Predicting the FCS playoff bracket is going to be as difficult as it’s ever been for the 2021 spring season.
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 only 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 can play up to eight regular-season spring games in a 13-week period, the amount of games conferences are playing ranges from four to eight. A minimum of four games must be played to qualify as an at-large bid.
In short, there is going to be a huge imbalance when evaluating playoff resumes. Nonetheless, we will give it a shot and provide weekly playoff predictions.
RELATED: Sam’s Top 25 Ballot
- Selection Show: Sunday, April 18
- 1st Round: Weekend of April 24
- Quarterfinals: Weekend of May 1
- Semifinals: Weekend of May 8
- Championship game: Sunday, May 16 (Frisco, Texas)
These predictions take current playoff resumes and all future scheduled games into consideration.
These are playoff predictions and don’t reflect my current Top 25.
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.
2. Weber St.
4. Jacksonville St.
Big Sky – Weber St.
Big South – Kennesaw St.
CAA – JMU
OVC – Jacksonville St.
Pioneer – San Diego
Patriot – Holy Cross
MVFC – UND
NEC – Sacred Heart
SoCon – Chattanooga
Southland – Nicholls
At-Large Bids (Ranked from most likely to least likely to get in)
Bubble Teams Left Out
NDSU and SDSU moved out of the seeds but are still in as at-large teams. Moving into the seeds are North Dakota and Jacksonville State. JSU has a great playoff resume already: 4-1 overall, 3-0 against the FCS, and an FBS win against FIU. UND has the two best FCS wins right now against No. 11 SIU and No. 8 SDSU.
I also changed the auto-bids to UND out of the MVFC and Chattanooga in the SoCon. With how competitive these two conferences look, don’t be surprised to see several flip-flops throughout the regular season.
As far as the at-large teams, Idaho moves in and Eastern Washington moves out after they played each other this weekend. SEMO also moves in as I think it’ll be the second-place OVC team and looks capable of beating JSU. Wofford moves out of the field after losing to Chattanooga.
You’ll notice I still have North Dakota State in the field and not Southern Illinois. This is predictive, and I feel like SIU is going to have one or two more losses this season. I’m a bit more confident that the Bison will find their way into the field via a combination of figuring its issues out and its reputation. Two more losses and I don’t think the Bison are in. But one more loss and a 7-2 NDSU team (including a win against ranked UCA) would be in on name alone, even if that means the MVFC takes two at-large bids.
I mentioned UND and JSU entering the seeds above.
While I do have Weber State ahead of James Madison in my personal Top 25 ballot, I think the playoff committee would seed JMU ahead of Weber if both go undefeated. And I expect both to go undefeated.
No SoCon teams are on the bubble, and only one team is in the field. That’s because I think the conference will chew itself up so much that the second-place team will have too many losses to get an at-large bid.
Albany stays on the bubble as my third-best CAA team. Monmouth stays on the bubble as well because I’m not sure the Big South will get an at-large bid, especially if the MVFC grabs two. I liked what I saw from Southeastern Louisiana against SHSU, but I don’t think the Southland will get two at-large bids. And I explained my reasoning for having SIU on the bubble above.
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