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 mid-November 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
7. Montana State
8. Sac State
AQ7 – Sam Houston
Big Sky – Sac State
Big South – Monmouth
CAA – Villanova
MVFC – NDSU
NEC – Sacred Heart
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. EWU (seed)
13. JMU (seed)
14. SIU (seed)
15. Montana State (seed)
17. UC Davis
20. Kennesaw State
22. Rhode Island
24. Missouri State
Bubble Teams Left Out
25. Weber State
29. South Dakota
31. William & Mary
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 Davidson-ETSU, Holy Cross-Monmouth, UT Martin-Missouri State, and Sacred Heart-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: SDSU leaves the seeds and entering is Sac State. Sac State also takes EWU’s spot as the Big Sky’s auto-bid. Sacred Heart takes the NEC’s auto-bid from Duquesne. And South Dakota leaves the field, getting replaced by UNI.
NDSU has a 50/50 game remaining at SDSU, but the other three games are vs. Indiana State, at YSU, and vs. USD. If the Bison run the table, they would be 11-0 with three wins against teams I think would still be ranked in November. That should get the No. 1 seed nod over a 10-0 SHSU team with maybe one ranked win. I still think the committee gives SHSU the benefit of the doubt and a Top 2 seed despite its strength of schedule if the Bearkats go undefeated.
Villanova has a good opportunity to finish 10-1 and 10-0 against the FCS but may only have one ranked win by November (JMU). James Madison also should win out, but also may not have many ranked wins. I put EWU between those two CAA teams as the No. 4 seed. The Eagles should get a Top 4 seed if they win out, but tough games remain vs. Montana State and at UC Davis. The Eagles would have one FCS loss (Weber), but multiple ranked wins and an FBS win.
SIU is currently undefeated against FCS opponents. The Salukis have had close wins, though, so I see them suffering a loss somewhere in the remaining schedule, whether it’s at UNI or vs. Missouri State.
Montana State is undefeated against FCS teams as well. The Bobcats can rise as high as a Top 3 seed if they win out, meaning wins at ranked EWU and Montana. Or they could be an at-large bid if they lose both. If they split, a 6-8 seed is on the table.
Sac State, who has beaten Montana and is 5-1 against the FCS (loss to UNI), has a good chance to win out at Northern Colorado, vs. Cal Poly, vs. Portland State, and at UC Davis. The Hornets could finish 8-0 in the Big Sky and get a seed, but the number of ranked wins would be slim to get a high seed.
Keep an eye on SLU as a potential No. 8 seed if it wins out and finishes undefeated against the FCS.
SDSU could also get back into the seeds if it wins out, meaning a win vs. NDSU.
Sac State is now my Big Sky auto-bid after EWU lost to Weber. The Hornets may finish 8-0 in the conference with a favorable schedule. But a conference’s AQ doesn’t have to be seeded higher than at-large bids from its conference, which is why you see EWU and MSU seeded ahead of Sac State.
Sacred Heart knocked Duquense out of the NEC’s auto-bid after winning the head-to-head this last weekend. Both teams have one loss in the standings along with Bryant and Saint Francis.
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 after KSU beat NC A&T 14-0.
After the four seeds in this section, SDSU is now an unseeded team in my projection. The Jacks have a tough stretch remaining — at YSU, vs. NDSU, at USD, vs. UND. One more loss and SDSU is playing in the first round. If the Jacks win out, they can get a 6-8 seed.
UC Davis is 7-1 with an FBS win. One more win (at NAU, vs. EWU, vs. Sac State) and the Aggies are in the bracket. Win out and a high seed will happen.
Montana should hit eight wins in the next three games (vs. SUU, at Northern Colorado, at NAU). An 8-win Montana team with an FBS win is in the playoffs. If the Griz then beat MSU, a seed is on the table.
I have ETSU as my No. 2 team in the SoCon, and the Bucs will have the resume for an at-large bid with its FBS win.
Kennesaw may get the Big South’s AQ over Monmouth. If the Owls don’t, though, they should get an at-large bid with its remaining schedule and current resume of being undefeated against the FCS.
UIW suffered a tough loss to McNeese. That could be costly. They are 5-2 right now with an FBS win and still have to play vs. SLU and at Nicholls along with Houston Baptist twice. UIW will want to win at least three more games to have a good shot at the postseason.
Rhody is trending in the wrong direction with two straight ugly losses after starting 5-0. With CAA games vs. Maine, vs. UNH, at Elon along with a winnable game at FBS UMass, the Rams will want to hit eight wins to have a decent chance at making the bracket.
UNI got a massive W at SDSU to improve to 4-3 overall and 4-2 against the FCS. If the Panthers finish 3-1 to hit seven wins (vs. SIU, at Illinois State, at Mo State, vs. WIU), they are in. SIU is looking for a seed, and Mo State could be a playoff elimination game. It’s a tough stretch for UNI.
Mo State looked good and nearly knocked off NDSU this last weekend. But the Bears are right on the bubble at 4-3 and 4-2 against the FCS. They still need to play vs. UND (fighting for its playoff life), at SIU (looking for a high seed), vs. UNI (also on the playoff bubble), and at Dixie State. The Bears need to finish 3-1 to be considered for the playoffs.
Weber got a must-win at EWU on Saturday, improving to 3-4 overall. Weber’s four losses are to a P5 team and three Top 10 FCS teams. The Wildcats should win their final four games (at Idaho State, vs. Portland State, at SUU, vs. Northern Colorado) and finish 7-4. With five Big Sky teams already looking like they will be in the bracket, would a 7-4 Weber team with four “quality losses” and a win at EWU get a bid? The playoff committee put six CAA teams in the 2018 bracket. And the MVFC got five teams in the 16-team spring bracket. So six Big Sky teams in this year is possible, but Weber will want to see teams in other conferences continue to knock each other off to free up bids.
UTC and Mercer are my No. 3 and 4 teams in the SoCon right now. I only see two SoCon teams making it, though. And EKU is my No. 2 AQ7 team, but I’m not sure if that conference gets an at-large bid in the current makeup of the playoff picture.
USD suffered a brutal loss to Illinois State. The Coyotes now have to win at WIU and beat either SDSU or NDSU to hit seven wins and get consideration from the committee.
The No. 2 team in one of the SWAC divisions may get consideration. But with bad strength of schedules and how packed the bubble looks to be, I don’t know how realistic an at-large bid is for a team like FAMU. We’ve seen 8-3 teams and 9-2 teams from second-tier FCS conferences not get a bid in past seasons because they didn’t have any quality wins.
W&M is having a nice season at 5-2 overall and 5-1 against the FCS. There isn’t a ranked win on its resume yet, though. With games at Nova, at Delaware, vs. JMU, and vs. Richmond remaining, W&M can finish 7-4 by beating Delaware and Richmond. But with no ranked wins, does that get them in? W&M will have to upset either Nova or JMU to have a shot at the bracket.
Check out the latest episode of the FCS Football Talk podcast, which is also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart, Stitcher, and Spreaker.
SUBSCRIBE: FCS Football Talk