The exciting football finish has come to pass for the Southern Conference, which could have the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as its outright champion at the end of Saturday's games. Or there could be a two- or three-way tie including Samford and Furman.
While UTC (8-3, 6-2) is off battling the Southeastern Conference's top team, Alabama, Furman (6-5, 5-2) will be hosting Wofford with Elon playing at Samford (7-4, 5-2). The Mocs finish alone at the top if Furman and Samford lose.
Wins by Furman and/or Samford will create a tie atop the standings, prompting tiebreaker criteria to determine which team claims the automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. According to the SoCon, in a two-way tie UTC would get the bid over Furman but lose out to Samford because of the results of their head-to-head matchups.
In the three-way scenario, with all three teams going 1-1 against the other two, the tiebreaker moves to head to head against the next team down in the standings, which is the bunch at 4-4. Furman will claim the automatic bid there because it went undefeated against the teams currently at 4-4 or that can get there Saturday, while UTC lost to Georgia Southern and The Citadel beat Samford.
Only UTC and Samford have shots at an at-large bid to the playoffs. Furman either will claim the automatic bid or be out of the running. UTC coach Russ Huesman said he hoped the SoCon was doing whatever it could to preach the Mocs' case, which includes the fact that their two SoCon losses came on the road by a combined five points.
"I hope the Southern Conference is doing that, and not just for us but anybody that's got a chance," he said. "You hope they are, and right now they need to be making a case for us and Samford. Furman doesn't need a case made."
UTC dropped from No. 18 to 21 in this week's FCS coaches' poll and from No. 17 to 23 in the Sports Network poll. The Mocs are the highest-ranked SoCon team. Samford is No. 23 in the coaches' poll and No. 24 in the Sports Network's.
Among the teams joining UTC on the bubble are No. 22 Southern Utah (8-3), which closes at No. 12 Northern Arizona, and No. 24 New Hampshire (all rankings from the coaches' poll), which is 6-4 and at home against fourth-ranked Colonial Athletic Association champion Maine. Elsewhere in the CAA, No. 20 William and Mary (7-4) likely needs to win at Richmond (5-6) to secure an at-large spot. In the annual mountain matchup, No. 13 Montana State (7-4) may need to beat No. 6 Montana (9-2) to make the field.
There are numerous other games that will impact the bubble list, which got a few more names last week after 10 ranked teams lost.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...