After having its last two games canceled, Southern Illinois is hosting a ranked opponent Saturday in Carbondale in a game that both teams are hoping boosts any remaining chance of making the FCS playoffs.
SIU, ranked No. 18 in the latest Stats Perform FCS poll, will host 17th-rated Southeastern Louisiana at Saluki Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.
The matchup is a final opportunity for a win against a quality opponent and potentially catch the FCS playoff committee’s attention. The NCAA will announce the 16-team postseason bracket Sunday.
“We’ve played a tremendous schedule up to this point, but we’re playing a team (Saturday) that’s hungry, that’s obviously not scared to play anybody. They’re willing to come on the road in the last week of the season and schedule another opponent,” SIU head coach Nick Hill said in a Monday media address.
With only six at-large spots in the spring playoff field available, what are the realistic chances of the Salukis making the playoffs?
In his bracketology playoff prediction published earlier this week, national writer Sam Herder of HERO Sports had Southeast Louisiana third on his “bubble teams left out” list.
“Southeastern Louisiana has two losses already, but it could end the season on a three-game winning streak with two straight ranked wins if it beats Southern Illinois on the road. The Lions would then be 5-2,” Herder wrote.
A longshot at best
So, should SIU knock off Southeastern Louisiana, what does that do for the Salukis’ chances?
It’s still most likely a longshot. Herder has Missouri State as his first team left out. After a lackluster 0-3 fall record, Missouri State is 5-1 in the spring Missouri Valley Football Conference schedule. On March 27, the Bears rallied past SIU 30-27 in a league game that the Salukis seemed to have in hand at halftime.
Following its last-second defeat at Missouri State, Southern Illinois lost two potential victories when in-state rivals Illinois State and Western Illinois opted out of the remainder of the spring season.
Herder has “a hard time seeing the MVFC getting three at-large bids”. He lists defending national champion North Dakota State (6-1) — the team SIU scored its biggest win of the spring against — as one of the four tournament seeds.
North Dakota (4-1) and South Dakota State (4-1) are Herder’s choices for the Missouri Valley’s at-large representatives in the bracket. Both teams beat SIU this spring.
Erik Pitzer, creator and operator of nobowls.com, does not have the Salukis in his projection picture either.
“Any shot? Absolutely. I wouldn’t bet on it, even if a few results tilt the right way, though SIU’s win over NDSU is the obvious campaign point for them. Head-to-head loss against Missouri State probably the biggest anti-argument,” Pitzer replied via Twitter message to Prairie State Pigskin.
“We’ve got to win this game and give ourselves a shot,” Hill said.
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