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.
2. Sam Houston
AQ7 – Sam Houston
Big Sky – EWU
Big South – Monmouth
CAA – Villanova
MVFC – NDSU
NEC – Duquesne
OVC – UT Martin
Patriot – Holy Cross
Pioneer – Davidson
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.
12. SIU (seed)
13. JMU (seed)
14. SDSU (seed)
15. Montana (seed)
16. Montana State
17. Rhode Island
18. UC Davis
19. Kennesaw State
23. Missouri State
Bubble Teams Left Out
25. South Dakota
27. Weber State
2019 Final Bracketology Accuracy: 7/8 seeds correct, 1-5 seed order correct, 23/24 teams correct
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-Delaware, Duquesne-Monmouth, UT Martin-Missouri State, 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: EWU jumped to the No. 1 seed, NDSU went from No. 5 to No. 3, and JMU and SDSU dropped lower in the seeds. Villanova enters the seeds while UC Davis left. Nova and NDSU are now the auto-bids in their respective conferences. Rhode Island entered the field, knocking out North Dakota.
EWU is my projected No. 1 seed even though I have the Eagles No. 3 in my Top 25 ballot. They get two of their tougher remaining opponents (Montana State and Weber State) at home and the road trip to UC Davis maybe isn’t as challenging with the Aggies losing to Idaho State this last weekend. I think EWU will run the table with 3-4 ranked wins and an FBS win, which should triumph an undefeated SHSU team with 1-2 ranked wins for the No. 1 seed.
I kept SHSU at No. 2 because I think the Bearkats will go undefeated, and there is a chance teams like NDSU, Villanova, and SIU suffer a loss. I have more confidence in SHSU winning out than those teams. But if any of those three teams win out, SHSU could get knocked out of the Top 2 seeds because an undefeated (vs. FCS) SIU, Villanova, and especially an NDSU team would be loaded up with ranked wins. How much benefit of the doubt the committee will give SHSU (because we’ve seen this exact-looking team beat JMU, NDSU, and SDSU in the spring) is a mystery.
The Kats need statement, blowout wins. “A win is a win” doesn’t apply for seed positioning.
Villanova enters the seeds and SIU rises from No. 8 to No. 5. They jump JMU and SDSU after beating them. JMU should win out and could rise back up in the polls and the seeds if the teams ahead of it lose. And SDSU, with a few upcoming ranked games (including NDSU at home), could possibly jump back into a Top 3 seed if it wins out with an FBS win and a great NDSU win. SDSU and JMU should hope SIU and Nova drop a game because the playoff committee typically has a “what have you done for me lately” approach to fielding the bracket.
Nova has a pretty favorable schedule, though. Its toughest remaining game is at home against Rhode Island. The Wildcats avoid a tough UNH team and go to Delaware to end the regular season, which will be a challenge, but the Blue Hens don’t have the offensive firepower with a beat-up Nolan Henderson at QB.
SIU has a tougher stretch than Nova, hosting a UND team fighting for its playoff life this week, then going to a strong UNI team, then hosting Missouri State, who is on the playoff fringe.
Montana should be 9-1 heading into the Brawl of the Wild. That game looks like it will have a seed on the line.
Villanova is now the CAA’s AQ and the NDSU is the MVFC’s AQ.
After those top four at-large bids that are also seeds, keep an eye on Montana State and Rhode Island to push for seeds harder as the season progresses.
MSU has looked very good to start this season. But we haven’t seen what it can do against top FCS teams. (Regarding SOS questions, we do know what SHSU can do against the best FCS teams because we saw it in the spring.) We’ll see how good Matt McKay is at quarterback against good defenses as the Bobcats head to Weber State this Friday for a game on ESPNU. The Bobcats also go to EWU and Montana, so they can be anywhere from a high seed to a bubble team depending on how these ranked games go.
Rhody is 5-0 with a Top 10 win against Delaware. It has to go to Villanova, but avoids JMU and Richmond, hosts UNH, and has a winnable FBS game in November at UMass. Undefeated may be a stretch, but could we be looking at a 10-1 Rhody team?
UC Davis’ shot at a seed took a huge hit after losing to Idaho State unless it upsets EWU later this year. The Aggies are still in a good place to make the playoffs, though, at 5-1 with an FBS win. They don’t have to play the Montana schools and own a win at Weber.
Kennesaw State continues to look solid in its last three wins against FCS opponents (Wofford, JSU, Hampton). Monmouth has had KSU’s number, though. Even though the Hawks haven’t had as good of a start to this season as some expected, I’ll still favor them in the Big South. A second-place KSU team is well-positioned for an at-large bid.
UIW is 4-1 with an FBS win. UIW/Nicholls/SLU will be in a tight battle at the top of the Southland.
I have Mercer as my No. 2 team in the SoCon. The conference is so competitive top to bottom, so we’ll see how the standings shake out.
Delaware is right on the good side of the bubble. The offense looks stagnant without Nolan Henderson at QB, but the Blue Hens still almost won at Rhody. They are 3-1 against the FCS with notable games vs. JMU, at Richmond, vs. W&M, and vs. Villanova remaining.
UNI and Missouri State are looking like the No. 4 and No. 5 teams in the MVFC right now. UNI is 3-1 against FCS opponents. Even with a head-scratching loss to YSU, I kept Mo State in the field over USD right now. The Bears are 3-1 against the FCS and have the head-to-head win over USD and a win over playoff-bubble UCA. But they still have to play at NDSU, vs. UND, at SIU, and vs. UNI.
USD is 4-1 against FCS opponents, but Mo State’s head-to-head win gives the Bears the at-large bid nod for now. USD has a good win against UND but still has to play at UNI, vs. SDSU, and at NDSU.
VMI and Nicholls can still obviously rise up and be the Top 2 teams in their respective conferences. But I don’t think a third team from the SoCon or Southland will make the bracket.
Weber State is 2-2 against the FCS and 2-3 overall with losses to Utah, JMU, and UC Davis. The magic number for a Power 3 Conference team to hit is seven D1 wins to have a good shot to make the playoffs. Six wins puts you on the bubble. So the Wildcats will want to win five of their last six games to feel good about their chances, which means having to beat either Montana State or EWU, both Top 10 teams.
The No. 2 team in the AQ7 is up for grabs. UCA may be that team now with JSU beating SFA. Whoever the No. 2 team is will likely rise into being in the bracket by November. The Bears play EKU this weekend. EKU is 4-1 against FCS opponents, so this matchup has big playoff implications.
After nearly beating NDSU, UND lost at USD. That’s a killer for its playoff hopes. The Fighting Hawks are 2-2 against the FCS and 2-3 overall. They likely have to go 5-1 to make the playoffs with notable games at SIU, at Mo State, and at SDSU remaining. UND beat those teams in the spring at home. But doing it on the road is a different story. It is hanging onto this last bubble spot by a thread. This week at SIU is a must-win.
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