We learned from 2014 that 8-4 isn’t good enough to make the playoffs.
In 2014, Idaho State’s four losses were to Utah, Utah State, Eastern Washington and Montana State. The wins were over Chadron State, Sacramento State, Simon Fraser, Southern Utah, Northern Colorado, Portland State, Cal Poly and Weber.
The four losses, were quality losses, but there were no quality wins. That’s why Idaho State missed the playoffs. The Bengals went 6-2 in conference play and finished second in the conference, but only played three teams, Eastern Washington, Montana State and Cal Poly, finished above. 500 in conference play that year. The only team Idaho State beat that year was Cal Poly.
The Bengals were right there against Eastern Washington and Montana State, but they lost and at the end of the day, that’s really all that matters. If they win one of those games, Idaho State makes the playoffs.
The one thing Idaho State was missing that year was a big, signature win.
Now, you can argue that Nevada is that signature win that Idaho State was missing from 2014, and I personally would happen to agree with that, but I’m not sure even that will be enough and here’s why.
In 2014, three teams from the Big Sky made the playoffs – Eastern, Montana and Montana State. Idaho State didn’t play Montana in 2014 and lost to both Eastern and Montana State. In 2015, the Big Sky got two teams, Southern Utah and Montana and last season Cal Poly and Weber State were the only two teams that made it.
Historically, the Big Sky has gotten no more than three team in the playoffs the last few years. That means, the Big Sky will get its conference champion and maybe two others.
So, look at the standing right now.
Eastern is ranked and leads the conference at 3-0. Weber is also ranked and is right behind Eastern at 2-0. If both those teams don’t fold, they’re in. That leaves one, maybe, maybe two more spots.
The teams ahead of Idaho State are, both of those schools, Northern Arizona, Montana, Montana State, Southern Utah and Sac State.
Idaho State already lost to Montana, and whether you like it or not is going to hurt the Bengals because they will take Montana over Idaho State all day long for that potential third spot. They beat Idaho State at Holt Arena, it’s a no-brainer, and unless Montana falls apart in the final month, which I don’t see happening, Montana is probably in as well.
Idaho State plays Sac State this Saturday, that’s a must-win.
But the Bengals don’t play Southern Utah, or Northern Arizona this year. So, if there is a tie for that fourth spot, who will they take, Idaho State, Southern Utah or Northern Arizona?
Southern Utah got in last year, Idaho State hasn’t beat Northern Arizona since 2004 and Northern Colorado, who could also make late-season push for that final spot, beat Idaho State earlier this season.
So, here’s what has to happen. Idaho State needs to make their resume so good that they can’t not take them.
That means that in addition to a road win over Nevada, who is currently 1-5, Idaho State needs to go into Bozeman and win. Then, on the last week of the season, the Bengals must trot into Ogden and beat a most likely ranked Weber State team. It also won’t hurt if Nevada gets hot and makes that win look better.
Then, Idaho State is 9-3 and 6-2 in conference play and the FCS playoff committee has to take Idaho State.