By Joe Scalzo
After losing last week to North Dakota State, Youngstown State quarterback Kurt Hess pointed to the season finale against South Dakota State and said, “If we win, we deserve to be in the playoffs. If we lose, we don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.”
When asked if he still felt that way following Saturday’s 42-13 loss to the Jackrabbits, Hess said, “I don’t know. I think that we play one of the hardest schedules in the country, we play in one of the toughest conferences and we played well this year in this conference. We didn’t end hot. But we’re third place in the Missouri Valley and three teams could deserve a spot.
“We’re just going to pray and hope that our number gets called and we get another game.”
For the third straight year, YSU enters Selection Sunday hoping the committee will overlook a flawed resume. With an expanded playoff bracket — there are now 13 at-large teams, three more than last season, to go with 11 automatic qualifiers — and a second-place finish in the nation’s best conference, the Penguins (8-4, 5-3 Missouri Valley) should at least be in the discussion.
“I think they should be in, I really do,” South Dakota State coach John Stiegelmeier said of the Penguins. “They have the same record we have. The negative is the three losses at the end of the year.
“What I don’t like at the end is its subjectivity, instead of GPI or the league you’re in. A win against X-Y-Z in the Missouri Valley is infinitely more important than some of the wins some other teams get but I don’t know if other teams recognize that.”
The selection committee is made up of 10 athletic directors from FCS schools (including UNI’s Troy Dannen, who will argue for the MVFC) and Fordham associate vice president Frank McLaughlin. The committee began debating teams on Saturday night and will finalize the picks this morning.
One of the major tools the committee will use is called the NCAA Simple Rating System, which rates teams based on strength of schedule and win-loss differential (which takes into account game location and team classification but not margin of victory).
YSU was ranked 16th in SRS entering Saturday’s game, while South Dakota State was 15th. (Final rankings will be released today.)
While the Penguins may perform well by some objective measures, the fact remains that they lack a signature win. Beating Southern Illinois, which finished 7-5 and was part of a four-way tie for second in the conference with a 5-3 record, probably comes closest.
“We’ll meet tomorrow at 11:30 and we’ll have an idea where we are,” YSU coach Eric Wolford said. “We’re gonna have to deal with the present and I don’t know what it is. I don’t have a way to project it or make a prediction.
“If tomorrow is the last time we meet as a group, then we’ll meet like that. If not, then we’ll talk about who we’re getting ready to play.”