We see this on the FBS level every year: teams near the top of the BCS rankings making their case why they should be in the BCS title game. And let’s be honest, when there’s over 110 FBS teams, only 2 play for a national title, and human polls make up 2/3 of the formula to determine who should make it, it’s important to convince others of your credentials.
Apparently, the same thing is true for the FCS playoffs now that the OVC has been won by Eastern Illinois. And it actually started on Halloween, with a email from one OVC school’s Sports Information Department. The entire email read:
Since the FCS Playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1986, there have been 21 OVC teams to win nine or more regular season games. All 21 have made the playoffs.
Since the FCS Playoffs expanded to 8 teams in 1981, there have been 25 OVC teams to win nine or more regular season games. All 25 have made the playoffs.
Originally, I wrote this off. Schools love these kind of statistics; they appear in game notes all the time, and it came from a school seeking their ninth win that weekend.
They didn’t get it. They’re still stuck at eight. So that same SID’s office sent another email over the past weekend. And I immediately understood why. That email:
Tennessee State is the only team in the OVC with three wins over teams with seven or more wins (Eastern Kentucky, Bethune-Cookman, Arkansas-Pine Bluff). It could be four with a win at UT-Martin on Saturday.
The only other FCS team with three wins over teams with seven or more wins is Georgia Southern.
They’re stating a case: a reason they should earn one of the few at-large bids to this year’s FCS playoffs.
And it looks like they could need some help. According to The Sports Network’s FCS playoff projections, there’s only room for one OVC team, and Craig Haley goes so far to say 9-wins may not be enough, even pointing to Tennessee State by name.
In fact, a 10-win Lehigh could be on the outside looking in, according to Craig Hailey.
So what’s the case to be made for other potential OVC contenders?
- Beat an FBS Program. (Memphis)
- Only OVC team to beat conference champions Eastern Illinois.
- Beat Coastal Carolina. (a team projected in the field)
- Highest ranked OVC team in Top-25 polls.
Obviously, this weekend’s game between Tennessee State and UT Martin is hugely important to both teams chances. But there’s no guarantee that the winner will go, or that Eastern Kentucky will get a chance either.
Bottom line is that no OVC team has made it obvious that they should get a playoff spot. Parody is fun for fans, but when there aren’t many quality out of conference wins, it often makes the teams look weak, not strong. With the long playoff dry spell the conference has suffered, there’s a perception that the parody in the OVC is due to inconsistency rather than having multiple quality teams. And it doesn’t help the perception of the league that a team that finished last the year before, and has been outside of the Top 25 all year long, just won the conference. (Not that it’s Eastern Illinois’ fault.)
And when people are deciding the fate of who makes the cut and who doesn’t, perception is important.