Breaking down the football playoff selection process
Unlike the past five years, University of Massachusetts athletic director John McCutcheon will actually be at the Minutemen's final football game of the season.
For the past five years, McCutheon has served on the Championship Subdivision tournament committee, including the last three as its chairman and was in Indianapolis to determine the field during the season's final Saturday. Montana athletic director Jim O'Day has replaced him as the chair this season.
With the Minutemen on the bubble for a bid, McCutcheon shed some light on the process of how the field, which moved to 20 teams this year, is first determined then seeded. The 2010 bracket will be released Sunday at 10 a.m.
· Automatics and at-larges - The champions of 10 conferences - Colonial Athletic Association, Big Sky, Big South (new this year), Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Missouri Valley, Northeast (new this year), Ohio Valley, Patriot League, Southern and Southland - receive automatic bids into the field. The other 10 teams will be selected by the committee.
No team has ever earned an at-large bid without at least seven Division I wins.
· No polls, no rankings - McCutcheon said that both top 25 polls are ignored by the committee, much like they are in any other sport. The handful of computer rankings also aren't used to determine what teams earn bids into the field.
"The feeling of the committee is that there isn't enough interleague play and broad enough participation to get enough dependability in those" rankings, McCutcheon said. "It's input from regional advisory groups all year long, then discussion and looking at who they played within the conference and outside of the conference."
· Games against Bowl Subdivision opponents - A win over an FBS team will certainly help a school's candidacy to get in and its seed when it does. A loss to an FBS school is unlikely to hurt.
"A loss doesn't really hurt you," McCutcheon said. "If you win, it can help you a lot."
· Games against non-Division I opponents -Any win over a Division II, III or NAIA school is basically treated like it didn't happen by the committee. A loss to one of those schools can be especially damaging.
· Top five, bottom eight - After the 10 at-large bids have been selected to join the 10 automatic bids. The committee will first seed the top five teams in the field, who will each be awarded a home game.
Because the top 12 teams get first round byes, the committee will then determine the eight teams that will play the first weekend.
Once those eight have been determined, the committee will seek to pair off teams in close proximity geographically (within 300 miles) to lessen travel costs. They'll attempt to make similar geographically-based decisions for the rest of the bracket.
· Bids - Other than the top five teams in the second round, the school with the best resume doesn't always get the home game. A school must guarantee the NCAA at least $30,000 to host first and second-round games, and more in subsequent rounds. Schools can bid more in hopes of increasing their chances. Some teams don't bid at all, while substandard facilities might cause the NCAA to avoid awarding a home game to certain schools as well.
McCutcheon said UMass, which still needs to get into the field, has bid to host games if they do.
· Championship - The title game, which was previously held in mid-December in Chattanooga, Tenn., has moved to Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.
GAMES OF THE WEEK: With one weekend left in the regular season, there are still six CAA teams with potential to make the Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
Of the league's five games Saturday, only James Madison at Maine won't affect someone's chances of either getting a playoff bid or winning the CAA title.
No team has ever gotten an at-large bid with more than four losses. So the league's four teams with four defeats already need to win to be considered.
Towson (1-9, 0-7 CAA) at New Hampshire (6-4, 4-3 CAA), noon - UNH staved off potential elimination by upsetting Villanova last week. Now a win over the lowly Tigers could clinch it a berth.
Villanova (6-4, 4-3 CAA) at Delaware (9-1, 6-1), noon - Before the season it would have been mind-boggling to think the Wildcats would be playing for their lives, but upsets at the hands of Rhode Island and New Hampshire mean a loss would knock the defending national champs out of contention.
Delaware can clinch the league title and the automatic bid to the playoffs with a win.
UMass (6-4, 4-3 CAA) at Rhode Island (4-6, 3-4 CAA), 12:30 p.m. - The Minutemen need to win to be in consideration.
Richmond (6-4, 4-3 CAA) at William & Mary (7-3, 5-2 CAA) - The Spiders have been on the ropes for weeks and barely survived Rhode Island last week. They'll need one more upset to have a shot at a bid.
A win would boost the Tribe's chance for home field advantage in multiple rounds and keep them alive for a conference title should Delaware lose to Villanova.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK - Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin's240 passing yards and four touchdown passes earned the Blue Hen senior the CAA's offensive player of the week honors.
Richmond senior linebacker Eric McBride had 13 tackles, an interception return and a forced fumble in the Spiders' win over Rhode Island to earn the league's defensive honors.
James Madison's Josh Roach blocked a William & Mary punt that a teammate recovered for a touchdown in the Dukes' 30-24 upset to earn CAA Special Teams Player of the Week.
James Madison redshirt freshman quarterback Dae'Quan Scott was both the CAA Rookie of the Week and the Sports Network's National Freshman of the Week. Scott, who didn't attempt a pass, rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries.
Scott had been a wide receiver all season until being moved to quarterback in a Wildcat formation to spark the struggling JMU offense.
POLL POSITIONING - Saturday's loss to Delaware, which is now No. 1 in both polls, dropped the Minutemen to No. 19 in both polls. William & Mary's loss to James Madison wasn't enough to get the Dukes ranked in either poll, but the Tribe fell to No. 6 in both polls.
New Hampshire moved up to No. 13 in the FCS Coaches Poll and No. 14 in the Sports Network Top 25 after beating Villanova, which fell to No. 15 in both polls.
Richmond moved up to No. 18 in the TSN poll and No. 20 in the Coaches.