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Big crowd of teams in playoff picture

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Big crowd of teams in playoff picture

One thing’s for sure – if Georgia Southern wants to make the playoffs, it needs to beat Furman Saturday. On the road.

After that, the only other sure thing is that a win by Wofford over Chattanooga will go a long way in helping GSU’s cause.

Beyond that, in the immortal words of punk-rock outfit Operation Ivy, "All I know is that I don’t know nothin’."

As it sits now, there are 36 teams that can potentially finish with the semi-requirement of seven Division-I wins, with 24 of them potentially finishing at 7-4.

That’s a big crowd.

With the restructuring of the Football Championship Subdivision to a 20-team bracket to include automatic bids for the Big South and Northeastern Conference, there are now 10 automatic bids for conference champions and 10 at-large bids.

Robert Morris (NEC), Lehigh (Patriot League), Appalachian State (Southern) and Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley) have all clinched an automatic berth, so that leaves six auto bids and 10 at-large bids to go around for potentially 32 different teams.

The SoCon will get at least two teams in the playoffs, but those two teams are still undetermined. Chattanooga, Wofford or GSU — or any combination of the three — could join ASU in the field. If UTC and GSU both lose on Saturday (the Mocs play Wofford) then Wofford would join Appalachian State in the postseason.

If Wofford loses to the Mocs and the Eagles lose at Furman, things get ugly. Both Wofford and Chattanooga would have a 6-2 record in SoCon play, so by virtue of the head-to-head matchup, the Mocs would be in over Wofford, which could be on the outside looking in with an 8-3 record. If the Eagles beat Furman in that scenario, they would have the "best" win of the three — an overtime victory over then-No. 1 Appalachain State — but the NCAA selection committee would be hard-pressed to allow four SoCon teams into the playoffs, so GSU would likely draw the short straw.

Outside of the SoCon, things are even more diluted.

Coastal Carolina has an ever-so-slight chance of winning the Big South’s auto bid by virtue of a three-way tie. That could give an at-large spot to Liberty, should it defeat Stony Brook and finish 8-3.

Out west, Montana State (Big Sky) should be a lock for a bid, and still has a chance for the auto bid. But if Montana defeats MSU on Saturday, the Griz would finish 8-3 and be a lock for an at-large bid. Another at-large will go down the drain should Eastern Washington — who will finish at 8-3 at the worst — get in.

Then, there’s the Colonial Athletic Association, which has gotten five teams into the playoffs in the same season in the past. Delaware is poised to take the auto bid, but that could leave any of five other CAA teams at 7-4, and it would be hard to leave out any of them.

Thank goodness James Madison — which beat Virginia Tech early in the season — has fallen off the map and lost five games since.

By my count, that’s potentially 10 at-large bids right there. Yikes.

Hopefully Southeast Missouri State (Ohio Valley) and Stephen F. Austin (Southland) will take care of business and get in with an auto bid, because they are at-large possibilities should McNeese State and Jacksonville State (who should be in at-large, anyway) win their respective conference titles.

It gets really scary when you look at the FCS non-scholarship teams Dayton and Jacksonville, who both sit at 10-1 in the Pioneer League. Of course, their weak schedules should keep them out of playoff consideration under any circumstances. Period.

So there you have it. If you learned as much as I did (absolutely nothing), than you’ll be pulling for Georgia Southern and Wofford, and hoping the rest takes care of itself.

On the flip side of this discussion, if GSU had taken care of business when it hosted Samford, there wouldn’t be any argument at all.


Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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