Last season was an atrocity committed against the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
The Football Championship Subdivision playoff selection committee inexplicably gave the MVFC one — only one — at-large bid into the 24-team playoff field. At-large South Dakota State “upset” at-large Northern Arizona from the Big Sky Conference before running into the offensive juggernaut of Vernon Adams and Cooper Kupp from Eastern Washington.
Of course, we all remember the Bison redeeming the conference by destroying every team in its path to a third consecutive FCS championship.
It’s evident the Valley beat one another up last season. Four teams went 5-3 in conference play and three of the teams had above .500 records. What ultimately hurt the Valley last season was its lack of dominance in games against non-conference opponents.
This season that’s changed.
The Valley went 23-1 against non-conference opponents this season with the only loss coming when South Dakota lost to No. 2 Eastern Washington by eight.
The out of conference butt-kicking the Valley laid down on the rest of the FCS impressed not only the human polls, but the computer rankings, too.
The Gridiron Power Index is what the FCS uses to rank at-large bids for the 24-team playoff at the end of the season.
Not only does it rank the at-large bids, or the teams that didn’t win their conference, it is also used as an indicator of the best teams and conferences in the FCS. The formula uses two major FCS rankings — Coaches Poll and Sport Network Poll — including seven computer-generated algorithm polls.
Before this past weekend’s slate of games, the MVFC had four teams in the top 10 of the GPI and nine of its members in the top 25. To put these numbers in perspective, the Big Sky, Colonial Athletic Association and Southland Conference had a combined nine teams in the top 25 of the GPI.
This should mean the Valley would be represented well in the 24-team playoff field, but how well?
Let’s assume every team with a higher GPI that’s currently tied for first in its conference will receive its conference’s automatic bid. (Note: This is based off of standings from last week, before Saturday’s game.)
For example, in the Southern Conference, Western Carolina and Chattanooga are tied for first, but Chattanooga’s GPI is at 16 while Western’s is at 34. So in effect, we assume Chattanooga will receive the automatic bid.
If we use this same template for the rest of the conferences, countdown who’s remaining in the GPI top 25 and give those schools at-large bids.
Seven teams from the Valley would receive at-large bids.
Counting NDSU’s automatic bid because they are tied for first but have a higher GPI than Illinois State, eight teams in the Valley would make the FCS Playoffs.
That’s 80 percent of the teams in the conference. That’s four more teams than the Valley had in the playoffs in 2003, when it sent an all-time four teams to the playoffs. That’s one third of the teams in the playoffs coming from the Valley.
Wrap your heads around that, Brad Edwards and Craig Haley.
Of course, it will never happen. The inevitable shlacking each team in the Valley will take for the next four weeks will hurt some team’s GPI. It’s already happening.
If I were to put a number on it, I think at least six teams from the Valley will make the playoffs this season. Which ones? You’ll just have to wait and see in Thursday’s column.