FCS playoff hopefuls seeking to overcome schedule concern

(STATS) – McNeese was one of the more disappointed, if not outraged, teams when it didn’t earn an at-large bid to the 2017 playoffs.

The Southland Conference program, which has 16 playoff appearances in its history, had the most wins among eligible teams that didn’t earn a bid after finishing 9-2.

The problem for the Cowboys was one of the victories was against Division II Florida Tech, leaving them with only eight wins over D-I opponents on their playoff resume.

That left them tied with Nicholls in D-I wins, and considering they lost to the Colonels, they were behind them and Sam Houston State as well as conference champ Central Arkansas, which received the automatic bid, when the Southland bids stopped.

Some playoff hopefuls seek to avoid a similar scenario in 2018 with their non-conference schedules including a sub-FCS opponent for various reasons.

Of course, the disclaimer is: win the automatic bid and there won’t be a problem.

Eastern Washington – The Eagles might be the preseason favorite in the Big Sky, but they begin against Division II Central Washington and their other non-conference matchups are at Northern Arizona and Washington State. That’s playing with fire.

Idaho – All the hoopla surrounding the Vandals’ return to the Big Sky from the FBS level can’t overshadow their need to do well in conference play. Out of conference, coach Paul Petrino’s squad has two FBS games (Fresno State and Florida) and a Division II opponent (Western New Mexico).

Sacramento State – The Hornets, also from the Big Sky, have playoff aspirations following a 7-4 campaign, but an opening win over NAIA member St. Francis (Ill.) won’t help them much before they face San Diego State and Northern Colorado.

Illinois State – In the rugged Missouri Valley Football Conference, the Redbirds likely need success against Eastern Illinois if not Colorado State as well because the season opener is against NAIA member St. Xavier (Ill.).

Samford – By opening against Shorter, the Bulldogs from the Southern Conference might come up short on the non-conference resume because they also travel to Florida State and potential Top 5 Kennesaw State.

Western Carolina – Three seven-win seasons in the last four years haven’t produced a playoff bid, so the Catamounts seek a breakthrough. The opener against Division II Newberry isn’t helpful and a season-ending win over North Carolina is unlikely. They also play at Gardner-Webb.