For the second consecutive year, two Ohio Valley Conference teams will compete in the Division I Football Championship as it was announced by the NCAA on Sunday. Eastern Kentucky, the 2007 OVC Champions and recipient of the league's automatic bid, was joined by Eastern Illinois, who received an at-large bid, in the 16-team playoff field.
By putting two teams in the playoffs for the second straight season (Eastern Illinois and UT Martin represented the league a year ago), it marked the first time that had happened for the OVC in just over a decade. The last time it occurred was the 1995/1996 seasons, when Murray State and Eastern Kentucky appeared in 1995 followed by Murray State and Eastern Illinois in 1996.
Eastern Kentucky (9-2, 8-0 OVC), who is making its NCAA-record 18th Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoff appearance and first in 10 years, will travel to Richmond, Va. to battle the Richmond Spiders (9-2) out of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). The Spiders shared the inaugural CAA Championship with Massachusetts this season and were ranked No. 7 in last week's Sports Network poll. EKU and Richmond have never played before on the gridiron.
EKU, ranked No. 12 nationally last week, has appeared in the FCS Playoffs in 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 2007. Those 18 playoff appearances are tied the most all-time with the Montana Grizzlies (who were the Big Sky Champions this season and also in the 2007 playoff field). The program won the national championship in each 1979 and 1982.
Eastern Illinois (8-3, 7-1 OVC), who is making its third consecutive playoff appearance and 12th overall, will travel to Carbondale, Ill. to battle the Southern Illinois Salukis (10-1) out of the Gateway Football Conference. The Salukis were runners-up in the Gateway this season and suffered its only loss of the season against Northern Iowa, who finished the year undefeated and ranked No. 1 nationally. SIU was ranked No. 5 in last week's Sports Network poll. EIU and SIU have played 48 times previously (with SIU holding a 35-22-1 advantage) but not since the 2005 season.
Eastern Illinois, ranked No. 21 last week, has appeared in the FCS Playoffs in each 1982, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007. They are the first OVC school to make three straight playoffs appearances since EKU achieved the feat from 1993 through 1995. The have been in the FCS Playoffs in six of the last eight seasons.
The first round games are set for Saturday, Nov. 24 at campus sites. The quarterfinals will take place on Saturday, Dec. 1, with the semifinals being played on Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8. The 30th Division I Football Championship game will be held on Friday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. CT at Max Finley Stadium/Davenport Field in Chattanooga, Tenn. (ESPN2). Chattanooga has served as the host of the game since the 1997 season.
2007 Division I Football Championship Schedule
Saturday, November 24
NCAA FCS Playoffs – First Round (at campus sites)
#12 Eastern Kentucky at #7 Richmond, TBA
#21 Eastern Illinois at #5 Southern Illinois, TBA
Saturday, December 1
NCAA FCS Playoffs - Quarterfinals (at campus sites)
Friday, December 7/Saturday, December 8
NCAA FCS Playoffs - Semifinals (at campus sites)
Friday, December 14
NCAA FCS Championship (Chattanooga, Tenn.)