With one game remaining in the Football Championship Subdivision regular season, you would think the playoff picture would be clearer. But, alas, it’s about as clear as mud.
That goes double for the Idaho football team which plays at Idaho State at 1 p.m. MST today for its postseason life.
A win for the Vandals (6-4, 5-2) will make it easier for them to reach the postseason for the first time since 1995, but they’ll still need a little help.
For example, Sacramento State (10-0, 7-0) hosts UC Davis (6-4, 5-2) today. A win by the Aggies probably would eliminate Idaho from contention thanks to UC Davis’ 44-26 win against the Vandals on Nov. 12.
But if everything goes according to Hoyle and Idaho does get a berth, there are several possible matchups floating around for the Vandals.
No one knows for sure if Idaho will even be in the postseason until the FCS playoff selection show at 10:30 a.m. MST on Sunday (ESPNU).
But we like playing the speculation game here, so let’s go down the rabbit hole on who, when and where the Vandals will be playing if they handle their business:
REFRESHER ON THE PLAYOFFS
Since it’s been almost 30 years since Idaho has been to the FCS playoffs (then Division I-AA) here’s a quick refresher on how the playoff system works:
There are 24 teams in the field, 10 automatic bids (conference champions) and 14 at-large selections (If the Vandals get in, it will be via an at-large selection).
The top eight teams are seeded and will receive a first-round bye. The remaining 16 teams will play in the first round and are paired according to geographic proximity, then placed in the bracket according to geographic proximity to the top eight seeds.
Every seed is guaranteed to host a second-round game. After the second round, the team with the best seed hosts every game until the championship game, which will be played Jan. 8 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, the home of the MLS’ FC Dallas franchise.
POSSIBLE FIRST-ROUND OPPONENTS
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Who could the Vandals get in the first round?
We’ve opened up our Rolodex and turned to some experts. The staff at theanalyst.com predicts the Vandals will travel to Ogden, Utah, to face Big Sky opponent Weber State.
This would be an interesting matchup between two upper-echelon conference schools who didn’t meet in the regular season. A win would result in a trip to No. 4 seed North Dakota State. NCAA.com also predicted this matchup.
At Herosports.com, Sam Herder has Idaho on the opposite side of the bracket with a home game against New Hampshire. Talk about throwing the geographical location element out the window. The Wildcats would have to travel almost 45 hours to play this one. A win for Idaho would set up another Big Sky matchup, this time at Montana State.
Collegesportsjournal.com also has the Vandals hosting a first-round game, but against Davidson. A win also would result in a game at Montana State.
Collegesportsmadness.com doesn’t have a lot of hope in Idaho reaching the postseason as they have the Vandals as one of their first four teams out.
THE BEST SCENARIO?
Out of all the options above, the best thing would be Idaho getting a home game.
Every team participating in the first round has the opportunity to bid on a home game. With that said, Idaho should empty the bank to have what would be the first-in-a-generation shot at hosting a game.
Having the Kibbie Dome rocking for a postseason contest would mean a lot to a grieving community.
If Idaho does get in, don’t be surprised if New Hampshire or Davidson has to make a cross-country trip to the Palouse.
Pixley may be contacted at (208) 848-2290, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TreebTalks.