TERRE HAUTE —
The great race is on.
The twists and turns of the Missouri Valley Football Conference have knotted Indiana State, Illinois State and Youngstown State in an exciting and tense last-week battle for at-large playoff bids in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
All three play their final games Saturday. The FCS playoff field will be announced at 9 a.m. Sunday with a broadcast on ESPNU.
The playoff situation is multi-layered and some aspects of it are beyond the control of all three of the MVFC teams fighting for the 10 at-large positions available in the 20-team field.
Here’s what we know for certain. North Dakota State is still No. 1 in the all-important Gridiron Power Index — the system the NCAA uses to guide the selection committee on its choice. The Bison (9-1, 6-1) are a lock and will get the MVFC’s automatic bid with a victory this weekend.
Northern Iowa (8-2, 6-1) can still get the MVFC’s auto bid if NDSU loses and UNI defeats Illinois State, but the Panthers will get an at-large bid even if they don’t.
Then it gets interesting.
Illinois State (7-3, 5-2) is currently in third place. ISU and YSU are tied for fourth, both at 6-4 and 4-3 in the MVFC.
Can the MVFC get five bids? It’s possible. When there was a 16-team field, the MVFC (then-Gateway Football Conference) had four bids in 2003, comprising 25 percent of the field at the time. Five bids would represent the same percentage.
The MVFC is currently ranked second in the GPI, behind the Southern Conference, and five teams are in the top 15, including No. 13 ISU. The MVFC sent out a release Tuesday indicating that no seven-win teams in the GPI’s top 20 have ever been left out of the FCS field.
But there are no guarantees. The Southern Conference has five teams in the top 20 too and it’s doubtful the NCAA committee is going to take half the playoff field from just two conferences.
There are other teams in conferences not rated as high, such as 8-3 Central Arkansas, that are behind the MVFC teams in the GPI but that are a legitimate at-large material. Central Arkansas is 8-1 against FCS competition and has won seven in a row.
The NCAA can’t take them all, so how does it shake out from the Sycamores’ perspective? First off, ISU has to beat Southern Illinois on Saturday to have any chance at all. ISU’s playoff chances start and possibly end there.
But if the Sycamores beat the Salukis, then what? Here are some things to consider:
• What is in ISU’s favor? — The Sycamores’ strength of schedule helps them. ISU does not have a bad loss and its nonconference schedule was stronger than the other two MVFC teams vying for at-large bids.
ISU has a blowout 44-16 win over Western Kentucky — a FCS team from the Sun Belt Conference. Illinois State didn’t play an FCS team and YSU’s only “game up” was a competitive loss at Michigan State.
That WKU game is the great mystery when it comes to ISU’s chances. The Hilltoppers have played well since then, improving to 5-5 in the Sun Belt, so in theory, that should do nothing but help the Sycamores.
However, the Sun Belt is the worst FBS conference by a significant margin and it’s questionable whether ISU’s win — dominant though it was — is going to be given greater weight than YSU’s road win at No. 1 North Dakota State last Saturday.
Besides that, ISU probably has the most significant marquee player between the three MVFC contenders. FCS leading rusher Shakir Bell is the kind of player that makes for good television and promotion.
• What’s up in the air? — A lot. There’s nothing to separate ISU, Illinois State and YSU when it comes to head-to-head play. They’ve gone 1-1 against one another, each winning a close game on its home field. None of the games were decided by more than a touchdown.
ISU (Western Kentucky) and YSU (NDSU) have signature wins. Illinois State does not, but the Redbirds get their chance when they host UNI on Saturday. An Illinois State win will almost certainly put the Redbirds in the field.
In the GPI, Illinois State is No. 12, ISU is No. 13 and YSU is tied at No. 15. A slip-up by any of them puts them in jeopardy of not making the field.
• What hurts ISU? — Of the three MVFC contenders, Illinois State and YSU will end the season “hotter” than ISU even if the Sycamores win Saturday.
ISU will finish 3-3 in its final six games with a victory. If YSU beats Missouri State on Saturday, it will have won five of its last six (the only loss a 21-17 loss at UNI). If Illinois State beats UNI, it will finish the season with six consecutive victories. It is an X-factor how much weight the committee puts on how a team finishes the season. In basketball, it is vital.
What also might hurt ISU is its poor attendance. Indiana State has put in a bid to host a playoff game, but the NCAA has to decide between YSU (which hasn’t drawn worse than 11,000 all season), Illinois State, which has topped the 10,000 mark twice and expects a crowd over 10,000 on Satuday, and Indiana State.
ISU’s best attended game was a homecoming crowd of 8,255. For its biggest game in years — a matchup against No. 1 NDSU on Nov. 5 — attendance was just 6,412. It is very important for ISU to draw well this Saturday for its final home game against SIU. It is very important for ISU to focus its marketing efforts toward its large student body — who didn’t show up in the numbers they should have for the NDSU contest.
How much does attendance factor in? Well, the NCAA wants to make as much money as it can, so it doesn’t hurt to draw.
