Most of you will be watching your favorite rivalry game in FBS ball this weekend, but Saturday is also a big day for the FCS level. It’s the first round of the FCS Playoffs. Sixteen of the 24 teams will be in action and it’s time to break the field down.
1. Is New Hampshire really the best team?
The Wildcats went undefeated against FCS foes this year, only losing to FBS Toledo 54-20. While the CAA has three other teams in field, UNH did not play two of them. Villanova, the six seed, and James Madison were not on the schedule. Therefore, it’s hard to justify a CAA crown with that conference slate.
Its toughest opponent, Richmond, was a close three-point win. Last week, New Hampshire survived a 5-5 Maine team 20-12. Doesn’t really sound like the best team in the FCS. The Wildcats are good, you have to be to go 10-1, but the top seed seems generous.
2. What Top 8 Seeds are on Upset Alert?
There is always a team or two who go down in the second round as a top eight seed. The four/five seeds need to look out as Illinois State and Eastern Washington may have tough match-ups. Illinois State shared the Missouri Valley Football Conference (FCS best five teams in the field) with North Dakota State but may have to deal with a dangerous Northern Iowa club. UNI lost to Illinois State by 14 on Nov. 1 but the Panthers did beat North Dakota State and almost shocked Iowa.
Montana should cruise through San Diego and meet conference rival Eastern Washington in the second round. Again, EWU won the first meeting but it was close. Beating a team like Northern Iowa and Montana twice in the same year is not easy. Montana is number one in FCS in turnover margin at plus 16. Eastern Washington better protect the ball in that game.
Chattanooga, the eight seed, would be favored against the Eastern Kentucky/Indiana State winner but it will not be a cake walk. And if you think Villanova is looking forward to the winner of James Madison/Liberty you’re crazy.
3. Will North Dakota State make it four straight championships?
The Bison have the best defense in the field giving up just 255 yards per game. The question for them will be on offense. North Dakota State averaged 429 yards per game so it’s hard to see them struggling, especially at home. Their first two games should be a breeze as the semifinals and championship will be the only places for the Bison to falter. But there is one team I think can beat them.
4. The Dark Horse: Jacksonville State
The Gamecocks are number four in offense and number 14 in defense. That’s a juggernaut folks. Jacksonville State won at Chattanooga in week 2 and should be ready to challenge anyone, including North Dakota State. That’s why I’m picking Jacksonville State to win it all this year.
Northern Illinois was bashed by the national media last year for making it to a BCS bowl. This year, the 4-0 Huskies have taken down two Big Ten Conference schools, (Iowa and Purdue) the first Mid-American Conference team to do that in one season. Northern Illinois didn’t just beat Purdue, it bombed Purdue back into the stone age 55-24. Somehow the Boilermakers outgained the Huskies in total yards 524-402, but five turnovers killed any chance Purdue had.
The win was not an upset for NIU but forcing Purdue to surrender the most points ever at Ross-Ade Stadium sure was. Purdue plays Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Penn State on a regular basis yet those schools scored less at Purdue than a MAC team. Anyone still think Northern Illinois had no business in the Orange Bowl last year?
Virginia Tech is a football program with a proud tradition. Wearing strange uniforms is for teams that have no tradition and are desperate enough to attract fans using gimmicks. So when I see a proud football program like Virginia Tech wear something like this…
It’s just unnecessary. Apparently, stone means something to those in Blacksburg, VA but to the rest of the nation it’s only a gray blob on television.
Some of the scores that caught my eye this week…
- Another MAC school in Buffalo went bonkers on Connecticut 41-12. Buffalo needed five overtimes to squeak past FCS Stony Brook yet it could humiliate a BCS school at home. UConn dropped to 0-4 and fired its coach Paul Pasqualoni Monday. This coming one week after UConn nearly pulled off the upset over Michigan the previous week. I’m against firing coaches in September as it destroys any meaning the other two-thirds of the season can have. Looking at you USC Trojans.
- East Carolina didn’t just beat North Carolina Saturday it destroyed UNC’s dignity. The Pirates went on the road and came out with a 55-31 win. It was 28-10 at halftime! Just think about this. High school football players in that state dream about playing for their state school in the ACC. Not the Conference USA school that has a cardinal direction in its name. Yet somehow East Carolina has taken in more talent than its alpha dog brother in Chapel Hill. I don’t think the Pirates look up to the Tar Heels anymore.
- Tennessee nearly lost to South Alabama 31-24. People in Southeastern Conference country have a stroke when one of their own drops a game a Sun Belt team, the motel of college football. Losing to South Alabama would have been even worse as the Jaguars have only existed for five seasons now. The Volunteers better count their blessings for dodging this disaster.
- Western Kentucky held down Navy winning 19-7 in Bowling Green. This is a Navy team that popped Indiana of the Big Ten for 41 points. Yet Western Kentucky’s defense held Navy’s tricky option attack to just a touchdown. I don’t like their head coach Bobby Petrino for his well documented history (Atlanta Falcons and Arkansas) but he and the Hilltoppers (3-2) are getting things done.
- Boise State hung up 60 points in its 60-7 win over Southern Mississippi. This came after losing at Fresno State the week before. I think it’s safe to say the Broncos were in need of venting their frustration.
I was wrong
Last week I labeled West Virginia as a bear market team after it lost to Maryland 37-0. Just when I buried the Mountaineers, they pulled of a major upset at home against the No. 11 Cowboys of Oklahoma State. I didn’t see the 30-21 win coming at all. My apologies Mountaineer fans. As for Oklahoma State… what happened?
FCS Jacksonville State has played in three straight contests that went into overtime against three different levels of competition. On September 14, JSU escaped humiliation defeating division II North Alabama 24-21 in OT. Then the Gamecocks restored pride to the program taking down the worst team in FBS, the Georgia State Panthers, 32-26 in overtime again. The streak ended for Jacksonville State Saturday losing to FCS Murray State 35-34 as the Racers converted on a gutsy two-point conversion call in overtime. One thing for sure, JSU season ticket holders are getting their money’s worth with all the free football. For those wondering, Jacksonville State is located in Alabama, not Jacksonville, Florida. The latter is probably never going to see a quality NFL team play there again. Well, not unless you count the visiting team.
Texas State went all out in making a big deal about their home game against Wyoming. Check out their Twitter profile picture simply saying “Beat Wyoming.” Not sure that’s a big enough game to change your profile picture as it makes it look like every Saturday is life or death. Playing in the Sun Belt conference makes that a problem. Texas State made its Twitter account proud taking down Wyoming 42-21 in a game delayed by lighting. That’s Mother Nature telling Texas State “Tweet this!”
The most depressing tweet goes to Eastern Kentucky, whose program was pasted by Eastern Illinois Saturday 42-7. I previously talked about how good EIU’s quarterback is as Jimmy Garoppolo shredded another defense for over 300 yards passing. Eastern Kentucky’s Twitter seemed to throw in the towel like its team Saturday.
FB: Unfortunately, @EKUFootball turns it over again and it’s costly. EIU returns a fumble 70 yards for a score. It’s 35-0 EIU.
— EKU Sports (@EKUSports) September 28, 2013
Chances are you don’t have to tweet this Eastern Kentucky. Do what the other bad football schools do and tweet about women’s volleyball. You can thank me later.