This week, the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers unveiled their “mistaken on so many levels” mascot named “Gritty”. A bug-eyed, orange psycho Muppet that is named after America’s least-favorite sportswriter adjective, it’s not abundantly clear if it’s just a misfire on every conceivable level, or whether Philadelphia Flyers fans will embrace his unloveable demeanor in a “so bad, it’s actually good” way.
In some ways, my FCS Playoff picks are similar. They might seem like a good idea in September, but when the games really start to count they might start to age like, well, “Gritty” during a long Flyers losing streak.
Like Gritty, however, I will not be deterred from making my projections for the FCS Playoffs this week, a week where a team sharing Gritty’s colors put in an unloveable appearance of their own to fall out of my FCS Playoff prediction and a more loveable Cowboy underdog rises in their place in the prognostications.
As I mentioned last week, my methodology is one of pure guts and eyeball tests. No math will be involved, I promise. And this week, it’s “Gritty.”
Once again, a quick recap of the rules for the ability to qualify for the FCS Playoffs:
The field for the FCS Playoffs is determined at the conclusion of the FCS regular season, which is the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
There are 10 conferences that get autobids to the playoffs, the Big Sky, Big South, CAA, Northeast, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, Patriot League, Pioneer Football League, Southern, and Southland Conferences.
Two conferences, the SWAC and MEAC, choose to send their champions to the Celebration Bowl, a postseason event that’s separate from the FCS playoffs. (Additionally, the SWAC also plays a championship game, and also have scheduled some games on Thanksgiving or beyond.) What this means is that their conference champions play in the Heritage Bowl and not the playoffs, though second-placed teams that don’t have Thanksgiving or later games could be considered instead,
A third, the Ivy League, chooses to not send its members to the FCS playoffs.
Projected Conference Champions/Autobid Winners:
- Big Sky: Weber State doesn’t really feel overlooked anymore, but their expected 45-28 win over Northern Colorado will have me continue to annoyingly stick to my guns about them winning the Big Sky.
- Big South: Kennesaw State beat Clark Atlanta 70-12. That’s, um, pretty much all I got. They are still the class of the Big South.
- Colonial Athletic Association: Something something James Madison. Again, no analys is really necessary.
- Missouri Valley: North Dakota State. Even the most hardened cynic has to be impressed that the Bison effectively made their game uncompetitive with the Blue Hens in the first five minutes of play.
- Northeast: Under the heading of “I don’t really know much,” last week I picked Wagner to win the NEC autobid, and then they were thoroughly trounced by Sacred Heart 41-14. At 3-0, the Pioneers have a very tough stretch ahead against Dartmouth and Penn, and have two tough conference games on the road against Duquesne and Central Connecticut State, but at this point… why not Sacred Heart? Remember, this isn’t math, this is guts, and this 3-0 pick of Sacred Heart is pure guts, which is frankly all I’ve got here.
- Ohio Valley: Jacksonville State is still written in Sharpie, and with Austin Peay getting upset by 1-3 UT Martin, that pick is aging finer than the Phillie Phanatic. Moving on.
- Patriot League: Colgate beat conference-mate Lafayette 45-0 this weekend to go 2-0 in the Patriot League, and it’s seeming like it might require an act of God – or, perhaps, Lehigh – to derail the Raiders from getting the autobid.
- Pioneer: San Diego is still the favorite. Of course, the Toreros were on a bye last week, so it’s really just a gut feel that they are still the same team.
- Southern: Wofford is still my pick to win the SoCon, but the emergence of Chattanooga into a title contender after crushing the FCS Playoff hopes and dreams of The Citadel and Samford is something to monitor. If the Mocs go on the road and beat 3-1 East Tennessee State on the road this weekend, they are staring squarely at a playoff spot at 5-0, even if they slip up as underdogs against Wofford and FBS South Carolina.
- Southland: As alert readers have probably guessed, the “anti-Gritty” team that fell their way out of my FCS Playoff picture is orange-clad Sam Houston State, only one week after I picked them to not only win the Southland, but capture a No. 4 seed. Aside from the fact that it seems inevitable that Central Arkansas will officially eliminate the Bearkats from pretty much everything with a win thins weekend at home, the Bearkats’ downfall seems to point to McNeese State being the favorites to win the Southland – if they can beat Central Arkansas at home in October.
Falling out of the seeding conversation is Sam Houston State and entering the seeding conversation is Maine.
The Black Bears’ 2-1 start is pretty remarkable, and the road ahead in the brutal CAA is, as always tricky, but as of right now they seem the best poised to make it through the gauntlet and get that final seed.
- James Madison
- North Dakota State
- Jacksonville State
- Kennesaw State
- South Dakota State
- Weber State
Rest of the field:
Chattanooga, Colgate, Central Arkansas, Eastern Washington, Elon, Montana, McNeese State, Northern Iowa, Nicholls, Illinois State, Sacred Heart, San Diego, Stony Brook, Villanova, Western Illinois, UC Davis
Last Four In:
Western Illinois, Montana State, UC Davis, Nicholls
First Four Out:
Montana State, Sam Houston State, Rhode Island, South Dakota