By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There's no rule stating the NCAA Division I football playoff selection committee can't give an at-large selection to a team with fewer than seven wins against D-I competition.
It's just the committee has always burst the bubble of teams in that position.
The wording in the NCAA guidelines is recommended, but not exact: "The won- lost record of a team will be scrutinized to determine a team's strength of schedule; however, less than seven Division I wins may place a team in jeopardy of not being selected" to the FCS playoffs.
A year ago, Montana ended the regular season with a 7-4 record and a No. 15 national ranking, but the Grizzlies were left out of the playoffs following a record 17 straight appearances. One of their wins was against a Division II opponent, which left them at six D-I victories.
Georgia Southern, Western Illinois and North Dakota State all earned at-large bids. They were ranked below Montana, but each was 7-4 with seven D-I victories.
Georgia Southern won three playoffs games to reach the national semifinals, Western Illinois won a first-round game on the road and North Dakota State won twice before falling in overtime to eventual national champion Eastern Washington.
But a lot of coaches from the larger FCS conferences - where at-large teams usually come from - don't feel that way. To them, it's become too hard to get seven D-I wins.
Scheduling has a lot to do with it. Schools usually guarantee themselves a big payday, as well as a loss, by playing a game against a Bowl Subdivision opponent. Play two FBS opponents, or add in a game against an opponent below the D-I level, or - yikes - increase that mix of opposition to three games, it can seem impossible for a team to get to seven D-I wins.
"Honestly," Central Arkansas coach Clint Conque said, "I think seven is pretty hard. Last year, we finished 7-4 and had six Division I wins. So many of us are now playing, because of financial considerations, two FBS opponents.
"The rule is seven. Certainly, I think it would open up access to many more teams if they massaged that rule a little bit."
None of Central Arkansas' first four games this season counted toward seven D- I wins. The Bears beat Division II Henderson State and lost to two FBS opponents, Louisiana Tech and Arkansas State, and against a Sam Houston State team that has since remained unbeaten and reached the No. 3 national ranking.
Central Arkansas has needed to end the season with seven straight wins to get to the magical/mystical number, and on Saturday the Southland Conference team can get there with a home win against Texas State. It would make the Bears 8-3, with the seven D-I wins, and banking on being in the playoff field.
But lose on Saturday and they fall into the predicament that Montana was in last year, and Delaware, last year's national runner-up, appears headed to this season. With two more wins, the Blue Hens, who are ranked No. 15, will finish 7-4, but with only six D-I wins. They lost against FBS member Navy and aren't allowed to count a win over D-II West Chester.
"If we are fortunate to have seven total wins," Delaware coach K.C. Keeler said, "I would argue that we should certainly be in the conversation for an at-large bid. We play in the most balanced conference in the country (CAA Football) from top to bottom and we would have three wins in our final four games and be playing some good football. Among those wins would be victories over two of the best teams in our conference and in the country in Towson and Old Dominion.
"I would also argue that our West Chester game is as tough as many of the other FCS non-conference games that are played across the country. Plus, we should not be penalized for playing Navy. These all should be determining factors for us getting into the tournament."
Some FCS coaches are content with how the NCAA rolls seven with its playoff requirement. Coach Brock Spack of surging Illinois State has led his Missouri Valley team to a 7-3 mark by playing only D-I opponents, and none on the FBS level.
Lose, and, well, the Redbirds will be hoping like so many other teams when the selection committee announces the playoff field on Nov. 20.
"I think (seven D-I wins is) a good place to start," Spack said, "especially of a conference like ours. I think the Missouri Valley is very, very tough. We kind of beat each other up in this league and you have to come to play every single Saturday.
"I think you have to be careful with (scheduling FBS opponents). Obviously, I think it's great for you to do that. It's great for the players, it's great for the university, it's great for the notoriety of playing an FBS school. But I think you wouldn't want to go more than one."
The easy answer on what's the right number of wins is for the NCAA to expand the FCS playoffs from 20 to 24 teams. That would give the selection committee a chance, as Conque said, to massage the standard of wins and decrease the chance of denying the playoffs to strong teams from power conferences.
It makes the most sense for a division that has grown so much in recent seasons. It's up to 126 teams, although not all are playoff eligible.
SPECIAL GAME NO MATTER THE RECORDS
A match-up of two teams that are a combined 4-15 doesn't usually get the focus that Eastern Illinois (2-8) and Southern Illinois (2-7) command on Saturday in Carbondale.
