It’s a long road to Frisco, Texas, but this year’s Eastern Washington football team already has bragging rights over the 2010 national champions.
In brackets announced Sunday morning by the NCAA, Eastern was awarded a No. 2 seed and will face either Colgate or Wagner in a second-round game on Dec. 1. Kickoff will be at 3:05 p.m.
Quarterfinals would be played on Dec. 7-8 and the semifinals on Dec. 14-15. The national championship game will be in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 5.
Two years ago, the Eagles hosted games throughout the playoffs, but only because higher-seeded teams were eliminated earlier. This season, the Eagles (9-2 overall and co-champions of the Big Sky Conference) will host all of their playoff games provided they keep winning.
“We were fortunate enough as the five seed to get the home playoff games (in 2010),” head coach Beau Baldwin said. “There is no question it’s an advantage – you don’t have to look at too many years to see there is a common theme that the top teams played a lot of games at home.”
“But ultimately, we have to find a way to win,” added Baldwin, who will be making his fifth playoff appearance as either an Eastern assistant or head coach. “We have played a lot of close games this year which hopefully puts us in a good position in one of the toughest conferences in the country. We are just excited about the one we are going to play in two weeks.”
Eastern has played eight games this year that were decided by a touchdown or less, going 6-2 in those games.
Big Sky rivals Montana State and Cal Poly also made the field. MSU is seeded No. 3. If form holds through the quarterfinals, Eastern would host the Bobcats in the semifinals.
“We really did not talk about it too much, but it’s always good to have a higher seed,” quarterback Kyle Padron said Sunday. “We are excited about it. Playoff time is always huge. I’m new to it, but it’s going to be an exciting time and we are ready to go.”
Baldwin said it was in Bozeman, Mont., on Oct. 13, during a 27-24 win over MSU, that he saw the potential of his current team. “It jumped out at me in Bozeman seeing the attitude on the sidelines and the players finding a way to win in difficult circumstances.”
Up next is a second-round game on Dec. 1 against the winner of Saturday’s Colgate-Wagner game. Colgate is 8-3 and won the Patriot League title with a perfect 5-0 record. Wagner is 8-3 and shared the Northeast Conference title with a 7-1 mark. Eastern has never played a team from either conference in football.
Eastern is now 9-7 all-time, with 2010 marking its fifth appearance in the quarterfinals. Eastern has reached the semifinals twice before (1997, 2010), but 2010 was EWU’s first appearance in the championship game.
Eastern has now advanced past the first round five times (1985, 1997, 2004, 2007, 2010) and has a 9-7 record in eight playoff appearances (1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010). Only 15 teams have made more playoff appearances than the Eagles.