Bracketology Bonus

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2018 Bracketology Bonus

 

Tuesday is here before Selection Sunday and my promised bonus coverage of the bracket is here. And for the 2018, the very last spot in the field may be as contentious as ever. There are so many teams with a gripe for inclusion. Sunday morning is going to leave a great number of teams upset; not just with The Committee, but also with themselves. “If we’d won that one game.”  Going to be a lot of “What ifs” for candies and nuts, but some won’t be playing at Thanksgiving. Doesn’t roll off the tongue the way the traditional saying does, but it holds in line with the bubble making concrete sense either.

For the second year in a row, there are some early games in Week 12 that do hold some playoff implications. One could cement a team into the national seed line. And for a game on Thursday, it will determine who gets the automatic bid from the Southland Conference.

Thursday provides us with two games from the Southland Conference. The one of importance involves Southeastern Louisiana at Nicholls. For the moment, Nicholls is in a position as co-champion with Incarnate Word. However, UIW does not play a game this week. Originally scheduled to host North Alabama, they sold the game to play at FBS Iowa State next week. One would assume they didn’t think they’d be in position to make the run they did and garner a share of their conference title. Viola! Now the pressure is on Nicholls, who has to play a ninth conference game to UIW’s eight.  Because the Southland has an odd number of teams with an odd number of conference games, one team gets stuck with eight – UIW in 2018. More on this below in the NOTES section.

Friday’s game is also important. Eastern Washington is securely in the field. But a win on Friday night at Portland State would all but clinch a national seed, at 9-2.

Now, let’s address the rest of the nation. Who’s in, right now, win or lose on Saturday? For this pundit, it looks like there are nineteen locks. Those nineteen are accompanied by five of the ten automatics bids. These may look completely different than the seed order released Saturday night/Sunday morning, as those are typically based off the current Top 25 rankings. These are much more in depth and scrutinized. Here they are, organized by national seed rank (by this pundit)…

  1. * North Dakota State, 10-0 (Missouri Valley)
  2. * Kennesaw State, 9-1 (Big South)
  3. South Dakota State, 7-2 (Missouri Valley)
  4. * Weber State, 8-2 (Big Sky)
  5. Eastern Washington, 8-2 (Big Sky)
  6. UC-Davis, 8-2 (Big Sky)
  7. * Colgate, 9-0 (Patriot)
  8. James Madison, 7-3 (Colonial)

These other teams, currently sit as unseeded, but should also be safe win or lose Saturday…

  1. Stony Brook, 7-3 (Colonial)
  2. Jacksonville State, 8-2 (Ohio Valley)
  3. Towson, 7-3 (Colonial)
  4. Delaware, 7-3 (Colonial)
  5. Elon, 6-3 (Colonial)
  6. Nicholls, 7-3 (Southland)
  7. Wofford, 7-3 (Southern)
  8. Maine, 7-3 (Colonial)
  9. Incarnate Word, 6-4 (Southland)
  10. East Tennessee State, 8-2 (Southern)
  11. * San Diego, 8-2 (Pioneer)

