FCS predictions: How N.C. A&T remains in playoff picture

(STATS) – North Carolina A&T’s goal is to win the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl and the mythical black college football national championship, which it accomplished in 2015.

As one of three unbeaten teams in the FCS, there’s a growing feeling A&T could match up well in the FCS playoffs, which would overcome a poor history for MEAC teams.

The Aggies don’t appear in any projected bracket for the FCS playoffs, including STATS’, but the possibility remains they could land an at-large bid if they don’t qualify for the Celebration Bowl. It’s a nightmarish prospect to teams on the playoff bubble.

The MEAC relinquished its automatic bid to the playoffs in 2015 to pair its champion against the SWAC winner in the Celebration Bowl, but the other teams in both conferences remain eligible for at-large bids.

The best A&T could be and not advance to the Celebration Bowl is 10-1 – a resume that the playoff selection committee probably couldn’t deny because it includes a win over FBS Charlotte, and the Aggies earned an at-large bid last season at 9-2. The best fellow MEAC contenders Hampton, Howard or North Carolina Central could be and not advance to the Celebration Bowl is 8-3, which probably wouldn’t warrant an at-large playoff bid because of the conference’s lower ranking against most conferences with an automatic bid.

The former scenario is one the committee probably doesn’t want to face because MEAC teams have dropped 19 straight playoff games (15 champs and four at-large selections) since 2000, including A&T’s 39-10 loss to Richmond in the first round last season.

There isn’t a realistic at-large team in the SWAC. It’s impossible for the strongest team, a Grambling State club that didn’t qualify for the Celebration Bowl, because the Tigers’ final regular-season game is on Nov. 25 – the day of the playoff first round.



All Times ET

X – Predicted Winner

Week 7 Record: 11-6 (.647); Season Record: 135-36 (.789)

Saturday, Nov. 4

X-No. 1 James Madison (8-0, 5-0 CAA) at Rhode Island (2-6, 1-4), noon – Everybody’s predicting URI to put up a competitive effort, but the Dukes won by an 84-7 knockout last year.

No. 15 Western Illinois (5-3, 2-3 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 12 Illinois State (6-2, 4-1), 1 p.m. – This in-state rivalry turns 100. Having first met in 1904, WIU leads Illinois State 50-46-3 in the all-time series.

X-No. 9 North Carolina A&T (8-0, 5-0 MEAC) at Norfolk State (3-5, 3-2), 1 p.m. – The Aggies’ five road wins are the most in the FCS this season.

Albany (3-5, 1-4 CAA) at X-No. 14 Stony Brook (6-2, 5-1), 1 p.m. – Stony Brook’s offense must be seeking 25 points in the sixth annual Empire Clash. The Seawolves have allowed 24 points in each of their last three games.

X-Richmond (4-4, 2-3 CAA) at No. 20 Villanova (4-4, 2-3), 1 p.m. – Both plummeting teams need to win three in a row to return to the playoffs.

Chattanooga (2-7, 2-4 Southern) at X-No. 8 Wofford (7-1, 5-1), 1:30 p.m. – In their last two games, the Terriers have allowed just 10 (Samford) and 15 (ETSU) net rushing yards.

No. 24 Western Carolina (6-3, 4-2 Southern) at X-The Citadel (5-3, 3-3), 2 p.m. – Redshirt freshman Ray Smith will get the call if WCU quarterback Tyrie Adams (lower leg injury) is a no-go.

Towson (3-5, 1-4 CAA) at X-No. 7 Elon (7-1, 5-0), 2 p.m. – Last week’s incredible fact remains relevant: Elon is 7-1 even though it has been outscored by six points this season.

Murray State (2-6, 1-3 Ohio Valley) at X-No. 3 Jacksonville State (7-1, 5-0), 2 p.m. – Freshly named William V. Campbell Trophy finalist Justin Lea will make his 48th straight start on the Gamecocks’ offensive line – one shy of the school and OVC record.

No. 25 Kennesaw State (7-1) at X-Montana State (4-4), 2 p.m. – The FCS’ No. 1 rushing team will find the breathing heavy at 4,860-foot altitude.

Incarnate Word (1-7, 1-5 Southland) at X-No. 5 Sam Houston State (7-1, 5-1), 2 p.m. – With 78 1/2 career tackles for loss, Bearkats senior P.J. Hall is 1 1/2 shy of former Southern Utah standout James Cowser’s FCS record.

X-No. 6 South Dakota (7-1, 4-1 Missouri Valley) at Northern Iowa (4-4, 3-2), 2 p.m. – The Coyotes have as many defensive pick-6s (three) as offensive turnovers.

X-No. 21 New Hampshire (5-3, 3-2 CAA) at William & Mary (2-6, 0-5), 2 p.m. – Wildcats coach Sean McDonnell, the two-time winner of the STATS FCS Eddie Robinson Stadium, seeks his first win at his house of horrors. He’s 0-7 at Zable Stadium.

No. 16 Samford (5-3, 3-2 Southern) at X-Mercer (4-4, 3-3), 3 p.m. – Last week’s late loss to Chattanooga could haunt Samford’s playoff resume.

X-No. 2 North Dakota State (8-0, 5-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 10 South Dakota State (6-2, 3-2), 3 p.m. – It’s the STATS FCS Game of the Week. The unbeaten Bison’s average win margin of 32.3 points is the best in the FCS.

X-No. 13 Grambling State (7-1, 4-0 SWAC) at Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-6, 1-3), 3:30 p.m. – If UAPB keeps Grambling under 50, it would be surprising.

No. 19 Weber State (6-2, 4-1 Big Sky) at X-No. 11 Eastern Washington (5-3, 4-1), 4:05 p.m. – Something isn’t right when Eastern Washington ranks only fourth in the Big Sky and seventh in the FCS in passing yards per game.

No. 18 Northern Arizona (6-2, 5-0 Big Sky) at X-Montana (5-3, 3-2), 5:30 p.m. – This matchup should be tight, although the fourth-quarter margin in NAU games has been single digits only once this season – for 3 minutes, 21 seconds against Sacramento State last week.

X-No. 4 Central Arkansas (7-1, 6-0 Southland) at Lamar (1-7, 0-6), 7 p.m. – UCA’s final three Southland opponents are a combined 4-20.

Southeastern Louisiana (5-4, 5-2 Southland) at X-No. 22 McNeese (6-2, 4-2), 7 p.m. – With both teams coming off losses that were crushing to their title hopes, this is the official bounce-back game of the week.

North Dakota (3-6, 2-4 Big Sky) at X-No. 17 Southern Utah (6-2, 4-1), 8 p.m. – In a season that began with much promise, UND is 0-3 versus ranked opponents.

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