcoming an 0-5 start with wins in four of their last five MEAC games. ... Coastal Carolina senior running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was knocked out of the Chanticleers' first loss of the season, 31-26 to Charleston Southern. ... Jacksonville State kicker Griffin Thomas, who drilled a 52-yard field goal against Eastern Kentucky, and Northern Iowa's Tyler Sievertsen are tied for the FCS lead with 20 field goals.


North Dakota State's 18-game winning streak will be put to the test next Saturday when the nation's top-ranked team visits Youngstown State in the Missouri Valley Conference. Among the other big Week 12 matchups are Sacred Heart at Robert Morris in the Northeast Conference, Lehigh at Colgate in the Patriot League, Chattanooga at Samford in the Southern Conference and Sam Houston State at Southeastern Louisiana in the Southland Conference.

Other key matchups: Big Sky, Eastern Washington-Cal Poly and Southern Utah- Montana State; Big South, Presbyterian-Coastal Carolina and Charleston Southern/Gardner-Webb; CAA, Richmond-Delaware and Towson-William & Mary; Ivy, Penn-Harvard and Yale-Princeton; MEAC, Hampton/Bethune-Cookman; Missouri Valley, South Dakota State-South Dakota; and Northeast, Central Connecticut State-Duquesne.

Also: Ohio Valley, Jacksonville State-Eastern Illinois, UT Martin-Eastern Kentucky and Murray State-Tennessee State; Patriot, Fordham-Lafayette; Pioneer, Mercer-Marist, Butler-Morehead State and Drake-San Diego; and Southern, Appalachian State-Wofford.