Earning one of the eight FCS playoff seeds in the 24-team bracket is huge. In the last two postseasons, seeded teams are 15-1 vs. unseeded teams in the second round.
Who is still in contention for a first-round bye heading into Week 12? Let’s break it down.
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Idaho blew its chance at a Top 4 seed by losing at unranked Weber State on Saturday. But the Vandals will still have an argument for a 6-8 seed if they beat Idaho State. They would be 8-3 overall with three then-ranked wins (No. 4 Sac State, No. 19 EWU, No. 2 Montana State), an FBS win over Nevada, and two FCS losses (Montana, Weber State). Their projected strength of schedule is 9th.
Montana looks to be a Top 3 seed if they beat ranked Montana State. A loss would likely bump them to the 5-8 seed range. Currently, the Griz are 9-1 overall with three then-ranked wins (No. 20 UC Davis, No. 3 Idaho, No. 7 Sac State), eight D1 wins, and a loss to unranked NAU. Montana’s projected SOS is 31st.
MSU is currently 8-2 with two then-ranked wins (No. 10 Weber, No. 3 Sac State) and two FCS losses (SDSU, Idaho). The Bobcats will be in the mix for a Top 3 or 4 seed if it adds another Top 10 win at Montana. If they lose, an 8-3 MSU team will be considered for a 6-8 seed with its two ranked wins and its two losses so far being down-to-the-wire games at SDSU and Idaho. MSU’s projected SOS is 5th.
Sac State would need a lot of help to get a seed, including many of the teams in this article to lose. But if the Hornets beat UC Davis, they will at least be considered at 8-3 with an FBS P5 win over Stanford. But no ranked FCS wins makes it less likely. The losses are to Idaho, Montana State, and Montana. Sac State’s projected SOS is 21st.
If UT Martin wins at Samford, the Skyhawks would finish 9-2 overall and 9-1 vs. the FCS. The loss is to unranked Gardner-Webb. UT Martin does not have any wins over teams ranked in the media poll, but Eastern Illinois was No. 25 in the coaches poll when UT Martin beat them in early October. That may prevent the Skyhawks from getting a seed, but a nine-win team will get some consideration. Their projected SOS is 53rd.
Delaware is currently 8-2 overall and 8-1 vs. the FCS with one then-ranked win (No. 11 UNH). The loss is to unranked Elon. If the Blue Hens beat ranked Villanova, a 9-1 vs. FCS team with two ranked wins looks to be a seed, especially as a team that’s been ranked in the Top 10 for a good chunk of this season. Delaware’s projected SOS is 51st.
UAlbany is 8-3 overall and 8-1 vs. the FCS with two then-ranked wins (No. 16 Villanova, No. 24 W&M). The loss is to unranked UNH. If the Great Danes beat Monmouth, they will be considered for a seed with nine wins and two ranked victories. UAlbany has been ranked in the 20s and teens for most of this season, which would make for a big jump in the committee’s eyes compared to the polls. Although it has just as good of an argument as a potentially seeded Delaware team and definitely ahead of a potentially seeded Nova team with the head-to-head (a 31-10 victory). Its projected SOS is 33rd.
Villanova is currently 8-2 overall and 8-1 vs. the FCS with one then-ranked win (No. 17 Rhody). The loss is to ranked UAlbany. If the Wildcats beat Top 10 Delaware this weekend, it will have a case for a seed at 9-1 vs. the FCS and two ranked victories. UAlbany would have a stronger argument for a seed, but there may be room for two CAA seeds if some results go a certain way. Nova’s projected SOS is 39th.
North Carolina Central
After Howard shocked No. 7 NC Central on Saturday, it can seal the MEAC’s berth into the Celebration Bowl with a win over Morgan State. That knocks an NC Central squad into having a legitimate argument for an at-large bid into the FCS playoffs, an unexpected scenario a week ago. The Eagles first have to beat Delaware State. If they do, they would be 9-2 overall with one FCS loss, eight D1 wins, and one then-ranked win (No. 25 Elon). Its low number of ranked wins and a projected SOS of 99th likely puts NC Central in the first round, but a nine-win team that has been ranked in the Top 10 in recent weeks will be discussed in the seed conversation.
North Dakota State
NDSU is currently 7-3 and owns one then-ranked win (No. 11 SIU). The losses are to USD, UND, and SDSU. If the Bison win at ranked UNI to finish 8-3 with back-to-back ranked victories, they will be considered for one of the last seeds. But a few different nine-win teams could push the Bison down. Potentially helping NDSU is its projected SOS of 13th.
USD looks to be in the conversation for a Top 4 seed, if not a Top 3 seed, as long as it handles business at struggling WIU. The Coyotes would be 9-2 overall and 9-1 vs. the FCS with four then-ranked wins (No. 2 NDSU, No. 23 YSU, No. 10 SIU, No. 10 UND) and its lone FCS loss to No. 1 SDSU. Their projected SOS is 19th.
South Dakota State
SDSU is 10-0 with six then-ranked wins (No. 3 Montana State, No. 12 UND, No. 12 SIU, No. 4 USD, No. 11 NDSU, No. 22 YSU), plus a seventh win over a team currently ranked (UNI). The defending champs are loaded up for the No. 1 seed. They host unranked Missouri State this weekend, looking to complete an undefeated season. Their projected SOS is 17th.
Furman is 9-1 overall and 9-0 vs. the FCS, featuring three then-ranked wins (No. 21 Mercer, No. 8 WCU, No. 14 Chattanooga). If the Paladins win at struggling Wofford to finish 10-0 against the FCS, they will likely land anywhere in the 2-4 seed range. The committee could mirror the polls that have Furman No. 2. Or Furman’s projected SOS of 69th could knock them behind SDSU, the Montana State/Montana winner, and South Dakota.
Like Sac State above, WCU will need a lot of help and results to go its way to get a seed. But WCU was in the playoff committee’s Top 10 earlier this year, so the Catamounts are at least on the radar even with a couple of FCS losses (Furman, Mercer). They are currently 7-3 overall and 7-2 vs. the FCS, including two then-ranked wins (No. 8 Samford, No. 24 Chattanooga). If they win at VMI to finish with eight wins and two ranked victories, the Catamounts will at least be discussed as a seed and will hope for other teams in this article to lose on Saturday. WCU’s projected SOS is 52nd.
Mercer could also be considered at 8-3 overall and 8-2 vs. the FCS with a win over WCU. But an eight-win team with only one ranked victory doesn’t seem likely for a seed.
United Athletic Conference
Austin Peay is currently 8-2 overall and 8-1 vs. the FCS (loss to ranked SIU). If they beat Central Arkansas, a nine-win team could stand out enough above eight-win teams to get one of the last seeds. What may prevent this is Austin Peay’s zero ranked wins. But a projected SOS of 28th is solid. And they’d finish the regular season on a nine-game winning streak, which will be impressive to the committee for a potential seed.