Would attendance break a tie between actually making the field or not? I doubt it, ISU will likely have to play on the road anyway, but I also don’t doubt that ISU doesn’t want to test attendance as a deal-breaker, because the Sycamores will get broken.
The bottom line is this … ISU needs to win. A loss by YSU to Missouri State in Youngstown would do ISU a world of good. A loss by Illinois State wouldn’t hurt either.
It’ll all shake out Saturday. Gentlemen, start your engines. The playoff race is on.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (812) 231-4272. Please follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.
TERRE HAUTE —
The great race is on.
ISU track sending record 22 to postseason
On the heels of their thrilling double victory at the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships both the Indiana State men and women moved up in the national rankings which were released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
ISU baseball hoping Manaea can get its MVC Tournament moving in right direction
Indiana State’s baseball team has been waiting all season for its stars to align.
But this is the 2013 Sycamores, after all, and after a season in which seemingly little has gone right, it appears its stars will remain crossed at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU's athletic treasure trove
Think of every championship that Indiana State has won in each of its sports, past and present. Think of every tournament — postseason or regular season — which the Sycamores have claimed as their own.
Ort sets ISU RBI record in 16-7 win
Robby Ort celebrated his Indiana State baseball Senior Day on Saturday by becoming the Sycamores’ all-time leader in RBIs as ISU ended its regular season with a 16-7 win over Bradley at Bob Warn Field.
Bradley ends 16-game MVC losing streak against ISU
Momentum was the only thing riding on Indiana State’s baseball game against Bradley on Friday. With a five-game winning streak going, ISU wanted to keep the good vibes going into next week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU couldn’t do it.
Behind 16 hits and Manaea's pitching, ISU beats Bradley
Indiana State’s baseball team rode a wild ride of emotion on Thursday.
First came the public announcement that Bob Warn Field would host the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Later, Sean Manaea’s availability to pitch ISU’s series opener against Bradley was in doubt.
Indiana State women add five transfers, including experienced D-I point guard
Indiana State coach Teri Moren believes the addition of five more newcomers to the program — in addition to the five who had already joined the program earlier this calendar year — will provide her coaching staff the athleticism and depth it needs to play a successful, up-tempo brand of basketball next season.
Metro roundup: Woods softball takes seventh in national tournament
The St. Mary-of-the-Woods softball team finished seventh in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association softball tournament on Tuesday at Firestone Stadium.
Metro Roundup: Indiana State’s Shakir Bell on Performance Awards watch list
College Football Performance Awards has announced its watch list for the 2013 CFPA FCS Running Back Award, and Indiana State’s Shakir Bell earned a spot on the list.
ISU baseball team builds on success with 14-2 rout
Indiana State’s baseball victory over Alcorn State on Friday would take on more meaning Saturday if the Sycamores could build momentum and pick up on the good work they did in Friday’s ninth-inning rally.
The Sycamores were aggressive from the opening inning at the plate and starting pitcher Devin Moore gave them eight valuable and effective innings on the mound as ISU defeated Alcorn State 14-2 at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a really good experience for everybody. It felt great to finally come out here and put some things together. It’s also really nice when your offense puts a lot of runs on the board,” Moore said.
Moore’s eight innings of work were as valuable as gold to an ISU team that is short on quality arms due to injury and ineffectiveness. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and one of the two runs he conceded was unearned.
Johnson, Lyke win MVC titles for ISU
Indiana State’s Felisha Johnson and Maurice Lyke were both crowned Missouri Valley Conference champions on Saturday during the MVC Track and Field Championships at Drake University.
ISU earns badly-needed win
Alcorn State’s baseball team might be ranked in the bottom 10 in RPI and Indiana State might have never lost to a Southwestern Athletic Conference team. So it wouldn’t appear that a quality win was in the offing when Alcorn State visited Bob Warn Field on Friday.
Metro roundup: RHIT’s Evans sets Div. III record in high jump
For the third time this season, Rose-Hulman senior Liz Evans topped the NCAA Division III all-time national record in the outdoor high jump Friday night.
ISU’s Mascari and Hope win MVC track & field titles
Indiana State produced two champions during the opening day of action in the Missouri Valley Conference track and field championships Friday at Drake. Freshman John Mascari, a Terre Haute native, won the men’s 10,000-meter race and Nicole Hope won the women’s pole vault for the second time in three seasons.
ISU pole vault tradition continues with help from its author
Pole vault is track and field for the adrenaline junkie, Indiana State senior Nicole Hope proclaimed during a recent practice at Marks Field.
To catapult oneself about 14 feet into the air with a large $500 fiberglass pole on a daily basis is a risky endeavor.
“We have to be fearless. You can’t be afraid at all,” said Hope, who has also catapulted herself into the NCAA’s elite in the event, ranking 15th in the NCAA with her leap of 13-feet, 9 1/4.
Sycamores searching for answers after seventh loss in eight games
These are the bad times for the Indiana State baseball team.
The will is there for the Sycamores to pull out of their worst slump of the season, but the results are not. The suffering continued on Wednesday at Bob Warn Field as Eastern Illinois defeated ISU 5-3.