The intrastate rivalry goes back a long way as the two programs played together in the old Gateway Conference. EIU moved onto the Ohio Valley Conference and SIU stayed in the Gateway, now the Missouri Valley Football Conference. SIU has a 39-25-1 series lead.
Bob Spoo will end his 50-year coaching career, including 25 at EIU. His team opened his final season with a win over another Illinois team from the MVFC, Illinois State.
Also, it's SIU's Black Out Cancer Game. Salukis senior safety Mike McElroy petitioned the NCAA to allow SIU to auction off the names on the backs of the jerseys for this game. After being rejected, McElroy then hand wrote a letter to the NCAA and was granted a one-time waiver for the event. Eighty bidders won the right to pick a name of a cancer victim or survivor for the back of their jersey, and their pledges totaled $89,890. T
School officials expect other donations to push the total over $100,000, and all proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society and Coaches vs. Cancer.
Watch lists for some of the FCS national awards were updated each of the last two weeks.
FCS PLAYOFF PROJECTION
Once again this season, In the FCS Huddle is projecting the potential FCS playoff field. The projections are a long-range look at the season - not based off current records or rankings - and can be found here.
AROUND THE NATION
As Youngstown State (5-4, 3-3) gets set to visit No. 1 North Dakota State (9-0, 6-0) on Saturday, Penguins coach Eric Wolford said he's having trouble finding weaknesses in the Bison, and that their player development over the last year has stood out. "They almost wait for you to make a mistake," Wolford said. "They've had some close games at times. Usually the other team kind of makes some mistakes and they take advantage of it. They play a field position game." ... To win the CAA Football title, New Hampshire (7-2, 5-1) has to go through the two teams with which it is tied for first place, Saturday at Towson (7-2, 5-1) and Nov. 19 versus Maine (7-2, 5-1). "Obviously, you're in a position in November to control your own destiny," UNH coach Sean McDonnell said, "but the biggest thing is that you gotta go through Maryland and you gotta go through Towson first." ... As expected, the Southern Conference match-up of No. 4 Georgia Southern (8-1, 6-1) at No. 9 Wofford (7-2, 5-1) features the top two rushing teams in the FCS. The host Terriers average 374.2 rushing yards per game and GSU averages 323.8 ypg. Terriers fullback Eric Breitenstein has gone over 100 yards in eight of nine games ... The word "rivalry" is used loosely for the Western Carolina-Appalachian State match-up. ASU has won 24 of the last 26 meetings, including 13 straight at home, for the Old Mountain Jug. Overall, ASU has a 56-18-1 series lead ... No. 3 Sam Houston State can win its first outright Southland Conference title by beating visiting Northwestern State on Saturday. The Bearkats (9-0, 6-0) shared titles with McNeese State in 1991 and 2001 and with Northwestern State in 2004 ... With two games remaining, Southeastern Louisiana freshman Jordan Wells is 100 yards shy of the FCS' single-season record for kickoff return yards (1,411), set by David Primus of Samford in 1989 ... It's a good thing players like defensive end Andrew Schaetzke and place-kicker Brett Weiss are on Georgetown's side because history isn't heading into what's basically a Patriot League title game on Saturday at Lehigh. The visiting Hoyas (8-2, 3-1) are enjoying their first winning season as an 11th-year member of the league. No. 6 Lehigh (8-1, 3-0), the defending champion, owns a league-record nine Patriot titles ... Monmouth quarterback Kyle Frazier suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear recently, but backup Craig Peterson has performed well and will start again in Saturday's important Northeast Conference game against Albany, which has the inside track to the conference's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs ... The Liberty at Stony Brook showdown on Nov. 19 will decide the Big South's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. Liberty (7-3, 5-0) is idle this weekend, and Stony Brook (6-3, 4-0) could lose at third-place