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.
1. Sac State
3. Montana State
5. Holy Cross
6. Weber State
ASUN-WAC – Austin Peay
Big Sky – Sac State
Big South – NC A&T
CAA – New Hampshire
MVFC – SDSU
*NEC – Saint Francis
OVC – SEMO
Patriot – Holy Cross
Pioneer – Davidson
SoCon – Samford
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.
Montana State (seed)
Weber State (seed)
William & Mary
22. 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. 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 Saint Francis-Delaware, Fordham-New Hampshire, Davidson-Furman, NC A&T-Elon, and SEMO-Austin Peay.
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.
Sac State has strong potential to go 11-0 if it gets a win this weekend at No. 5 Weber State. It also plays at Portland State and vs. UC Davis, who may be contending for an at-large bid. An 11-0 Sac State squad would own an FBS win (Colorado State) and three now-ranked wins — No. 5 Weber, No. 16 Montana, and No. 15 Idaho.
SDSU also has a case for the No. 1 seed if it wins out (at UNI, vs. Illinois State). The Jacks would be 10-0 vs. the FCS with two now-ranked wins over No. 4 NDSU (No. 1 at the time) and No. 21 UND. SDSU’s projected season-end strength of schedule via Massey is No. 6 compared to Sac State’s No. 7.
Montana State should win at NAU and at Cal Poly. If it beats now-No. 16 Montana at home to end the regular season, the Bobcats would be 10-0 vs. the FCS with two now-ranked wins, including No. 5 Weber State. MSU’s projected season-end SOS is No. 17.
NDSU will want Weber to beat Sac State and Montana to beat MSU. Or else the Bison may not have the ranked wins or SOS to earn a Top 2 seed and get home-field advantage. NDSU’s projected season-end SOS is No. 24. The Bison do not currently own any ranked wins. If they win out, they would finish 9-1 vs. the FCS with one ranked win if UND is still in the Top 25 by Nov. 19.
Holy Cross just beat now-No. 24 Fordham and should finish 11-0. Its projected SOS won’t be great at No. 80, yet this is the same-look team that nearly beat CAA co-champ Villanova in last year’s playoff. And yes, it is OK to look at what they did in last year’s playoffs if the roster is similar and you’re trying to get a gauge on how good a team is when it has a meh SOS. Plus, its FBS win over Buffalo is one of the better FBS wins. (Not all FBS wins should be lumped into one.). Buffalo is 5-3 and 4-0 in the MAC.
Weber can be in the Top 4 seeds discussion next week if it beats No. 2 Sac State this weekend. I’ll project this as a loss for now. Weber would then finish 9-2, assuming it beats Idaho State and NAU. It would have eight D1 wins, though, including over FBS Colorado State and now-No. 16 Montana. The losses would be against high seeds Sac State and Montana State. A 6-8 seed in this scenario could be argued.
The SoCon champ should be a seed unless they completely eat each other alive. Samford is currently 7-0 vs. the FCS, including a win over now-No. 13 Furman. It still has to play at No. 11 Chattanooga and vs. No. 12 Mercer, so we’ll see how things shake out in the SoCon. But a potential 10-0 or 9-1 vs. the FCS Samford team with multiple ranked wins has a seedable resume.
UIW should win out (vs. HCU and at NW State), to finish 10-1 (loss to SLU). The Cardinals do have a non-counter win, so the committee would see just nine D1 victories. SIU’s fall out of the Top 25 doesn’t help UIW, but it was a dominating win earlier in the season. Plus, UIW owns an FBS win over Nevada.
The Big Sky would see co-champs if MSU and Sac State finish undefeated. It doesn’t really matter who wins the auto-bid tiebreaker, to be honest. Both would be high seeds, and the AQ doesn’t necessarily have to be seeded higher than an at-large bid within the same conference.
I have Austin Peay as the ASUN-WAC AQ even though the computerized ranking doesn’t have them as the auto-bid if the season ended today. I believe APSU has the most favorable path to winning out vs. FCS opponents (at North Alabama, who just fired their coach, and at struggling Kennesaw State). Then we’ll see what the computer ranking does from there. EKU picked up a big ranked win over SEMO, but it still has challenging games vs. UCA and JSU to come. And Austin Peay has a head-to-head win over EKU. The WAC side of this may continue to eat itself up.
NC A&T becomes the frontrunner for the Big South auto-bid after beating Campbell.
Saint Francis has already clinched the NEC AQ.
After the four at-large bids that are seeds…
Idaho just lost its first FCS game, losing 31-28 at No. 2 Sac State after allowing a comeback TD in the final minutes. The Vandals will be favored to win out vs. EWU, vs. a tough UC Davis team, and at Idaho State to finish 8-1 vs the FCS featuring a ranked win over now-No. 16 Montana.
Furman is 7-2 overall but has six D1 wins with a 6-1 record vs. the FCS. The loss is to now-No. 10 Samford. And the Paladins just beat now-No. 11 Chattanooga. If Furman can win at No. 12 Mercer next week after a bye, it should then hit eight D1 wins by beating Wofford to end the regular season.
