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.
2. Montana State
4. Sac State
5. Weber State
8. Holy Cross
ASUN-WAC – SFA
Big Sky – Montana State
Big South – Campbell
CAA – William & Mary
MVFC – SDSU
NEC – Sacred Heart
OVC – SEMO
Patriot – Holy Cross
Pioneer – Davidson
SoCon – Chattanooga
Southland – Southeastern Louisiana University
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)
Weber State (seed)
21. Southern Illinois
23. North Dakota
Bubble Teams Left Out
Ordered from the best chance to make the bracket out of this group to the worst chance.
27. Rhode Island
28. Austin Peay
29. Illinois State
30. UT Martin
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 Southeastern Louisiana University-SFA, Campbell-Richmond, Sacred Heart-New Hampshire, Davidson-William & Mary, and SEMO-Samford.
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 can be matched up in the opening round.
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. The seeds also can’t be adjusted once set to even out the sides of the bracket.
As stated above, keep in mind this does factor in future games.
SDSU is 7-1 overall and 7-0 vs. the FCS with two now-ranked wins (No. 4 NDSU, No. 23 UND) and three then-ranked wins (NDSU, UND, Mo State). The Jacks have a good shot to win out vs. Indiana State, at UNI, and vs. Illinois State. SDSU will earn a Top 2 seed if that happens but could get bumped to the No. 2 seed if Sac State wins outs.
Montana State is 7-1 overall and 7-0 vs. the FCS with one now-ranked win (No. 5 Weber) and two then-ranked wins (Weber, EWU). The Bobcats should get wins at NAU and Cal Poly. If they then beat No. 11 Montana to finish 10-0 vs. the FCS, a Top 3 seed should happen, possibly Top 2 if Sac State loses a game. Right now, I like MSU’s chances to win out better than Sac State’s, which is why I have them as the No. 2 and 4 seeds. Sacramento State is 7-0 overall with a dominant FBS win (Colorado State) and one now-ranked win (No. 11 Montana). The Hornets could be the No. 1 seed if they win out, which would include beating No. 14 Idaho and No. 5 Weber State these next two weeks. I put them at No. 4 right now with a projected loss somewhere.
NDSU is 5-2 overall and 5-1 vs. the FCS (loss to No. 1 SDSU) with no ranked wins. The Bison could win out, which would include ranked wins at No. 20 SIU and vs. No. 23 UND. A 9-1 vs. FCS Bison squad with a close loss to SDSU will be somewhere in the Top 4 seeds, depending on how Sac State and Montana State finish.
Weber State is 6-1 overall with a non-counter win, a dominant FBS win (Utah State), no now-ranked wins, one then-ranked win (EWU), and its loss to No. 3 Montana State. The Wildcats have two huge home games in the next two weeks vs. No. 11 Montana and No. 2 Sac State. Win out, and Weber is somewhere in the Top 4 seeds. Split those two and then win out, a 6-8 seed seems likely at 9-2.
UIW is 7-1 overall with a non-counter win, a big FBS win (Nevada), and one now-ranked win (No. 20 SIU). The one loss is to Southland foe SLU in a 50/50 game. UIW should win out, and a 10-1 record with an FBS win and a 64-29 win on SIU (who should make the playoffs) should be enough for a seed.
Chattanooga is 6-1 overall and 6-0 vs. the FCS with one now-ranked win (No. 16 Mercer), which was a blowout victory for the Mocs. The SoCon usually chops each other up, and Chattanooga has games at No. 24 Furman, at the Citadel, vs. No. 13 Samford, and at WCU remaining. The Mocs look good enough to win out, which will result in a seed. Even one loss, depending on how the standings shake out and if Samford wins out, could result in a seed.
Holy Cross is 7-0 with an FBS win on Buffalo. Its projected season-end Massey strength of schedule of 85th could prevent even an 11-0 team from getting a seed. But if HC makes a statement this week against No. 22 Fordham, that will go a long way in the eyes of the committee.
After the four at-large bids that are seeds…
Idaho is 5-2 overall and 5-0 vs. the FCS with one now-ranked win on No. 11 Montana. If the Vandals go to No. 2 Sac State and get a win this week, they are absolutely in the driver’s seat for a decent seed with games vs. EWU, vs. UC Davis, and at Idaho State to come. Even an 8-1 vs. FCS Idaho team with a loss to Sac State could be a seed, but Montana will have to finish strong to help Idaho’s chance.
Delaware is 6-1 overall with an FBS win (Navy), one now-ranked win (No. 18 Rhody), and its loss to No. 10 W&M. An upper-body injury to the non-throwing arm area of stud QB Nolan Henderson will be something to monitor. The Blue Hens could win into a seed, or drop multiple games and be a bubble team with games at Elon (receiving votes), vs. Monmouth, vs. No. 17 Richmond, and at Villanova (receiving votes) to come.
Mercer and Samford look to be teams No. 2 and No. 3 out of the SoCon. Keep an eye on Furman in this conference’s playoff mix. I think the SoCon is good enough to get three teams in. Mercer is 6-2 overall and 6-1 vs. the FCS (loss to No. 7 Chattanooga). Samford is 6-1 overall and 6-0 vs. the FCS with one now-ranked win (No. 24 Furman) along with a then-ranked win on Kennesaw.
