Memphis, you're in the 2019 College Football Playoff. Oregon is in, as is Wisconsin. App State, too, and Miami (Ohio), Minnesota, Georgia, LSU, Boise State, and Florida Atlantic. You're all in, along with 15 other teams in a 24-team FCS-style playoff bracket that'll make your head spin.
"The pros of the FCS playoffs is it determines a true national champion. The cons are it isn’t always a true national bracket," says Sam Herder, HERO Sports FCS writer. "Because there isn’t a whole lot of money being made in this subdivision, the bracket isn’t seeded 1-24 and is regionalized after the 1-8 seeds to save travel costs."
Ten conference champions are in, along with 14 at-large bids. The top eight teams (conference champ or not) are seeded and given a first-round bye and home game in the second round. The remaining 16 teams are paired in first-round games according to geographical proximity (of both each other and the winner's second-round opponent). For example, the ninth- and 10th-best teams could meet in the first round because they're within 400 miles (the FCS mileage threshold for mandatory ground travel) of each other and/or their second-round opponent.
Teams from the same conference can't be paired in the first round unless they didn't meet in the regular season. Same goes for non-conference teams who met in the regular season. At-large teams may also submit blind bids to host first-round games. Because we can't predict host bids in this exercise, the higher seed in the College Football Playoff rankings will host each game. And like the College Football Playoff, teams are not reseeded after any of the rounds.
"At the end of the day, the best team is revealed by making it through the bracket. And that’s great," Herder adds. "But there are instances where a higher seed gets a tougher second-round matchup than a lower seed because of geographical proximity.”
Two brackets for this exercise: One 24-team bracket according to all FCS format rules, and one 24-team bracket using only the final College Football Playoff rankings.
First, the FCS rules bracket, which included several geographical challenges, among them: Only four teams are west of Oklahoma, there's a cluster of seven at-large teams around only two bye teams in the midwest (Wisconsin and Ohio State), and three bye teams (Oklahoma, Baylor, and LSU) are separated from at-large teams.
And the non-FCS rules bracket, in which all teams are seeded and we have no decisions to make: