Nov 14, 2012 9:09 PM by Bill Halter
The Cal Poly football team will either be on the F.C.S. Playoff bubble or be a sure thing by Saturday night. The 8-2 Mustangs finish the regular season at 8-2 Northern Arizona on Saturday at 3:05pm Pacific time. The winner earns at least a share of the Big Sky Conference title and at 9-2 would be assured of having a good enough resume to earn one of the 20 spots for the F.C.S. playoffs.
It's the final year before the FCS playoffs are expanded to 24 teams, there will be 10 automatic bids for conference champions and 10 at-large bids. Cal Poly will likely need to earn an at-large bid. For the Mustangs to earn the Big Sky's automatic bid they would need a win at Northern Arizona and losses by Eastern Washington and Montana State. Eastern Washington (8-2) plays at Portland State (3-7), Montana State (9-1) plays at Montana (5-5). Right now Cal Poly, Northern Arizona, Eastern Washington and Montana State are all 6-1 in the conference. The Mustangs lose tiebreakers against Eastern Washington and Montana State for the conferences automatic berth.
Cal Poly is ranked 10th in this weeks Gridiron Power Index. The GPI is a compilation of polls and a leading indicator of at-large playoff selection, it is comparable to the BCS for the Football Bowl Subdivision. Northern Arizona is 12th in the GPI and so both teams will have a chance at a quality win.
Cal Poly's best win this season is at F.B.S. level Wyoming. The Mustangs losses are both on the road against good teams, at Sacramento State (6-4) and at Eastern Washington (8-2). All of Cal Poly's wins have come against division one teams. That is not the case for many other teams on the bubble who have played division-two or NAIA teams. The FCS does not count wins against non division-one teams. One of Northern Arizona's victories is against a division-two team.
Win or lose the Mustangs will spend Saturday looking at other scores around the country to determine how they effect their playoff hopes. However a win ends any concern of them making the playoffs. A win would almost certainly earn Cal Poly a first round home game or a first round bye. 12 teams get first round byes while the other eight teams have to play on Saturday, November 24.
Cal Poly is expected to have senior right tackle Karl Winkelman back after missing four games with a knee injury. Sophomore wide receiver Lance Castaneda is also expected back after missing a game because of an ankle injury. Senior center Geoff Hyde is considered questionable, head coach Tim Walsh calls Hyde the teams best offensive lineman. He missed last weeks 70-14 win against Idaho State after injuring his knee the week before at Eastern Washington. The only two would be starters who are certainly out are offensive lineman Mike Freeman (ankle) and sophomore safety Dave Douglas (groin).
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