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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 15 2012

Kolpack: FCS playoff field starts to shake out


This weekend, amateur Football Championship Subdivision bracketologists will be putting their Stony Brooks and Lehighs to paper and figuring out if they belong in the tournament. The process is a cousin to the NCAA men’s basketball tourney projections, but a devoted hobby nonetheless.

In the last two years, two of the biggest FCS geeks around – I’m not going to name names, but you can find them at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com – have gotten 19 out of 20 correct each time. That included, correctly, having North Dakota State as the final team selected in 2010.

We, oops, I mean they, already have 17 in the field, so Saturday’s games will be essentially a playoff for three final teams. The criteria the NCAA FCS playoff committee uses is not from an upper-level statistics class, either.

According to the manual, (NCAA Bylaw 31 if you’re scoring at home), at-large berth factors to be considered are:

E Won-lost record.

E Strength of schedule.

Less than seven Division I wins puts a team in jeopardy, the manual says, and the committee “may give more consideration to those teams that have played all Division I opponents.”

That’s it.

Contrary to some FCS public opinion, the Gridiron Power Index poll is not a primary factor.

“We use it in a very limited fashion,” said Damani Leech, director of championships and alliances for the NCAA.

Specifically, the only time the GPI is used is if a team from the non-scholarship Pioneer League is on the cusp of making the field. For a Pioneer team to make it, a team must have eight Division I wins, with two coming against a team from a league that has an automatic qualifier, and it finishes the season ranked 20th or higher in an average of three top 25 polls: the coaches’, Sports Network media and the GPI.

“So (the GPI) is used to evaluate one team, and it’s one of the components of it,” Leech said.

A Pioneer team has never made the playoffs. It’s doubtful a team has even been close.

This is not meant to demean the GPI. It’s a rather accurate rating and considering a main FCS selection factor is strength of schedule, it’s a pretty good predictor on who will get in. The litmus test will be Indiana State, which if it beats Youngstown State on Saturday, will have seven D-I victories but a high GPI.

Leech said the FCS playoff committee does its own rankings via conference calls during the season, and when the group huddles this weekend in Indianapolis, they will have that chart in front of them. Wins versus Football Bowl Subdivision teams are very much a factor, he said.

In the meantime, if you want to get a good idea of the playoff field, check out the Bison Media Blog. Those two geeks know their FCS.

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia