FCS schedules that could backfire
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By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - Every season, there are teams that are shocked when they don't make the FCS playoffs.
At-large bids are always subjective, but the final few teams in or out bring strong debate.
Sometimes there was foreshadowing there from the start. It often comes in the form of schedules that were too easy or too hard.
Following are teams that hold a realistic chance to make FCS playoffs, but they have concerning schedules as well. The disclaimer for all of them is win the conference's automatic qualifying bid and there will not be a problem when the at-large bids are handed out.
Furman - Programs that schedule two FBS games (Georgia State and Virginia Tech) need to avoid facing a sub-FCS program (Point) because the latter game won't count toward an at-large resume. The Paladins' season opener against Charleston Southern is a must-have win.
North Dakota - An FCS independent for one more season, the Fighting Hawks can only go into the playoffs with an at-large bid. They face all four Big Sky playoff teams from last year as they finish off pre-existing contracts with that conference, so it's not the year to be playing only 11 games when one of them is North Dakota State. Sam Houston State is another tough game, but UND beat the Bearkats last season.
Elon - The Phoenix also only have 11 games when 12 are allowed in the regular season. Given the tough CAA Football schedule ahead, they might need to get two nonconference wins from North Carolina A&T, The Citadel and Wake Forest to ensure a playoff bid.
Kennesaw State - If the Owls don't win the Big South's AQ for a third straight year, their at-large bid would be hurt by a low strength of schedule. Duquesne pulled out of a potential matchup, so the Owls have two sub-FCS opponents (Point and Reinhardt) and a SWAC opponent (Alabama State).
Central Arkansas - The Bears feel they will return to the playoffs, but they're the only Southland Conference team that won't face struggling Houston Baptist (one fewer win), which leaves little room for error when there's also a nonconference schedule of Western Kentucky, Austin Peay and Hawaii.
Idaho State - The Bengals didn't learn from last season because once again they are playing two FBS opponents (Utah and BYU) and a sub-FCS team (Western Colorado). Add in a nonconference visit to Northern Iowa and the difficult Big Sky schedule, and it's easy to say the Bengals will fall short of the playoffs.
Southeast Missouri - Coming off their first playoff bid since 2010, the Ohio Valley Conference squad won't get a resume-builder out of Missouri (loss) or West Virginia State (non-qualifying win) and probably Montana State (figure loss), so a win over rival Southern Illinois in the opener is important.
Chattanooga and The Citadel - Both teams have nonconference schedules that are a ton of fun, but they're a bit ambitious considering what's ahead in the Southern Conference, including a matchup against each other. Out of conference, Chattanooga faces Eastern Illinois, Jacksonville State, Tennessee and James Madison, and The Citadel takes on Towson, Elon, Georgia Tech and rival Charleston Southern.
Updated June 24, 2019