SLC’s new math

Handicaps title race with burden on Cowboys

<p><span>If McNeese State wants to win the Southland Conference championship, the simplest solution is to win its final two regular-season games and avoid any tiebreaker scenarios.</span></p>American Press

{{tncms-inline content="&amp;lt;p&amp;gt;&amp;lt;span&amp;gt;McNeese at Northwestern St. 6 p.m. Saturday&amp;lt;/span&amp;gt;&amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;" id="0d3108c2-2acb-451f-a1e1-1a7dfb71189e" style-type="quote" title="Pull Quote" type="relcontent"}}

The Southland Conference just made the path to an outright conference football title for McNeese State a little bit harder.

In a statement released by the SLC on Thursday morning, the conference said Incarnate Word will be placed in the same spot in the standings as teams that share the same number of losses.

"UIW has one remaining league game Saturday at Central Arkansas, while most other Southland teams have two conference matchups left," the statement read. "Additionally, multiple three-loss teams are just behind the three league leaders. UIW’s final placement, with two or three losses, will be identical to other teams with the same number of losses, even though the other teams will have an additional win that reflects their nine-game schedule."

What this means is if UIW wins its conference finale on Saturday, the Cardinals will at worst share the SLC championship with McNeese and/or Nicholls State. If both McNeese and Nicholls lose, and UIW wins, then the Cardinals will be the outright SLC champions despite not having played as many conference games.

If all three teams lose, that will set up an all-important final week that would see at least four teams tied for first place. If tiebreakers necessary, UIW will go through the regular procedures to determine the automatic berth.

"Further, UIW’s placement in the final standings shall be honored through any tie-breaking procedures necessary to determine the NCAA automatic qualifier," the statement read.

When informed about the SLC’s statement, McNeese head coach Lance Guidry said he was not worried about it. He knows that if the Cowboys (6-3, 5-2 SLC) win their last two games — at Northwestern State (3-6, 2-5) on Saturday and home against Lamar (5-4, 4-3) the following Saturday — they will at least share the conference championship. And if the choice comes down to McNeese or Nicholls getting into the playoffs as an at-large, the Cowboys’ head-to-head win should be what gets them into the postseason.

"I don’t think they even know about that," Guidry said of his players’ awareness of the situation with SLC tiebreakers. "And I don’t think they even really care about it. I think they know that if they win then they’re going to hold a trophy over their head. If we win the next two, we’re going to be conference champions. Last year we were 9-2 and we didn’t get in. I’ve got to think that if we win conference, they’ve got to put us in. I don’t know what else to do."

McNeese hurt itself by losing to UIW 45-17. But there is a possibility that McNeese could win its final two games, UIW wins its last SLC game, and UIW makes the playoffs while McNeese is on the outside looking in again because the SLC gave UIW a win.

In the SLC’s current scheduling format, 10 of the 11 teams play a nine-game conference schedule, while one team plays an eight-game schedule. The format was approved by the SLC membership, according to the statement. Houston Baptist was the first team with the eight-game schedule in 2016 and 2016. UIW did it last season and this season, and HBU will do it again in 2019 and 2020.

For the most part, Guidry said he does not seem to be worried about the circumstances outside of the team’s control.

"If we win conference, that’s all we can do," Guidry said. "We’ve shared it before and got in. You would think we’ll get two in from our conference."

During SLC media day in July, conference Commissioner Tom Burnett said football was looking at implementing an eight-game schedule for the whole conference. If it is implemented, the plan is for it to start in 2021.

Burnett also said the SLC tried to go back to a 12-game schedule, but that fell through.

This Saturday, UIW (5-4, 5-2) travels to play Central Arkansas (5-4, 4-3) and Nicholls (6-3, 5-2) hosts Stephen F. Austin (2-6, 2-5).

<span>McNeese at Northwestern St. 6 p.m. Saturday</span>

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