Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Some potential FCS playoff teams could still be riding high come midnight Saturday.
It's during the wee hours of Sunday, when the NCAA football selection committee is expected to finalize their 20-team field for the FCS playoffs, that the carriage could turn into a pumpkin.
Unfortunately for too many teams with playoff-worthy resumes, the bubble is bigger than Donald Trump's ego.
"There seemed to be at least a consensus (among selection committee members) that this may be the most difficult year to pick the at-large teams," said Appalachian State athletic director Charlie Cobb, the chair of the committee.
In recent years, the committee has wrapped up discussions around midnight on the eve of Selection Sunday.
The members are ready for some overtime this year. The field will be announced at 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPNU.
It's the final year before the FCS playoffs are increased to 24 teams, so there will be 10 automatic bids for conference champions and 10 at-large bids.
The at-large bids pose the biggest problem for the 11-person committee, which is composed of one representative from each FCS conference with an automatic bid plus one from the Pioneer Football League, which won't get one until next year.
Depending on how Saturday's Week 12 action plays out, there could be about 12-14 teams in serious discussion for roughly the final three at-large spots.
The discussion is not just about wins, but quality wins. For instance, if Lehigh wins on Saturday to improve to 10-1, will the Patriot League school's resume be better than, say, an eight-win team from the higher-rated CAA Football (perhaps James Madison, Richmond or Villanova)?
There aren't any easy answers, and there may be not right or wrong answers. The committee has to decide which are the best answers.
"We're trying to listen to some conversations, but also get a pretty good understanding of how teams match up when there's not a lot of cross-sectional games, I think is really going to be important," Cobb said.
"I don't think anybody walks in with an agenda that says we're going to exclude this team or that."
The playoff mix is the following:
Big Sky: Montana State, Eastern Washington and Saturday's Cal Poly-Northern Arizona winner will be in the field, including one with the automatic bid. The Cal Poly-Northern Arizona loser will have slumped enough over the last four weeks of action that it might be the last team in or the last one left out.
Big South: Coastal Carolina, Liberty and Stony Brook are all alive for the automatic bid. Stony Brook (9-2) has been the best team for most of the season, but loses out if it's a three-way tie with the two others or a two-way tie with Liberty. The likely scenario is the Seawolves have to hope for an at- large bid.
CAA Football - New Hampshire and Old Dominion will be in the field. Richmond, Villanova, James Madison and Towson could all win on Saturday and feel worthy of bids, yet still not get in. Richmond (7-3), having beaten Villanova and James Madison, would seem to be standing the best for a bid.
MEAC - Bethune-Cookman has claimed the automatic bid.
Missouri Valley - Defending FCS champion North Dakota State will lock up the No. 1 overall seed with a win at Illinois State. However, ISU is in the mix for one of the five seeds with a win over NDSU. Both teams are in the field. South Dakota State seems safe with a win over South Dakota. Indiana State is playoff-worthy with a road win over Youngstown State, but out of the mix with a loss because it would have beaten only six Division I teams. YSU is probably coming from too far back to get into the playoffs.
NEC - Wagner will claim the automatic bid with a win over Duquesne or an Albany loss to Central Connecticut State. A Wagner loss and Albany win puts the Great Danes back in the field
Ohio Valley - Eastern Illinois has won the conference title. Tennessee State is probably dancing with a win at UT Martin, but a UTM win might be enough for Eastern Kentucky to get in the field. UTM would seem to be in trouble with its loss to Tennessee Tech.
Patriot - Colgate has clinched the league title and automatic bid. Lehigh's strength of schedule could keep it out. The 1997 Bucknell team finished 10-1 with 10 D-I wins and did not earn an at-large bid, but the field was only 16 teams then.
Southern - The Big Three of Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Wofford are playoff-bound. Saturday's action will decide which one is the automatic qualifier. Samford would have to beat Kentucky to become playoff-eligible, but might still fall short.
Southland - Co-champions Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State will be in the field, with UCA going in on the automatic bid.
No team from the Ivy and Pioneer leagues and the SWAC will be in the playoffs.
Committee members have made a concerted effort to make the selection process stronger. During the season, each committee member has been assigned to monitor other conferences to have a strong understanding of those teams.
