The FCS playoff field is back to 24 teams after a 16-team spring bracket. There are 11 auto-bids with the addition of the AQ7 and 13 at-large bids. Eight teams will be seeded.
The national championship game is scheduled for Jan. 8 in Frisco, Texas.
How the playoff field changes and takes shape every week is fascinating. So after every weekend of games, I will predict what the bracket will look like.
Below are predictions for the seeds, auto-bids, at-large bids, and which teams are on the bubble.
RELATED: FCS Playoff Committee Members
These predictions take current playoff resumes and all future scheduled games into consideration. Once we hit late October and playoff resumes are more full, it will shift to “if the season ended today.” But right now, future games and teams’ schedules are factored in.
These predictions are through the eyes of the playoff committee and what I think they will do, not necessarily how I would field the bracket.
These are playoff predictions and don’t reflect my current Top 25. The numbers associated with teams may not match where I rank them on my ballot.
1. Sam Houston
6. UC Davis
AQ7 – Sam Houston
Big Sky – Montana
Big South – Monmouth
CAA – JMU
MVFC – SDSU
NEC – Duquesne
OVC – UT Martin
Patriot – Holy Cross
Pioneer – Dayton
SoCon – ETSU
Southland – SLU
Ranked from most likely to least likely to get in. Seeded teams who are not their conference’s auto-bid will be at the top. This is not a ranking of which team is better than the other, but who has the best chance to get an at-large bid. For example, the third-place CAA team may have a better shot to make the bracket than the fifth-place MVFC team. This 12-24 list will reflect that.
13. UC Davis
16. Montana State
20. Missouri State
24. Kennesaw State
Bubble Teams Left Out
25. Weber State
26. Austin Peay
27. Central Arkansas
28. Jacksonville State
30. Rhode Island
The FCS playoff bracket is as regionalized as possible to save on travel costs. Bus trips (400 miles or less) are ETSU-Kennesaw, Holy Cross-Villanova, and Duquesne-Monmouth.
The committee avoids conference matchups in the first round if the two teams played each other in the regular season. However, if two conference teams did not play each other during the regular season, they may be paired up in the first round. Non-conference opponents who did play each other in the regular season may be matched up.
Once first-round teams are paired up via proximity, they will be slotted with the seeds that are (again) as close as possible regionally.
The order of seeds is NOT determined by regionalization.
Movement From Last Week
Explanations below, but a summary: UC Davis jumped Delaware and SIU to the No. 6 seed. UT Martin takes the OVC auto-bid from Austin Peay. Weber State and Jacksonville State move to the wrong side of the bubble, and entering the field in their place is UIW and Kennesaw State. Nicholls and Rhode Island enter the bubble teams, knocking out Furman and South Dakota.
The eight teams in the seeds stayed the same, but UC Davis went from No. 8 to No. 6 after beating Weber State. The Aggies are now 4-0 with an FBS win.
Here’s who UC Davis has left — vs. Idaho, @ Idaho State, vs. Northern Colorado, @ Cal Poly, @ NAU, vs. EWU, vs. Sac State.
UC Davis may be favored in every one of those games, with EWU being 50/50. Could the Aggies finish 11-0 with an FBS win? It’s definitely doable.
What does the committee do if SHSU is 10-0 with one ranked win, JMU is 11-0 with four ranked wins, and UC Davis, and/or Montana, and/or South Dakota State is undefeated with two-to-four FCS ranked wins and an FBS win?
A lot of what-ifs, but the hardest part of making this bracket in November may not be the last teams in, but who the Top 4 seeds are and in what order.
After Austin Peay lost to EKU and UT Martin beat Jacksonville State (a non-conference game), I switched my OVC AQ to UT Martin. The Skyhawks are 3-1 overall and 3-0 against the FCS, including a 33-27 win against Samford, a team that just took ranked ETSU to overtime before losing 55-48.
My AQs stayed the same every else. Monmouth has been a disappointment, especially with a decisive loss to Holy Cross. I still have a hard time picking a different team to win the Big South, though.
UIW is currently in with a 3-1 record featuring an FBS win. The Southland auto-bid is a tossup between SLU, UIW, and Nicholls, but I think a second-place UIW could get an at-large bid with its solid non-conference resume. I did not rank UIW on my Top 25 ballot, though, because the Cardinals lost to Youngstown, who just gave WIU its first win of the season.
Kennesaw also moved into my at-large bids, taking Jacksonville State’s spot. The two coincidentally play this week. If the Owls get a win, they carry a 2-0 FCS record into Big South play with two pretty good wins against Wofford and JSU. I’m not completely sold on the Big South getting two total bids just yet. But if it beats JSU, Kennesaw has a case to be viewed as the Big South favorite or for an at-large if it finishes second.
The bubble is actually fully loaded with teams that individually would not surprise me if one or more of them ended up making the playoffs.
Weber is now 1-3 overall and 1-2 against the FCS, but you can’t count the four-time defending Big Sky champs out entirely just yet. Two key games loom in October — versus No. 11 Montana State and at No. 6 EWU. The Wildcats need to go at least 1-1 there to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Austin Peay still has a decent chance to win the OVC despite an early conference loss. But I’m not so sure the OVC is getting an at-large bid this year.
Central Arkansas and Jacksonville State look to battle for the No. 2 spot in the AQ7 behind SHSU. Also, keep an eye on SFA and if it can be that No. 2 team. UCA is 1-3 overall and 1-2 against the FCS. And JSU is too wildly inconsistent to project it as a playoff team, even with the Florida State win. I think by November, whoever the No. 2 AQ7 team is will have a good argument for an at-large bid. I just can’t make that argument right now because I have no clue who that will be.
SLU/UIW/Nicholls are interchangeable right now for the auto-bid, at-large bid, and bubble team. I really like SLU, so the Lions are my auto-bid. UIW gets the at-large edge on Nicholls right now with its FBS win. Conference play can obviously switch these around.
Rhode Island is 3-0. While the three wins aren’t against great opponents (Bryant, Albany, Brown), the Rams could likely be 5-1 by mid-October and also have a winnable FBS game against UMass in early November. Rhody is getting closer to moving into my bracket the more I look at its schedule. I want to see wins versus Stony Brook and Towson first, and then hosting Delaware in-between those October games is a good measuring stick. But Rhody has a shot to hit seven wins with one being an FBS victory. A 7-4 CAA team with an FBS win should make the field. We’ll see how the team looks early in conference play, though.
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