— Sports

Playoff berths at stake as FCS regular season winds down

The final weekend for most leagues playing FCS spring football has arrived, with 11 of the 16 spots in the pandemic-shortened 16-team playoffs field still to be determined.

Weber State (Big Sky), Monmouth (Big South), Sacred Heart (Northeast), Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley), and Sam Houston (Southland) have already earned automatic berths as conference champions. Top-ranked James Madison and No. 2 North Dakota State have league championships on the line Saturday, though both are likely to be in the field regardless of the outcomes.

James Madison (4-0, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association) hosts No. 11 Richmond (3-0, 3-0), the third time the teams have been scheduled to play this year. Each program was responsible for one postponement because of COVID-19 protocols. The Dukes, who have played just once since March 6, need the game to meet the CAA’s three-game requirement to qualify for the conference’s automatic bid; Richmond needs the game to meet the NCAA’s four-game minimum requirement for at-large consideration. Either school and Delaware (4-0, 3-0), which faces Villanova (2-1, 2-1), could wind up as the automatic qualifier from the CAA.

The Bison (6-1, 5-1 Missouri Valley), winners of eight of the last nine national titles, play host to No. 4 South Dakota State (4-1, 4-1). The loser will be eliminated from the MVC championship race, and the winner would share it with Missouri State (5-4, 5-1) and possibly North Dakota (4-1, 4-1), which plays Youngstown State (1-6, 1-6). The CAA and Missouri Valley could each get at least two of the six at-large berths,

and Eastern Washington (5-1, 5-1 Big Sky) is likely to lay claim to another. VMI will win the Southern Conference’s automatic bid for the first time if it beats The Citadel or if Mercer loses at Samford. Bucknell and Holy Cross are meeting for the Patriot League title. Davidson needs only to win visiting Stetson to claim the Pioneer Football League’s automatic berth, the first in Wildcats history.

HARD TO WATCH

Deion Sanders probably wished he could have suited up.

Instead, the All-Pro cornerback could only watch Alabama A&M; quarterback Aqeel Glass light up his Jackson State squad with six TD passes in the Bulldogs’ 52-43 victory.

Glass finished with 440 passing yards and had a 5-yard TD run as the Bulldogs (3-0, 2-0 Southwest Athletic Conference) scored their most points against a Division I opponent in 12 years.

Alabama A&M; coach Connell Maynor said having Sanders on the other sideline is “good for Black college football. It’s good for Jackson State. It’s good for the SWAC.”

Benefits from Sanders’ arrival as the Tigers’ coach include additional exposure for the league and a sponsorship deal with Pepsi that he helped broker for the SWAC.

“He’s making a big splash in a positive way to help generate money for HBCUs and Black college football and the SWAC,” Maynor said. “It’s only going to help our league.”

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