Not playing 12 games leaves FCS playoff candidates at risk
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - The number of candidates for spots in the FCS playoffs is huge heading into November with well more than double the 24 teams that will squeeze into the field.
Some teams will leave no doubt about their candidacy and others will flame out by Selection Sunday (Nov. 24). Regardless, the final at-large choices will be the toughest when the NCAA Division I selection committee makes some apples-to-oranges decisions between teams from different conferences.
In a year when a later Thanksgiving weekend has allowed FCS teams to schedule 12 regular-season games instead of the usual 11, some didn't take advantage of the opportunity, and it may hurt their resumes. Three teams earned at-large bids with only six wins last year, but the committee could shift back to requiring seven this year, so it's better to have more opportunities.
Here are some key playoff candidates that aren't playing 12 regular-season games:
Wofford (5-2) - The No. 23 Terriers lost to South Carolina State and Samford to begin their season, but have won five straight games and moved into a tie for first place in the Southern Conference by defeating Chattanooga in overtime last Saturday. None of Terriers' wins is against a team currently above .500, so earning the automatic qualifying bid in the conference may be necessary. Remaining games: at Clemson (8-0), at Mercer (3-5), Furman (5-3) and at The Citadel (5-4).
North Dakota (5-3) - The No. 24 Fighting Hawks, an FCS independent, have a wild resume with Top 25 wins over Sam Houston State, UC Davis and Montana State, but also three FCS losses, including to top-ranked North Dakota State, by a combined 81 points. They're 4-0 at home and 1-3 on the road. Remaining games: at Weber State (6-2), Northern Colorado (1-7) and Southern Utah (2-7).
New Hampshire (4-3) - An unexpected loss to Holy Cross to open the season is most damaging on a resume that includes CAA wins over Elon and Stony Brook and a nonconference victory over Duquesne. What's left on the schedule is challenging. Remaining games: Villanova (6-2), at James Madison (8-1), at Albany (5-3) and Maine (3-5).
Elon (4-4) - What remains on the Phoenix's CAA schedule is more manageable than originally expected. They've prepped for it quite well, including wins over The Citadel, Richmond and Delaware and losses to North Carolina A&T, Wake Forest, James Madison and New Hampshire. Remaining games: William & Mary (2-6), Maine (3-5) and at Towson (4-4).
Duquesne (5-2) - The Dukes have a sub-Division I win that won't count on their resume. If they don't win the auto bid in the Northeast Conference, it means the Dukes would suffer at least one more loss and probably not have the necessary strength out of schedule for an at-large bid. Remaining games: Saint Francis (4-4), at Robert Morris (4-4), at Bryant (2-7) and Central Connecticut State (7-1).
Campbell (6-1) - The only loss is to FBS Troy, but the Fighting Camels started their six-game winning streak with a sub-D-I win. With a low strength of schedule, the Big South auto bid is surely their only way into the playoffs, but at least they get the other two conference unbeatens at home. Remaining games: at North Alabama (2-6), Kennesaw State (7-1), Monmouth (6-2) and at Charleston Southern (2-6).
Other Circumstances - Southeastern Louisiana (4-3) scheduled 12 games, but its Sept. 7 trip to Bethune-Cookman was canceled due to the effects of Hurricane Dorian. The Southland squad has a win over Jacksonville State and some quality losses. Bethune-Cookman (6-2) is joined by North Carolina A&T (5-2) and South Carolina State (5-2) as MEAC teams that are candidates for at-large bids while the conference champ goes off to the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. But all three of those teams limited themselves to 11-game schedules.
Updated October 30, 2019