"There seems to be more information, it seems to be a little bit more of an open process," Cobb said.
The playoffs open with four first-round games on Nov. 24, followed by the second round on Dec. 1.
AROUND THE NATION
Big Sky: Montana State and Montana meet for the 112th time, with UM holding a 70-36-5 series lead. The host Grizzlies (5-5), who have lost two home games this season, are trying to avoid their first losing season since 1985 ... Retiring UC Davis coach Bob Biggs, in his 20th year, will coach in his final game Saturday at home against Sacramento State in the Causeway Classic.
Big South: As outstanding as Coastal Carolina quarterback Aramis Hillary has been this season, the Chanticleers (6-4) also have been a hot team behind a surging running attack. They have at least 200 rushing yards in five straight games (four wins), averaging 275.4 yards in that span. Jeremy Height (686 yards, nine touchdowns) is the team's leading rusher.
CAA Football: In the CAA playoff logjam of Richmond, Villanova, James Madison and Towson, the conference teams especially need bubble teams Indiana State and Tennesse State to lose their difficult road games on Saturday ... While Villanova is trying to force its way into the playoffs, Delaware (5-5) needs to beat its rival to post a winning season. The backfield of quarterback Trent Hurley and running back Andrew Pierce will make the Blue Hens dangerous next season.
Ivy: Penn will try to wrap up an outright league title without starting quarterback Billy Ragone (fractured ankle) at Cornell. Senior Andrew Holland, whose only completion against Harvard last Saturday went for a touchdown, will get the start ... Although Ivy League presidents say they don't want to send their champion to the FCS playoffs because players will miss class time, don't doubt they also believe the Harvard-Yale rivalry would lose some attention. The two teams will meet for the 129th edition at Harvard, with Yale leading the all-time series, 65-55-8.
MEAC: Having already beaten North Carolina Central, it would seem Florida A&M acting head coach Earl Holmes will lock down the full-time gig with a win over conference champion Bethune-Cookman in the Florida Classic. The 1996 FAMU graduate, the team's defensive coordinator, was one of the best defensive players to done a Rattlers uniform.
Missouri Valley: Indiana State (7-3) needs to win at Youngstown State (6-4) to become playoff-eligible with a seventh D-I win. Last year, running back Shakir Bell was unstoppable against YSU with 256 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Northeast: Six running backs could go over 1,000 yards for the season Saturday. The conference leaders are Duquesne's Larry McCoy (995), Central Connecticut State's Rob Hollomon (993), Wagner's Dominique Williams (958), Bryant's Jordan Brown (937), Albany's Drew Smith (926) and St. Francis' Keion Wade (916) ... The CCSU-Monmouth game from Nov. 3 that was postponed by Hurricane Sandy has officially been canceled.
Ohio Valley: The top five teams in the conference - champion Eastern Illinos, Eastern Kentucky, UT Martin, Tennessee State and Jacksonville State - are a combined 22-2 in home games. EIU, TSU and JSU finished 5-0 each.
Patriot: The Lehigh-Lafayette game is in its 148th season as college football's most-played rivalry. Lafayette holds a 76-66-5 series lead, but Lehigh has won the last four meetings, scoring a touchdown on defense or special teams in each of the games ... Colgate quarterback Gavin McCarney (21) and running back Jordan McCord (19) have combined for 40 rushing touchdowns.
Pioneer: Raise your hand if you're heard this before (see OVC). The top five teams in the league - Butler, Drake, San Diego, Jacksonville and Dayton - are a combined 22-3 in home games. With another home win, Jacksonville can deny Drake a share of the league title for the season straight season. Butler has clinched a share already and San Diego remains alive for the title as well.
SoCon: There are five 1,000-yard rushers in the conference. The Citadel's Darien Robinson (953) and Georgia Southern's Dominique Swope (827) could make it seven ... As four teams wrap up the regular season against SEC opponents, keep in mind that no Southern Conference team has beaten an FBS team since Appalachian State's historic win over fifth-ranked Michigan to open the 2007 regular season.
