The final release of the FCS Playoff rankings comes tonight, which will give us some clarity about what the likely top eight seeds will be on Selection Sunday. However, we will not find out who’s safe from the bubble tonight, which makes that topic even more pressing. As previously discussed, I believe there are 19 teams safely into the field, which means there are five open spots. We’ll discuss the top candidates to fill out the field.
The Bubble Teams
- Illinois State (6-5): The Redbirds are in the clubhouse with a 6-5 record, winning their final three games. BEST WINS: Northwestern, South Dakota State and Western Illinois. BAD LOSSES: Eastern Illinois and Indiana State. SUMMARY: The Redbirds have an impressive resume, I like the FBS win, plus I think they beat two playoff teams in SDSU and Western. ISU will need a 6-4 team to lose Saturday. SUNDAY STATUS: OUT
- Northern Iowa (5-5): UNI is putting together its typical late season surge, winning its last two games in convincing fashion. The Panthers played the toughest schedule in my mind, Montana, Eastern Washington in non-conference play. Now they have a shot at the playoffs with a win and in game in my opinion. BEST WINS: Iowa state (FBS) and Western Illinois. BAD LOSSES: USD. SUMMARY: If they beat South Dakota State Saturday, UNI is IN. SUNDAY STATUS: WIN AND IN.
- Western Illinois (6-4): Western is really an intriguing team. The Leathernecks were at one point 5-1 and a lock for the FCS Playoffs. But losses in three of their last four games have put their postseason in doubt. BEST WINS: Northern Illinois (FBS) and that’s it. That’s a problem. BAD LOSSES: They don’t have a bad loss, but didn’t beat any of the teams they needed to (NDSU, SDSU, UNI and Illinois State). SUMMARY: Even if they beat Mo State on Saturday, their status is very much in doubt. SUNDAY STATUS: OUT
- Weber State (6-4): Weber is a team what might have been. The Wildcats lost in double-OT to USD, and came up short against Utah State and UND. BEST WINS: Cal Poly. BAD LOSSES: USD and Northern Arizona each hurt, both are non-playoff teams. SUMMARY: If they beat Idaho State Saturday and depending on how Cal Poly does, they have an argument. The head to head on Poly helps. SUNDAY STATUS: OUT
- Cal Poly (6-4): The Mustangs have been a roller coaster ride. A tremendous start, but has been undone with two straight losses. BEST WINS: South Dakota State, Montana. BAD LOSSES: Weber State, that could keep them out. SUMMARY: Beat Northern Colorado and I believe they’re in. SUNDAY STATUS: IN
- Montana (6-4): Hard to imagine the Griz are in this spot, but three losses in the last four games has things tenuous in Missoula. BEST WINS: St. Francis (won NEC), Northern Iowa. BAD LOSSES: Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado. SUMMARY: It’s down to the Brawl of the Wild Game, beat Montana State and with the Griz’ history of big crowds, they’ll make the playoffs. SUNDAY STATUS: IN
- Liberty (6-4): Only by record do I include the Flames and the possibility if they win their final game would they get considered. BEST WINS: Find one for me. They beat Jacksonville (not Jacksonville State, Presbyterian, Gardner-Webb, and Monmouth) BAD LOSSES: They lost 2 FBS games, and beaten by two playoff teams Jax State and Charleston Southern. SUMMARY: If they beat Coastal Carolina, they’ll give the committee something to think about. SUNDAY STATUS: OUT
- Maine (6-4): Wild year for the Black Bears, lost their first three, then won five straight. Now in position to make the postseason, depending on what happens Saturday. BEST WINS: Albany and Stony Brook. BAD LOSSES: They lost twice to FBS schools, FCS losses were to James Madison and Villanova, so none that really hurt. SUMMARY: If they beat New Hampshire, they’ve got a good shot. SUNDAY STATUS: IN
- New Hampshire (6-4): The nation’s longest streak of making the postseason is in serious jeopardy. The Wildcats need a win Saturday. BEST WINS: Stony Brook (not a great resume) BAD LOSSES: Dartmouth, lost to James Madison and Albany. SUMMARY: All comes down to showdown with Maine, win and make it difficult for the committee. SUNDAY STATUS: OUT
- Albany (6-4): The Great Danes are in enviable spot, they have a solid resume and I think a win would put them in. BEST WINS: Buffalo (FBS), St. Francis (won NEC), New Hampshire. BAD LOSSES: Delaware. SUMMARY: It comes down again to a win and in, if they beat Stony Brook, they advance. SUNDAY STATUS: IN
- Tennessee-Martin (7-4): The Skyhawks could really screw things up. They beat Jacksonville State and will clinch the Ohio Valley auto-bid, stealing an at-large from some one. BEST WINS: They don’t have any, they also have a non D-1 win. BAD LOSSES: UTM played three FBS teams. SUMMARY: Tall task to knock off JSU on the road. SUNDAY STATUS: OUT
- Fordham (7-3): The pride of the Bronx head into the final week hoping that if they get eight wins that will appeal to the committee, but problem is, their resume will hurt them. BEST WINS: Penn, have a non D-win. BAD LOSSES: Monmouth. SUMMARY: Even if they beat Bucknell on Saturday, I just don’t see a way for them to the postseason. SUNDAY STATUS: OUT
So there you go. Those are the teams to watch on Saturday. Some situations will take care of themselves (head to head); others are going to sweat it out Sunday morning.