Five takeaways from FCS Week 11
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - Finally, some clarity in the FCS.
The postseason picture cleared up a lot on Saturday with four teams earning automatic bids to the FCS playoffs, some other conference races thinning out the contenders and unbeaten North Carolina A&T punching its ticket for the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.
Here are five takeaways from Week 11 of the FCS regular season:
- The championship bout in the Northeast Conference delivered even more than anybody could have imagined, with Central Connecticut State beating Duquesne 28-27 on the road to clinching its first-ever playoff bid. Duquesne left the door ajar in the fourth quarter, first missing an extra point after it went ahead 20-14 and then not going for a 2-point conversion following its next touchdown. The Blue Devils (7-3) scored two touchdowns in the final six minutes (quarterback Jacob Dolegala had a hand in all four) and held on when the Dukes missed an 18-yard field goal attempt with two seconds left. CCSU was joined by Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley Conference), San Diego (Pioneer Football League) and Wofford (Southern) as the first teams to gain automatic playoff bids.
- Some feathers were ruffled at North Dakota State this past week, but, oh, did the FCS power respond with a statement win. The No. 5 Bison (too low) ripped No. 10 South Dakota 49-14 to clinch at least a share of their seventh straight Missouri Valley Football Conference title. The run game returned with 340 yards - Ty Brooks led the way with 152 - and quarterback Easton Stick responded in a big way (336 total yards, two total touchdowns). Coach Chris Klieman's 9-1 squad has been dropped from second to fourth in the FCS selection committee rankings, but with another win at Illinois State next Saturday, it would be hard for the powers-that-be to keep the Bison below Central Arkansas, maybe even Jacksonville State. That's assuming No. 1 James Madison stays unbeaten when it wraps up at Elon (8-2). What would the committee do if Jacksonville State and Central Arkansas didn't have any FCS losses and JMU and NDSU, which have combined for the last six national titles, had one each?
- The playoff bubble is so large heading toward the final full weekend of the regular season that some 8-3 teams - maybe a 9-2 team? - could fall short of at-large bids. So results in the Missouri Valley and Southern conferences Saturday were damaging. In the Valley, South Dakota's blowout loss at North Dakota State likely means it has to beat surging South Dakota State next weekend or it would have four losses in its final five games. Also, Illinois State, which fell to South Dakota State in overtime, will be in worse shape than South Dakota if it doesn't beat North Dakota State to end the regular season (a loss would drop the Redbirds to 6-5). In the SoCon, Western Carolina's home loss to Mercer dropped it to 7-4 as it heads toward a likely loss at North Carolina. A 7-5 record likely won't be enough for the Catamounts because their non-conference wins are against Gardner-Webb and Davidson, teams with a combined three wins. The SoCon could even drop to a two-bid conference if Samford doesn't beat Furman, which seeks a share of the title. Samford is 7-3, but it includes a non-Division I win (West Alabama). This doesn't appear the year to have only six D-I wins.
- How about winner-take-all? That's the case in two upcoming games. The Big South auto bid will come from the Monmouth at Kennesaw State winner, as both teams are 9-1 overall and 4-0 in conference play as they seek their first playoff bid. In the SWAC, archrivals Grambling State (9-1, 6-0) and Southern (7-3, 5-1) will square off in the Bayou Classic on Nov. 25 for the right to be the West Division representative in the final SWAC Championship Game Dec. 2. Both teams are off next weekend.
- Last year's STATS FCS Walter Payton Award winner Jeremiah Briscoe and Buck Buchanan Award runner-up P.J. Hall are making second-half pushes. Briscoe was roughed up in a Sept. 30 loss to Central Arkansas and Hall sat out the first two games of the season due to academics. Since the start of October, it's been quite different. Briscoe has passed for 19 touchdowns during the No. 4 Bearkats' six-game winning streak, raising his season total to 32 along with 3,429 passing yards. In Saturday's 44-35 win at Abilene Christian, Hall set the FCS all-time record with his 81st career tackle for loss and the school's all-time mark with his 13th blocked kick. In eight games, the defensive lineman has an impressive stat line: 37 tackles, 14½ tackles for loss, five sacks, five pass breakups, one forced fumble and three blocked kicks.
Updated November 11, 2017