Answers to the FCS playoff questions

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Take any NCAA playoff announcement and there some will argue that always are more questions than answers.

Lots and lots of questions.

Inquiring minds aren't always happy, either.

We have many of your questions, with answers, too, after the 20-team playoff field was announced for the Football Championship Subdivision Sunday morning.

The Road to Frisco begins Saturday, Nov. 26.

Which passed-over teams can complain the loudest? Illinois State, among teams with wins against seven Division I opponents, and Delaware, which, like the Redbirds is 7-4, only had six D-I victories. But both surely had stronger resumes than unranked Eastern Kentucky (7-4), which was a surprise at-large selection out of the Ohio Valley Conference.

Georgia Southern won two of its record six FCS national titles when second-year head coach Jeff Monken was an assistant coach in 1999 and 2000.
Who's the biggest winner with the field? Obviously, Eastern Kentucky, which was part of a three-way tie for the OVC title. The Colonels' best regular- season wins were against Jacksonville State and Murray State - a pair of 7-4 teams - and their worst lost was against Austin Peay (yes, the 3-8 Austin Peay). How they got a home game against big draw James Madison, which bid for the game, also was surprising. Ironically, athletic directors Mark Sandy of EKU and Jeff Bourne of JMU were both on the 11-man selection committee. Neither could be in the room when the merits of their school's team were discussed.

Who's the biggest loser? It's not just Illinois State, it's the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Heading into Saturday's action, the conference had expectation of four or five playoff bids. Then Indiana State and Youngstown State went bust at home. Then Illinois State got dressed up in its tournament tuxedo, only to be left waiting for its date. It left only North Dakota State and Northern Iowa in the field.

Is one half of the bracket easier than the other? The top teams in the nation seem so balanced, but No. 2 North Dakota State's half includes a Georgia Southern team that was top-ranked for seven weeks this season. Plus the Bison may have to go through CAA Football champ Towson in the quarterfinals.

What are the best match-ups/potential match-ups? In the first round, it's hard to ignore Norfolk State at Old Dominion because the schools are separated by five miles in Norfolk, Va. The second round has some super match-ups, led by Wofford going to No. 5 seed Northern Iowa, which has to quickly prepare for the wingbone. There's also New Hampshire-Montana State, Maine-Appalachian State and Lehigh-Towson match-ups in the banner second round. Down the line, the seeds suggest semifinals involving Montana and Sam Houston State, and Georgia Southern and North Dakota State.

How beneficial is a first-round bye? Every coach would welcome the chance to rest his team Thanksgiving Weekend, but some squads lose momentum during the break. In last year's first 20-team playoff - and first with the byes - Georgia Southern and North Dakota State built on first-round victories by knocking off No. 2 seed William & Mary and No. 4 seed Montana State, respectively, in the second round.

Are the FCS playoffs fair? Pretty much, but, not entirely. Only the five seeded teams are guaranteed to host games through the semifinals unless they play a higher-seeded team. Games involving two non-seeded teams are based on financial guarantees from potential hosts, quality of facility, attendance history and potential and team performance. Thus, teams bid for the games. The FCS playoffs are not a big money-maker and home teams can lose money, so the schools believe this is the right system. But sometimes the better team is forced to play on the road.

So is home cooking the recipe for success? Only Sam Houston State and North Dakota State are guaranteed only home games before the championship game. Last year, road teams posted an impressive 9-9 split through the semifinals, including 5-3 in the second round. Of course, with upsets along the way, No. 3 seed Delaware and No. 5 seed Eastern Washington never left home before venturing to Frisco, Texas, for the title game.

Who's missing the show? Well, the disbanding Great West Football Conference, Ivy League, Pioneer Football League and Southwestern Athletic Conference. None sends its champion to the playoffs. It would be interesting to see 16th-ranked Harvard from the Ivy League play in the field. Better yet, the NCAA should go to 24 teams and give the PFL champion an automatic bid.

Who wins the national title? The top teams in the nation are so evenly matched, but the pick is Georgia Southern. The Eagles had the longest stint at No. 1 this season - seven weeks - and have an experienced team that reached the national semifinals last season. A potential semifinal at North Dakota State's FargoDome would be intimidating, however.

Sacks or scores, contact Craig Haley at

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