The Richmond Register

November 17, 2012

OVC FOOTBALL: Colonels forced to wait, watch and hope

By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor

RICHMOND — While the rest of the teams in the Ohio Valley Conference are set to take to the field today, the Colonels have already played their final regular-season game.

They can only hope that last week’s 55-24 win over Murray State wasn’t their final game of the year.

The Colonels will find out Sunday afternoon if they will receive an at-large bid to the Football Champ-ionship Subdivi-sion Playoffs. The results of games being played very big impact on EKU’s postseason chances.

And that’s an uncomfortable position to be in.

“We can’t worry about that,” EKU running back Matt Denham said after the win over Murray State. “We’ve just got focus on what we are doing. A week off is going to help us heal up.”

The Colonels finished the regular season with an 8-3 record and a 6-2 mark in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Last week, Eastern Illinois (7-3, 6-1 OVC) locked up league title, securing an automatic bid to the playoffs.

The OVC has had two teams in the FCS Playoffs in four of the past six years, so it appears likely that the league will get at least one at-large bid.

Three teams are strong candidates for that second spot — EKU, UT-Martin (7-3, 5-2 OVC) and Tennessee State (8-2, 4-2 OVC).

UT-Martin and Tennessee State are set to meet at 3 p.m. today in Martin, Tenn. The outcome could well decide an at-large bid.

With a win, Tennessee State would have nine victories, including wins over both EKU and UT-Martin. The Tigers also went 4-0 in non-conference play, picking up wins over a pair of eight-win teams (Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Bethune Cookman) and a six-win team (Jackson State).

A UT-Martin win over Tennessee State could actually be beneficial for EKU. The Skyhawks and Colonels would finish with identical conference and overall records and EKU won the only meeting of the season between the schools, 28-16, in Martin, Tenn.

The Skyhawks, however, are the only OVC team to beat Eastern Illinois this season and also have two very good non-conference wins on their resume, a 20-17 win over Memphis, an FBS school, and a 23-6 win over Southeast Louisiana.

Regardless of what happens today around the league, the Colonels can also make a strong case that they are playoff worthy.

Their only losses on the season are to Purdue, Tennessee State and OVC champion Eastern Illinois. EKU also has a non-conference road win at Coastal Carolina (6-4, 4-1 Big South) on its resume.

“It’s hard to say that any human deserves anything,” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “But our group of seniors, they deserve a chance to keep playing.”

Only 20 teams (10 automatic, 10 at-large) will get the chance to play for an FCS national championship. So, it would be highly unlikely for the OVC to get more than one at-large bid, especially considering the league’s lack of postseason success in recent years.

No OVC team has won a playoff game since 2000 and the league is currently riding an 18-game postseason losing streak.

“You can look at past performances by our league in the playoffs and be (scared) away a little bit from taking a second or third team,” Hood said. “But, I think this is year we deserve a couple of teams in there. The league is as strong as its ever been.”

The OVC has posted a very impressive 11-3 record this season against FCS non-conference opponents.

The 20-team field will be announced at 1:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.