* Clinched automatic berth


AUTOMATIC NOTES…

  • BIG SKY: One of the three Big Sky teams above will clinch that conference’s automatic bid. Weber State has all tiebreakers with one loss teams. Eastern Washington has tiebreaker over UC-Davis in one loss tiebreaker. Weber State has all two loss tiebreakers also, unless Cal Poly loses to Southern Utah AND Northern Arizona beats North Dakota, which will then go to Eastern Washington. If Cal Poly and Northern Arizona both win or both lose, Weber State has tiebreaker advantage. UC-Davis would need to win and the other two to lose in order to clinch the automatic.
  • COLONIAL: One of the six Colonial teams above will clinch that conference’s automatic bid. If Maine wins their home game against Elon, they win the bid outright. If Elon wins, those two will enter a three- to five-team tiebreaker for the automatic bid. One of those teams will be the winner of the James Madison at Towson game. Also involved would be Delaware (hosting Villanova) and/or Stony Brook (at Albany), if either, both or neither wins Saturday. Since most of those don’t involve games against all tied teams, the third tiebreaker comes down to Sagarin Rating, which James Madison would hold if involved. The rest of the current order is Stony Brook, Towson, Delaware, Elon, Maine.
  • NORTHEAST: Three teams are still alive to clinch the conference’s automatic bid. Duquesne wins the bid if they beat Central Connecticut State. If Central Connecticut State wins that game they get the bid IF Sacred Heart loses; if Sacred Heart also wins, Sacred Heart gets the bid.
  • SOUTHERN: One of the two Southern teams above OR Furman will clinch that conference’s automatic bid. If East Tennessee State beats Samford, they get the automatic outright. If they lose, they fall into a two- or three-team tiebreaker. Wofford would be involved in either tiebreaker and be joined by Furman, if they beat Mercer. A two-team tie, meaning a Furman loss, would go to Wofford. A three-team tie would come down to conference points allowed. If Furman beats Mercer, giving up 16 points or less, they would get the automatic bid. If they won but gave up 17 or more, the automatic bid would go to Wofford. East Tennessee State’s point total will be worse than Wofford.
  • SOUTHLAND: One of the two Southland teams above will clinch the conference’s automatic bid. Incarnate Word is guaranteed a share of the Southland title. Nicholls could also share if they beat Southeastern Louisiana. Nicholls beat Incarnate Word head-to-head, so a shared title would give the automatic bid to Nicholls. If Nicholls loses, the outright title and bid would go to Incarnate Word. A Nicholls loss could throw them into the bubble mix, but an early season win over FBS Kansas would probably save them from exile.

The following games pit two teams that are playing for at-large bids. More than likely, the winner makes the field and the loser will be eliminated from contention…

  1. Montana State, 6-4 at Montana, 6-4 (Big Sky)
  2. Indiana State, 6-4 at Western Illinois, 5-5 (Missouri Valley)

The thought is that the winner of the Big Sky game, who will be 7-4, is in the field with one more marquee win. Both of these teams have victories over Missouri Valley contenders; Western Illinois (losing to Montana State, but beating Montana) and Northern Iowa (losing to Montana). The winner of the Missouri Valley game, would be the conference’s third overall bid. The winner will be 5-3 in conference play. Indiana State would be riding a five-game winning streak to end the season, even though their season-opening game was over a non-Division I opponent. Western Illinois would be 6-5 / 5-3 and could potentially have the exact same record as Northern Iowa, if they win. However, Western Illinois beat Northern Iowa on October 27, by 20 points. If more than four teams in the next group happen to qualify, the Missouri Valley team would likely be the first team left out of the field.


So with these teams listed above, twenty-one of the twenty-four bids should be accounted for. The following teams can be considered as “bid poachers”. It’s not that these teams are necessarily undeserving, but they have little to no chance of getting a bid if they lose on Saturday.

1. Southeast Missouri State, 7-3 (Ohio Valley)

  • A loss here, could throw them behind Eastern Kentucky and Murray State in the Ohio Valley standings. And having lost head-to-head to both would be very troublesome. They have decent computer numbers, but it probably wouldn’t be enough to overcome fourth place in their own conference. Not with the others having realistic hope of at-larges otherwise.

2. Furman, 5-4 (Southern)

  • As mentioned above, if Furman beats Mercer, giving up 16 points or less, they would get the Southern Conference’s automatic bid. Losing or giving up 17 or more, the bid would go to someone else.

3. Chattanooga, 6-4 (Southern)

  • A completely different situation here from everyone else. A loss, to FBS South Carolina, would be a third straight. That would also mean a 6-5 record with no major signature wins. But a victory over an FBS program this late in the season would push them into the field, regardless of what happens elsewhere.

4. North Carolina A&T, 8-2 (Mid-Eastern)

  • A different situation than even the one above. Belonging to a HBCU conference, this team is obligated to play in the Celebrations Bowl, if they win their conference title. As it stands, Florida A&M beat them head-to-head and controls their own destiny. Which would make North Carolina A&T eligible for an at-large bid, provided they were deemed worthy. With the overall softness of the bubble and the fact that the two most important games this team played, they won, would get them into the field. However, if Florida A&M loses on Saturday to Bethune-Cookman, North Carolina A&T owns all tiebreakers for the MEAC’s Celebrations bid. A loss would also knock them from contention as an at-large, which is why they’re in this section.

