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(Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

(Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Hickey: Breaking down the Cowboys' postseason chances

Last Modified: Sunday, November 04, 2012 9:56 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

A couple weeks ago, McNeese State’s playoff hopes looked about as good as Jim Carrey’s in “Dumb and Dumber” when he’s told his odds are one-in-a-million and responds by saying, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

With two games left in the season, now there actually is a chance.

The Cowboys certainly have to do the heavy lifting. With a loss next week, it’s all over. Beating a Bowl Subdivision team this deep into the season is no easy task. The attrition of a football season indicates that team is going to have a serious depth advantage by this point of the year even it its talent advantage is negligible or nonexistent.

But if McNeese does go into the Alamodome and knock off UTSA next week — certainly a possibility given the Roadrunners only win over an established FBS program came against 1-8 New Mexico State — they could be in the driver’s seat heading into the final week.

Still, it sure wouldn’t hurt to see some other teams jockeying for berths stumble. Several, actually.

Here’s a look at the playoff picture with two weeks to go:

CLINCHED (1): Central Arkansas

SHOULD BE IN (13): Northern Arizona, Eastern Washington, Montana State, Stony Brook, New Hampshire, Old Dominion, Bethune-Cookman, North Dakota State, Illinois State, Sam Houston State, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State

BUBBLE TEAMS (17): Lehigh (9-0), Tennessee State (8-2), Cal Poly (7-2), James Madison (7-2), Wofford (7-2), Tennessee-Martin (7-2), South Dakota State (7-2), Indiana State (7-3), Eastern Kentucky (7-3), Colgate (6-3), Samford (6-3), Eastern Illinois (6-3), Richmond (6-3), Villanova (6-3), McNeese (6-3), Towson (5-4), Youngstown State (5-4)

Of the bubble teams, only six are going to make it to the playoffs, which gives you a clear picture of why the field is being expanded to 24 teams next year. Each of the 17 bubble teams has had a chance to make a case this season, and will continue to do so in these last two weeks.

One should be eliminated next week when Colgate and Lehigh meet with the Patriot League title on the line, bringing it down to 15 teams vying for five spots. Certainly, Cowboy fans should be rooting hard for Lehigh in that one just to be safe — though their resume doesn’t warrant an at-large bid, it might be hard to keep the Mountain Hawks home if they finish 10-1.

The rest of the resumes are a mixed bag.



MCNEESE

• Best Win: 27-21 at Middle Tennessee State
• Worst Loss: 25-24 at Southestern Louisiana
• Remaining: at UTSA, Lamar
• Outlook: None of the non-Patriot bubble teams has lost to a weaker opponent than SLU. Thus, the need for McNeese to win out and get some help around the country. Of course, no one else would have two wins over FBS opponents, making McNeese the ultimate wild card.


CAL POLY

• Best Win: 24-22 at Wyoming
• Worst Loss: 35-29 at Sacramento State
• Remaining: Idaho State, at Northern Arizona
• Outlook: Unless they lose to Idaho State next week, the Mustangs should probably be in, which would leave four spots.


WOFFORD

• Best Win: 38-28 at Appalachian State
• Worst Loss: 24-17 at Samford
• Remaining: Chattanooga, at South Carolina
• Outlook: This weekend is a must-win for the Terriers, who have 6 Division I victories. Win and they’re in, lose and they’re out.


JAMES MADISON

• Best Win: 13-10 vs. Towson
• Worst Loss: 35-29 at Richmond
• Remaining: at Villanova, Old Dominion
• Outlook: The Dukes are likely in if they split their next two games, which are against fellow playoff contenders. However, doing that may prove challenging.


TENNESSEE STATE

• Best Win: 23-20 vs. Eastern Kentucky
• Worst Loss: 49-28 at Murray State
• Remaining: at Tennessee-Martin
• Outlook: It would be hard to keep the Tigers out if they finish up with a win over another playoff contender. However, a loss puts them at 8-3 with a lesser resume than McNeese.


TENNESSEE-MARTIN

• Best Win: 20-17 at Memphis
• Worst Loss: 28-16 vs. Eastern Kentucky
• Remaining: at Tennessee Tech, Tennessee State
• Outlook: Win out, and UTM gets the Ohio Valley auto bid. That’s the preferable outcome for McNeese, which would likely lose an at-large battle with the Skyhawks because of a loss to mutual opponent Southeastern Louisiana.


EASTERN ILLINOIS

• Best Win: 49-28 vs. Southern Illinois
• Worst Loss: 51-37 at Tennessee-Martin
• Remaining: SE Missouri State, at Central Arkansas
• Outlook: McNeese really, really needs some help from Clint Conque and the Bears. A win in that game would bolster the Panthers, who can also get the OVC auto bid if UTM trips up.


EASTERN KENTUCKY

• Best Win: 28-16 at Tennessee-Martin
• Worst Loss: 24-7 vs. Eastern Illinois
• Remaining: Murray State
• Outlook: If the Colonels win next week, they’ll have 8 D-I wins — something that will probably give them a leg up on McNeese. Cowboy fans have to hope Murray’s powerful offense comes through for the upset.


SOUTH DAKOTA STATE

• Best Win: 24-10 at Indiana State
• Worst Loss: 27-6 at Northern Iowa
• Remaining: at North Dakota State, South Dakota
• Outlook: Guess what? The Jackrabbits have also beaten a mutual McNeese opponent in SLU, so they’d also have the edge if both go 8-3. It might take an upset by 1-8 rival South Dakota for the Cowboys to jump this team.


INDIANA STATE

• Best Win: 17-14 at North Dakota State
• Worst Loss: 24-10 vs. South Dakota State
• Remaining: at Youngstown State
• Outlook: The Sycamores need a road win over the Penguins to get to 7 D-I wins.


RICHMOND

• Best Win: 35-29 vs. James Madison
• Worst Loss: 43-19 at Virginia
• Remaining: Delaware, at William & Mary
• Outlook: The selection committee loves it some CAA, which gives the Spiders a strong chance if they win out. One more loss likely ends their season.


VILLANOVA

• Best Win: 38-14 at Old Dominion
• Worst Loss: 49-35 vs. Towson
• Remaining: James Madison, at Delaware
• Outlook: Another team with a strong resume if it wins out and done if it loses one more.


SAMFORD

• Best Win: 24-17 vs. Wofford
• Worst Loss: 20-13 at Chattanoog
• Remaining: At Elon, At Kentucky
• Outlook: The Bulldogs have to win out and beat an SEC team in the process. However, that SEC team is Kentucky. So it’s not over yet.


TOWSON

• Best Win: 49-35 at Villanova
• Best Loss: 38-22 at LSU
• Remaining: Rhode Island, at New Hampshire
• Outlook: Yes, that says “best loss.” Towson’s performance at LSU, combined with a loss to a surprisingly good Kent State team, could carry enough water to make the playoffs over some 8-3 teams.


YOUNGSTOWN STATE

• Best Win: 31-17 at Pitt
• Worst Loss: 38-21 at Southern Illinois
• Remaining: at Western Illinois, Indiana State
• Outlook: The Penguins need a boatload of teams to go 7-4 to have a chance. What they do isn’t really of concern to McNeese, though help against Indiana State would be nice.

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