Southland: For toughness, look no further than Northwestern State senior linebacker Derek Rose. Doctors wanted to shut him down when he was diagnosed with a torn labrum in his shoulder, but he would have none of it. He's played the last three games with the injury. He has 286 career tackles heading into his final game against Stephen F. Austin ... Nicholls hopes to end a program- record 13-game conference losing streak Thursday night when it hosts Southeastern Louisiana.
SWAC: Jackson State will represent the East Division in the SWAC Championship Game with a win at home against Alcorn State. Otherwise, Alabama State, which still has its Thanksgiving Day game against Tuskegee, will play Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 8 in Birmingham, Ala.
WHAT WE KNOW, WHAT WE THINK WE KNOW
The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at http://tinyurl.com/88q2k7t.
Also, once again this season, In the FCS Huddle is projecting the potential FCS playoff field. The projections are a long-range look at the season - not based off current records or rankings - and can be found at http://www.sportsnetwork.com/fcs/FCS_Bracket.pdf.
Additions have been made in the last week to the Walter Payton, Buck Buchanan and Jerry Rice award watch lists. The FCS Awards section can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yhv6oh8.
The Eddie Robinson Award finalists will be announced Monday.
Last Week's Record: 39-17 (.696)
Season Record: 513-170 (.751)
All Times ET
Thursday, Nov. 15
X-Southeastern Louisiana (4-6, 4-2 Southland) at Nicholls (1-8, 0-6), 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 17
X-Maine (4-6, 3-4 CAA) at Rhode Island (0-10, 0-7), noon
Sacred Heart (2-8, 1-6 NEC) at X-St. Francis, Pa. (4-6, 3-4), noon
X-Tennessee Tech (3-7, 1-6 OVC) at Austin Peay (1-9, 0-7), noon
X-Drake (7-3, 6-1 PFL) at Jacksonville (7-3, 5-2), noon
Co-Game of the Week: No. 19 Towson (6-4, 5-2 CAA) at X-No. 7 New Hampshire (8-2, 6-1), noon. Can red-hot Towson force itself into the playoffs even though other potential at-large teams would have more wins? Can UNH wrap up an outright CAA Football championship?
Duquesne (5-5, 3-4 NEC) at X-Wagner (7-3, 6-1), noon
Yale (2-7, 1-5 Ivy) at X-Harvard (7-2, 4-2), noon
X-Monmouth (4-5, 3-3 NEC) at Robert Morris (4-6, 3-4), noon
Western Carolina (1-9) at X-Alabama (9-1), 12:21 p.m.
Columbia (3-6, 2-4 Ivy) at X-Brown (6-3, 3-3), 12:30 p.m.
Penn (5-4, 5-1 Ivy) at X-Cornell (4-5, 2-4), 12:30 p.m.
Valparaiso (1-9, 1-6 PFL) at X-Morehead State (3-7, 2-5), 1 p.m.
Bryant (4-6) at X-Bucknell (2-8), 1 p.m.
X-Colgate (7-3) at Fordham (6-4), 1 p.m.
Delaware State (6-4, 5-2 MEAC) at X-Howard (6-4, 5-2), 1 p.m.
Holy Cross (1-9, 1-3 Patriot) at X-Georgetown (5-5, 2-2), 1 p.m.
X-Hampton (2-7, 2-5 MEAC) at Morgan State (3-7, 2-5), 1 p.m.
Central Connecticut State (2-7, 2-4 NEC) at X-Albany (8-2, 6-1), 1 p.m.
X-Marist (3-6, 2-4 PFL) at Campbell (1-9, 0-7), 1 p.m.
X-San Diego (6-3, 5-1 PFL) at Davidson (2-8, 2-5), 1 p.m.
Dartmouth (5-4, 3-3 Ivy) at X-Princeton (5-4, 4-2), 1 p.m.
Co-Game of the Week: X-No. 1 North Dakota State (9-1, 6-1 Missouri Valley) at No. 11 Illinois State (8-2, 5-2), 1 p.m. North Dakota State has won all 10 of its road games the last two seasons, but with Illinois State alive for a share of the conference title and a playoff seed, this could be a doozy.
Jacksonville State (6-4) at X-Florida (9-1), 1 p.m.
No. 9 Wofford (8-2) at X-South Carolina (8-2), 1 p.m.
