Teams of greatness

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

It is pretty simple for the SDSU football team: win and you are in.

The Jacks are currently sitting at 7-3 with losses coming to Southern Illinois, Minnesota and Cal Poly and a win over perennial contender Northern Iowa.

“Obviously for our program and to me and the university and hopefully fans and people around would have some pride in being in a national tournament,” SDSU Athletic Director Justin Sell said. “It’s 16 teams on a national level.”

The good news for the Jacks is that they face Western Illinois on Nov. 21, a team that has lost nine straight games, and if they are able to beat the Leathernecks, they would be at 7-1 in conference play and a second-place finish. A win against WIU would also move the Jacks to that eight-win cutoff, as no Missouri Valley Football Conference team has ever been left out of the playoffs with eight wins.

As far as the game against Western Illinois having any added emphasis due to playoff implications:

“The team’s approach has always been to focus on one game and do what we need to do to win,” Sell said. “We can’t make it bigger than it is. We just want to play the best football we can and take that momentum into the playoffs.”

If, for some reason, the Jacks are left out of the playoffs, the loss to Cal Poly may hurt the most. Since the win over SDSU, the Mustangs have gone downhill, going just 2-4 in their last six games and have gone winless in Great West Conference play.

“There is no lock. We would have to be selected as an at-large,” Sell said. “We have a really good chance. If we win on Saturday, that would give us eight Division-I wins.”

The Jackrabbits have not gone to the playoffs since 1979, and the win that may push them over the edge is the win over UNI on Hobo Day. With the win over the Panthers, the Jacks basically locked up at least a second-place finish in the MVFC and have the marquee win over a big-name opponent. Entering the season, the Panthers were the two-time defending conference champions and were ranked as high as number four at the end of last season. The Panthers have reached the FCS playoffs 14 times.

According to College Sporting News, the Jacks are a lock for a playoff spot with a win over Western Illinois.

It doesn’t get much easier to simplify than that.

“For us and this program to have our kids and athletes experience championships in whatever sport, this case being football, is a really neat experience,” Sell said. “It would be great for the seniors on this team who have helped the team transition from the Division-II to the Division-I level.”