Polls indicate YSU is playoff-bound
One more victory needed to qualify
By Charles Grove
With two weeks remaining in Youngstown State’s football season, most projection sites have the Penguins solidly holding a spot in the FCS playoff bracket.
The Penguins (6-3, 4-2 Missouri Valley Football Conference) sit third in the conference, a game behind North Dakota State and South Dakota State.
The Penguins haven’t made the playoffs since 2006 when the team went 9-2 in the regular season and defeated James Madison and Illinois State in the first two rounds before falling to Appalachian State.
YSU is also one game up on a slew of teams chasing them. Western Illinois, South Dakota and Northern Iowa all have a 3-3 conference record and are hoping to make up ground as the season comes to a close.
Several sites that specialize in predicting which teams will make the 24-team field all have Youngstown State featured in the first round.
Fox Sports lists YSU as one of four MVFC teams to get into the playoffs and has the Penguins playing Villanova in a first-round game with the winner moving on to play third-seeded Jacksonville State.
NoBowls.com boasts a record of correctly predicting 129 of 136 teams since 2008 into the FCS playoffs and also lists YSU hosting Villanova with the winner playing in Jacksonville, Ala.
Erik Pitzer, who predicts the teams on NoBowls.com, said the format for YSU to get into the playoffs is simple — win one more game.
“Youngstown State’s path is very straight forward,” Pitzer said. “If they win one of their next two games, they’re in. A 7-4 team from the MVFC will not be left out in this year’s field.”
But if the Penguins falter down the stretch and drop both games, chances nearly go totally out the door.
“Very, very slim chances if [YSU] loses both,” Pitzer said.
STATS, which provides the official Top 25 rankings on the NCAA’s website, also lists the same scenario as Fox Sports and NoBowls.com.
CollegeSportsMadness.com lists a different scenario. They list YSU as playing the Wofford Terriers in the first round.
HeroSports.com, which boasts a large section of its site to FCS football, doesn’t list a bracket as a projection, but lists Youngstown State as the 11th best team in the country, which would appear a solid position for an at-large bid for the playoffs.
Other polls list YSU in a bit more precarious situation. The STATS poll lists YSU in 17th, down two spots from last week while the FCS coaches poll lists the Penguins in 15th, also down two spots from a week ago.
Nevertheless, two more games must be played before Selection Sunday. YSU plays last-place Southern Illinois at home this week and then travels to play Missouri State on Nov. 19. Missouri State sits in eighth place of the 10-team league.
With the somewhat comfortable situation YSU sits in at the moment, two wins should do nothing to change the Penguins’ apparent seat at the playoff table for the time being.
But hiccups down the stretch could make for some nervous moments when the brackets are announced. Two losses to close out the season may leave fans with more than a decade wait between playoff appearances.