No. 6 Georgia Southern (8-2) at X-Georgia (9-1), 1:30 p.m.
X-Liberty (5-5, 4-1 Big South) at VMI (2-8, 1-4), 1:30 p.m.
X-Presbyterian (2-8, 0-5 Big South) at Gardner-Webb (2-8, 1-4), 1:30 p.m.
X-No. 14 Lehigh (9-1, 3-1 Patriot) at Lafayette (5-5, 2-2), 1:30 p.m.
Savannah State (1-9, 0-7 MEAC) at X-South Carolina State (4-6, 3-4), 1:30 p.m.
X-No. 20 Richmond (7-3, 5-2 CAA) at William & Mary (2-8, 1-6), 1:30 p.m.
X-The Citadel (6-4, 4-3 SoCon) at Furman (3-7, 2-5), 1:30 p.m.
North Carolina A&T (6-4, 4-3 MEAC) at X-North Carolina Central (6-4, 5-2), 2 p.m.
Alabama A&M (7-3) at X-Auburn (2-8), 2 p.m.
No. 18 Indiana State (7-3, 5-2 Missouri Valley) at X-Youngstown State (6-4, 3-4), 2 p.m.
Southeast Missouri State (3-7, 2-5 OVC) at X-Murray State (4-6, 3-4), 2 p.m.
Alcorn State (4-6, 4-4 SWAC) at X-Jackson State (6-4, 6-2), 2 p.m.
X-Mississippi Valley State (4-6, 4-4 SWAC) at Texas Southern (2-8, 2-6), 2 p.m.
Elon (3-7, 1-6 SoCon) at X-Chattanooga (5-5, 4-3), 2 p.m.
X-North Dakota (5-5, 3-4 Big Sky) at Northern Colorado (4-6, 3-4), 2:05 p.m.
X-No. 24 Bethune-Cookman (8-2, 7-0 MEAC) at Florida A&M (4-6, 4-3) at Orlando, Fla., 2:30 p.m.
South Dakota (1-9, 0-7) at X-No. 21 South Dakota State (7-3, 5-2), 3 p.m.
Western Illinois (3-7, 1-6 Missouri Valley) at X-Southern Illinois (5-5, 4-3), 3 p.m.
No. 23 Tennessee State (8-2, 4-2 OVC) at X-UT Martin (7-3, 5-2), 3 p.m.
Prairie View A&M (3-7, 3-5 SWAC) at X-Arkansas-Pine Bluff (8-2, 7-1), 3:30 p.m.
X-No. 16 Villanova (7-3, 5-2 CAA) at Delaware (5-5, 2-5), 3:30 p.m.
Charleston Southern (5-5, 3-2 Big South) at X-Coastal Carolina (6-4, 4-1), 3:30 p.m.
No. 3 Sam Houston State (8-2) at X-Texas A&M (8-2), 3:30 p.m.
X-No. 2 Montana State (9-1, 6-1 Big Sky) at Montana (5-5, 3-4), 3:35 p.m.
Northwestern State (4-6, 2-4 Southland) at X-Stephen F. Austin (4-6, 3-3), 4 p.m.
No. 5 Eastern Washington (8-2, 7-1 Big Sky) at X-Portland State (3-7, 2-5), 4:05 p.m.
Missouri State (3-7, 3-4 Missouri Valley) at X-Northern Iowa (4-6, 3-4), 5 p.m.
X-Sacramento State (6-4, 4-3 Big Sky) at UC Davis (3-7, 2-5), 6 p.m.
X-Weber State (1-9, 1-6 Big Sky) at Idaho State (1-9, 0-7), 6 p.m.
No. 24 Eastern Illinois (7-3) at X-No. 10 Central Arkansas (8-2), 6 p.m.
No. 17 Cal Poly (8-2, 6-1 Big Sky) at X-No. 15 Northern Arizona (8-2, 6-1), 6:05 p.m.
X-No. 4 Old Dominion (9-1, 6-1 CAA) at No. 13 James Madison (7-3, 5-2), 7 p.m.
Samford (7-3) at X-Kentucky (1-9), 7:30 p.m.
Lamar (4-7, 1-5 Southland) at X-McNeese State (6-4, 3-3), 8 p.m.