Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - As we say hello to the 2010 FCS playoff
field, let's give a sympathetic goodbye to the teams whose bubble burst Sunday
It's not that Jacksonville or Liberty had reason to be overconfident about
gaining at-large bids. But the reality of the news was crushing nonetheless.
Jacksonville (10-1) did everything but beat No. 1 playoff seed Appalachian
State - an unlikely scenario - so coach Kerwin Bell and the Dolphins have to
be especially upset with the NCAA selection committee.
Is the committee taking the non-scholarship schools of the Pioneer Football
League seriously? That's probably debatable considering the 10-school league
was the only one that was denied an automatic qualifying bid for this season's
Jacksonville leads the FCS in scoring and total offense, and with its parade
of offensive standouts, seemed to be worthy of a bid.
Liberty (8-3), well, it has a loss to Coastal Carolina two weeks ago to blame
for its predicament. Coach Danny Rocco seemed to have all the pieces in place
for a run to the Big South's first AQ bid, but, once again, the Flames find
themselves outside looking in at the playoffs.
If North Dakota State (7-4) and South Carolina State (9-2) are in the field as
the last qualifiers, then Jacksonville and Liberty believe they should be in,
Not that North Dakota State and South Carolina State are any less worthy - the
bubble teams are all close. What it shows is that with the growth of the FCS
to 124 teams, and eventually even to a higher total, a 20-team playoff field
is too small.
Most FCS coaches favor a 24-team field for the future. Hopefully, the FCS is
Now some thoughts on who is in the field:
Best First-Round Matchup: South Carolina State (9-2) at Georgia Southern
(7-4). Coach Buddy Pough's MEAC power let a first-round win slip away against
Appalachian State last year. Now the Bulldogs go on the road to another
Southern Conference school with a decided home-field advantage. Georgia
Southern, behind nose tackle Brent Russell, is strong against the run - which
is uncommon in the SoCon this year - so its defense could shut down the
Bulldogs' game plan. But the Bulldogs have built enough momentum with a five-
game winning streak that it's hard to believe this game will not come down to
the fourth quarter.
Best Second-Round Matchup: Oh, yes, Villanova (7-4) at Stephen F. Austin
(9-2). The defending FCS champion Wildcats hope this isn't their first trip to
Texas this postseason (but the championship on Jan. 7 in Frisco is a long way
off). Still, this matchup has the feel of an old-time title fight because the
defending champ is hobbled by injuries and on enemy soil. SFA senior
quarterback Jeremy Moses' record-setting career has seemingly built up to this
big spot. Villanova coach Andy Talley doesn't like being in track meets, but
this just might be one.
Best Potential Quarterfinal-Round Matchup: With apologies to Villanova at top-
seeded Appalachian State (9-2) - should that matchup come off - Eastern
Washington (9-2) at Montana State (9-2). All that would be missing from this
battle of Big Sky Conference co-champions is EWU's red turf. Considering
Montana State won the regular-season meeting, 30-7, the selection committee
did what's right by giving the Bobcats a higher seed than EWU - 5 to 4.
However, EWU, now No. 1-ranked in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25,
hasn't lost since that Sept. 25 game, and tailback Taiwan Jones and linebacker
J.C. Sherritt are playing at a high level at the right time of the season.
Best Potential Semifinal-Round Matchup: Delaware (9-2) at William & Mary
(8-3). Just another day in CAA Football, eh? These two powers were both ranked
No. 1 earlier this month, and they were separated by one point - 17-16 - in
the regular-season meeting that William & Mary won at home on Oct. 23. This
would be a chance for Blue Hens' quarterback Pat Devlin to win over doubters -
everybody wants the next Joe Flacco at UD - and raise his NFL stock. This game
also would be played in Williamsburg, Va., again - where William & Mary has
won all 11 games over the past two seasons. The Tribe fell one game shy of the
national title game last season. They now have their highest seed ever to take
the next step.
Best Potential Final: OK, take a pick of any matchup between Appalachian State
or Villanova and William & Mary or Delaware. Villanova? Well, it would likely
have to win three straight road games to get to the final. But a star-studded
defending champion can't be overlooked. App State and William & Mary have
home-field advantage through the semifinals and warrant the favorite's role in
their respective halves of the bracket. Delaware is a one-point loss to
William & Mary and an overtime loss to Villanova away from a perfect regular
No matter how it ends up, the right team will emerge in Frisco. Who needs a
computer to decide which teams will play for the national title.
FCS PLAYOFF PROJECTION ...
In the FCS Huddle's playoff projection can be found at
Good luck to all 20 teams.
The Sports Network