With the expansion of the FCS Playoffs to 24 teams, many wondered if this would get the conference multiple teams in. The answer was yes, as Tennessee State and Jacksonville State joined the conference champion Eastern Illinois in the playoffs. That’s right, a third of the conference is in the playoffs.
The conference champion Eastern Illinois earned a first round bye and a Number 2 seed after a 11-1 season that saw the Panthers go a perfect 8-0 in the conference. The Panthers will play at O’Brien Field the winner of Butler and Tennessee State on December 7. Even more importantly, the Panthers will have home-field advantage until the championship game.
The conference’s best defense in Tennessee State finished 9-3 on the season with two losses coming to teams in the playoffs (EIU and Bethune-Cookman). The Tigers will play at Butler on Nov. 30 at noon CDT. The Bulldogs are from the Pioneer Conference and were 9-3 this year. This matchup will be the first time the Tigers and Bulldogs have played each other.
Possibly a surprise is Jacksonville State, who benefited from a few key losses the final week of the season to sneak in the field. The Gamecocks will play former OVC member Samford who left the conference in 2008 for the Southern Conference. The Gamecocks will host the Bulldogs Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. CDT. The Gamecocks own a slight 22-17-2 advantage in the series, but have won the last eight games against the Bulldogs with their last meeting coming in 2007.
As always, we will have complete coverage throughout the FCS Playoffs.