5. Idaho State, 6-4 (Big Sky)

  • With two of their losses coming against FBS opponents and a third to UC-Davis, this team would be safe if not having lost to Cal Poly. A win on Saturday over a likely seeded Weber State would erase that damage and thrust them right into the playoffs. A loss is likely banishment. 

6. North Dakota, 6-4 (FBS Independent)

  • The Fighting Hawks have two impressive wins over Sam Houston State and Montana, but a loss to Idaho State puts them behind the Bengals on the list. North Dakota finishes the regular season on Saturday at Northern Arizona. And they need to cheer for many of the teams above them on the list to lose to have a serious chance at reaching the playoffs.

At this point, theoretically, all the bids COULD be taken. Really, more than all three remaining bids could be taken. Though, knowing how this season has progressed, one would think, at least, one or two of these last three bids will be available. That’s where we are here. These are the final teams, scratching and clawing. Holding onto the finest of threads, with the hope against even more chaos and mayhem to get them a sniff of that delicious playoff pie.

Above everything else, these teams HAVE to win their final game or the consideration is out the window. Each of these teams will be shown with their record, conference and conference record, Power Rankings from Massey, Ashburn/Atomic and CSM, strength of schedule (SoS), record in their last four games and final opponent. These teams are in alphabetical order…

  1. Abilene Christian, 6-4 (Southland, 5-3) Massey: 39, Ashburn: 36, CSM: 46, Sos: 59, Last Four: 4-0 … Final game: at central Arkansas (5-5)
  2. Eastern Kentucky, 6-4 (Ohio Valley, 4-2) Massey: 63, Ashburn: 69, CSM: 54, SoS: 76, Last Four: 3-1 … Final game: @ Tennessee Tech (1-9)
  3. Illinois State, 6-4 (Missouri Valley, 3-4) Massey: 18, Ashburn: 28, CSM: 21, SoS: 12, Last Four: 0-4 … Final game: vs. Youngstown State (4-6)
  4. Lamar, 6-4 (Southland, 5-3) Massey: 46, Ashburn: 51, CSM: 53, SoS: 69, Last Four: 4-0 … Final game: at McNeese (6-4)
  5. McNeese, 6-4 (Southland, 5-3) Massey: 53, Ashburn:45, CSM: 45, SoS: 56, Last Four: 1-3 … Final game: vs. Lamar (6-4)
  6. Monmouth, 7-3 (Big South, 3-1) Massey: 59, Ashburn: 41, CSM: 18, Sos: 85, Last Four: 3-1 … Final game: at Gardner-Webb (3-7)
  7. Northern Iowa, 5-5 (Missouri Valley) Massey: 14, Ashburn: 20, CSM: 16, SoS: 1, Last Four: 2-2 … Final game: vs. Missouri State (4-6)

There’s pluses and minuses to all these teams in the final grouping. Monmouth has the luxury of possibly having the best record of all these teams, 8-3. And all their victories would be Division-I. But a weak conference and schedule hurt. Lamar and McNeese play each other. The winner stays alive, the loser is gone. The winner will finished tied for second or third depending on the Nicholls result on Thursday. Either way, the computer numbers are soft. Lamar has been hot and McNeese has been floundering, but does have early wins over Nicholls and Abilene Christian. Lamar has a win over Incarnate Word. Abilene Christian could also figure into the Southland logjam. Their computer numbers are better than everyone NOT from the Missouri Valley and they would be finishing on a five-game winning streak. Illinois State has fallen apart in recent weeks, losing four straight. Despite the second best computer numbers in the group here, their shot at making the field seems longest. Just in MVFC play, they’d probably need Western Illinois to beat Indiana State and have Northern Iowa lose also. Even then, the climb might be too steep. Eastern Kentucky has bad computer numbers, but has won three of four coming in. Two of their losses are to FBS foes and they have a win over Southeast Missouri State, who they could put in jeopardy, if EKU won and SEMO lost. Northern Iowa, is probably the enigma of all teams on this page. Showing this year they can go almost to the top and beat anyone and look as poor as to getting run off the field by a sub-.500 team. It’s fitting they’re 5-5. Still, a possibly third place tie finish in the MVFC, the best computer numbers in this grouping and the toughest schedule in all of FCS, makes them a difficult discussion.