Gardner- Webb (4-5, 2-2) and still be alive for the auto bid on the season's final Saturday. Stony Brook running backs Miguel Maysonet and Brock Jackolski have both gone over 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season - a first in Big South history ... Drake (8-2, 6-1) doesn't only want to clinch at least a share of the Pioneer Football League title on Saturday, it wants a little revenge against visiting Dayton. Drake, which last won the league title in 2004, has lost seven straight home games against the Flyers ... Norfolk State can clinch the MEAC's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs with a win at Morgan State. The Spartans (8-2, 6-1) don't want to open the door with a loss because Morgan State, Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M and South Carolina State all sit right behind in conference play at 4-2 each ... The division races in the Southwestern Athletic Conference are tight enough that the conference released a list of many possible scenarios for the next two weeks. Only Alabama A&M in the East and Prairie View A&M in the West control their destiny for getting to the championship game Dec. 10 in Birmingham, Ala. ... If UT Martin beats Tennessee State on Saturday, it can finish in no worse than a tie for the Sgt. York Trophy and would retain the trophy it won last year. The trophy is awarded to the annual winner of the quadrangular season series between the four OVC institutions in Tennessee (Austin Peay, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and UT Martin) ... Princeton's Chuck Dibilio has rushed for 824 yards, the most by any true freshman in Ivy League history ... A Penn upset at Harvard could set up the possibility of the Ivy League's first three-way tie for the title since 1982. Harvard (7-1, 5-0) is in first place, one game ahead of Brown (7-1, 4-1) and Penn (5-3, 4-1) ... Coming off byes in two of the last three weekends, UTSA (3-5) will visit McNeese State on Saturday as it begins to wrap up its first season. It's the final FCS opponent for coach Larry Coker's Roadrunners, who host Division II Minot State on Nov. 19 ... Flying solo: South Dakota sophomore defensive end Tyler Starr has 12 sacks and 17 tackles for loss, all of the solo variety ... Portland State senior quarterback Connor Kavanaugh needs 27 rushing yards to become the Big Sky's all-time quarterback leader. Idaho's Ken Hobart rushed for 1,826 yards from 1980-83 ... Tough way to go out: Weber State coach Ron McBride, who will retire after this season, tore his ACL last week during the game against Montana State. The final two games for the 72-year-old McBride are Saturday at home against Northern Arizona and then Nov. 19 at Portland State.
JUST THE PICKS
Last Week's Record: 41-19 (.683)
Season Record: 487-167 (.747)
All Times EST
Saturday, Nov. 12
X-Wagner (2-7, 2-4 NEC) at Robert Morris (2-7, 2-4), noon
Penn (5-3, 4-1 Ivy) at X-No. 18 Harvard (7-1, 5-0), noon
X-Yale (4-4, 3-2 Ivy) at Princeton (1-7, 1-4), noon
No. 11 Old Dominion (8-2, 5-2 CAA) at X-William & Mary (4-5, 2-4), noon
Butler (5-4, 3-3 Pioneer) at X-Jacksonville (6-3, 5-1), noon
St. Francis, Pa. (2-8, 1-6 NEC) at X-Bryant (6-3, 4-2), noon
X-Albany (6-3, 5-1 NEC) at Monmouth (5-4, 4-2), noon
X-Duquesne (7-2, 5-1 NEC) at Sacred Heart (5-4, 3-3), noon
Georgetown (8-2, 4-1 Patriot) at X-No. 6 Lehigh (8-1, 4-0), 12:30 p.m.
X-Lafayette (4-5, 2-2 Patriot) at Holy Cross (4-5, 2-2), 12:30 p.m.
Dartmouth (3-5, 2-3 Ivy) at X-Brown (7-1, 4-1), 12:30 p.m.
X-Columbia (0-8, 0-5 Ivy) at Cornell (3-5, 1-4), 12:30 p.m.
Massachusetts (5-4) at X-No. 13 Maine (7-2, 5-1 CAA), 12:30 p.m.
Missouri S&T (6-4) at X-No. 24 South Dakota (5-4), 1 p.m.
X-No. 22 Norfolk State (8-2, 6-1 MEAC) at Morgan State (5-4, 4-2), 1 p.m.
Delaware State (2-7, 0-6 MEAC) at X-Hampton (5-4, 3-3), 1 p.m.
VMI (1-8, 1-3 Big South) at X-Presbyterian (2-7, 1-3), 1 p.m.
X-Bucknell (5-4) at Fordham (1-8), 1 p.m.
X-Morehead State (2-7, 1-5 Pioneer) at Davidson (2-7, 0-6), 1 p.m.
Tennessee Tech (5-3, 4-2 OVC) at X-No. 25 Eastern Kentucky (6-3, 5-1), 1 p.m.
X-Coastal Carolina (5-4, 2-3 Big South) at Charleston Southern (0-9, 0-4), 1:30 p.m.
X-Stony Brook (6-3, 4-0 Big South) at Gardner-Webb (4-5, 2-2), 1:30 p.m.
