Kolpack: Noted FCS bracketologists are bullish on the Missouri Valley
FARGO — You know him as the WDAY-TV sports director who graduated from a college that has more names than a North Dakota high school football co-op. Dominic Izzo hails from the State University of New York at Oswego. There could be a "college," "institution" or "academy" in that name somewhere, but you get the idea.
He's also the foremost Division I FCS playoff bracketologist who starts picking the field during spring football, if not before. It's actually debatable who's better—Dom or Craig Haley, who covers the FCS for STATS.com—but both are well-versed in their craft.
And, heading into the first weekend in October, both have six teams from the Missouri Valley Football Conference making the 24-team FCS field. That would unofficially turn the FCS playoffs into the Missouri Valley Invitational.
It would be unprecedented. If their projections hold up, it would also challenge the political nature of picking a playoff field, mainly because a committee representative from another league would have to admit the the Valley deserves that many.
But this year is different, Haley said, mainly because of the early separation between the Missouri Valley, the Colonial Athletic Association and the rest of the FCS.
"There's a bigger gap than there has been in the past," he said. "Pick a third conference this year—maybe the Southern Conference—so I think the committee could get beyond any apprehensions."
For the record, Dom has North Dakota State (4-0), Illinois State (4-0), South Dakota (4-0), South Dakota State (3-1), Western Illinois (3-1) and Youngstown State (3-1). Haley has the same six, plus he also has six from the CAA. Note that both left Northern Iowa (2-2), a perennial playoff team, out of the field. For now.
For six Valley teams to make the playoffs, of course, the beat-each-other-up scenarios in the next seven weeks will have to fall just right. There will need to be at least two or three teams that finish 4-4 in the league, but at 7-4 overall would have a good enough resume to reach the field. But also note Western Illinois and Indiana State made the playoffs in recent years with five losses.
"The selection committee values strong schedules," Haley said.
Generally, college basketball analyst Joe Lunardi is credited with inventing the concept of bracketology from his work in picking the NCAA basketball tournament. He even teaches an online class called "Fundamentals of Bracketology" at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. The rest of us have simply stolen the term.
For both noted FCS bracketologists, their picks this week is how the field would stack up if the playoffs were announced today. Dom also is putting it out there that he believes six from the Valley will make the field at the end of November.
I'm not buying it.
When push comes to shove behind close doors, the Valley will at most get five teams into the playoffs. No way a rep from say the Ohio Valley Conference will want to go back to his league members and try to justify it.
The old guard of the FCS has been passed up and they don't like it. Of the six active FCS members with the most playoff appearances—Montana (23), Eastern Kentucky (21), UNI (18), McNeese State (16) and Furman (16)—none are ranked in the STATS.com top 25 media poll.
The next seven weeks is going to be war for those five Valley spots. And if the Valley gets six, I will do a term paper on the greatness of the State Academy University of New York College at Oswego Proper.