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Playoff berths at stake as FCS college football season winds down

VMI quarterback Seth Morgan, center, crosses the goal line for a 2-yard touchdown run with East Tennessee State’s Max Evans, right, on his back on April 3 in Lexington, Va. (David Hungate/The Roanoke Times via AP)

The final weekend for most leagues playing FCS spring football has arrived with 11 of the 16 spots in the pandemic-shortened 16-team playoffs field still to be determined.

Weber State (Big Sky), Monmouth (Big South), Sacred Heart (Northeast), Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley) and Sam Houston (Southland) have already earned automatic berths as conference champions. Top-ranked James Madison and No. 2 North Dakota State have league championships on the line Saturday, though both are likely to be in the field regardless of the outcomes.

James Madison (4-0, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association) hosts No. 11 Richmond (3-0, 3-0), the third time the teams have been scheduled to play this year. Each program was responsible for one postponement because of COVID-19 protocols.

The Dukes, who have played just once since March 6, need the game to meet the CAA’s three-game requirement to qualify for the conference’s automatic bid; Richmond needs the game to meet the NCAA’s four-game minimum requirement for at-large consideration. Either school, as well as Delaware (4-0, 3-0), which faces Villanova (2-1, 2-1), could wind up as the automatic qualifier from the CAA.

The Bison (6-1, 5-1 Missouri Valley), winners of eight of the last nine national titles, play host to No. 4 South Dakota State (4-1, 4-1).

VMI will win the Southern Conference’s automatic bid for the first time if it beats The Citadel, or if Mercer loses at Samford. Bucknell and Holy Cross are meeting for the Patriot League title, and Davidson needs only to beat visiting Stetson to claim the Pioneer Football League’s automatic berth, which would be the first in Wildcats history.

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JUST STOPPING BY

Montana will only play two games this spring, and based on how the first one went, their normal opponents are probably thrilled to have been left off the schedule.

Undeterred by snow flurries and the rust of 485 days without a game, the Grizzlies needed just three minutes to score, amassed 529 yards of offense and got points on eight consecutive possessions in a 59-3 victory against Division II Central Washington.

Montana plays its only other game at home Saturday against Portland State.

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