New Hampshire and Richmond are teams No. 3 and No. 4 for me in a jam-packed CAA race. UNH is 6-2 overall and 6-1 vs. the FCS (loss to NC Central, no now-ranked wins, one then-ranked win on Elon). Richmond is 5-2 overall and 5-1 vs. the FCS (loss to Elon, zero now-ranked wins, one then-ranked win on Villanova). They both have ranked opponents still to come, including Richmond hosting UNH for Homecoming on Nov. 5.
Montana is 5-2 vs. the FCS with no ranked wins and two straight losses to No. 14 Idaho and No. 2 Sac State. With games coming at No. 5 Weber, vs. Cal Poly, vs. EWU, and at No. 3 Montana State, the Griz are going to have to handle business against the two unranked opponents. And if they win both games vs. Weber and MSU, a seed is very likely at 9-2. If they split those two road games, the Griz are probably playing in the first round at 8-3. If they lose, the Griz are one of many bubble teams at 7-4 and no great wins.
Southern Illinois and North Dakota are teams No. 3 and No. 4 for me in the MVFC. The overall perception of the Valley is down this year, especially with no marquee non-conference wins. In the past, the Valley would have wins over the Southland champ and the Big Sky champ. That’s not the case this year. So four teams look like the max out of the MVFC, while only three teams getting in wouldn’t be a shocker if the bubble is packed. SIU is 5-3 overall with an FBS win (Northwestern) and one now-ranked win (No. 23 UND). The losses are to No. 8 UIW (a blowout), No. 15 SEMO, and a bad one this last week to South Dakota. UND is 4-3 overall and 4-2 vs. the FCS with losses to No. 20 SIU and No. 1 SDSU, no now-ranked wins, and two then-ranked wins (UNI, Mo State).
I project SIU to beat UNI and YSU and lose to No. 4 NDSU to finish 7-4. I project UND to beat ACU, Indiana State, and USD before losing to No. 4 NDSU to finish 7-4. Let’s factor in Illinois State as well, who is on my bubble below. The Redbirds are 5-2 overall and 5-1 vs. the FCS (loss to No. 20 SIU, no ranked wins). They will also be 7-4 if they lose at No. 4 NDSU and No. 1 SDSU while beating YSU and WIU. Out of this projected 7-4 group, SIU has easily the best chance to make it at 7-4 with the P5 win and victories over the other two. UND would have the edge over Illinois State if the committee put four MVFC teams in. The committee could look at UND’s seven wins vs. a projected year-end Massey SOS ranked No. 3 and put the Fighting Hawks in. They also may look at UND and ISU having no wins over teams in playoff consideration and leave them both out.
These last four in and bubble teams left out are where the committee can go multiple ways. You never know what each individual committee member values most.
Fordham is 6-1 overall and 6-0 vs. the FCS. With a projected year-end Massey SOS of 81st, Fordham will have to either beat Holy Cross this week or have a super competitive game to convince the committee to give the usual one-bid Patriot League an at-large bid.
Furman is 6-2 overall and 5-1 vs. the FCS (FBS loss, non-counter win, FCS loss to No. 13 Samford, zero now-ranked wins, one then-ranked win over ETSU). The non-counter game could hurt Furman, but if they split these next two games vs. No. 7 Chattanooga and at No. 16 Mercer and then beat Wofford, an 8-3 Furman team with seven D1 wins and a victory over UTC or Mercer will get strong consideration.
Rhode Island is 5-2 overall and 5-1 vs. the FCS (FCS loss to No. 12 Delaware, no now-ranked wins, one then-ranked win over Elon). I’m skeptical that the CAA gets five teams in, and with games at No. 10 W&M and at No. 19 UNH still to come, I project Rhody to be on the bubble again.
I don’t know if the ASUN-WAC will get two teams in. And with the scheduling quirk of them not playing each other, SFA has the computerized power rankings lead for the AQ right now. Austin Peay (5-2 overall, 5-1 vs. the FCS, FCS loss to UCA, no now-ranked wins, one then-ranked win on EKU) could take the auto-bid as the top team in the ASUN if it wins out and if SFA (out of the WAC) loses a game.
I talked about Illinois State‘s situation above.
SEMO and UT Martin are undefeated in OVC play. The two top teams do not play each other. The reason is because when Lindenwood joined the conference in February, the OVC had to take off one conference game for each team to not put its non-conference opponents in a tough spot. If SEMO and UT Martin win out vs. league opponents, the playoff AQ will be determined by a tiebreaker. The tiebreaker is comparing head-to-head records vs. the next top OVC teams. If SEMO and UTM beat every OVC team they play, it would come down to a coin flip. If SEMO gets the AQ, UT Martin (4-3 overall, 4-1 vs. the FCS, FCS loss to Missouri State, no ranked wins) may not have a signature win to get the OVC an at-large bid, especially with its loss to Missouri State, who has turned out to be disappointing. If UT Martin gets the AQ, then SEMO (6-1 overall, 6-0 vs. the FCS, ranked win over SIU) would have a stronger argument for an OVC at-large bid with its win vs. now-No. 20 SIU, who looks like a playoff team. SEMO is currently ranked No. 15 in the media poll, and UT Martin is ranked No. 21.
Elon is still in a position for a bid at 5-3 overall and 5-2 vs. the FCS with two now-ranked wins (No. 10 W&M, No. 17 Richmond). But it has also lost two straight to currently-ranked teams (No. 18 Rhody, No. 19 UNH). Elon will have to win out (including vs. No. 12 Delaware this week) to feel good about getting in at 8-3. A 7-4 record will be jumbled with a lot of seven-win teams, including potentially multiple seven-win teams in the CAA.