William & Mary is 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the CAA. It owns an FBS win over Charlotte. And it owns two ranked wins over now-No. 18 Delaware and No. 23 Rhody. The loss is to now-No. 19 Elon. The Tribe could be in contention for a seed if it wins out. At seven D1 wins already, W&M is in a great position for a bid with games at Hampton, vs. Villanova, and at No. 14 Richmond to come.
Chattanooga lost its first FCS game this last weekend against now-No. 13 Furman. Now 6-1 vs. the FCS, including a ranked win over now-No. 12 Mercer, the Mocs should hit at least eight D1 wins playing at The Citadel, vs. No. 10 Samford, and at WCU.
Elon looked out for dead after two straight losses to now-No. 23 Rhody and No. 17 UNH. But it ended that losing streak by beating now-No. 18 Delaware 27-7 to improve to 6-2 vs. the FCS, featuring three ranked wins (also No. 8 W&M, No. 14 Richmond). With two games remaining, the Phoenix should hit eight D1 wins by beating UAlbany at home and winning at Hampton.
Delaware’s 27-7 loss to Elon was a bit concerning. The playoffs still look promising, but not a lock. The Blue Hens are 6-2 overall, own an FBS win over Navy, and has one ranked win against now-No. 23 Rhody. The two losses are to No. 8 W&M and No. 19 Elon. UD will feel comfortable on Selection Sunday at eight D1 wins, and the last three games will be challenges vs. competitive Monmouth, vs. No. 14 Richmond, and at rival Villanova. Winning at least two out of three will be key.
North Dakota is now 5-2 vs. the FCS. Its two then-ranked wins over UNI and Mo State are no longer ranked wins. Although UNI could climb back into the playoff discussions if it beats No. 1 SDSU this weekend. The losses for UND are to SIU (who has fallen out of the Top 25) and to top-ranked SDSU. An earlier win over YSU could also age well as the Penguins could hit seven D1 wins and be in playoff contention. The Fighting Hawks should hit seven D1 wins by beating Indiana State and South Dakota before playing at No. 4 NDSU. With a projected year-end SOS of No. 3, a 7-D1-win UND team has a good shot to make the bracket, even if none of those wins end up being against playoff-potential teams. They will be cheering for UNI and YSU to keep winning.
Fordham just lost a 50/50 game at Holy Cross. As odd as it sounds, nearly beating a future seeded team helps Fordham have a good at-large argument. A loss is never ideal, but it did show this team is right on par with a Top-10 ranked opponent. The Patriot league hasn’t had two playoff teams since 2015. But if Fordham wins out, it would be 9-2 overall with nine D1 wins, and the losses being 59-52 to FBS Ohio and 53-52 to now-No. 6 Holy Cross.
Montana is going to be very nervous the next day if it doesn’t win in Bozeman. The Griz have lost three straight to ranked opponents, including the last two on the road at No. 2 Sac State (31-24 OT) and at No. 5 Weber State (24-21) without their starting QB Lucas Johnson. I don’t like the term quality losses. It’s more about how teams look stacked up against top teams. Montana still looks the part of a playoff team at 5-3. But if it beats Cal Poly and EWU, and then loses at MSU, a 7-4 team with no wins over playoff-potential teams is right on the bubble of getting in or getting left out. Montana’s projected season-end SOS is No. 18, which may help its argument over other seven-D1-win teams with weaker strength of schedules. If the Griz do win out, they are in at 8-3.
With four CAA teams already in and a packed bubble, I don’t know if the CAA gets five teams in. Richmond and Rhode Island are left out in this current projection. Richmond is 6-1 vs. the FCS with the loss to now-No. 19 Elon and no wins yet over the other playoff-worthy teams. Richmond will want to win at least two of its last three to hit eight D1 wins, and those come vs. No. 17 UNH, at No. 18 Delaware, and vs. No. 8 W&M. Rhody is 5-2 vs. the FCS, losing to Delaware and W&M and beating Elon. Seven D1 wins will be lumped with several other seven-win teams on the bubble. Rhody should hit seven with home wins vs. Maine and UAlbany, but a tough road trip at UNH also looms.
Mercer is the No. 4 SoCon team for me. And I’m not sure the conference gets four teams in based on how much they beat each other up. Mercer already has seven D1 wins to be 7-1 vs. the FCS (decisive 20-point loss to No. 11 Chattanooga). It doesn’t have any ranked wins yet. If the Bears lose their final two games vs. No. 13 Furman and at No. 10 Samford, their resume may not be playoff-worthy.
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 (5-3 overall, 5-1 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. UT Martin’s projected season-end strength of schedule is No. 39, not terrible but not great.
The winner of this week’s Youngstown State at Illinois State will be put in bubble consideration. Both are currently 5-2 vs. the FCS and the winner Saturday is in a position to hit seven D1 wins. Streaking UNI (5-2 vs. the FCS, three straight wins) has an intriguing home game vs. No. 1 SDSU to keep an eye on. UNI could hit seven D1 wins if it beats the Jacks and wins at struggling South Dakota.