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By Craig Haley, FCS Exec. Director - Archive - Email
Who's not in commands the spotlight
North Dakota State, Eastern Washington and Montana State
are the top three seeds in the FCS playoffs.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's appropriate the FCS playoffs will conclude with the national championship game at FC Dallas Stadium.

The "S" is left off for "stunned."

A large group of teams - no, make that huge number - with playoff-worthy resumes had the playoff bubble burst beneath them on Sunday when the NCAA Division I football selection committee ran out of room for shoehorning them into the 20-team field. The candidates ran so deep that Appalachian State athletic director Charlie Cobb, the chair of the 11-person selection committee, said on the ESPNU selection show that committee members considered 26 teams for the 10 at-large bids.

Next year's expansion of the field to 24 teams will solve a lot of the screaming across the FCS nation, but that's hardly consolation to teams left off the Road to Frisco (Texas) this year.

Likely the teams with the biggest gripes were Lehigh (10-1) from the Patriot League, Richmond (8-3) and Towson (7-4) from CAA Football, Eastern Kentucky (8-3) from the Ohio Valley Conference and Northern Arizona (8-3) from the Big Sky Conference.

And, hey, Albany (9-2), James Madison (7-4), UT Martin (8-3), Tennessee State (8-3), The Citadel (7-4) and Youngstown State (7-4), there are still plenty of playoff tickets for you to purchase as well.

Yeah, right.

The 10 conference champions to gain automatic qualifying bids were Bethune-Cookman (Mid-Eastern Athletic), Central Arkansas (Southland), Coastal Carolina (Big South), Colgate (Patriot), Eastern Illinois (Ohio Valley), Eastern Washington (Big Sky), Georgia Southern (Southern), North Dakota State (Missouri Valley), Villanova (CAA) and Wagner (Northeast).

The 10 at-large bids were given to Cal Poly (Big Sky), Appalachian State (Southern), Illinois State (Missouri Valley), Montana State (Big Sky), New Hampshire (CAA), Old Dominion (CAA), Sam Houston State (Southland), South Dakota State (Missouri Valley), Stony Brook (Big South) and Wofford (Southern).

Basically, the selection committee had to find reasons not to put a team in the field as much as reasons to put it in.

20 Bids by Conference
Big Sky (3): Eastern Washington (AQ); Cal Poly (AL); Montana State (AL)
Big South (2): Coastal Carolina (AQ); Stony Brook (AL)
Colonial Athletic (3): Villanova (AQ); New Hampshire (AL); Old Dominion (AL)
Mid-Eastern Athletic (1): Bethune-Cookman (AQ)
Missouri Valley (3): North Dakota State (AQ); Illinois State (AL); South Dakota State (AL)
Northeast (1): Wagner (AQ)
Ohio Valley (1): Eastern Illinois (AQ)
Patriot (1): Colgate (AQ)
Southern (3): Georgia Southern (AQ); Appalachian State (AL); Wofford (AL)
Southland (2): Central Arkansas (AQ); Sam Houston State (AL)
Key: AQ - automatic qualifier; AL - at-large qualifier

One of the focal points was quality wins, not just wins. The last two at-large bids went to South Dakota State (8-3) and Stony Brook (9-2), according to Cobb.

SDSU's biggest wins were within the Missouri Valley against Indiana State, Youngstown State and Southern Illinois, but the Jackrabbits lost their only game against a playoff team - 20-17 to defending national champion North Dakota State. Stony Brook beat playoff teams Coastal Carolina and Colgate as well as FBS member Army.

Not to be lost in the disappointing end of the season for so many teams is that the field is indeed 20 teams deep and no longer 16, as it was from 1987 to 2009. After only three years with a 20-team field, the NCAA has seen it fit to expand to 24 next year.

And it's good for the FCS that we have this annual discussion because it means so many teams are worthy of the playoffs. When long-standing powers are dominating play, it forces other schools, especially those in their conferences, to raise their coaching staffs, facilities and recruiting.

Just think, next year, when there are 24 qualifiers, those who are 25, 26, 27, etc., will be shouting (with some bleeps mixed in) from the mountain tops as well.

Just not from any mountain in Frisco. That area's reserved for the teams in the playoff field.

2012 NCAA DIVISION I FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP

(Campus sites until the final)

(All times ET)

FIRST ROUND

Saturday, Nov. 24

Colgate (8-3) at Wagner (8-3), noon (ESPN3)

Coastal Carolina (7-4) at Bethune-Cookman (9-2), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)

Eastern Illinois (7-4) at South Dakota State (8-3), 3 p.m. (ESPN3)

Villanova (8-3) at Stony Brook (9-2), 3 p.m. (ESPN3)

SECOND ROUND

Saturday, Dec. 1

New Hampshire (8-3) at Wofford (8-3), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)

Central Arkansas (9-2) at No. 5 Georgia Southern (8-3), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)

Coastal Carolina-Bethune-Cookman winner No. 4 Old Dominion (10-1), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)

Illinois State (8-3) at Appalachian State (8-3), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)

Eastern Illinois-South Dakota State winner at No. 1 North Dakota State (10-1), 4 p.m. (ESPN3)

Cal Poly (9-2) at Sam Houston State (8-3), 4 p.m. (ESPN3)

Colgate-Wagner winner at No. 2 Eastern Washington (9-2), 6 p.m. (ESPN3)

Villanova-Stony Brook winner at No. 3 Montana State (10-1), 7 p.m. (ESPN3)

QUARTERFINALS

Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8

SEMIFINALS

Friday, Dec. 14 and Saturday, Dec. 16

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Saturday, Jan. 5

FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas

1 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN3)


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