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Even with a win, Eastern Washington faces uncertain playoff fate

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 17, 2017, 11:46 p.m.

Montana wide receiver Makena Simis (17) leads the team in singing their fight song after playing Northern Arizona in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Missoula. A loss by either Montana or NAU on Saturday could open a spot for Eastern Washington in the FCS playoffs. (Patrick Record / Associated Press)
Montana wide receiver Makena Simis (17) leads the team in singing their fight song after playing Northern Arizona in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Missoula. A loss by either Montana or NAU on Saturday could open a spot for Eastern Washington in the FCS playoffs. (Patrick Record / Associated Press)

Bracketology isn’t just for basketball – ask the teams contending for a spot in the FCS playoffs.

And what are the odds of Eastern making the 24-team field? Here’s a quick breakdown:

By most accounts, 16 spots are already locked up by the following teams: Southern Utah, Weber State, James Madison, Stony Brook, Elon, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Central Connecticut State, Jacksonville State, Lehigh, San Diego, Wofford, Sam Houston State, Central Arkansas, the winner of the Big South Conference showdown between Kennesaw State and Monmouth, and the Samford-Furman winner.

That leaves eight spots, and seven of those are there for the taking by teams (in bold) whose body of work (with a win) would probably be more impressive to the committee than Eastern’s. They include the following (all kickoff times PST):

Delaware (7-3) at Villanova (4-6), 10 a.m.

New Hampshire (7-3) at Albany (3-7), 10 a..m.

Western Illinois (6-4) vs Southern Illinois (4-6), 11 a.m.

Montana (7-3) at Montana State (4-6), 11 a.m.

South Dakota (7-3) vs. South Dakota State (8-2), noon

Northern Arizona (7-3) at Southern Utah (8-2), 1:30 p.m.

Northern Iowa (6-4) vs. Indiana State (0-10), 2 p.m.

Obviously, the fewer of these teams who win, the better for Eastern.

If the favored teams (all but NAU and South Dakota) win, that would leave three spots for the “bubble teams” (in bold):

They include:

Illinois State (6-4) vs. North Dakota State (9-1), 10 a.m.

Loser of Monmouth (9-1) vs. Kennesaw State (9-1), 11 a.m.

Loser of Furman (7-3) at Samford (7-3), 12:30 p.m.

Austin Peay (7-4) vs. Eastern Illinois (6-4), 2 p.m.

Eastern Washington (6-4) vs. Portland State (0-10), 3:12 p.m.

McNeese State (8-2) at Lamar (2-8), 5 p.m.

At that point, the committee will weigh records and strength of the remaining teams.

That’s when it gets complicated. Southland Conference team McNeese State could be 9-2 but has a rather soft schedule.

At the other end of the spectrum, Missouri Valley teams Illinois State and Northern Iowa have earned their 6-4 records against brutal schedules. Another MVC team, South Dakota (see above), may still get in with a loss.

One more consideration: Eastern probably needs Montana or NAU to lose, as it’s unlikely the committee would take five teams from the Big Sky.


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