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 with first-round byes.
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
8. Montana State
AQ7 – Sam Houston
Big Sky – EWU
Big South – Monmouth
CAA – Villanova
MVFC – NDSU
NEC – Duquesne
OVC – UT Martin
Patriot – Holy Cross
Pioneer – Davidson
SoCon – VMI
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.
12. SIU (seed)
13. JMU (seed)
14. SDSU (seed)
15. Montana State (seed)
16. UC Davis
17. Sac State
20. Kennesaw State
22. South Dakota
23. Missouri State
24. Rhode Island
Bubble Teams Left Out
28. Jacksonville 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 Duquesne-Monmouth, Davidson-ETSU, UT Martin-Missouri State, and Holy Cross-Rhode Island.
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 home team in a game between two unseeded teams is determined by who submitted the higher bid to host.
The order of seeds is NOT determined by regionalization.
Movement From Last Week
Explanations below, but a summary: Montana State replaced Montana as the No. 8 seed. VMI is now the SoCon’s auto-bid. UNI, Mercer, and Delaware are bumped out of the field, getting replaced by VMI, Sac State, and South Dakota.
It’s tough to see a loss on EWU’s remaining schedule with how they are playing. If the Eagles win out, they would have three ranked wins and an FBS win, which I think should trump SHSU. As I’ve said all along, I have no clue what the committee will do with an undefeated SHSU team, but my gut says the Bearkats would get a Top 2 seed. However, if NDSU goes undefeated with 3-4 ranked wins, we could see the Bison get the No. 2 seed and SHSU No. 3. I’m more confident in SHSU going unbeaten than NDSU, though.
No. 4 Villanova and No. 5 SIU had close wins last week, so there is a chance both teams suffer one loss somewhere. That could open the door for No. 6 JMU or No. 7 SDSU to slide up.
JMU should go unbeaten from here to finish 10-1, but the Dukes won’t have many ranked wins on their resume by November. Maybe not any ranked wins. Weber and UNH have fallen out of the Top 25, and Delaware may as well. So I’m not sure how high JMU can rise in the seeds unless multiple teams ahead of the Dukes lose.
If SDSU wins out after its lone loss to SIU, which would include three ranked wins against UNI, NDSU, and USD along with an FBS win, the Jacks can certainly get back into the Top 4 seeds. UNI may not be ranked by November. But an FBS win and a November win against NDSU would carry a ton of weight for the committee. However, inconsistency has been a factor for the Jacks, so I can’t confidently say just yet they will win out, which is why they are currently No. 7.
Montana State gets the No. 8 seed right now, but watch out for SLU if the Lions go undefeated against FCS opponents. I think the Bobcats can finish 9-2, splitting the EWU and Montana games. That should be good enough for a seed. If they lose both, then they are not a seed. If they win both (and assuming they beat Idaho State and Idaho), they are a Top 3 seed at 10-1 overall and 10-0 vs. the FCS.
The only change is switching out ETSU and putting in VMI for the SoCon’s auto-bid. There are three 3-1 teams and two 2-1 teams in the standings right now, so this will be a fascinating race. VMI’s dominating win against Mercer gives the Keydets the edge for me.
I still have Monmouth as my Big South auto-bid, although I think Kennesaw has had the better season to date. KSU is one of my at-large bids. Monmouth has had the upper hand in the series lately, but I’m interested to see how the Hawks look against NC A&T in a couple of weeks after KSU just beat NC A&T 14-0.
Teams 12-15 are both at-large bids and seeds.
After those four comes three Big Sky teams. All three are positioned well to make the playoffs, meaning we could see five Big Sky teams in the field.
UC Davis is 6-1 with an FBS win against Tulsa. The Aggies had a head-scratching loss two games ago against Idaho State but looked back to form in a decisive win against Northern Colorado. They should win their next two games at Cal Poly and at NAU to hit eight wins, which would surely clinch a playoff spot (eight wins, one being an FBS win). Then the last two games could get UC Davis back into the seeding discussion — vs. EWU and vs. Sac State.