No. 4 Georgia Southern (8-1, 6-1 SoCon) at X-No. 9 Wofford (7-2, 5-1), 1:30 p.m.
Elon (4-5, 2-4 SoCon) at X-No. 17 Furman (6-3, 5-2), 1:30 p.m.
North Carolina A&T (4-5, 3-3 MEAC) at X-South Carolina State (5-4, 4-2), 1:30 p.m.
X-Jacksonville State (5-4, 4-2 OVC) at Southeast Missouri State (3-6, 2-4), 2 p.m.
Austin Peay (3-6, 2-4 OVC) at X-Murray State (5-4, 3-3), 2 p.m.
X-Arkansas-Pine Bluff (4-5, 3-4 SWAC) at Mississippi Valley State (1-9, 1-7), 2 p.m.
Southern (3-6, 3-4 SWAC) at X-No. 23 Alabama State (7-2, 7-1), 2 p.m.
No. 21 Jackson State (7-2, 5-2 SWAC) at X-Alabama A&M (7-2, 6-1), 2 p.m.
X-Campbell (6-3, 5-2 Pioneer) at Valparaiso (0-9, 0-6), 2 p.m.
Dayton (6-4, 4-3 Pioneer) at X-Drake (8-2, 6-1), 2 p.m.
X-Florida A&M (6-3, 4-2 MEAC) at North Carolina Central (2-7, 1-5), 2 p.m.
X-Indiana State (5-4, 3-3 MVFC) at Missouri State (1-8, 1-5), 2 p.m.
X-South Dakota State (4-6, 3-4 MVFC) at Western Illinois (2-7, 1-5), 2 p.m.
X-Portland State (6-3, 4-2 Big Sky) at Northern Colorado (0-10, 0-7), 2:05 p.m.
X-Prairie View A&M (4-5, 4-3 SWAC) at Alcorn State (2-6, 1-6), 3 p.m.
Texas Southern (4-5, 2-5 SWAC) at X-Grambling State (5-4, 4-3), 3 p.m.
Samford (5-4, 3-4 SoCon) at X-The Citadel (4-5, 2-5), 3 p.m.
Rhode Island (3-6, 2-4 CAA) at X-No. 20 James Madison (5-4, 3-3), 3 p.m.
Northwestern State (5-4, 3-2 Southland) at X-No. 3 Sam Houston St. (9-0, 6-0), 3 p.m.
Savannah State (1-8, 1-5 MEAC) at X-Bethune-Cookman (6-3, 4-2), 3 p.m.
Eastern Illinois (2-8) at X-Southern Illinois (2-7), 3 p.m.
Western Carolina (1-8, 0-7 SoCon) at X-No. 10 Appalachian St. (6-3, 4-2), 3:30 p.m.
X-Northern Arizona (4-5, 3-4 Big Sky) at Weber State (3-6, 3-3), 3:30 p.m.
Richmond (3-6, 0-6 CAA) at X-No. 15 Delaware (5-4, 3-3), 3:30 p.m.
No. 7 New Hampshire (7-2, 5-1 CAA) at X-No. 12 Towson (7-2, 5-1), 3:30 p.m.
Marist (4-6, 3-4 Pioneer) at X-San Diego (7-2, 5-1), 4 p.m.
Youngstown State (5-4, 3-3 MVFC) at X-No. 1 North Dakota State (9-0, 6-0), 4 p.m.
Texas State (6-4) at X-No. 19 Central Arkansas (7-3), 5 p.m.
X-North Dakota (6-3, 1-1 Great West) at UC Davis (3-6, 1-1), 5:05 p.m.
X-UT Martin (5-4, 4-2 OVC) at Tennessee State (4-5, 3-3), 6 p.m.
Lamar (3-6, 1-4 Southland) at X-Nicholls State (1-8, 0-5), 6:30 p.m.
Southeastern Louisiana (2-7, 0-5 Southland) at X-Stephen F. Austin (4-5, 3-2), 7 p.m.
Georgia State (2-7) at X-West Alabama (7-3), 7 p.m.
Southern Utah (5-4) at X-No. 5 Northern Iowa (7-2), 7 p.m.
UTSA (3-5) at X-McNeese State (4-5), 8 p.m.
X-Eastern Washington (4-5) at Cal Poly (5-4), 9:05 p.m.
Idaho State (2-7, 1-5 Big Sky) at X-Sacramento State (3-6, 2-5), 9:05 p.m.