FCS College Football: Fordham Gains Playoff Relevance with Lehigh Win

Alan BlackAnalyst IIIOctober 5, 2013

Sep 14, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Fordham Rams players including offensive lineman Steven Tapia (78) defensive back Jordan Chapman (10) and offensive lineman Mason Halter (64) celebrate after defeating the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field. Fordham defeated Temple 30-29. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Fordham Rams are not eligible for the Patriot League title this season or for the automatic bid to the FCS playoffs given to the conference champion. 

The conference ruled them ineligible due to the school offering athletic scholarships starting in 2010, while the rest of the conference still offered only need-based scholarships. 

The Patriot League has since adopted athletic scholarships, but the Rams will not be eligible for the conference title or conference playoff bid until next season, once the other schools in the conference have had two full classes of scholarship players.

They are left hoping for an at-large bid, which is almost unheard of for a Patriot League team to receive. The last Patriot League team to receive an at-large bid was Lafayette in 2005.

This season though, Fordham was starting to make a pretty good case for itself to receive one of those bids, and to be considered a major contender in the FCS.

Coming into their game against resident Patriot League powerhouse Lehigh, the Rams had a 5-0 record that included impressive wins over FBS team Temple and 2009 FCS National Champions Villanova.

The Rams emphatically answered the question of whether or not they should be considered a playoff contender, getting a big 52-34 win over Lehigh at home in the Bronx.

If there were any doubts about Fordham's worthiness, those are effectively gone.

The Rams' offense continued to roll along, putting up 630 total yards and 52 points on the Mountain Hawks. QB Michael Nebrich showed that his impressive season thus far has been no fluke, throwing for 384 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, while adding 56 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

After this performance, Nebrich should be considered one of the front-runners for the Walter Payton Award, although his performances leading up to the game had already warranted national recognition.

It wasn't just Nebrich who came through for the Rams against Lehigh.

Running backs Carlton Koonce and Jared Crayton combined for 193 yards and two touchdowns rushing, while averaging over six yards per carry between them.

Looking at the rest of Fordham's schedule, they are the clear favorite in every remaining regular-season game.

Barring major upsets, the Rams could very well enter the postseason undefeated. If that is indeed how things play out, not only are they a lock for an at-large bid, but they would also have to be considered one of the favorites to take home the national championship.

Fordham faced its most important test of the season against Lehigh on Saturday, and they passed with flying colors.

Their fate is squarely in their own hands at this point, which is a great position to be in for a team without access to an auto-bid.