The 2022 FCS playoff bracket has 11 auto-bids and 13 at-large bids. Eight teams will be seeded with first-round byes. The national championship game is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 8, in Frisco, Texas. It will air on ABC.
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.
These predictions take current playoff resumes and all future scheduled games into consideration.
This is through the eyes of the playoff committee and what I think they will do.
2021 Final Bracketology Accuracy: 7/8 seeds correct, 24/24 teams correct
These are playoff predictions and don’t reflect my current Top 25. The numbers associated with teams may not match where I currently rank them on my ballot.
5. Sac State
7. Missouri State
8. Montana State
ASUN-WAC – EKU
Big Sky – Montana
Big South – Campbell
CAA – Delaware
MVFC – NDSU
NEC – Sacred Heart
OVC – UT Martin
Patriot – Holy Cross
Pioneer – San Diego
SoCon – Chattanooga
Southland – UIW
Ordered from most likely to least likely to get in. Seeded teams who are not their conference’s auto-bid will be at the top.
Sac State (seed)
Missouri State (seed)
Montana State (seed)
William & Mary
24. Austin Peay
Bubble Teams Left Out
Ordered from best chance to make the bracket out of this group to worst chance.
27. Northern Arizona
28. Southern Illinois
29. UC Davis
30. Southeastern Louisiana University
31. Rhode Island
The FCS playoff bracket is regionalized to save on travel costs. The committee must utilize as many bus trips as possible in the first round. Bus trips (400 miles or less) are EKU-Chattanooga, Campbell-Richmond, SEMO-Austin Peay, Samford-UT Martin, and Sacred Heart-Villanova.
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.
Yes, it’s way too early for this. But the amount of “Can X team get a seed?” or “Do you think we’ll make the playoffs?” or “How many teams does X conference get in this year?” questions I’ve gotten already suggests people want to talk playoff picture in September. So let’s do it!
As stated above, keep in mind this does factor in future games.
NDSU, frankly, won’t have a tremendous playoff resume. The Bison have a throwaway FBS loss to Arizona and avoid Missouri State and UNI (who looks down this year) in the MVFC slate. The only teams the Bison face that are currently in the playoff picture are SDSU and UND, both games at home. And also maybe SIU, who is battling back from an 0-2 start with an FBS win last week against Northwestern. NDSU will be a Top 2 seed if it wins out. If the Bison do lose one more game, let’s say to SDSU, there is a chance the Bison fall out of the Top 2 seeds depending on how teams like SDSU or Montana finish because the Griz have a legit shot to go 11-0 or 10-1 and get a high seed with multiple ranked wins.
UIW will be interesting to watch. If the Cardinals win at SLU this week, they have a really good shot to go undefeated against a weak schedule, which includes one non-counter game in October. UIW will hang its hat on the 55-41 win over Nevada. It’s also going to hope for SIU (who it beat 64-29 when SIU was ranked No. 9) and SLU to finish this season strong. What UIW certainly doesn’t want is SIU to finish 5-6 and SLU to not be considered strong enough for an at-large bid. Because even an 11-0 UIW team with zero wins against currently-ranked teams in November may not have a strong case for a Top 2 seed.
Delaware is 3-0 with an FBS win (Navy) and a ranked FCS win (Rhody). The Blue Hens have difficult road games at W&M and Nova, plus hosting Richmond. This team is looking strong, but I think they will drop at least one game, and its resume would be Top 5 worthy.
I put Sac State in the middle of the seeds for now. The Hornets have a winnable game at FBS Colorado State, which can boost them. I can see a couple of Big Sky losses, though, with games at EWU, Weber, and Portland State, plus home games against Montana, Idaho, and UC Davis. If Sac State goes 10-1, that’s going to be a great resume. But 9-2 or 8-3 always seems very realistic.
SDSU at No. 6 has more to do with its schedule. The team itself I think is the 2nd or 3rd best team in the country. Week-to-week consistency has plagued the Jacks from setting themselves up better for a playoff run. They go to Mo State, to NDSU, to UND, and to UNI. At 2-1 currently with an FBS loss to Iowa, the Jacks can be anywhere from 10-1 to 8-3.
Missouri State is right behind SDSU, and this weekend’s matchup between the two will boost the winner up. Mo State has a ranked FCS win (UT Martin) and a competitive FBS loss (No. 10 Arkansas). This team is very good, but it was a bit up-and-down last year. With four straight games vs. SDSU, at UND, vs. SIU, and at UND, I wonder if the Bears will be in the 8-3 range, which will be seedable depending on how UTM finishes and with some potential ranked wins upcoming.
And the No. 8 seed right now is Montana State, with Weber State, Villanova, and Chattanooga/Mercer right there in contention for a seed. The Bobcats just suffered an eye-opening 68-28 loss to FBS Oregon State. But hey, there’s been some EWU teams that have gotten blown out by Pac-12 teams and still made a deep playoff run. We’ll find out much more about the Bobcats in the next two games at EWU and vs. UC Davis with home games against Weber and Montana also looming.
These are pretty straightforward this early as teams I project to win their conferences.
After the four at-large bids that are seeds…
Weber, Nova, and Mercer will also be in contention for their conference AQs. UND looks like the fourth-best team in the MVFC right now. The CAA may be strong enough to get four teams in, and Richmond is looking solid so far.
Currently, the Big Sky and MVFC aren’t sucking up as many at-large bids as in past years, so that opens the door for the No. 3 SoCon team (Samford), the No. 2 OVC team (SEMO), and the No. 2 ASUN-WAC team (Austin Peay). Samford has a ranked win against Kennesaw, and SEMO has a ranked win against SIU. In my opinion, wins against teams that are ranked in later polls are more important than where they were ranked at the time of the game. So how Kennesaw and SIU finish will be important for the resumes of Samford and SEMO.
EWU is right on the outside as it faces a brutal schedule. Other Big Sky teams like NAU and UC Davis I included because I think there will be seven Big Sky teams in contention for 4-5 total bids. Furman looks like a potential Top 3 team in the SoCon, but I have them behind Chattanooga, Mercer, and Samford right now. I doubt the SoCon will get four total bids.
SIU is on the radar now after its Big Ten win at Northwestern. But being 1-2 heading into MVFC play won’t be an easy task to build a playoff resume. The Valley may be a four-bid league this year with UNI and USD looking down, and SIU currently 0-2 against the FCS. SLU has a huge game against UIW this week, a chance to get a quality D1 win in a scheduling lacking quality FCS opponents. And Rhode Island is included as well. I think this team will get to seven D1 wins, but it’s doubtful the CAA gets five teams in.