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No BCS or bowl game for Skyhawks, just quality playoff football

College football fans are accustomed to the postseason bowl system and the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) computer rankings that are used to determine who plays for a national championship. If you are confused why Division I-A uses this format, you are not alone. It is a controversial system driven by a lot of money in corporate sponsorship and major TV ratings.

Division I-AA does not run its postseason like Division I-A. It does it better.

Critics of the BCS and the current bowl game format of Division I-A have said a playoff system is the fairest way to determine who the national champion is. Instead of relying on computer rankings and national polls to decide No. 1 vs. No. 2, a single elimination playoff between the top eight or 16 teams should decide once and for all. The controversy to put that type of system in place has gone on for years but a change seems unlikely.

Division I-AA has always had football’s purest playoff format and the 2006 Skyhawks are all but assured to participate in it. Their fate will not be determined by a computer but on the field. With every playoff win, they will stay in the hunt for a national title.

Two regular season games remain on UTM’s schedule before the postseason begins. As it stands right now, the Skyhawks are the sole leader in the Ohio Valley Conference with a 6-0 conference record. They are 8-1 overall and are riding an eight-game win streak.

After the weekend’s 28-14 win at Southeast Missouri State, they rose from No. 10 to No. 8 in the Sports Network’s I-AA College Football Poll.

If UTM finishes the season unbeaten in the OVC, they are guaranteed an automatic berth in the 16-team NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship. The Ohio Valley Conference is one of eight conferences in the country that grants an automatic playoff bid to the regular season champion.

If by chance the Skyhawks lose one or both of their remaining games and they do not finish as OVC champion, their chances are still great to receive an at-large bid by the Division I-AA football committee based on their overall record and national ranking.

The top four teams in the 16-team bracket will be seeded. Team pairings for first-round games are determined by geographical proximity. Teams from the same conference are not paired in the first-round so an OVC rematch could only happen in the later rounds.

Even if the Skyhawks remain unbeaten in the OVC at season’s end, they are not guaranteed to host a first-round home playoff game. The university has to put in a bid to the I-AA football committee to make them an eligible candidate to host a first round game. It is also not guaranteed that if UTM wins their first-round game that they could host a second-round game. Different criteria based on seeding and host field specifications determine who the home team will be in the later rounds.

No. 1 Appalachian State is the first guaranteed team in this year’s playoffs. The Mountaineers claimed their automatic bid with last week’s 42-13 win over The Citadel. Appalachian State is the defending I-AA national champions and likely to be the 2006 No. 1 seed if they go unbeaten the rest of the season.

The 29th annual Division I-AA Football Championship game will be played at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Friday, Dec. 15. It will be televised on ESPN.

However the regular season ends, it looks like UTM will have more football to play. No computer necessary.