A 9-2 Montana team who just beat No. 3 MSU and has a Power Five win against Washington, who was ranked No. 20 at the time, is going to get a seed.
The intriguing question is where would the Griz be seeded?
In this scenario, SHSU, NDSU, and JMU will be the Top 3 seeds (in no particular order), assuming they all win on Saturday. Montana could rise as high as the No. 4 seed. The Griz could also be given the No. 5 seed, behind No. 4-seeded EWU, who will finish 9-2 overall if it beats Portland State with an FBS win and two Top 10-ranked wins against Montana and UC Davis.
EWU’s head-to-head could get the Eagles seeded higher than Montana. But … EWU has a head-to-head loss to Montana State. So MSU could warrant a higher seed than EWU even with a loss Saturday.
An MSU team that is 9-2 overall and 9-1 against the FCS with a win against seeded EWU will get a first-round bye. We could see Montana as the No. 4 seed or 5 seed, MSU right behind the Griz in the seeds, and EWU right behind MSU if the committee really values head-to-head results and has a recency bias.
And keep in mind, the winner of Sac State-UC Davis should also get a seed. Sac State (8-2 overall and 7-0 in the Big Sky) has a win over Montana. UC Davis (8-2 overall) owns a good FBS win against Tulsa. It will be hard to leave the winner of that game out of the seeds.
In 2019 when MSU beat Montana, that resulted in four deserving Big Sky teams getting seeded. If Montana beats MSU this year, both teams will be seeds, EWU will be a seed if it beats Portland State, and the Sac State-UC Davis winner will be a seed.
If Montana State Wins…
The Bobcats should be a Top 2 seed with home-field advantage. They would be 10-0 against the FCS with a close FBS loss to Wyoming. MSU would have three then-ranked wins and two current-ranked wins, both against Top 10 teams on the road — EWU and Montana.
It would not be a shocker if the Bobcats get the No. 1 seed and Sam Houston is seeded No. 2. SHSU will finish 10-0 overall with all wins coming against the FCS, but only one of those wins is against a currently-ranked team — No. 22 SFA.
MSU would have an obviously superior resume on paper than SHSU, but the committee will likely give the top playoff seed to the undefeated defending champs with every starter coming back and who have been ranked No. 1 all season.
With a loss, Montana will play in the first round as an unseeded team. Don’t be surprised if Montana ends up playing UC Davis (if the Aggies lose to Sac State) or South Dakota State in the first round. Due to the regionalization of the bracket, MVFC and Big Sky teams will be matched up early in the playoffs. And don’t be surprised if the first-round pairing featuring Montana has the winner being sent to a seeded Big Sky team.
If the Griz lose on Saturday, they are still in the playoffs with eight D1 wins featuring the FBS victory. But they will likely get a tough first-round game. And if they win that opening-round game, it may be a rematch in the second round against Sac State, EWU, or … Montana State.
If you’re a fan of a top-tier team like SHSU, JMU, or NDSU, you want to see a Montana win so MSU gets bumped out of the Top 2 seeds.
If you’re a fan of a team in contention for a seed like ETSU, Villanova, Kennesaw State, or Missouri State, you don’t want to see a Montana win because that likely results in four seeded Big Sky teams.
If you’re a fan of a team on the bubble, this result doesn’t matter to you. Both MSU and UM are in the field regardless of the outcome.
Sam’s coverage of the FCS began in 2012 as the sports editor and eventual editor-in-chief of NDSU’s The Spectrum. After graduating in 2015, he spent three years in the newspaper and magazine industry while starting his work for HERO Sports in the fall of 2016 as a freelancer. In May 2018, he joined the website full time as the Senior FCS Analyst.