Five weeks into the 2010 season we’ve seen a lot of surprises. Quite a few regulars have faltered: Montana, Southern Illinois, and New Hampshire to name a few.
Now seems like a good time to take a shot at prognosticating what this years playoff field will look like in the end. Let’s start with the automatic bids:
Big Sky- With the way things have started in the Big Sky, it’s obvious that this could change quite a bit over the next month or two. If I had to pick a winner today (and I do), it would be Montana State. The Bobcats could easily be at 5-0 right now, and although they faltered a bit this past weekend, their destiny is definitely in their hands.
Big South- As of today, the front runner in the Big South has to be Liberty. Although the loss to Robert Morris looks a little shaky, we may find that the Colonials were a better team than we might have expected. No one else in the conference even deserves a look right now. Gardner-Webb fell apart after the win at Akron.
CAA- Today’s winner of the CAA autobid is Massachusetts. The Minutemen are off to a strong start and if they can avoid a collapse they should be one of several CAA teams in the playoffs this year. Delaware is running neck and neck with them at this point.
MEAC- South Carolina State is the easy pick at this point. They’ve gone undefeated through the conference for quite some time and haven’t shown any intentions of ending that trend.
MVFC- The Valley is almost a pick’em at this point. As of today I would rule out North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and Indiana State. Northern Iowa has one of the best defenses in the nation through four games. If they can get points out of their offense they should come out of the battle as the last one standing. Any of the top six teams in the league could easily be argued for, but with the exception of going to Southern Illinois this weekend, UNI’s schedule is very favorable. A loss in Carbondale would definitely change my pick.
NEC- You have to go with Robert Morris. The Colonials have been up to snuff so far. Three of the four wins have come on the road. I like that in a team. It’s still early enough for a lot of change, but I really like the Colonials to earn the leagues first automatic bid to the playoffs.
OVC- Every week I keep expecting the top teams of the OVC to fall apart like usual. But so far Southeast Missouri State and Jacksonville State have shown the toughness they need to stay undefeated in conference. The two teams meet in the last game of the season and I expect the home team, Jacksonville State to take home the autobid. If both teams can win out to that point then we should expect the loser to give the OVC a second bid.
Patriot- Until last weekend I think we all thought Georgetown was going to do the unexpected, but after a 31-3 drubbing, the Hoyas expectations have been lowered. We’ve seen very little in league play from the PL, so anything at this point would be pure speculation. Georgetown may still be in play, but at this point Colgate is my front runner.
Southern- Appalachian State….no devils advocate to play here at this point.
Southland- Stephen F. Austin may be the most disliked team in the nation at this point. While fans of the SLC have disliked them for years, fans from around the country have seen the Texas A&M video or had other complaints of their own. “Just win, baby”: The Jacks do it. Look for them to make a strong post season run….unless the Montana fans get to them on Friday night.
That gives us the ten autobids:
Montana State, Liberty, Massachusetts, South Carolina St, Northern Iowa, Robert Morris, Jacksonville State, Colgate, Appalachian State, and Stephen F Austin.
Now let’s get down to the at-large canidates (teams I put in the bracket in bold) :
Big Sky: Northern Arizona, Eastern Washington, Montana
Big South: none
CAA: Delaware, Villanova, William and Mary, and James Madison
MVFC: Western Illinois, Illinois State, Youngstown State, and Southern Illinois
OVC: Southeast Missouri State
Southern: Georgia Southern, Wofford, and Chattanooga
Southland: McNeese State, Central Arkansas, and Texas State
The 5 seeds:
Delaware, Massachusetts, Jacksonville State, Appalachian State, and Stephen F. Austin
Last Four Out:
@South Carolina State
@ #1 Massachusetts
@ Georgia Southern
@ #5 Delaware
@ #4 Stephen F. Austin
Wofford/South Carolina State
@ #2 Appalachian State
Southeast Missouri State
@ William and Mary
@ Northern Iowa
Eastern Washington/Texas State
@ #3 Jacksonville State
(please let me know if you see any errors…..I’m sure you will)