Despite dismantling the then No. 11 Central Arkansas Bears Saturday evening, the No. 1 Sam Houston State Bearkats stayed put as the fifth seed in the final FCS Playoff Ranking.
A top four seed would have meant that the Bearkats would be playing at home until at least the semi-finals, but the team has expressed on numerous occasions that they have no problem playing anybody, anywhere, at any time.
“We have a proven track record,” head coach K.C. Keeler said. “We ended up number three in the country last year, and number four in the country the year before, but this is the best team that we have had. It is obvious this is the best team we have had.”
The playoff seeds were announced Sunday morning during the FCS Football Championship Selection Show, the top four seeds are as followed: (1) North Dakota State, (2) Eastern Washington, (3) Jacksonville State, and (4) James Madison. When the top four seeds were announced during the nationally televised ESPNU show, you could hear and feel the Bearkats’ frustration in the watch room. The Kats are the lone undefeated team in the FCS and won their games by an average of 28.3 points per game.
Despite the numbers SHSU has posted this season, the playoff selection committee still felt that the Bearkats did not do enough to get a top seed, but this team does not mind being overlooked. Last season, the Bearkats were not a seeded team and made it to the final four. This year’s team will have the luxury of having a bye week before playing their first round game.
“It is the committee’s call, it is their decision at the end of the day so we just have to roll with it,” junior quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe said. “Wherever we get put, that is fine with us. It does not matter who, where, or when we are going to play. It is all about us and not about anybody else.”
The Kats do not seem to care about where they are playing, but the most important thing to this team is that they are still playing football at this point in the season.
“These kids just love to play,” Keeler said. “I don’t think it will affect them one bit. Some of the best wins I have had in my career came on the road, so there are some great opportunities to go on the road and win.”
The main reason the Bearkats seem to be under-seeded is the relatively weak schedule the team played this year. Through no fault of their own, the Bearkats simply have not had to face many tough teams this season. All of the top four seeds played an FBS school, and the Bearkats did not; they tried, but the New Mexico State Lobos pulled the Bearkats off the schedule last minute. The Southland Conference was also not as strong as expected this season. The McNeese State Cowboys (5-6, 5-4 Southland), who won the conference last season, did not meet expectations this season.
The factors that played into the Kats getting the fifth seed were things out of the team’s control, but none of that matters now as the playoffs begin. SHSU will have a chance to prove that they should have been seeded higher. This is the sixth straight season the Bearkats have been in the playoffs, they have a ton of veterans and the team knows what to expect during playoff time.
“We have a lot of experience on this team,” junior defensive end P.J. Hall said. “Almost everybody has been here the last couple of years, and we have been on away games for the playoffs. We know what to expect and this is nothing new for us.”
The Bearkats will patiently wait and see their first playoff opponent. The Kats will play the winner of Weber State (7-4) and Chattanooga (8-3), which will take place on Nov. 26.
With the fifth seed and a first round bye under their belt, the Bearkats will take on the winner of that game on Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. at Bowers Stadium.