Miranda: Investigating FAMU Football’s Odds of making the FCS Playoffs for a Second Straight Year

Head Coach Willie Simmons leads his team out for a game against Southern.
Head Coach Willie Simmons leads his team out for a game against Southern.(Ryan Kelly | WCTV)
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 10:07 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - It’s the middle of November, which means one thing, and one thing only, on the gridiron. We have our eyes on the playoff picture in college football.

Florida State has secured a spot in a bowl game, although where still remains uncertain. Valdosta State’s season is over after a 5-6 campaign. The only variable is now the Rattlers of Florida A&M. Winners of eight straight and on the bubble yet again for the FCS Playoffs.

Can the Rattlers make it for a second straight year? Willie Simmons believes with a win on Saturday in the Florida Classic, they have as good of chance as anyone.

“We know we have to take care of business on our end. We have been contacted by the NCAA, obviously, as a team that has a strong chance of getting in,” Simmons said, “We still have to take care of business on Saturday. Last year, we didn’t know until Sunday morning that we were getting in and I think last year’s win solidified it, and I think the same thing this year. I think we’re right on the cusp of it.”

You heard him mention it--if the Rattlers do make the playoffs, they’re looking to host a playoff game. FAMU has submitted a big to the NCAA, and the potential to host is there. However, how realistic are the Rattlers chances of making the playoffs even with a win?

Hero Sports FCS has the Rattlers on the bubble, rated 29th, and on the outside looking in of the top 24. Senior FCS Analyst and Bracketologist Sam Herder of Hero Sports broke it down for us: While the résumé is almost identical to last year, a lot has to happen for FAMU to make it.

“Last year, there were a lot of results that went Florida A&M’s way. The at-large pool was relatively small, and the bubble was relatively small,” Herder explained, “This year, there could be eight teams battling for the last four spots. So, FAMU wants to see a lot of upsets and a lot of teams at seven wins or at six wins lose.”

“FAMU’s strength of schedule is in the lower 100′s of the FCS. So, I think when that happens, what you want to do is really dominate the competition, and Florida A&M hasn’t necessarily done that as much this year,” Herder continued on FAMU’s body of work, “I think that might be one difference. Obviously, the crazy ending against Alabama St. this last week and the result to Jackson State matter. Last year, it was a 7-6 loss while this year, it was more of a blowout loss to JSU. So, I think while the résumé is the same, that looks a little bit different, plus the bubble is a lot more packed.”

Indeed, the bubble is crowded, to say the very least, this year. Montana, North Dakota, Youngstown State, Rhode Island, Mercer, EKU, Austin Peay, and UC Davis all with realistic odds to make the playoff ahead of the Rattlers. All of which with a higher rated strength of schedule than FAMU--who’s at 109th nationally.

Now, FAMU fans may say, ‘Well, we will end with nine wins and some of these teams will only end with seven--how does that work?’

Take North Dakota, for example. They play North Dakota State this weekend--a premiere FCS football team ranked fourth in the country. Say they lose and end the season 7-4. The Fighting Hawks still boast the second best strength of schedule in all of FCS Football--something the committee values greatly.

All of that to say this: Eight wins aren’t always better than seven, heck, nine wins sometimes aren’t. A lot will have to go right for FAMU to make a second straight playoff appearance.

One thing, though, is for certain: Win the Florida Classic, and let the chips fall where they may.