Sac State is 4-2 overall and 4-1 against the FCS, including a win at Montana. The loss is to UNI. The Hornets play vs. NAU, at Northern Colorado, vs. Cal Poly, vs. Portland State, and at UC Davis. We could be looking at a 7-1 or 8-0 team in the Big Sky standings.
Montana (4-2 overall) is trending in the wrong direction, losing twice in the last three games and looking lethargic in a win against Dixie State. But Montana should hit eight victories by winning its next four games — at Idaho, vs. SUU, at Northern Colorado, at NAU. That would mean an 8-2 record with an FBS win. Regardless of how the Brawl of the Wild game goes, an eight-win Montana team with a P5 win is getting an at-large bid.
ETSU, Kennesaw, and UIW are looking like Top 2 teams in their conferences with the chance to be No. 1 by the season’s end. ETSU and UIW have just one FCS loss and own FBS wins. ETSU is in a very competitive SoCon, so we’ll see if the Bucs suffer more losses. Or they can win out and see other teams beat up on each other as they earn the auto-bid. Kennesaw, who is 4-0 against the FCS and 5-1 overall, could very well be the Big South’s auto-bid by beating Monmouth in November and staying clean until then.
UIW and SLU are the top dogs in the Southland. I lean SLU right now as my favorite. UIW is in a prime spot for a playoff bid, though, with a 5-1 record highlighted by beating FBS Texas State.
After a 5-0 start, Rhody suffered a puzzling 28-7 loss to Towson. The Rams may suffer a second loss this week at Villanova. But then it’s vs. Maine, a winnable FBS game at UMass, vs. UNH, and at Elon. It would be a massive disappointment if Rhody didn’t make the playoffs with that remaining schedule. Finishing 3-2 gets the Rams in.
Speaking of schedules, USD and Missouri State are looking great up until this point, but it’s not an easy path to the playoffs.
USD is 5-2 overall and 5-1 against the FCS with the loss being to Mo State. The Coyotes host Illinois State, then have a tough road trip to WIU. But they should get two wins to hit seven victories. A seven-win MVFC team typically makes the bracket. But the final two games are vs. SDSU and at NDSU. An upset somewhere in the last two weeks would obviously do wonders. But on the flipside, entering Selection Sunday on a two-game losing streak isn’t ideal.
Mo State has the head-to-head on USD, but I put the Bears behind the Coyotes for playoff projection purposes. The Bears are 4-2 overall and 4-1 against the FCS with a tough upset loss to YSU. They still have to play at NDSU, vs. UND, at SIU, and vs. UNI for four tough games in a row. NDSU and SIU are playing for high seeds. And UND and UNI are in playoff mode already. Mo State ends the regular season at Dixie State. The Bears need to go 3-2 to make the playoffs.
Chattanooga got a big win against ETSU, but the Mocs still are 3-3 overall and 3-2 against the FCS. But they very well could finish in the Top 2 of the SoCon. UTC is 2-1 in the standings right now.
EKU is 5-2 overall and 5-1 against the FCS. The Colonels still need to play at SFA, at No. 1 SHSU, and vs. Jacksonville State. Whoever is the No. 2 team in the AQ7 by Selection Sunday could be positioned for an at-large bid, and EKU has a great chance to be that team after beating UCA.
Mercer is 3-1 in the SoCon. But a really bad-looking 45-7 loss to VMI bumps the Bears out of the field.
JSU is the wildcard and could be that No. 2 team in the AQ7. The Gamecocks have the P5 win at Florida State in their back pocket but are just 3-3 overall right now.
UNI is 3-3 overall and 3-2 against the FCS. The Panthers do own a win against Sac State, which will help them during the selection process. A 6-5 record likely won’t cut it this year, so UNI needs to finish 4-1 to hit seven wins. With games at SDSU, vs. SIU, at Illinois State, at Mo State, and vs. WIU remaining, that’s a tough task.
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