By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
The Ohio Valley Conference has had two teams in the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs in four of the past six years (2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011).
And its likely the league will get multiple teams into the postseason this season.
But, Eastern Kentucky University coach Dean Hood believes that this year the OVC is worthy of even greater representation in the postseason.
“I think there are four teams (in the OVC) that deserve to get into the playoffs,” Hood said of UT-Martin, Eastern Illinois, EKU and Tennessee State. “Then there are two others teams that have three losses (Murray State and Jacksonville State) that are right there also.”
That’s a pretty bold statement, especially considering that no OVC team has won a playoff game since 2000 and that the league is currently riding an 18-game postseason losing streak.
Still, there’s no doubt that the OVC is stronger and deeper this season that he has been in decades.
So far this year, the league has a very impressive 11-3 record against FCS non-conference opponents. Those victories include UT-Martin’s win over Southeastern Louisiana, Jacksonville State’s win over Chattanooga and Murray State’s victory over Missouri State.
EKU has wins over Coastal Carolina and Morehead State and Eastern Illinois picked up a win over Southern Illinois.
That list doesn’t even include UT-Martin’s upset victory over the University of Memphis.
“I think the top four teams (in the OVC) could go win a game in the playoffs,” Hood said. “If you would have asked me that two or three years ago, I would have told you no way. I think this league has closed the gap.”
But, it’s not likely that the OVC will start to earn any real respect until the league achieves some postseason success.
Several OVC teams have come close to winning playoffs games in recent years, including EKU’s 20-17 loss last season to James Madison. Still, its been 12 years since Western Kentucky defeated Florida A&M.
“It’s been our fault because we’ve gotten into the playoffs and haven’t won,” Hood said. “We’ve got to get in there and change it.”
The more teams the OVC gets into the playoffs, the more likely the Colonels will extend their season past this weekend. EKU wraps up its regular season Saturday at home against Murray State.
The Colonels (7-3, 5-2 OVC) are just a half a game out of first place, but trail a pair of teams — Eastern Illinois (6-3, 5-1 OVC) and UT-Martin (7-2, 5-1) — that have two games left on their schedules.
The regular-season OVC champion gets an automatic bid to the playoffs.
“There’s no doubt this conference deserves at least two teams in the playoffs,” Hood said.
The FCS Playoffs feature 20 teams, 10 of which are automatic qualifiers and 10 at-large bids.