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Will the bubble burst on your team?

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If the bubble burst on your favorite Football Championship Subdivision team on Saturday, sorry about the mess.

Clean up is in Aisle 21, located just outside the 20-team playoff field.

Saturday's action KO'd the hopes of some teams, but others moved into the picture with one week of remaining action, so it's hardly clear at this point.

The FCS playoff field will be announced next Sunday during a 30-minute selection show on ESPNU, beginning at 10 a.m. EST.

Let's try to bring some clarity to this wild season:

10 Automatic Qualifiers

Big Sky: Montana State (8-2) or Eastern Washington (8-2). Whoever doesn't earn the conference's automatic bid expects to get an at-large bid.

Big South: Stony Brook (6-4), Liberty (7-3) or Coastal Carolina (5-5). Stony Brook is 5-0 in conference play and has a one-game lead over both Liberty, which it will visit next Saturday, and Coastal Carolina, which will host Charleston Southern. If there's a two-way tie for first place, it can only be between Stony Brook and Liberty, and that would mean Liberty won the head-to- head meeting to secure the auto bid. If there's a three-way tie, then it's expected to go to a fourth tie-breaker - points allowed in conference games - and Stony Brook has a big lead in that category.

CAA Football: Delaware (9-1) will earn the auto bid with a win over Villanova or a William & Mary loss to Richmond. William & Mary (7-3) would earn the auto bid with a win and a Delaware loss.

Bethune-Cookman QB Matthew Johnson leads the Wildcats' hopes.
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference: Bethune-Cookman (10-0) is in great shape with a 7-0 record in conference games and a one-game lead over Florida A&M (7-3) and South Carolina State (8-2). The Wildcats will get the auto bid with a win over Florida A&M at the Florida Classic in Orlando. If they lose, they would still get the bid if there's a three-way tie for the title because they own that tie-breaker (a points system for the strength of non-conference wins). If there's a two-way tie for the title for first place, that would mean South Carolina State has been upset by North Carolina A&T, and Florida A&M would hold the head-to-head tie-breaker with Bethune-Cookman.

Missouri Valley Football Conference: Northern Iowa (7-3) has clinched the auto bid.

Northeast Conference: Robert Morris (8-2) has clinched the auto bid.

Ohio Valley Conference: Jacksonville State (9-1) or Southeast Missouri State (9-2). Separated by two points this past Saturday, Jacksonville State will get the auto bid with a win at Tennessee State. SEMO will get the bid if the Gamecocks lose their final regular-season game. Either way, the second-place team expects to get an at-large bid.

Patriot League: Lehigh (8-2) has clinched the auto bid.

Southern Conference: Appalachian State (9-1) has clinched the auto bid.

Southland Conference: Stephen F. Austin (8-2) will get the auto bid with a home win over Northwestern State. McNeese State (6-4) is tied for first place, but lost to Stephen F. Austin, so it needs to win at Central Arkansas and have the Lumberjacks lose to Northwestern State.

10 At-Large Bids

If you figure Montana State or Eastern Washington from the Big Sky, and Jacksonville State or Southeast Missouri State from the OVC will get at-large bids, then that's two of the 10 at-large bids. William & Mary, despite its tumble on Saturday as No. 1 in the nation, has a strong enough resume even with a loss to Richmond, which is trying to play its way into the field. It's pretty much the same for Wofford, which is facing a Chattanooga squad that is trying to force itself into the field. We're assuming Stephen F. Austin earns an auto bid, so that puts us at 14 overall selections.

That would leave six spots for nine teams that believe they are in with a win next Saturday: Villanova (6-4), the defending national champion which has to go to soon-to-be No. 1 Delaware; Montana (7-3), which faces a difficult home game against Montana State; North Dakota State (7-3), which visits Missouri State; New Hampshire (6-4), which hosts Towson; Massachusetts (6-4), which visits Rhode Island; Western Illinois (6-4), which hosts Northern Iowa; Richmond (6-4), which visits William & Mary; Georgia Southern (6-4), which visits Furman; and Chattanooga (6-4), which visits Wofford.

It's asking a lot for all nine of those teams to win next Saturday, so losses by more than three of them could open up the picture for the following teams with flaws on their resume:

Liberty, Jacksonville (10-1), Dayton (10-1), McNeese State (6-4) and South Carolina State (8-2), whose strength of schedule are weaker than the teams who are in with a win.

Sacramento State (6-4), which has to beat UC Davis and hope that only six Division I wins is enough.

Central Arkansas (6-4), which, with a victory over McNeese State, would only have six Division I wins.

Cal Poly (7-4), which has only six Division I wins and seemingly has fallen out of the picture with a loss to UC Davis on Saturday

Jacksonville and McNeese State probably stand the best chance of this next group. But if Florida A&M wins the MEAC auto bid, would Bethune-Cookman, at 10-1, make the field? A MEAC team hasn't won a playoff game since 1999, so it might be tough for the conference to get two bids.

No team with more than four losses has received an at-large bid, so if teams like Villanova, Richmond, UMass, New Hampshire, Western Illinois, Georgia Southern and Chattanooga lose next Saturday, the decisions on final spots will be particularly tight.

