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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 12 2012

Missouri Valley teams vying for playoff spots

FARGO – With one week to go, 85 percent of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoff field is already set.

That includes North Dakota State and Illinois State, which play Saturday in Normal, Ill.

A Forum/WDAY analysis projects they are the only two teams from the Missouri Valley Football Conference assured playoff spots at this point. South Dakota State, which plays the University of South Dakota, should get in with a victory against its in-state rival.

The Bison are coming off Saturday’s 20-17 home victory against SDSU for the Dakota Marker.

“I certainly appreciate our rivalry with South Dakota State,” NDSU head coach Craig Bohl said. “I want to wish them well as they close out their season. I know they are vying for a potential playoff spot. Hopefully the NCAA committee looks favorable upon their resume.”

MVFC teams on the FCS playoff bubble are Indiana State and Youngstown State. Those two play each other Saturday.

The winner of that game may face a tough road in the FCS committee room.

Indiana State would improve to 8-3, but one win was a non-Division I counter and would be 7-3 in the eyes of the committee.

With a win, Youngstown would be 7-4 with a Football Bowl Subdivision win over Pittsburgh.

Also hurting either Indiana State or Youngstown is a possible at-large berth for Stony Brook of the Big South Conference, which did not get the league’s automatic bid, but has an FBS win over Army and whose season is completed at 9-2.

Ten FCS conferences receive automatic bids with the other 10 teams selected at an at-large basis. The main criteria for the latter are at least seven D-I wins.

A team’s resume can be helped with an FBS win or standing in the Gridiron Power Index. The Forum/WDAY analysis projects 17 teams already have their ticket punched.

It appears the Big Sky Conference already has three teams in with Eastern Washington, Montana State and California Poly. Northern Arizona can get in with a win over Cal Poly on Saturday.

The Colonial Athletic Association has two certain bids in Old Dominion and New Hampshire. James Madison can play itself into the tournament with a win against Old Dominion on Saturday and Villanova can make a good case with a win against Delaware.

The NDSU-Illinois State winner will receive the MVFC automatic bid. If Illinois State wins, the Redbirds could earn one of the top five seeds, and perhaps knock NDSU from that perch.

There are 12 first-round byes, so NDSU has at least already earned that distinction. A Bison win most likely gives them the No. 1 overall seed at 10-1 with a victory over FBS Colorado State.

“To have the outright (MVFC) championship is important,” Bohl said. “I do think seeding comes into play. As you get into the tournament, your quality wins at the tail end will certainly have an impact on the NCAA committee.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia