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.
Seeds 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. JMU 2. Sam Houston 3. SDSU 4. EWU 5. NDSU 6. UC Davis 7. Montana 8. SIU
Auto-Bids AQ7 – Sam Houston Big Sky – EWU Big South – Monmouth CAA – JMU MVFC – SDSU NEC – Duquesne OVC – UT Martin Patriot – Holy Cross Pioneer – Davidson SoCon – ETSU Southland – SLU
At-Large Bids 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.
12. NDSU (seed) 13. UC Davis (seed) 14. Montana (seed) 15. SIU (seed) 16. Montana State 17. Villanova 18. Delaware 19. Missouri State 20. UND 21. Kennesaw State 22. UNI 23. UIW 24. Mercer
Bubble Teams Left Out 25. Rhode Island 26. VMI 27. Weber State 28. SFA 29. Nicholls 30. UNH
The FCS playoff bracket is as regionalized as possible to save on travel costs. Bus trips (400 miles or less) are Mercer-Kennesaw, Holy Cross-Villanova, Duquesne-Monmouth, and Davidson-ETSU.
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: JMU and SHSU swapped the Top 2 seeds. EWU moved to the No. 4 seed, Montana went down to the No. 7 seed, and Delaware got bumped out of the seeds. EWU is now my Big Sky auto-bid. Davidson took over Dayton’s spot as the Pioneer auto-bid. Mercer took an at-large bid away from VMI. SFA and UNH enter the bubble, knocking out Jacksonville State and Central Arkansas.
Seeds JMU and SHSU had close calls this weekend but pulled out wins. I still ended up swapping those two and their Top 2 seeds. JMU has two ranked wins and a third likely coming Saturday. I think the Dukes run the table, which means four ranked wins. I also think SHSU runs the table, which may mean just one ranked win. I still believe the committee will give an undefeated SHSU team a Top 2 seed, but if EWU/UC Davis and SDSU/NDSU go unbeaten with multiple ranked wins (and an FBS win for EWU/UC Davis and SDSU), a Top 2 seed is not a lock for the Bearkats.
I moved EWU to the No. 4 seed after beating Montana, who got bumped to the No. 7 seed. The Griz have a pretty easy slate until the Brawl of the Wild, so they are still very much in the seeding discussion.
I kept SDSU ahead of EWU even though EWU has the better resume at this point. The reason is, while I think both have a shot to go undefeated, EWU is more likely to lose a game than the Jacks, in my opinion. Both teams face their toughest opponents at home, except the Eagles go to UC Davis in a massive game on Nov. 13.
With EWU moving into the seeds, Delaware got bumped out. Standout QB Nolan Henderson is banged up right now, and beating UAlbany 20-15 makes me wonder if Delaware suffers two conference losses, which would make getting a seed tough. The Blue Hens still have to play James Madison and Villanova (both at home) and have tough road trips to Rhode Island and Richmond.
Auto-Bids EWU is now my Big Sky auto-bid instead of Montana.
And I switched Dayton out with Davidson after Dayton lost to Morehead State. Davidson is 2-0 in the Pioneer standings with a win against San Diego.
At-Large Bids The teams in this section are mostly the same as last week, just shuffled around some. Montana is new to the at-larges since I have EWU as the Big Sky’s AQ now.
Kennesaw State has risen from the last team in last week to now No. 21 after a ranked win against JSU. I still have Monmouth as my Big South AQ, but KSU looks to be a bigger challenger than the last two seasons when Monmouth beat the Owls decisively.
The one team knocked out of the at-larges is VMI after it lost to The Citadel. I replaced VMI with who I now think is the No. 2 team in the SoCon — Mercer. The Bears are 2-0 against the FCS, beating conference foes Furman and Samford. They get tough games against VMI, Wofford, and Chattanooga at home, but do travel to The Citadel and play at SoCon favorite ETSU to end the regular season.
Bubble Teams Rhode Island is very close to making the bracket at 4-0, but it still has its toughest games ahead of it. With a winnable game against UMass in November, Rhody could get to seven or eight wins, which is playoff-worthy out of the CAA.
VMI can work itself back into the field, but I have to give the at-large nod to Mercer right now and the AQ nod to ETSU. There’s no room for a third SoCon team.
You can’t count out Weber State just yet. The Wildcats have a bye, then host Montana State before going to EWU. The Big Sky can certainly get five total teams in, depending on what happens in the MVFC and CAA. Weber is on the outside looking in right now, though.
I think SFA is now the No. 2 team in the AQ7. They should continue to rise in the bracketology if it can string together wins against teams they’ll be favored to beat. But if the Big Sky/CAA/MVFC hog a lot of the at-large bids, there may be only three bids for the No. 2 teams in the AQ7/Southland/SoCon/Big South to battle over.
As I said last week, SLU/UIW/Nicholls are interchangeable right now for the auto-bid, at-large bid, and bubble team. I like SLU as the AQ, and UIW gets the at-large nod over Nicholls right now with its FBS win.
And I put UNH in there as well after pushing James Madison. We’ll see if that carries over to other conference games and if the Wildcats can finish in the top three or four.
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.