By Greg Gulas
Youngstown State football coach Bo Pelini wasn’t worried about whether his Penguins would be one of the 24 teams to qualify for the FCS Playoffs.
His concern was whether the Penguins (8-3, 6-2 Missouri Valley Football Conference) would be seeded and earn a week off.
Sunday, the Penguins learned they were awarded a home game in the first round. Saturday at 5 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium, YSU will host Samford.
“It’s another next day,” Pelini said of the Penguins’ first playoff game since 2006. “I expected to be where we are.
“I was hoping to be one of the top eight seeds, but it didn’t happen,” Pelini said. “That was kind of the goal going into the whole thing but you know, you get into the tournament and you see what happens.”
Pelini said he tried hard not to get caught up in speculation.
“I’ve been through dealing with bowl projections and all that stuff for a long time and very rarely are they correct,” the former Nebraska head coach said. “You just don’t know.
“I don’t really concern myself with things that are out of my control.”
Senior defensive back Leroy Alexander is happy.
“It’s really exciting to end the 10-year drought and we’re looking forward to the playoffs,” Alexander said. “A lot of guys have been here for four or five years.”
Pelini said his squad has progressed in his second year at YSU.
“We’ve come a ways in the past year or so,” Pelini said. “I was really disappointed we didn’t do it a year ago.
“That’s what we’re in it for, we’re in it to win and compete for a national championship and this gives us that opportunity.”
In addition to YSU, three other Missouri Valley Football Conference teams qualified. North Dakota State (10-1, 7-1), five-time defending FCS champion, is the top seed. South Dakota State (8-3, 7-1) is eighth. Also invited is Illinois State (6-5, 4-4).
“It just goes to show you that in our conference, anyone can be beaten on any day,” Pelini said. “I think the teams in our conference will go far in the playoffs.”
The other high seeds are Eastern Washington (10-1, second), Jacksonville State (10-1, third), James Madison (10-1, fourth), Sam Houston State (11-0, fifth), The Citadel (10-1, sixth) and North Dakota (9-2, seventh).
The top seeds received first-round byes.
Samford and YSU have history, but it’s not recent. In 1991, YSU defeated Samford 10-0 in the Division I-AA semifinals en route to the Penguins’ first of four national championships under Coach Jim Tressel.
This season, YSU went 6-0 at home and is 14-1 in 15 postseason games at Stambaugh Stadium.
Samford (7-4, 5-3, Southern Conference) limps into the playoffs having lost three of four contests. Samford is 2-4 on the road.
“Samford is a program with a lot of history and tradition,” Pelini said. “I don’t know anything about them, to be honest with you.
“I’m not worried about that right now as we’ll start getting familiar with them later today,” Pelini said. “We’ll clean up what we need to clean up from [Saturday’s win].
“We won’t approach it any different than we have all year.”