The days of FCS teams scheduling D-II or NAIA teams are probably over. That philosophy hurt a few teams this year when it came selection time and Liberty University was one of them. Five days before Thanksgiving, NDSU gave thanks to its strength of schedule. That factor, more than any other, got the Bison in.
NDSU was relegated to the so-called bubble after losing 3-0 at Missouri State on Saturday. It left the Bison 7-4 and outside hopes of reaching the 20-team field, which was announced Sunday morning on ESPNU. NDSU will host Robert Morris University (Pa.) Saturday night at 6 at the Fargodome. RMU, 8-2, received the automatic bid from the Northeast Conference and the NDSU-RMU winner plays at Big Sky Conference champion Montana State, which received a first round bye.
NDSU was one of three Missouri Valley Football Conference teams in the field and all signs point to the Bison being the last team picked. It came down to NDSU or Liberty, said Bison athletic director Gene Taylor. He got his information from Youngstown State athletic director Ron Strollo, the Missouri Valley representative on the FCS playoff committee.
At-large teams are selected on three factors, according to the NCAA championship manual: won-lost record, strength of schedule and eligibility of student-athletes. Liberty had the better record at 8-3, but seven were countable Division I victories. The Flames opened the season against NAIA University of St. Francis (Pa.). Even so, Liberty couldnâ€™t have been far behind in strength of schedule. NDSU defeated Kansas of the Football Bowl Subdivision and Liberty beat FBS opponent Ball State (Ind.). The Jayhawks, however, are from a major Bowl Championship Series conference in the Big 12. Ball State plays in the Mid-American Conference.
NDSU had a higher power rating according to the Gridiron Power Index. But, in a switch from previous conventional thinking, the GPI did not factor into the at-large selections, something University of Montana athletic director Jim Oâ€™Day, the chair of the FCS playoff committee, confirmed on the NCAA website Sunday. Coastal Carolina got the Big South Conference automatic bid leaving Liberty hoping for one of 10 at-large spots. Liberty was ranked 18th and NDSU 17th in last weekâ€™s FCS top 25 coaches poll.
None of Libertyâ€™s opponents were ranked including Robert Morris, which beat the Flames 30-23. NDSU played one ranked team in Northern Iowa.