OGDEN — History was made at Weber State on the first day of the FCS football postseason, and fellow Big Sky champion Southern Utah earned one of eight national seeds when the FCS Playoff Committee announced the full tournament bracket Sunday morning on ESPNU.
The Thunderbirds (9-2) earned a No. 8 seed in the FCS playoffs, and SUU — which clinched a second Big Sky Conference championship in three years Saturday — will face the winners of Weber State and Western Illinois on Dec. 2 in Cedar City.
“You can compare us with any other team in the Top 10. I think we are right there,” SUU coach Demario Warren told reporters after Saturday's conference title-clinching win over Northern Arizona. “You can compare us to South Dakota State, to Jacksonville State’s resume, to Sam Houston State that I don’t think has played a winning team all year.
“I’m not saying these are bad football teams. But If you’re basing it off what we’ve done in the football field, I think we’ve done more than almost anybody in the country.”
With a win, the winner of that potentially intriguing second-round matchup could face top-ranked James Madison in the FCS quarterfinals.
The Wildcats (9-2) will host a playoff game for the first time in school history at 2 p.m. MT Saturday at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. The game will be streamed live on ESPN3.
“That’s exciting for us, for the fans, for the program," Weber State coach Jay Hill said. "To have that playoff game here is big. And they just get bigger and bigger after that.”
The Leathernecks (8-3) finished 5-3 in Missouri Valley Football Conference play, and also boast a 38-20 non-conference road win over the Big Sky’s Northern Arizona, a team that was in contention for the league championship until losing at Southern Utah on the final day of the regular season Saturday.
The Lumberjacks also made it into the tournament bracket, giving the Big Sky three postseason teams.
“This is the fifth year that I’ve been on the committee, and this is by far the hardest year ever of the selection," FCS selection chair Richard Johnson told ESPN. "The other four were difficult, but this has been by far the most challenging.”
The Wildcats and Thunderbirds shared the conference title with home wins Saturday, with Weber State pulling away from Idaho State 35-7 in Ogden and Southern Utah romped the Lumberjacks 49-20 in Cedar City.
Weber State clinched its first Big Sky Conference title since 2008. The Thunderbirds’ championship is the first since current BYU associate head coach Ed Lamb led them to their first Big Sky title in school history three years ago.
Now they're both back to the playoffs, with a potential collision course in tow.
“I really don’t care how it runs,” said SUU quarterback Patrick Tyler, who had 238 yards passing and a pair of rushing touchdowns Saturday. “You don’t want to be disappointed; whatever happens, happens — we’re going to be ready.
“We just have to focus on one game at a time. We have to be ready to play, and that is the only game that matters from here. Nothing else matters — before or after.”
Defending national champion James Madison (11-0) was the No. 1 overall seed, followed by No. 2 North Dakota State, No. 3 Jacksonville State and No. 4 Central Arkansas.
“Our guys took care of business," Warren said. "They did what they were supposed to do, and I think they left no doubt at the end of the day.”