Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Is this finally the year? That's what
teams in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Ohio Valley Conference have
been asking themselves for too long.
They're hoping the first half of the season suggests the FCS playoffs will be
different - for whomever comes out of their respective conference.
But they might have an idea already the way OVC front-runners Eastern Illinois
and Tennessee State and MEAC leaders Bethune-Cookman and South Carolina State
are playing this season. All four could be postseason-bound.
Both conferences are steeped in tradition, but, incredibly, a MEAC team has not
won an FCS playoff game since 1999 and the OVC has been shut out since 2000.
UT Martin coach Jason Simpson said at OVC media day that the lack of playoff
success is the "thorn in our (the conference's) side right now." South Carolina
State coach Buddy Pough says success in the playoffs "is at a real, real high
level. Until as a (MEAC) league we all get there, I don't know if any
individual can rise above it enough to hang in the league with the CAA and with
the Southern Conference and those kinds of leagues."
Coaches in both conferences point to difficult first-round matchups as the main
reason for the playoff failure. When the playoffs were 16 teams deep, the MEAC
sometimes ran into a regional road block against the CAA or SoCon, and the OVC
champ sometimes ran into a Missouri Valley Football Conference team, and, in
three different years from 2001-10, the eventual national champion, in an early
This year's results can't be denied, however. The playoffs will expand from 20
to 24 teams, and both conferences could have two playoff qualifiers each.
In the OVC, No. 5-ranked Eastern Illinois (5-1) has basically had the best
results of any team in the FCS, starting with a three-touchdown win at San
Diego State and victories over Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Eastern
Kentucky, losing only to Northern Illinois. The Jimmy Garoppolo express is on
another level this season and the Panthers could be headed toward being a
Tennessee State (6-1) might have the type of stingy defense to stop EIU, and
the road-tested the Tigers hope to win the OVC's automatic bid. The Tigers have
only lost by a field goal to Bethune-Cookman
Speaking of whom, Bethune-Cookman (5-1) could enter the picture as the MEAC's
best hope to the playoff drought. Like Eastern Illinois, the Wildcats have a
win over an FBS team (FIU) and their only loss was to another FBS opponent
They hosted playoff games in 2010 and last year, and have no intention of
coughing up another home game if they have one this season.
But Bethune-Cookman may not even be the MEAC's top club. South Carolina State
(5-2) has reeled off five straight wins, including a sweep of North Carolina
A&T and North Carolina Central in a five-day span, to make a statement after
having a rare subpar season under coach Buddy Pough. Their losses are only to
Clemson and unbeaten Coastal Carolina.
South Carolina State hosts Bethune-Cookman on Oct. 26, which is also the date
of the Eastern Illinois at Tennessee State showdown.
Veterans at quarterback and playmakers on defenses link the four teams.
Victories in the playoffs may link them by season's end.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
A roundup of games in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at
Western Carolina's 62-3 loss at Auburn lowered FCS teams to 14-81 against the
FBS. The 14 wins are a single-season record.
The disclaimer, of course, is three of the wins are against Georgia State.
GOING FOR IT
Southern Illinois started the season 2-3, with the losses by a combined 12
points to the University of Illinois from the Big Ten and Eastern Illinois and
Youngstown State, a pair of one-loss FCS teams.
The Salukis didn't dwell on what could have been. They have gone out and
defeated South Dakota State and Northern Iowa, the teams picked second and
third, respectively, in the Missouri Valley Football Conference preseason poll,
in back-to-back road games.
Now coach Dale Lennon's squad (4-3) goes for the big dog, the Missouri Valley
preseason favorite and the two-time defending FCS national champion North
Dakota State Bison next Saturday in Carbondale, Ill.
Senior quarterback Kory Faulkner has thrown for 17 touchdowns and only four
interceptions this season. What a job being done by the Salukis.
"We figured to take that next step up in credibility, you have to beat a team
like Northern Iowa, so that was a big motivation for us," Lennon said. "We're
there, it's just we hadn't shown it in the end, so I think teams now are going
to realize that we're probably better than what our record shows."
STOCK RISING, STOCK FALLING
Rising: There's good reason the teams in the Top 25 are ranked - they deserve
to be there. Top 25 teams went a gaudy 19-3 in Week 7, a record that was
guaranteed a loss by the No. 15 Villanova-No. 3 Towson matchup in CAA Football.
'Nova was as impressive as any ranked team in building a 38-14 halftime lead in
a 45-35 win, which gave the Wildcats sole possession of first place in the
Falling: Well, it can't be Appalachian State every week. How about Stephen F.
Austin? The Lumberjacks stunned then-No. 2 Montana State, 52-38, back on Sept.
21. But that's the fewest points they have given up to a Division I team,
having since gone out and fallen to Prairie View A&M, 56-48, and then
Southeastern Louisiana, 56-14, in Saturday's Southland Conference matchup.
