Five FCS teams that can respond to playoff snubs
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - A playoff snub, or at least the perception of one, tends to fuel teams throughout their offseason.
Each year, a small handful of FCS teams come away from Selection Sunday bitterly disappointed, thinking they had done enough to warrant one of the 14 at-large bids in the 24-team field.
Following are five programs that were the most disappointed last season. They're working to knock down the playoff door in 2019.
EASTERN KENTUCKY (7-4)
What to Know: The Colonels turned the corner in coach Mark Elder's third season, but they were somewhat down the pecking order of at-large possibilities despite a win over a strong Southeast Missouri squad. But they improved with a fairly young squad as 50 of the 61 players on the final depth chart were underclassmen.
2019 Playoff Possibility: Challenging. The Colonels will have to get a lot done on the road, including visits to Indiana State, Jacksonville State, Southeast Missouri and Eastern Illinois.
What to Know: Among teams denied at-large bids, the Paladins ranked highest by the Simple Ratings System, the only analytics tool the selection committee says its uses, but the numbers don't always support the at-large selections. They started 0-3, including losses to at-large teams Elon (a blowout) and ETSU.
2019 Playoff Possibility: Realistic. Only Wofford appears better in the SoCon on paper, but without a conference title, the Paladins would have to overcome having a Division II opponent on their schedule.
INDIANA STATE (7-4)
What to Know: A five-game, season-ending win streak was nice, but none of the opponents had a winning record in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Sycamores had only six Division I wins - one below the preferred amount by the selection committee - but so did four other teams that earned at-large bids.
2019 Playoff Possibility: Solid. It's hard to believe the MVFC will have only three playoff qualifiers again this season and the Sycamores boast terrific seniors in quarterback Ryan Boyle and outside linebacker Jonas Griffith. They have seven home games and North Dakota State isn't on the schedule.
What to Know: A dismal playoff debut in 2017 loomed over the Hawks' bid and they didn't have a signature win on their 2018 resume to begin with.
2019 Playoff Possibility: Realistic. It probably involves winning the Big South title, with the conference at an all-time high eight teams for one season. The Hawks return a solid nucleus, especially in the offensive backfield.
NORTH DAKOTA (6-5)
What to Know: According to the selection committee, UND was one of the last three teams left out of the playoff field along with Indiana State and Monmouth. The Fighting Hawks opened the season 5-2, but lost three of their final four games.
2019 Playoff Possibility: Suspect. While the Fighting Hawks return 15 starters and will be quite competitive, they'll face a difficult schedule, including games against North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Eastern Washington, UC Davis, Montana State and Weber State.
Updated February 12, 2019