In no way, shape or form, did I think I'd be writing this column back on September 2 - the day after Youngstown State upset Pittsburgh at Heinz Field to start the 2012 season.
If someone would have had me predict a topic for a column the eve before the season finale, I would have thought it would be along the lines of "Penguins primed for playoffs."
Guess I can't win them all.
In reality, the Penguins are "technically" still alive, but I don't see how it can happen - not after losing four straight in October. If they had just lost to North Dakota State and South Dakota State, two of the better teams in the league, I think they would still have a chance. But the losses to Western Illinois and Southern Illinois - two games in which the Penguins should have won - will be the reason they will more than likely get kept out.
The Penguins are hanging their hat on the fact that last year, 7-4 was good enough to get in, and two, the Pitt victory, which seems all so long ago. However, if they were to get into the playoffs, it would take many teams losing, and the selection committee allowing four teams from one conference into a 20-team field. To explain the situation without getting lost in numbers, I'm going to use records as of today.
There are 10 automatic bids into the playoffs, so now battling for those other 10 spots are two teams that have already completed their seasons, and finished the year with an 8-3 record (Eastern Kentucky and Appalachian State). From there, nine teams sitting at 8-2, six teams at 7-3, and poor Lehigh isn't going to win the conference, but sits with a 9-1 record.
Then there is YSU, which is one of eight teams sitting with a 6-4 record heading into the last game of the regular season.
Obviously, there is strength of schedule and quality wins that factor into the decision, but that would take me forever to figure out for every team in the hunt. What I can figure out is that YSU will need a win, a lot of help, and a generous selection committee to be playing football next week.
On the other hand, Indiana State, YSU's opponent today, is one of those teams sitting at 7-3, also looking for a berth in the playoffs. Each team has to win for a chance to get in - and a win doesn't even guarantee it for either squad.
YSU coach Eric Wolford made a good point in this week's press conference that the Penguins played more than their fair share of ranked opponents through the season - seven to be exact. But even with playing such a hard schedule, is it enough to get in? Only time will tell, and all will be revealed during the selection show at 1:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.
Will the Penguins have a reason to watch the selection show on Sunday??Only if they win today. How do they win today??By playing like the team I?wrote about on Sept. 1, when the headline read "Upset special."?
Sulonen is the sports editor of the Tribune Chronicle. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org