What a mess.
There’s a little bit we already know about how the Southern Conference will finish this year.
There are three teams who are all conference champions; Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Wofford. They have all finished SoCon play, and they all finished 6-2. They all went 1-1 against the other two. It’s the first three-way tie in the league since 1999 when ASU, GSU and Furman shared the title.
We also know one of those three teams will receive the league’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. And we know it won’t be Wofford. More on that later.
We know that Appalachian State will finish the regular season with an 8-3 overall record because the Mountaineers are off on Saturday, the last day of the regular season.
There are also a few things we can infer.
We can assume GSU and Wofford will both also finish the regular season at 8-3, because both are currently 8-2 and they face Georgia and South Carolina on Saturday, respectively.
We can also assume that all three will make the playoffs with 8-3 records and a share of the SoCon title.
But one of the SoCon champions has to get the league’s automatic bid. So, how do we figure out which one gets it?
Well, we’ll know after The Citadel plays Furman, of course.
Confused yet? I am.
An email distributed by SoCon officials and a dumbed-down explanation from GSU sports information director Barrett Gilham explained it to me (though I’m still not sure I get it), and they both seem to understand it, so here it goes.
In a three-way tie, the automatic bid is awarded based on head-to-head matchups. So, for example, if GSU were to have beaten ASU and Wofford and lost to two other SoCon teams, the Eagles would get the bid.
Unfortunately, the three have identical, 1-1 records against each other.
The next tiebreaker is the top three’s records against the fourth-place SoCon team. Or teams. Saturday could leave us with as few as one fourth-place team (Samford) or as many as three (Samford, Chattanooga and The Citadel).
All three first-place teams beat Chattanooga, so it doesn’t matter if the Mocs finish tied for fourth or not.
But The Citadel does matter.
If The Citadel loses to Furman, Samford will be the only fourth-place team in play. Samford beat Wofford and lost to ASU and GSU, so Wofford is eliminated. Then, the Eagles are eliminated due to the head-to-head loss to the Mountaineers.
But, if The Citadel beats Furman, it finishes in a fourth-place tie with Samford, so the three first-place teams must compare records with both teams. The Citadel beat both ASU and GSU and Samford beat Wofford, so again, all top three teams are knotted in a 1-1 tie.
So what happens next? You move down the SoCon standings and find the tiebreaker.
Unfortunately, ASU, GSU and Wofford are all undefeated against the rest of the conference.
Okay, so now what? Here’s where it gets crazy.
If wins and losses don’t decide who gets the auto bid, it reverts to the team in the first-place tie with the fewest defensive points allowed in SoCon play. And the Eagles have the edge there.
So forget about everything you just read. What do you really need to know?
If The Citadel loses to Furman on Saturday, ASU gets the bid.
If The Citadel beats Furman, the bid goes to Georgia Southern.
Here’s the crazy part — GSU was awarded a share of the SoCon title the day it lost to Appalachian State. On Saturday, if the Eagles lose, they could be awarded the SoCon’s automatic bid on the same day they lost to UGA.
How about that?
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.