Eastern Washington’s postseason football fate looks a bit more predictable this week, provided the Eagles defeat Portland State on Saturday.
Eastern remained fifth in The Sports Network Poll released Monday, is tied for first place in the Big Sky Conference, and ranks sixth among Football Championship Subdivision teams in this week’s Sagarin Ratings released Sunday.
That adds up to a near-certain top-five seeding in the FCS playoffs that begin Nov. 24.
In fact, two prognosticators – The Sports Network and nobowls.com – have Eastern in the top five, which means a first-round bye and at least one home game, starting with the second round on Dec. 1.
But there’s a world of difference between the two scenarios. TSN has the Eagles (8-2 overall and 6-1 in the Big Sky Conference) seeded third, which means games at Roos Field through the quarterfinals on Dec. 7 or Dec. 8. If form holds, Eastern would have to travel to second-seeded Montana State for a semifinal on Dec. 14 or 15.
Eagle fans might take exception to a second trip to Bozeman, Mont., where Eastern handed the Bobcats their only loss of the season, 27-24 on Oct. 13. But the Bobcats have just that one loss, while five of Eastern’s wins have come by six points or fewer. Also, MSU is ranked three spots higher in the Sagarin Ratings.
Of course, the Bobcats still have to hold up their end. Two years ago, MSU was given a higher seed, but fell to North Dakota State in the first round while Eastern went on to host the Bison in a quarterfinal game and eventually win the FCS championship.
Eastern fans would prefer a No. 3 seed to the No. 5 seed predicted by nobowls.com. In that scenario, the Eagles would host a second-round game, then travel to Grand Forks, N.D., for a quarterfinal game on Dec. 7 or Dec. 8 against top-ranked North Dakota State.
And if the Eagles lose at Portland State? The best guess is that at 8-3 with a strong strength of schedule, they still make the field, but might never see Roos Field again. But they could be left out entirely, since the FCS offers only 10 at-large bids, and several other 8-2 teams are scrambling to make the field.