Florida Classic defeat of B-CU fails to get FAMU into the playoffs

Florida A&M finished the season on a nine-game winning streak, and coach Willie Simmons campaigned to get into the playoffs of the 24-team Football Championship Subdivision after ending the regular season on a high in Orlando.

He didn’t get his wish on Sunday. However, a former UCF coach did.

The Rattlers (9-2), who easily beat Bethune-Cookman at Camping World Stadium on Saturday, were left off the field.

Incarnate Word, led by GJ Kinne, earned a co-championship bid along with Southeastern Louisiana at the Southland Conference. Kinne spent last season at UCF as co-offensive coordinator under Gus Malzahn and quarterbacks coach.

South Dakota State and Sacramento State secured the top two seeded spots in the FCS playoffs when the 24-team field was announced Sunday.

“A disappointing day for our program after learning we were not invited to the FCS playoffs,” Simmons said via FAMU’s social media channel the day after their second straight win over B-CU at the Florida Classic. “My heart just goes out to these young men. You fought for this program. You’ve done more than we ever asked for. They did what they had to do on that football field to show they deserved the opportunity to play a national championship.

South Dakota State (10-1) will make an 11th straight appearance in the postseason. The Jackrabbits, who lost to Sam Houston in the 2020 championship game, were automatically nominated as the Missouri Valley Football Conference winners. Sacramento State (11-0) won the Big Sky Conference automatic bid. Neither the Jackrabbits nor the Hornets have ever won the FCS championship.

Also in the top eight seeds, all earning a bye to the playoffs beginning Saturday, are No. 3 North Dakota State (9-2), No. 4 Montana State (10-1), No. 5 William & Mary (10-1), #6 Samford (10-1), #7 Word Incarnate (10-1), and #8 Holy Cross (11-0).

North Dakota State, the defending champion and winner of nine of the last 11 titles, made it into the field for the 13th straight year. The Bison have won 41 playoff games, the most ever. They defeated Montana State 38-10 for last season’s title.

Montana State won part of the Big Sky Conference title and will be in the playoffs for 12th and fourth time in the last five years. In 1984 the Bobcats won the title.

William & Mary will make the playoffs for the 11th time since 2015. The Tribe won the Colonial Athletic Association title on Saturday, defeating Richmond at large 37-26. Samford won the Southern Conference in his sixth appearance.

Southeastern Louisiana hosts Idaho on Saturday (7-4).

Holy Cross received the Patriot League’s automatic offer for a fourth consecutive postseason appearance.

This year’s field includes seven programs that have won national championships and one team, Gardner-Webb (6-5), who will make their first appearance in the playoffs. The Runnin’ Bulldogs play Eastern Kentucky Saturday (7-4).

Other first-round games include Saint Francis, Pa. (9-2) at Delaware (7-4), Fordham (9-2) at New Hampshire (8-3), North Dakota (7-4) at Weber State (9-2), Southeast Missouri State (9- 2) at Montana (7-4), Elon (8-3) at Furman (9-2) and Davidson (8-3) at Richmond (8-3).

The playoffs conclude with the national championship on January 8th in Frisco, Texas.

“I hate it for the seniors,” Simmons said. “But what better way to see these guys off than with a resounding win at the Florida Classic.

“This is the last time we want to see your young men come up short. We want to determine our own destiny.”