Back in September, the Missouri Valley Football Conference had the opportunity to show the rest of the college football landscape its football supremacy. Game by game, MVFC teams exerted dominance against its peers, compiling a 23-1 record against non-conference FCS opponents. Nine teams crawled into the GPI Top 25, while seven climbed into the FCS Coaches’ Poll. It was unprecedented success for an FCS conference.
Then conference play happened and no one came away unscathed.
No. 8 Illinois State and three-time champ No. 3 North Dakota State were both kept from perfection by No. 11 Northern Iowa. Meanwhile, before the Panthers’s back-to-back upset, No. 18 Indiana State, coming off a 2013 that resulted in zero Valley wins, defeated UNI during the first weekend in October. Indiana State lost to No. 16 South Dakota State, who lost to No. 20 Youngstown State, who lost to Western Illinois at home, who lost to Illinois State and NDSU by a combined 10 points.
You still with me?
In layman’s terms, the Valley is so good and there’s so much parity that half the teams were eliminated from FCS playoff contention because math says so. But as for the other half of the conference, who will get in and who will be left on the sidelines?
With the last weekend of regular season football in the FCS on deck for Saturday, the playoffs are within reach for a handful of teams in the MVFC.
If both Illinois State and NDSU win Saturday, they will share the Valley title and should both receive first-round byes in the 24-team FCS playoffs.
Unfortunately, a win for the Bison means a loss for Youngstown St. (7-4), which eliminates the Penguins from the playoff discussion while being ranked in the top 15 in GPI rankings.
In fact, nine teams in the Valley remain in the top 25 of the GPI rankings coming into this weekend. The GPI combines both human polls and computer polls. But as UNI athletic director and FCS playoff committee member Troy Dannen said to local media members Jeff Kolpack and Dom Izzo, the GPI doesn’t play a role in the playoff committee’s selection process. (I still don’t understand why, but I digress.)
At 7-4, UNI should take care of business at home against Missouri State, springing them into the playoffs with eight wins.
Next is SDSU. The Jackrabbits have overcome the loss of their starting quarterback and positioned themselves to receive an at-large bid into the playoffs with a win over in-state rival USD this weekend.
Now onto Indiana State. The Sycamores are 7-4 on the season, including convincing wins over FBS member Ball State, UNI and Liberty, who ranks 23rd in GPI.
If the Sycamores go on the road and defeat WIU Saturday, they should be the fifth team to receive a spot in the playoffs from the Missouri Valley.
The Valley has never received more than four bids into the FCS playoff. And with the Colonial Athletic Association, Big Sky and Southland Conference all fighting for extra playoff bids, a Valley team could be shown the door and left out of the playoff bracket.
George Hammond of College Sports Madness sees five teams from the Valley getting in and barring an upset. There’s no reason all five should get in.
“If” is always a tall order in the Valley. And for one more weekend, if all-hell doesn’t break loose, the committee will have no choice but to litter the playoff bracket with teams from the Valley.