METRO ROUNDUP: ISU men's track picked first in MVC Championships, women second
The Indiana State men’s track team has won the last two Missouri Valley Conference outdoor championships, but the women have not stood on the top podium since 1999.
That may change this year, but the Sycamores will face some stiff competition in their quest for the championships.
North grad Welker helps Whitson earn first NCAA bid as coach
Eastern Kentucky girls golf coach Mike Whitson, an alumnus of his employer, enjoyed his stay in Terre Haute as coach of Indiana State, where he started the women’s golf program.
METRO ROUNDUP: Rose-Hulman wins HCAC all-sports trophy
Rose-Hulman has won the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference men’s all-sports trophy for the fifth time in the past six year, the league announced Monday.
Rose tallied 66.5 points for its finishes in 11 men’s sports, just ahead of Franklin with 66. Hanover was third with 53 points.
METRO ROUNDUP: Rose-Hulman tennis falls in HCAC semifinal
Rose-Hulman’s hot streak in men’s tennis came to an end Saturday in the semifinal round of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament at the West Indy Racquet Club.
Manaea fights off bad hip, wet weather to toss four innings
Mother Nature has been the bane of the Indiana State baseball team’s existence all season. Eight games wiped due to weather are a testament to that. So it was no surprise, though no less disappointing, when she didn’t deal Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea the greatest hand on Saturday as he tries to recover from a hip injury.
ISU track enjoys big night at IU's Billy Hayes Invitational
The Indiana State Sycamores either won or finished as the top collegian in 12 events, led by the record-breaking performance of senior Brandon Pounds at the 2013 Billy Hayes Invitational Friday at Indiana University.
Pounds broke his own school record to win the men’s hammer throw.
Lansing looking for more home games for next fall
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team is looking for a few good games.
Home games that is.
The Sycamores have filled in most of the blanks in their nonconference schedule, but as ever, ISU coach Greg Lansing would like to visit the friendly confines of Hulman Center a bit more often.
Secret weapon: Kelsey Rosselli finishing Woods career with a bang
At Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, reporting game results to the Tribune-Star after a win or a loss is not always a high priority.
So when one of its athletes enjoys an outstanding season, like senior Kelsey Rosselli is doing for the Pomeroys’ softball team in 2013, media publicity doesn’t always follow.
In fact, her efforts almost seem like a government secret.
Rosselli’s name might sound familiar to longtime Terre Haute softball followers because she was a standout for North High School, from where she graduated in 2009.
Since then, she’s helped The Woods finish runner-up in three straight U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) national tournaments in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
ISU baseball gets back into rhythm with victory
Baseball is a rhythm game. With contests every day or five times a week in the case of many college programs, you have the chance to build on success or wallow in a slump.
Mother Nature took that rhythm away from Indiana State’s team last week. After a 7-1 loss to Indiana on April 24, ISU was supposed to play a three-game series at Tennessee-Martin, but it was wiped out by rain.
So the rhythm was disturbed, but perhaps that wasn’t a bad thing.
ISU was in a five-game losing streak before its unintended vacation and the Sycamores made a move in the right direction Wednesday with a 7-0 win over DePauw at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a disappointing weekend. We went all the way down to Tennessee and didn’t get to play. We sat around in the hotel room. We came here and it was still raining. It was nice to get out and see some live pitching,” ISU center fielder Landon Curry said.
Metro roundup: ISU hands out spring awards
The Indiana State University athletic community, along with family, friends and fans, paused Tuesday night to honor the spring sports teams at the Terre Haute Savings Bank Spring Sports Banquet.
Most of the ISU teams are still in competition with the baseball team having 13 games left of its regular-season schedule before beginning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament May 21, the softball team with just three games left of the docket this coming weekend against Southern Illinois and the track and field program with just one more meet before beginning its postseason events.
The ISU women’s golf team is the team that has ended at this time, with the group recording a sixth-place finish at the MVC championships one week ago.
METRO ROUNDUP: Rose baseball wins another thriller
Rose-Hulman earned its third victory in its last at-bat in the last five days with a 6-5 win over Franklin in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball Tuesday night at Art Nehf Field.
ISU relay teams enjoy strong day at Drake Relays
It was a day for the relay teams to shine at the 104th Drake Relays Saturday as four of the five Indiana State relay teams that competed ran times that put the team among the top five in school history for their respective events.
Indiana State baseball series canceled
Heavy rain from Thursday through Saturday has forced Indiana State and Tennessee Martin to cancel their three-game weekend baseball series in northwest Tennessee.
Metro roundup; Five Wabash Valley players on Terre Haute Rex team
The Terre Haute Rex will look to three-peat as Prospect League Western Division champions with a roster that includes a quartet of Wabash Valley players. Indiana State University standouts Tyler Wampler and Josh Dove will reunite with former Little League and high school rivals Cody Gardner (Wright State), Tim Johnson (Vincennes) and Bryan Nacke (Vincennes) for the summer season.
- More College Headlines
- ISU track sending record 22 to postseason