AROUND THE NATION
Charleston Southern survived a Big South game at VMI, 25-17, to improve to 7-0
under first-year coach Jamey Chadwell. Daniel Croghan III passed for 245 yards
and three touchdowns for the Buccaneers, who next visit the University of
Colorado. ... Samford (5-2) completed the always difficult sweep of departing
Southern Conference members Georgia Southern and Appalachian State by dropping
the floundering Mountaineers, 34-10, in Boone, N.C. The Bulldogs held ASU to
223 yards and allowed only one touchdown late in the game. ... Three teams
earned their first wins of the season: Hampton (1-5) topped North Carolina
A&T, 31-26, as freshman quarterback Bryan Bailey threw for three touchdowns in
his first career start; Southeast Missouri State (1-5) slipped past Murray
State, 37-34, on Alex Knight's 30-yard field goal in the third overtime; and
Texas Southern (1-5) kept defending SWAC champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff winless,
41-28. ... Lehigh quarterback Brandon Bialkowski has thrown for at least 300
yards and wide receiver Lee Kurfis has at least 100 receiving yards in each of
the Mountain Hawks' six games. They are 5-1. ... San Diego (4-2, 3-0) remained
in first place in the Pioneer Football League, but it took two final attempts
against Marist. With Marist leading 33-32, USD kicker David Last missed a 33-
yard field goal that would have ended the game. However, the visiting Red Foxes
(3-3, 2-1) were called for running into the kicker. With no time left, Last
converted a 28-yard field goal attempt to lift the Toreros to a 35-33 triumph.
They are tied for first place with Butler as they head toward an Oct. 26
matchup in San Diego. ... Quarterback John Russ had 478 yards of total offense
and four total touchdowns as startup program Mercer beat Valparaiso, 35-21, and
improved to 5-1. His 93-yard TD pass to Josh Jones was the longest completion
of the FCS season. ... Chattanooga moved to 4-2 by holding Furman to 189 yards
in a 31-9 victory. Defensive end Davis Tull racked up 3.5 sacks. ... Although
Princeton (3-1) rotates quarterbacks, Quinn Epperly has been a part of 17
touchdowns rushing or passing, including five in a 42-26 win over Lafayette.
... Walter Payton Award candidate Jeff Mathews threw for 472 yards in Cornell's
34-24 loss to Harvard. ... Prairie View's Jerry Lovelocke topped Mathews with
533 passing yards in the Panthers's 48-42 overtime loss to Alabama State. That
means this season's 500-yard passers are 0-4. For Alabama State, Malcolm Cyrus
rushed for 241 yards and two touchdowns as starter Isaiah Crowell nursed an
injury. ... In a first-ever meeting of the Rhode Island schools, Brown topped
Bryant, 41-14, as senior quarterback Patrick Donnelly threw for a career-high
339 yards and four touchdowns. ... Duquesne clung to a 10-7 lead over Wagner
entering the fourth quarter of their Northeast Conference matchup, but pulled
away with 24 unanswered points for a 34-7 victory. ... In Northern Iowa's 24-17
loss to Southern Illinois, UNI place-kicker Tyler Sievertsen kicked two extra
points to tie the school record with 101 straight in his career. He shares the
mark with Brian Mitchell (1989-1991). ... Idaho State quarterback Jimmy Arias
and wide receiver Luke Austin teamed for three touchdown connections as the
Bengals improved to 3-3 with a 40-26 win over Northern Colorado. It was only
their second win over an FCS team since the start of the 2010 season (50-20
over Northern Colorado on Sept. 17, 2011) and gave them their best six-game
start since 2005 . ... As Southeastern Louisiana throttled Stephen F. Austin,
56-14, quarterback Bryan Bennett racked up 409 total yards and five total
touchdowns. ... In his first career start, Cal Poly sophomore quarterback Dano
Graves passed for three touchdowns and ran for 116 yards to help the Mustangs
blank Weber State, 47-0.
A LOOK AHEAD
The marquee conference matchups of Week 8 next Saturday are Coastal Carolina at
Liberty in the Big South, North Dakota State at Southern Illinois in the
Missouri Valley Conference and Sam Houston State at McNeese State in the
Other key matchups are: Big Sky, Cal Poly-Montana and Southern Utah-Eastern
Washington; CAA, Villanova-New Hampshire and William & Mary-Maine; Ivy,
Princeton-Brown; Missouri Valley, Western Illinois-Youngstown State; Northeast,
Sacred Heart-Bryant and Duquesne-Robert Morris; Ohio Valley, Tennessee State-UT
Martin; Pioneer, Drake-Butler and San Diego-Dayton; Southland, Central
Arkansas-Lamar and Southeastern Louisiana-Northwestern State.
In addition: non-conference, Fordham-Yale; and FCS-FBS, Charleston Southern-
Colorado and Old Dominion-Pittsburgh.
The Sports Network