EXTRA POINTS

Appalachian State jumped to a 38-0 lead in its 43-13 romp over Wofford on Saturday in the Southern Conference's biggest game of the season. Senior running back Devon Moore has battled injury issues, but came on strong with 115 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries ... Also in SoCon, Elon tripped up Furman, 30-25. Senior quarterback Scott Riddle became the FCS' all-time leader in completions with 1,143 ... Savannah State (1-9) snapped an FCS-high 11-game losing streak by beating North Carolina Central, 28-21. Sheldon Barnes rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown, and Simon Heyward, Alakan Thomas and Jaquan Trammell also caught touchdown passes for interim head coach Julius Dixon ... On Weber State's first play of a 27-26 win over Northern Arizona, senior quarterback Cameron Higgins threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Joe Collins to set the Big Sky record with 97 career TD passes ... What a way for UC Davis to basically knock Cal Poly out of the playoff picture. The Aggies scored the final 22 points of a 22-21 win over Cal Poly in the Great West Conference. Randy Wright connected with Sean Creadick for a five-yard touchdown with 35 seconds remaining before Sean Kelley delivered the decisive PAT ... North Dakota, also from the Great West, lost its 1,000th all-time game, falling to Montana, 27-17. For the winning Griz, Chase Reynolds rushed for 173 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the school's record holder for rushing touchdowns in a career with 51 ... Coastal Carolina quarterback Zach MacDowall remained on fire in the Chanticleers' 45-31 win over Liberty. He completed 25-of-27 passes and tied his school record with 382 passing yards. All three of MacDowall's touchdown passes went to freshman Matt Hazel, and he also rushed for a TD ... Credit Nicholls for catching an opponent looking ahead. Northwestern State had aspiration of winning the Southland Conference title next Saturday against Stephen F. Austin, but Nicholls went on the road to post a 37-7 victory. The Colonials (3-7, 2-4) converted three of their four interceptions into points, and LaQuintin Caston ran for three touchdowns ... Stony Brook freshman Davonte Anderson joined Western Carolina's Torez Jones as players with four interceptions in one game. Anderson's big day dominated Gardner-Webb in a 55-3 win ... Linebacker Patrick Weldon had 18 tackles and two interceptions, and Richmond forced seven turnovers in its 15-6 win over Rhode Island. The win was the 41st for this year's Spiders senior class, tying a program record ... It's a mere formality that Penn will sweep through a second straight perfect season in the Ivy League. Coach Al Bagnoli and the Quakers (8-1, 6-0) visit struggling Cornell next Saturday ... Dayton and Jacksonville shared the Pioneer Football League titles, both going 10-1 overall and 8-0 in league play. The 10 PFL teams play all but one league member and, unfortunately, Dayton and Jacksonville did not face each other this season ... San Diego junior defensive end Mario Kurn had 3.5 sacks against Davidson, giving him a national-best 17 in the Toreros' 5-6 season ... Sophomore linebacker Jayson DiManche had three sacks as Southern Illinois' defense had an answer for Western Illinois' high-flying offense, notching a 20-10 win in the Missouri Valley Conference ... Bryant brought playoff-bound Robert Morris back to earth with a 27-21 upset in the NEC. Well, maybe it wasn't an upset. Coach Marty Fine's program is 3-0 all-time against Robert Morris and 8-0 all-time against NEC schools from Pennsylvania ... Downpour? What downpour? Quarterback Casey Brockman threw for 497 yards and Murray State amassed 673 yards of offense in a 61-35 whipping of Austin Peay in, yes, a downpour in Clarksville, Tennessee. That gives Brockman the FCS' two highest passing totals this season. He threw for 570 yards against Missouri State on October 9 ... Jacksonville State won the big game in the OVC, topping Southeast Missouri State, 29-27, on Marques Ivory's 17-yard touchdown pass to Alan Bonner with 11 seconds remaining ... Alabama State clinched a spot in the SWAC championship game for the first time since 2005. Coach Reggie Barlow's Eastern Division champions will play either Texas Southern or Grambling State from the Western Division on December 11 in Birmingham, Alabama ... There might be an instructional video in Josh Eden's future. The Bucknell junior blocked three extra-point tries in a 31-7 loss to Colgate. That gave Eden five blocked kicks in the last two games and eight for the season.

SNEAK PEEK

There are plenty of big games next Saturday, but perhaps the biggest involves one of the best rivalries in the FCS, Montana State at Montana in the Big Sky (OK, Harvard-Yale, Lafayette-Lehigh and many other rivalries rank up there, too). What makes Montana State-Montana particularly important is that Montana has made the playoffs a record 17 straight seasons and needs to beat the visiting Bobcats to get to seven Division I wins, which isn't a hardlined rule for the NCAA selection committee but a favored policy.

Oh, yes, Montana State is playing for at least a share of the conference title, an automatic playoff bid and perhaps one of the five seeds.

Other important games are Villanova at Delaware, Richmond at William & Mary and Massachusetts at Rhode Island in CAA Football; Yale at Harvard in the Ivy League; Lafayette-Lehigh in the Patriot League; Stony Brook at Liberty and Charleston Southern at Coastal Carolina in the Big South; Chattanooga at Wofford and Georgia Southern at Furman in the SoCon; Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Texas Southern in the SWAC; Northern Iowa at Western Illinois and North Dakota State at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley Conference; Bethune-Cookman versus Florida A&M in Orlando and South Carolina State at North Carolina A&T in the MEAC; Northwestern State at Stephen F. Austin and McNeese State at Central Arkansas in the Southland Conference; and Jacksonville State at Tennessee Tech in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Three games involve FCS teams visiting FBS schools this week. Georgia State goes to Alabama on Thursday, and Appalachian State visits Florida and Weber State heads to Texas Tech on Saturday.

Sacks or scores, contact Craig Haley at
chaley@sportsnetwork.com.


Follow Craig Haley on Twitter and Facebook.

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