If Stony Brook had held Liberty to two fewer touchdowns in a 54-28 loss today in Lynchburg, Va., the Seawolves would have earned the Big South Conference's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. A mere 40-28 loss would have been good enough because the three-way tie for the league title between SBU, Liberty and Coastal Carolina was decided by fewest points allowed in conference games.
On the other hand, how good would it have felt to reach the playoffs off a 40-28 loss? Coastal Carolina gets the bid after allowing 109 points to 122 by Stony Brook and 138 by Liberty. Conceivably, Liberty still might have a chance at an at-large bid because it finished with an 8-3 overall record and was ranked before losing to Coastal Carolina a week ago. But the Seawolves finished 6-5 overall, dropping a heartbreaker at Brown and falling victim to its own mistakes at Lafayette.
Maybe it hurt Stony Brook to know that it could give up 37 points to Liberty and still get the bid even if Coastal Carolina pitched a shutout against Charleston Southern. As it was, Coastal gave up a field goal, meaning the Seawolves had a 40-point advantage when their game began. But Liberty was under no illusions that it needed an impressive win for a shot at an at-large bid.
The tiebreaker used by the Big South is very well-conceived because it doesn't reward teams for running up the score on offense. It rewards them for holding it down on defense, and as a conference, you want your best defensive team in the playoffs because that improves its chance to be competitive.
The Seawolves will have to be content with tying for the league title for the second straight season, and with 17 starters coming back next season, including running back Brock Jackolski and backup running back Miguel Maysonet, they should be another year tougher in their bid to give Stony Brook its first postseason bid at the Division I level.