At the very least, Stony Brook's 55-3 trouncing of Gardner-Webb Saturday afternoon at LaValle Stadium assured the Seawolves (6-4, 5-0) of at least a tie for the Big South Conference football title they shared with Liberty last season. But coach Chuck Priore's resurgent team has bigger fish to fry after extending its winning streak to four games.
This season, the Big South champ gets an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. Liberty (7-3, 4-1) and Coastal Carolina (5-5, 4-1) still are in the mix, but the odds strongly favor the Seawolves at this point. That's because Liberty was upset on Saturday by Coastal Carolina, 45-31, raising the possibility of a three-way tie.
Here is a rundown of the scenarios for determining a champion:
1 -- Stony Brook obviously gets the playoff bid if it wins Saturday at Liberty because it would be 6-0 in league play.
2 -- If Coastal Carolina wins its home game against Charleston Southern with a shutout, SBU can lose by 37 points or less to Liberty and still win the playoff bid on the basis of fewest points allowed in conference play. Liberty and SBU were tied at 65 points allowed going into Saturday's games, but now, SBU has allowed 68 to 106 for Coastal Carolina and 110 for Liberty -- a 38-point differential with CC. Every point Charleston Southern scores next week helps so long as it doesn't beat Coastal Carolina. If CC loses...
3. -- ...then Liberty could beat Stony Brook and get the bid. But since Charleston Southern (3-7, 1-4) is weak and will be playing on the road, that's unlikely.
In any case, the Seawolves have overcome their early-season ups and downs and now are positioned to win the conference title and earn a playoff berth, which will be announced at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21. According to a school source, Stony Brook has put in a bid to host a first-round game.
Last season, the Seawolves finished on a high with a game-winning field to beat Liberty and tie for the league title. Comparing next week's game to that one, Priore said, "This will be a different crowd situation [in Lynchburg, Va.], and we lost 26 seniors. What happened to Liberty today doesn't matter. They're well-coached, and they will be ready to play."
Considering how well, Stony Brook played in crushing the Bulldogs today, it appears the Seawolves are playing their best football at the right time of the year. At one point against Gardner-Webb, they scored on seven straight possessions. Brock Jackolski ahd the biggest day on olffense with 131 yards rushing and three touchdowns on a 94-yard kickoff return, 6-yard reception and 19-yard run. Freshman cornerback Davonte Anderson was the defensive star with a school-record four interceptions, leading to 17 Stonyb Brook points.
Neither was with SBU last year, but the Seawolves have grown and adapted throughout the season as they mixed in young players on defense and former Hofstra running backs Jackolski and Miguel Maysonet on offense. Priore shakes his head at the wonder of it all.
For instance, Anderson was in boot camp at West Point in June when he changed his mind about whether the U.S. Military Academy was the right path for him. "He felt that was not the career he wanted, and he got a letter of release," Priore said of Anderson. "We made a good decision to take him. When you add good people, those things happen."
As for Jackolski's impact on the program, Priore said, "It's the preparation he brings to the table. He lines up at three different positions. He's a good learner, and he's got intangibles you don't coach. We've designed things for him all year, but he makes you look good as a coach."
After Saturday's powerful display against Gardner-Webb, all the Seawolves are looking very good as they head for Liberty next weekend and what they hope will be Stony Brook's first-ever postseason football bid since moving to Division I in 1999.