By Greg Logan, Newsday LYNCHBURG, Va. – Stony Brook’s five-turnover day in a 28-14 loss at Liberty last Saturday might derail the Seawolves’ hopes of playing for the Football Championship Subdivision national title. The only way they can receive the Big South Conference’s automatic bid is with a Liberty loss at weak VMI on Saturday.
If that longshot doesn’t come in, then either Liberty or Coastal Carolina will get the bid based on various conference tiebreakers. In that case, it will be up to the NCAA selection committee to determine whether Stony Brook (9-2, 5-1 Big South) belongs in the 20-team field. The Seawolves were ranked No. 6 in the Sports Network poll and No. 8 in the FCS coaches poll but likely will drop out of the top 10 when new rankings come out Monday.
Even if Stony Brook remains in the top 20, it might be difficult for the selection committee to include two schools from a seven-team conference that is relatively weak compared to the larger, traditional multi-bid conferences, such as the Colonial Athletic Association, Big Sky and Missouri Valley. The Seawolves are moving to the CAA next year in football only for that reason.
“Our body of work will speak for itself,” Stony Brook athletic director Jim Fiore said after the loss at Williams Field, where Liberty has won 18 straight Big South games dating back to 2006. “We’re very much deserving of a bid. We have the fifth-highest RPI in FCS.”
Fiore was referring to the rating system that ranks the relative strength of FCS teams based on a variety of factors. Stony Brook is helped by the fact it played two strong games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, including a 23-3 win at Army and a 28-17 loss at Syracuse, where the Seawolves held a 17-14 halftime lead.
“We had one bad half at Syracuse, and we got outplayed [at Liberty],” Fiore said.
Actually, the Seawolves’ defense held Liberty to a season-low 259 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. The difference was an interception return and a fumble return that went for TDs.
Over the past 21 games extending back to last season, Stony Brook is 18-3. The only losses in the span came in the second round of last year’s FCS playoffs at then-No. 1 Sam Houston State, at FBS Syracuse and at Liberty.
Asked if Stony Brook belongs in the 20-team tournament, wide receiver Kevin Norrell said, “Without a doubt. Just look at our schedule. Maybe they’ll let us in.”
Liberty’s athletic director is on the selection committee, and Fiore expects him to advocate for Stony Brook. “Over 11 games, we’re certainly one of the top 20 teams in the country,” Fiore said. “I’m confident we’re deserving of the opportunity to play for the national championship.”