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By Kevin Schnepf and Jeff Kolpack, Published November 21 2010

College football analysis: Bison among bubble teams eyeing 3 spots

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Missouri State football player Skylar Smith could only grin when asked if he and his teammates got any satisfaction out of possibly spoiling North Dakota State’s playoff hopes.

“I think we wanted it more,” said Smith, one of 20 seniors playing their final game for Missouri State with a 3-0 win over the Bison Saturday afternoon. “I don’t think we liked the way that they were banking on getting in the playoffs.”

Now, the only way the Bison can bank on getting into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs is getting a little help from other results on Saturday plus getting some support from the FCS playoff selection committee. That committee will announce its 20-team field in today’s 9 a.m. selection show to be televised on ESPNU.

“I don’t know … I think at 7-4 it is going to be tough,” said NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor.

Based on what transpired Saturday, the Bison got some good news and some bad news.

First, the good news.

An analysis of the projected playoff field by The Forum and WDAY puts NDSU and four other schools as bubble teams vying for the last three at-large selections. It appears the Bison, South Carolina State, Jacksonville University, University of Dayton and Georgia Southern each have legitimate resumes for consideration.

Will the Pioneer League get two representatives in the playoffs with Jacksonville and Dayton? It appears Jacksonville, with its only loss to highly-ranked Appalachian State, would get the edge over Dayton. And it appears NDSU, with its impressive win over Kansas, might get the edge over someone like Dayton.

But the big question remains: Could the Missouri Valley Conference get a third representative with the Bison?

There’s more good news for the Bison.

With perennial powerhouse Montana losing to Montana State

21-16, the Grizzlies ended with an identical 7-4 record as the Bison. But with a non-Division I win over Western State (Colo.), the Grizzlies failed to reach the required seven Division I wins needed to be considered.

Rhode Island’s 37-34 win over Massachusetts worked in NDSU’s favor. The loss gave UMass a 6-5 record.

William & Mary’s 31-3 win over Richmond helped the Bison, too. Richmond finished 6-5.

Now, the bad news.

Western Illinois’ resounding 30-14 win over already-playoff bound Northern Iowa hurt the Bison. Both the Bison and Leathernecks have 7-4 records. But Western Illinois beat the Bison, a

28-16 outcome in the Oct. 2 homecoming game in the Fargodome.

Villanova, the defending FCS champion, also posted a huge 28-21 victory over highly-ranked Delaware to keep its playoff hopes alive. With Villanova improving to 7-4, that hurt the Bison chances.

“We needed some teams to lose that didn’t, like Western and Villanova … but you never know,” Taylor said.

That brings the playoff theories to the Gridiron Power Index, the ratings the playoff committee takes into account for at-large selections. NDSU was 15th heading into Saturday.

No. 10 Wofford and No. 11 Villanova both won. Montana was 12. No. 13 Sacramento State will not have the required seven wins while No. 14 Massachusetts lost. Moreover, the two teams behind NDSU, Chattanooga and Richmond, both lost. But Western, at No. 21, and Georgia Southern, at 20, both won.

“I don’t know … obviously we need a bunch of help,” said Bison offensive coordinator Brent Vigen.

Taylor wondered if NDSU’s 6-3 win over Kansas could help. The Bison may have the only FBS win of the teams on the playoff bubble.

“The committee gets in the room, who knows,” he said. “They may consider that Kansas win as the only team on the board that has one.”

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549. Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia