From the Press Box
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2010
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Playoff watch draws to an end
Throughout the season, the JU football team has made its case for the Football Championship Subdivision.

The defense team for the Dolphins rested on Saturday as Jacksonville won its second PFL title in three years with a win at home over Campbell, the ninth straight for JU.

Being on the bubble is not a pleasant thing. For the first time all season, there is no certainty. There is no game to prepare for, nothing to focus on and nothing tangible that the team can do this weekend to help its chances.

With nothing left in its arsenal to do to increase its chances of being selected, this weekend the Dolphins will be doing a lot of scoreboard watching and wondering.

Here are some of the questions (and JU’s answers) that the committee faces when it comes to JU and the Dolphins bid for the playoffs:

Q: As a non-scholarship program and the champion of the PFL, are they legitimately a team worth inviting to the playoffs?

A: Yes, they are. JU went to Old Dominion, who was a preseason playoff contender, and took home a 35-25 win (William & Mary of the Colonial only won 21-17). The Dolphins went to Appalachian State and were in the game until the fourth quarter, when instead of trying to slow the game down and escape with a 31-14 loss, JU tried to win the game – leaving a weary defense on the field for more than 11 minutes and resulting in a lopsided looking score, 45-14.

Q: But the PFL is ranked last nationally among conferences and JU has won some close games?

A: Winning a championship isn’t easy. The last two weeks, JU has faced teams that have taken the air out of the ball in an attempt to keep the scoring down. Add into the mix that the Dolphins did not have a bye week this season and have lost a lot of key players on both sides of the ball, who would be back now for a playoff game. Taking out the last two weeks, JU had dominated its competition in the PFL – trailing for a total of nine minutes.

Q: Why did JU not schedule to meet the criteria for a non-automatic qualifying champion?

A: This year’s schedule was done years in advance, with the Webber International game being contracted several years ago. JU has never broken any of its football contracts and is not about to do so.

Q: What makes this JU team worthy of going to the postseason? Their strength of schedule is not very good and they are just now in the top 20 in both polls.

A: Jacksonville features the nation’s top-ranked offense in both yards and points. The Dolphins have the nation’s leader in passing efficiency (Josh McGregor), two of the top 50 rushers in the country (J.J. Laster and Rudell Small) as well as one of the top 50 in receiving yards per game (Josh Philpart).

The Dolphins defense features one of the nation’s leader in sacks (Bradley Burns) as well as the nation’s 10th best defense against the run. On top of that, the defense has a propensity to force turnovers as JU is in the top five nationally in turnover margin.

Now that you’ve had a look at the argument, here’s a look at some of the games to keep an eye on Saturday:
Richmond at William & Mary – Richmond needs a win to get to 7-4, which has been benchmark for the selection committee in the past.
Chattanooga at Wofford – Chattanooga needs a win to get to 7-4 and would hand Wofford its second straight loss.
UMass at Rhode Island – UMass needs a win to get to 7-4.
Georgia Southern at Furman – GSU needs a W to get to 7-4…Furman needs a W to get to 6-5.
Northern Iowa at Western Illinois – UNI needs a W to get the Missouri Valley automatic bid. WIU needs a W to get to 7 wins.
New Hampshire vs. Towson – UNH needs one more W to get to 7.
Villanova at Delaware – Villanova needs a W to get to 7-4.
Bethune-Cookman vs. Florida A&M – Bethune needs a W to secure an automatic bid. Could get an at-large with a loss.

If everything comes through for Jacksonville this weekend, the biggest question is can Jacksonville overcome the bias that a non-scholarship program from the PFL can’t compete on the national level?