Here’s a question that would stump even the greatest Jeopardy champion: With a win over New Hampshire Saturday will the UMaine football team qualify for the NCAA playoffs? Forty eight hours ago I thought I knew the answer: No. Nope. No way. Not gonna happen.
After a couple of days of research, I’m still leaning toward probably not. But maybe, just maybe, they can sneak in?
To quote the classic film Dumb and Dumber “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” Yes I am.
The Black Bears have saved their season with an impressive four game win streak. They were 2-5. They are now 6-5 and 4-3 in the CAA conference. The team has showed a lot of pride and character.
Saturday’s rivalry showdown with New Hampshire (5-5) is a winnable game for UMaine despite the fact the northern most school has only beaten the no sales tax state school three times in the last 17 years. But one of those wins was just last year.
So is beating the Wildcats, who have nothing to play for, enough to sneak UMaine in to the field? It’s not a long shot like winning the lottery, but the odds are pretty stacked against the Black Bears.
24 teams qualify for the FCS postseason. There are 10 automatic bids for conference champs leaving 14 “at large” teams. These are selected by a committee. UMaine, along with maybe 20 other teams, is playing for one of these 14 spaces.
The selection committee puts the most value in won/loss record and strength of schedule.
Beat UNH and Maine will have 7 wins. Last year a handful of teams made it in with 7 wins. So that’s cause for hope. But of Maine’s 6 wins to date, only two have come against teams with winning records.
Maine’s signature win was on the road against the Albany Great Danes (7-4). That’s a big win against a team also battling Maine for a spot in the playoffs. The Black Bears also whooped Sacred Heart (7-4). But that team is from a weak conference and was the opening game sacrificial lamb. Not much value there.
Maine’s other four wins are against teams that are all below .500 and have a combined record of 14-30. Not helpful.
UMaine’s strength of schedule is a favorable factor. The CAA figures to have perhaps four teams in the 24 team field. Maybe five? The conference always gets respect.
Maine played two Top 25 FCS schools in Towson and Villanova. But they lost both of those games including getting blown out by Towson in Orono. Not good.
And Maine has played two FBS “Big Boy” schools season. They lost them both. But they played them and that’s good for strength of schedule.
Heck, lets talk about the elephant, or Spider, in the room. The only reason Maine is most likely on the outside looking in on this postseason is a season killing home loss to Richmond.
The Black Bears win that game and they are sitting at 7 wins already and I’m not writing this blog right now. But they played that game without Earnest Edwards and lost.
I mentioned I’ve spent a couple of days doing research. I scoured the internet for stats and to see if any “experts” outside the local homers think UMaine has a legit shot.
So keeping in mind the Black Bears are not ranked in the Top 25 poll (They are #35 in the poll on the NCAA FCS page) and their RPI is #39 here’s what others are saying.
Craig Haley Senior Editor at STATS FCS gives Maine a shot.
“One year after setting the FCS single-season record with six playoff teams, CAA Football has a realistic shot at five. James Madison is in as the outright champion and Villanova (8-3), Albany (7-4) and Towson (7-4) appear in good shape for at-large bids. Maine, last year’s champ, hopes to win its rivalry game at New Hampshire next Saturday and go from 2-5 to 7-5 and into the field.”
College Sports Madness writes:
“Maine could end up in the tourney having won their last five games. 7-5 is not a sparkling record, but two of those losses were to FBS teams. Their best win is Albany. Is that enough?”
They apparently don’t think so as they have a projected bracket that includes three teams from the CAA but have Maine as one of the last three teams left out.
Dratings.com also does not have Maine in their bracket. But they do provide computer power rankings of the field and have Maine ranked at 20. They have JMU, Towson, Nova and Albany ahead of Maine. That shows respect for the CAA and Maine.
NOBOWLS.com has no mention of Maine even on the fringe as a bubble team.
ATHLON SPORTS does not have Maine in their top 25.
HEROSPORTS.com has the Black Bears as one of the first 3 teams out and ranked at #28.
College Sports Madness and College Sports Journal also do not have Maine in the field.
So you can see theres a case to be made, but most don’t think it’s a strong one. Perhaps if UMaine rolls UNH by 24 points or so that will cap the 5 game win streak and help the argument to sneak the Black Bears into the dance.
Really the Wildcats kind of hosed Maine already. If they had won last weekend they would be 6-4 and in the playoff hunt. It could have set up another signature win for Maine, but UNH is cooked and will be staying home no matter what they do this weekend.
So, back to the Double Jeopardy question: “With a win over New Hampshire Saturday will the UMaine football team make the NCAA playoffs?”
I’ll take “Close, but no cigar Alex.”