Photos by Hillary Ehlen
After a late-season loss to South Dakota State, the NDSU football team dropped several spots in the national polls and, more importantly, in the FCS playoff committee rankings. But when it was all said and done, the Bison were awarded a Top 2 seed and home-field advantage to Frisco if they continue to win.
So why, after having Jacksonville State (10-1) and Central Arkansas (10-1) ahead of NDSU in their second rankings reveal, did the playoff committee jump the Bison back to No. 2 behind James Madison (11-0)? Three important factors played to the advantage of NDSU.
1. Strength of Schedule
On Bison1660 after the bracket was revealed, the FCS playoff committee chairman and Wofford athletic director Richard Johnson said the Bison were being considered for the No. 2, 3 and 4 seeds. But ultimately, it was their strength of schedule that jumped them over JSU and UCA.
Those two teams play in the Ohio Valley Conference (fifth) and Southland Conference (seventh), which are ranked as middle-of-the-pack leagues in the FCS, according to the Jeff Sagarin Ratings. The Missouri Valley Football Conference is the No. 1 conference in the FCS.
2. Ranked Wins
The Bison led the FCS with six Top 25 wins. More importantly, NDSU owned three wins against teams that made the playoffs and one win against a bubble team, Eastern Washington, something the committee looked at deeply when determining seeds. None of the teams JSU defeated made the playoffs and UCA had one win against a playoff team (Sam Houston State).
3. Outright MVFC Champs
The MVFC has five teams in the playoffs yet again, showing the respect it has nationally. The conference is so competitive that of NDSU’s seven straight Valley titles, this is only the third time the Bison won it outright. A one-loss outright MVFC champion is more impressive in the eyes of the committee than an OVC champion that went undefeated against FCS teams.