Once again, the Southland Conference has sent two of its teams, Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State, to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Central Arkansas’ second consecutive trip to the postseason was made official Sunday when the 20-team field was announced.
The Bears, coached by Catholic High native and Nicholls State graduate Clint Conque, will have two weeks to prepare for their playoff opener.
Eighth-ranked UCA, which finished the regular season with a 9-2 mark after Saturday’s 48-30 win over No. 24 Eastern Illinois, received a first-round bye in the playoff field.
The Bears will open the playoffs at perennial power Georgia Southern on Dec. 1 in Statesboro, Ga.
The Bears, who won their playoff opener on the road a year ago at Tennessee Tech, head into the playoffs on a six-game winning streak.
UCA tied Sam Houston State for the Southland Conference title this season, but received the league’s automatic bid by virtue of a 24-20 victory over the Bearkats on Sept. 22.
Sam Houston State — last year’s national runner-up — will host to Cal Poly in the second round Dec. 1 at Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, Texas.
It is the first time the Bearkats have earned a playoff berth in consecutive years.
“We’re proud to be in the field and especially excited about earning a berth for a second consecutive season,” Sam Houston coach Willie Fritz said. “That was one of our goals when we started as coaches — to build a program that competes for the national championship year after year.”
The winner of Sam Houston’s second-round matchup with Cal Poly will face No. 3-seeded Montana State or the winner of the first-round contest between Stony Brook and Villanova.
Sam Houston reached the national championship game in Frisco, Texas, last year, losing to North Dakota State
“Any time you get in the playoffs, you have a chance to win the title,” Fritz said. “The first-round bye comes at a really great time for us. We’ve played 11 consecutive weeks. It will be good to get the guys some rest and also to have some time to prepare for a quality Cal Poly squad.”
North Dakota State (10-1) leads the bracket as the top seed after capturing the automatic qualifying berth from the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
The Bison, who are the reigning national champions, are making their third consecutive appearance.
No. 2 seed Eastern Washington (9-2) is making its ninth appearance. The Eagles captured the Big Sky Conference automatic berth and is back into the field after a one-year absence.
Montana State (10-1), which is making its seventh overall tournament appearance, is the No. 3 seed. The 1984 national champion, the Bobcats are making its seventh overall appearance and third in a row.
Old Dominion is the No. 4 seed after putting together a 10-1 regular season record in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Monarchs earned an at-large spot in the playoffs since they were ineligible to be the Colonial automatic qualifier after announcing plans to leave the league.