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A little pregame FCS playoff bracketology

by Mike McFeely

A few FCS playoff thoughts before North Dakota State takes on South Dakota in the Bison's regular-season finale later today at the Fargodome:

We know NDSU has clinched the automatic bid from the Missouri Valley Conference. If the Bison win today, they will lock up (although I think they already deserve it win or lose today) the No. 1 seed throughout the playoffs. The road to Frisco, Texas, will again travel through the Fargodome.

 The NDSU Bison have won the last two FCS national titles.

Of interest to Bison fans will be the MVFC game today in Youngstown, Ohio, between Youngstown State (8-3) and South Dakota State (7-4). Even though the MVFC is the top-ranked league in FCS, it seems most likely only one of these teams will be selected for the 24-team playoff field. If Youngstown wins, the Penguins are in for sure. If SDSU wins, they would be in for sure. The question would be: If the Jackrabbits win, would the Penguins still be selected for the playoffs at 8-4? 

History says there is a chance. In 28 previous seasons, 53 MVFC teams have had eight or more regular-season wins, and all but five made the playoffs: Northern Iowa (in 1989 and 1999), Western Illinois (1994) and Youngstown State (2001 and 2005) are the only MVFC teams to win eight and not make the field.

This year's Youngstown State team is different because it started 8-1, but a loss to the Jackrabbits would mean the Penguins lost three straight to end the season. It would also mean the Penguins didn't record any "quality" wins. My belief is the Penguins wouldn't make the playoff field if they lose to the Jackrabbits.

Here is another factoid: In 28 previous MVFC seasons, only four league teams with three or more conference losses got into the NCAA playoff field.

The web site www.saturdayblitz.com has the following bracketology going into today's games :

Automatic-Bids (* = playoff bid clinched):

Big Sky: Eastern Washington*

Big South: Coastal Carolina

Colonial: Maine*

Mid-Eastern: Bethune-Cookman

Missouri Valley: North Dakota State*

Northeastern: Sacred Heart*

Ohio Valley: Eastern Illinois*

Patriot: Lehigh

Pioneer: Butler*

Southern: Furman

Southland: Southeastern Louisiana*

At-Large Bids:

Big Sky: Montana, Northern Arizona, Southern Utah

Big South: Charleston Southern

Colonial: Delaware, Towson, William & Mary

Missouri Valley: Youngstown State

Ohio Valley: Tennessee State

Patriot: Fordham

Southern: Samford

Southland: McNeese State, Sam Houston State

Still in contention: Chattanooga, Jacksonville State, Lafayette, Montana State, New Hampshire, Northern Iowa, South Carolina State, South Dakota State, Tennessee-Martin.

The web site www.sportsnetwork.com has the following projected bracketology going into today's games . Much can change, of course, depending on the outcome of today's games:

FIRST ROUND (Saturday, Nov. 30)

Tennessee State at Montana State

Charleston Southern at Furman

Bethune-Cookman at Coastal Carolina

Butler or Marist at Fordham

Sacred Heart at William and Mary

South Dakota State at Montana

Lehigh at Sam Houston State

SECOND ROUND (Saturday, Dec. 7)

Tennessee State/Montana State winner at North Dakota State

Charleston Southern/Furman winner at Northern Arizona

Bethune-Cookman/Coastal Carolina winner at Southeast Louisiana

Butler or Marist/Fordham winner at Maine

Sacred Heart/William and Mary winner at Eastern Washington

Samford/South Carolina State winner at Towson

South Dakota State/Montana winner at McNeese State

Lehigh/Sam Houston State winner at Eastern Illinois

Also, my friends at Forum Communications Jeff Kolpack of The Forum and Dom Izzo of WDAY-TV do a good job of breaking down their bracketology projections with this video :

The NCAA selection show is Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Central on ESPNU.

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)