While Army and Navy were closing out the regular season for this college football season, the playoffs have continued to whittle down the number of national title contenders at the FCS, Division 2 and Division 3 levels this weekend. Among those left standing in the lower tiers of college football is former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, who has Youngstown State (11-3) heading to the FCS semifinals next week following a double-overtime victory Wofford (10-4).
“You take a win any way you can get it,” Pelini said following an exciting victory at home over Wofford. “We had to overcome a lot… did enough to win the football game. That’s all that really matters.”
For a coach who had a rough time getting Nebraska over the hump to be a Big 12 and later a Big Ten champion, Pelini has turned Youngstown State around into being a legitimate national title contender at the school once dominated by Jim Tressel (who is now the president at Youngstown State). Could this be the first step toward Pelini returning to an FBS program? Maybe next year once the coaching carousel gets back in full swing, but for now Pelini is focused on his next opponent.
Next up is a semifinal matchup with Eastern Washington (12-1). The Eagles are coming off a 38-0 victory over Richmond (10-4) on Saturday, so Pelini’s Penguins will certainly have another uphill battle in front of them this week.
Elsewhere around the ongoing playoffs on Saturday, North Dakota State (12-1) avenged their only loss of the regular season by topping South Dakota State (9-4), 36-10. The five-time defending national champions are on a roll, but South Dakota State did pull one of the more entertaining trick plays of the weekend…
North Dakota State will take on James Madison (12-1), with the Dukes coming off a decisive knockout of previously undefeated Sam Houston State (12-1) on Friday night (65-7). That should be one heavyweight fight.
The D2 championship is set to be played between North Alabama (10-1) and Northwester Missouri State (13-0). No school has more D2 national titles than Northwest Missouri State, with five (North Dakota State won five D2 titles from 1983 to 1990 before moving up to 1-AA). North Alabama will play for the first D2 national title in school history.
For the first time since 2004, the Division 3 championship will not be won by either Mount Union or UW-Whitewater. UW-Whitewater was ousted last week and Mount Union took a loss on Saturday against Mary Hardin-Baylor. Mary Hardin-Baylor (13-0) will take on UW-Oshkosh (12-1) in the Stagg Bowl. Both schools will be playing for their first D3 championship.