Scalzo: Of FCS playoffs & acronyms

From the “My barber thinks I should get more haircuts” and the “My wife thinks I should get a raise” file comes this week’s revelation from the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s coaches: The Missouri Valley Football Conference should get more teams in the playoffs.

“I think it’s very clear that we should have three or four teams in,” Youngstown State coach Eric Wolford said. “I think every coach knows that.”

This is a bit of a sore subject with Wolford, who, as my readers and Twitter followers occasionally remind me, has not yet made the playoffs. These readers sometimes feel the need to remind me of this by using all caps. And exclamation points. Some even include helpful tips on what YSU should be doing about this. These tips do not always include giving Wolford a contract extension.

Regardless, the case for giving the MVFC more playoff berths boils down to a couple key points:

Conference member North Dakota State has won the last three national titles.

MVFC teams have performed well against BCS teams. Particularly when North Dakota State is the one playing them.

Over the past couple years, the MVFC has been ranked No. 1 by several metrics, including GPI* and USA Today’s Sagarin Ratings.

(*GPI stands for Gridiron Power Index. If this sounds like a terrible name for an acronym, well, I’ve got a Football Championship Subdivision to tell you about.)

The case against the MVFC revolves around teams not named North Dakota State. For instance, the conference’s second-best team last year, South Dakota State, lost in the second round of a tournament that’s pretty much rigged so MVFC teams can’t lose in the first round. And for all of the talk about the MVFC being the SEC of the FCS, UNI is the only other conference team in the last decade to play in the FCS championship game and that came back in 2005, when it was still I-AA. Also, it lost.

(If you’re still reading after all those acronyms, bless you.)

All this begs the question: What is the FCS tournament for? Or, more specifically, what are the 13 at-large bids for? To reward teams for good seasons or to figure out the national champion?

If it’s the latter, it’s easy to see why Youngstown State missed the cut. Over the last three weeks of the 2013 season, the Penguins played the league’s three best teams: UNI, NDSU and SDSU. They lost all three, including a 42-13 drubbing in a snowy finale at Stambaugh Stadium. All three were de facto playoff games.

But it’s also easy to argue YSU was better than several other at-large teams, and South Dakota coach Joe Glenn (who won a I-AA national title with Big Sky-member Montana in 2001) did just that, saying, “There’s a couple teams from the Big Sky that shouldn’t have been in above Youngstown. I feel real strong about that.”

Wolford has been a game away from the postseason the last three years, and in two of those years he was a play away. If Jamaine Cook catches a third-down swing pass in the 2011 finale against Missouri State or if Donald D’Alesio catches a last-minute interception in the 2013 loss to UNI, this conversation (from YSU’s perspective) might be moot. But they didn’t.

Youngstown State may argue that the MVFC’s third-best team should have been in the playoffs, but the fact remains: The league’s two best teams still were.

Problem was, YSU wasn’t one of them.

Joe Scalzo covers YSU football for The Vindicator. Write to him at and follow him on Twitter, @JoeScalzo1.

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