The FCS spring regular season finished (for conferences taking part in the playoffs) and the playoff bracket will be announced at 10:30 a.m. CT Sunday on ESPNU.
The 24-team bracket has been reduced to 16 teams. The typical format is 10 auto-bids from 10 conferences and 14 at-large bids. This spring, there will be 10 auto-bids and six at-large bids. Only four teams will be seeded compared to the usual eight.
Fall games are included in playoff resumes. And while teams could play up to eight regular-season spring games in a 13-week period, the amount of games conferences played ranges from four to eight. A minimum of four games must be played to qualify as an at-large bid.
In short, there is a huge imbalance when evaluating playoff resumes. Nonetheless, we will give it a shot for the last time this spring and predict the bracket.
Selection Show: Sunday, April 18 (10:30 a.m. CT — ESPNU)
1st Round: Weekend of April 24
Quarterfinals: Weekend of May 1
Semifinals: May 8 (11 a.m. CT on ESPN & 7 p.m. CT on ESPN2)
Championship Game (Frisco, Texas): Sunday, May 16 (1 p.m. CT on ABC)
NOTE: 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.
Auto-Bids Big Sky – Weber St. Big South – Monmouth CAA – Delaware MVFC – SDSU NEC – Sacred Heart OVC – JSU Patriot – Holy Cross Pioneer – Davidson SoCon – VMI Southland – SHSU
At-Large Bids(Ranked from most likely to least likely to get in) 11. JMU 12. NDSU 13. EWU 14. UND 15. Richmond 16. Missouri St.
Bubble Teams Left Out 17. Kennesaw St. 18. Murray State 19. SIU 20. ETSU
Bus trips (400 miles or less) are JMU-VMI, Delaware-Monmouth, and JSU-Davidson.
The committee will avoid 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.
The NCAA announced 14 predetermined host sites. All first-round matchups in this bracket has a team hosting at their own stadium. Home teams are the top teams in the bracket.
Seeds James Madison was No. 1 in the playoff committee’s Top 10 ranking on April 1. It’s only played once since then, a 23-6 ranked win today against No. 11 Richmond. While JMU’s No. 74 strength of schedule raises questions, they will get the benefit of the doubt as a Frisco regular and they are 5-0 with one ranked win. JMU doesn’t have the best resume out there. In fact, Delaware has a better resume and is wondering why it isn’t in the conversation for a high seed. But I believe the committee will give JMU the No. 1 seed since it had the Dukes No. 1 in its first ranking. The only team that could have jumped them was NDSU, but the Bison lost to SDSU. Plus, JMU has been ranked No. 1 in the national polls most of this season, which directly or indirectly will influence the mindset of the committee members.
South Dakota State looks like the most complete team in the FCS with its 27-17 win against NDSU. The Jacks are 5-1 with three ranked wins and an SOS ranked No. 16.
Sam Houston finished 6-0 with three ranked wins and the No. 52 SOS.
Weber State finished 5-0 with one ranked win and the No. 28 SOS.
At-Large Bids James Madison is the obvious first choice here as the Dukes are also my No. 1 seed. Just because the Dukes didn’t get the AQ vote and Delaware did, does not mean the Dukes can’t be a seed.
North Dakota State is a lock. The Bison are 6-2 overall with four ranked wins.
Eastern Washington is a lock with a 5-1 record.
North Dakota is also a lock with a 4-1 record and a win against SDSU.
Richmond didn’t help itself with a 23-6 loss to JMU, but the Spiders did get a lot of help from other teams losing. The Spiders are 3-1 and should get an at-large bid.
Speaking of getting a lot of help, Missouri State needed multiple teams to lose today, and they all did (like UIW, SLU, Mercer, and Villanova). The Bears may be 5-4 overall (lost to Central Arkansas twice and to Oklahoma in the fall), but they are 5-1 in the spring MVFC schedule. The Bears won a share of the MVFC title, their lone spring loss is to NDSU, and they finished the regular season with four straight wins, three against ranked opponents at the time of the game (No. 21 USD, No. 10 UNI, No. 10 SIU). I didn’t think the Bears would get in a week ago. But now the bubble is no longer packed with those teams mentioned above losing.
Bubble Teams Kennesaw State got a massive boost with UIW, SLU, Mercer, and Villanova all losing. Maybe a 4-1 overall (3-1 vs. D1 opponents) KSU team gets a closer look now. The Owls do have a strong brand name, which we know can go a long way. But the 42-17 loss to Monmouth to end the season is a killer.
Murray State is 5-2 in the OVC but lost its last two games to Austin Peay and JSU. Austin Peay may have an argument over Murray State since the Govs are 4-2 in the standings, but they are 4-5 overall. It doesn’t look good for the OVC to get an at-large bid.
Southern Illinois has a pretty good resume — 5-3 overall with wins against NDSU, UNI, SLU. Yet the Salukis are 3-3 in the MVFC standings and have four teams ahead of them. I just don’t see the Valley getting five teams into a 16-team bracket, which is why SIU is this low.
UC Davis would have been in this bubble teams group, but the Aggies have called it a season at 3-2. Instead, I’ll put ETSU here, even though the bubble is getting quite weak at this point. The Buccaneers are the second-place team in the SoCon with a 4-2 record.
Sam’s coverage of the FCS began in 2012 as the sports editor and eventual editor-in-chief of NDSU’s The Spectrum. After graduating in 2015, he spent three years in the newspaper and magazine industry while starting his work for HERO Sports in the fall of 2016 as a freelancer. In May 2018, he joined the website full time as the Senior FCS Analyst.