Following two straight losses, Southern Illinois’ playoff chances appear to be a longshot at best.
The Salukis’ overall record stands at 4-3 overall — counting a win over Southeast Missouri State in the fall — and 3-3 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
While SIU can certainly claim wins over three ranked opponents, including FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, there are several factors that will play against the Salukis making the playoffs.
- The spring playoff bracket been reduced to 16 teams from its usual 24-school alignment.
- The typical format is 10 auto-bids from 10 conferences with 14 at-large bids. This spring, there will be 10 auto-bids and only six at-large bids. With three losses, SIU has no chance to win the Missouri Valley leaving the at-large bid as the lone avenue to the postseason.
- The MVFC has a logjam of teams ahead of the Salukis not only in the conference standings but also in the national rankings.
- Southern has an unscheduled bye week Saturday, after Illinois State canceled its remaining games, and will host rival and winless Western Illinois April 10 in the season finale.
“SIU, in my opinion, is fully eliminated from playoff contention after suffering its third loss,” Senior FCS Analyst for HEROSports Sam Herder told Prairie State Pigskin. “There just won’t be room for a three-loss team to take one of the six at-large spots, especially when the MVFC has three one-loss teams plus Missouri State, who is 4-4 overall and 4-1 in the Valley with three of those losses coming in the fall.
“If the Salukis only had two losses, the canceled game against ISU could have been costly because it would have taken away a potential win. But with a third loss, SIU’s playoff hopes are slim to none.”
In his latest projected playoff bracket, Herder lists North Dakota State as one of the four automatic-bid seeded teams. In addition, he has South Dakota State and North Dakota (both of which own victories over SIU) as at-large MVFC teams. Herder also lists Missouri State as a “bubble team left out.”
Kevin Marshall of FCS Nation Radio said, “It’s hard to see how the Salukis can get an at-large berth to the FCS playoffs. When you look at who they have beaten that is kind of shocking. In a normal season with full schedule they would definitely be in the hunt with the teams that they have defeated.
“But, there was very little margin for error, or growth as a team from the beginning of the season for that matter, this spring. With only six at-large berths available to the playoffs, a fast start was advantageous and consistency throughout was a necessity. The Salukis certainly started fast, but the consistency just hasn’t been there. Losing to Missouri State last week made a playoff berth this spring highly unlikely. Unless more teams quit on the season and right now that doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. “
After Saturday’s 30-27 last-second loss at Missouri State, SIU head coach Nick Hill shared thoughts on his team’s inconsistency in recent weeks.
“I’m disappointed in the performance,” Hill said on siusalukis.com. “It starts with me — finding the buttons to push. We just haven’t played a consistent brand of football. If we want to be the team we want to be, we have to come down here and beat this team.
“You have to be able to line up, go out and will yourself to win. We didn’t do it.”