Well we can put bracketology to bed for another year, the 24 team was revealed on Sunday morning with a few surprises, for the record the Media Blog team accurately predicted 23 out of 24 teams. Safe to say NDSU fans and followers of the division were a bit surprised when they saw New Hampshire grab the top overall seed and not NDSU, especially when Robert Hill, the chairman of the FCS playoff committee said on the selection show that they valued UNH going unbeaten thru the breadth of the season after losing the season opener more than NDSU’s FBS win over Iowa State, then losing its third to last game of the season against UNI. That logic seems faulty to me, but the important thing for NDSU was to be the 1 or 2 seed and that’s what they got for the fourth straight year, the ability to play at home throughout the playoffs without having to leave Fargo.
If you look at NDSU’s side of the bracket; there are some familiar faces for sure, starting with SDSU and Coastal Carolina, but Sam Houston State is there, along with James Madison and Morgan State, past Bison opponents. NDSU fans may not know a lot about Villanova or Jacksonville State, but these are quality teams, the Gamecocks won two playoff games last year and their only loss this season was to Michigan State. Frankly, the hottest team east of Northern Iowa in the FCS is JMU, the Dukes have won seven straight and quarterback Vad Lee has been tearing defenses up left and right. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Dukes win two games or more this playoff year.
As for the top half; New Hampshire may have received the top seed, but they got placed with some impressive teams. Illinois State and Northern Iowa are each in the Wildcats bracket, but one of them will be knocked out by the time they’d be UNH. Also thrown in is Eastern Washington, the Eagles are guaranteed to play at least two home games and then would have to go on the road where they are a completely different team off the red turf.
The committee did break precedent this year, for the first time since 2003 taking a team with five losses into the field. Indiana State grabbed the fifth bid out of the Missouri Valley (a record for the league) and they can thank their tough non-conference schedule as a big reason why. The Sycamores played two FBS schools and won one of those games (Ball State) then beat Liberty (that win made better thanks to the Flames beating Coastal Carolina yesterday) and of course the win over UNI. Two wins over two playoff teams and a FBS win is hard to ignore on the resume. Our thoughts yesterday was with Bethune-Cookman’s eight FCS wins (including a FBS win) was the tiebreaker to put them in over Indiana State. For the Missouri Valley, this is the first step towards some national recognition, getting five teams into the playoffs is a great accomplishment and a reflection of a 23-1 non-conference record vs FCS teams. The next step is playoff success; besides NDSU, there hasn’t been any. The Valley teams have a combined 4-4 record since 2011 (just UNI and SDSU) with just one team making the quarterfinals. The problem with the bracket though is there’s a possibility of two intra-Valley matchups in the second round, meaning two will be sent home early.
The biggest complaint may come from the Southland offices in Frisco, where two of its teams will play each other in the FIRST round. SE Louisiana and Sam Houston did not play during the regular season, so that’s why they were paired against each other now. Can’t believe Southland commish Tom Burnett is happy about that, especially with his league hosting the championship game.
The first round games should provide some great action, SDSU-Montana State and Eastern Kentucky-Indiana State intrigue me. As for the Bison, they have proven over the past few years that they can handle the Jacks, Zach Zenner had his best career running day this season versus NDSU, but then Carson Wentz had a monster day rushing. Austin Sumner was playing his first game back from breaking bones in his foot, he’s looked sharp in the three games since then. As for Montana State, the Bobcats are not coming in off their best performance, committing seven turnovers in the Brawl of the Wild game, but also played without dual threat QB Dakota Prukop and running back Shawn Johnson, both who are still questionable for this week’s game against the Jacks.
One thing is for certain; we are guaranteed some great drama on this road, can’t wait for it begin on Saturday.