(STATS) – It’s the time of the FCS season in which conference races are winding down and a cheat sheet is needed to make understanding championships and postseason bids easier.
Heading into Saturday’s important schedule, the following is a quick breakdown of how 10 of the conferences may award automatic qualifying bids to the FCS playoffs and with how the MEAC and SWAC may set up the Celebration Bowl. Eight conferences could awards their AQ on Saturday.
The Ivy League is the only FCS conference not to participate in the postseason.
CAA: James Madison (9-1, 6-0) has a two-game lead on Albany (6-4, 4-2), New Hampshire (5-4, 4-2) and Richmond (5-5, 4-2). The Dukes need to win only one of their final two games (against Richmond or Rhode Island) and are showing no signs of letting up.
Ivy: Front-running Dartmouth (8-0, 5-0) is in great position for a perfect season, ending the season against the last two teams in the standings (Cornell and Brown). Princeton (7-1, 4-1) and Yale (7-1, 4-1), which face off on Saturday, are still in the title mix.
Missouri Valley: To claim the AQ, North Dakota State (10-0, 6-0), the two-time defending national champ, only needs to beat South Dakota or Southern Illinois or have Northern Iowa (7-3, 5-1) lose one of its final two games.
Pioneer: Considering San Diego (7-2, 6-0) has a 35-game league winning streak, it’s highly likely the Toreros will claim the AQ. They must only beat Morehead State or Jacksonville or have Drake (5-4, 5-1) lose one of its final two games.
MEAC: Nobody is taking control of the Celebration Bowl bid in a conference in which Florida A&M is 6-0 but ineligible to win the title. Bethune-Cookman, North Carolina A&T and South Carolina State are all 6-3 and, more importantly, 4-2 in conference. Only N.C. A&T is guaranteed the bid by winning out, but all three teams have tough schedules. Bethune and A&T play each other Saturday before Bethune wraps up with Florida A&M and A&T faces rival North Carolina Central. South Carolina State has road games against North Carolina Central and Norfolk State, which are both 3-3 in conference.
Southland: Central Arkansas (7-3), Nicholls (6-4), Sam Houston State (6-4) and Southeastern Louisiana (6-4) are all 5-2 in conference and tied for first place. Nicholls and SLU still play each other on Nov. 21. Sam Houston has the easiest remaining schedule by hosting Northwestern State and Houston Baptist, but it’s going to take another weekend of results for the race to become clearer.
SWAC: Alcorn State (6-3, 4-1 East) and Southern (6-4, 4-1) lead the two divisions and may still set a rematch of the 2018 SWAC championship game on Dec. 7, but Grambling’s overtime win over Alcorn last Saturday created a much difference outlook. Alcorn hosts Alabama A&M (6-4, 3-2) in a pivotal East game on Saturday and Alabama State (5-4, 4-2) and Jackson State (4-6, 3-2) are still alive. Southern hosts Jackson State in a big matchup on Saturday, but the West Division will come down to Grambling State (5-4, 3-2) versus Southern in the Bayou Classic on Nov. 30 if Southern falls or Grambling beats Mississippi Valley State. Ultimately, the SWAC champ will advance to the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 21.
WAIT AND SEE
Big Sky: Weber State (8-2, 6-0) can clinch the auto bid by defeating Montana (8-2, 5-1) on Saturday, but if the Griz win, then they will be tied for first place and Sacramento State (which plays at Idaho) will have a chance to be there as well, and each would be 1-1 against each other. None of the trio has an easy two-week schedule, and Montana State and Eastern Washington are sitting at 4-2 with hope for chaos.
Big South: Monmouth (8-2, 4-0) can clinch the auto bid by defeating Campbell (6-3, 3-1) on Saturday. Kennesaw State (8-2, 3-1) also is alive and lost to Monmouth, but beat Campbell. If a two-team tiebreaker is needed after Nov. 23, head-to-head would decide the bid. If there is a three-way tie between the trio, Monmouth would likely win the tiebreaker on a schedule points system.
Northeast: Robert Morris (6-4, 5-0) can clinch the auto bid by defeating Central Connecticut State (9-1, 5-0) on Saturday. If CCSU wins, then the Blue Devils would still travel to Duquesne (6-3, 4-1) next Saturday. Robert Morris wouldn’t have it easy with a final game against Sacred Heart. If there is a three-way tie between CCSU, Duquesne and RMU, it could come down to the team that allowed the fewest points in games between the them.
Ohio Valley: Austin Peay (7-3, 5-1) holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over co-leader Southeast Missouri (7-3, 5-1) and they will flip-flop their final two opponents in Murray State and Eastern Illinois, which have a combined three conference wins. UT Martin (6-4, 5-2) is only a half-game back in third place with just one remaining conference game against struggling Tennessee State, but the Skyhawks lost to both Auston Peay and Southeast Missouri, so the scenario is not favorable for them.
Patriot: Lafayette (3-7, 3-1) holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over co-leader Holy Cross (5-5, 3-1), but the Leopards have tough remaining games against Colgate and at Lehigh (4-5, 3-2), which hurt its cause with a surprising loss to Bucknell (2-7, 2-2) last Saturday. Holy Cross, which owns a win over Lehigh, finishes against Fordham and Georgetown.
Southern: Furman (7-3, 6-1) will claim the auto bid by beating Wofford (6-3, 5-1) on Saturday. Wofford claims it by winning out (also at The Citadel) or finishing in a two-way tie with Furman or a three-way tie with Furman and Chattanooga (5-5, 4-2). The Citadel (6-4, 4-2) can only claim the bid in a three-way tie with Furman and Wofford.