ISR Butler Beat Writer
INDIANAPOLIS, IN– After learning that the Butler Bulldogs will be heading to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs for the first time in school history, the Bulldogs learned Sunday that they were chosen to host a first round game and will face the Tennessee State Tigers on Saturday, Nov. 30, at 1 p.m. (ET). The Pioneer Football League announced Tuesday (Nov. 19) that the Bulldogs won the league’s final ranking tiebreaker and will receive the league’s automatic qualifying bid to the upcoming NCAA Division I Football Championship.
“First and foremost you’re excited for the team and the players and the staff to have one more opportunity to play together,” said Butler head coach Jeff Voris. “It’s been such a great season and such a great group of guys, I’m just excited that they get to keep playing.”
Butler will be making its second Division I postseason appearance, but its first in the NCAA Championship. The Bulldogs represented the PFL at the 2009 Gridiron Classic, where they defeated Northeast Conference champ Central Connecticut State. This year’s PFL co-championship was Butler’s second straight and third in five seasons.
“First I want to congratulate both Butler and Marist on their championships,” said PFL commissioner Patty Viverito. “It speaks to the high quality of play in the league this season that we had to use all of our tiebreakers to determine our automatic qualifier. We look forward to Butler carrying the PFL flag into the Division I Football Championship for the first appearance by a league member.”
Butler and Marist both finished the 2013 PFL campaign with 7-1 league records and the two teams did not face each other during the regular season. The league proceeded through its tiebreaker formula with the tie unbroken until the final rankings tiebreaker, which required use of each of the seven rankings/ratings used in the College Sporting News’ Gridiron Power Index as well as the NCAA’s Simple Rating System (SRS). Butler finished ahead of Marist in 5 of the 7 rating systems and therefore the SRS was not a determining factor. Butler is the first team to receive the PFL’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship. The PFL championship was Butler’s second straight and third in five years.
“We’re excited. Probably more so now with the news that we’re going to be at home,” said Butler head coach Jeff Voris. “We knew whoever we drew was going to be a heck of a challenge for us, and there’s no question that Tennessee State is a huge challenge.”
The Tennessee State Tigers (9-3) was the runner-up in the Ohio Valley Conference to Eastern Illinois (11-1), the No. 2 seed in this year’s championship. The Tigers, who posted nine victories for the first time since 1999, currently rank fifth in the nation in team defense, allowing just 278.9 yards per game.
“The one thing with the playoffs is you get a lot of teams that you haven’t seen or don’t know a lot about,” noted Voris. “It’s going to be a full week of preparation, and it’s going to be fun trying to come up with a plan that allows us to compete.”
Two-time defending champion North Dakota State earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Eastern Illinois was seeded second, while Eastern Washington was seeded third. Rounding out the top eight seeds were Southeastern Louisiana, #5 Maine, #6 McNeese State, #7 Towson and #8 Montana. Each of the top eight seeds received a first round bye.
The winner of the Butler-Tennessee State game will face Eastern Illinois in the second round on Dec. 7.
Chris Fultz is the Butler beat writer for the Indy Sports Report. Follow Chris and the Indy Sports Report on Twitter.