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.
1. Weber St.
3. Jacksonville St.
Big Sky – Weber St.
Big South – Kennesaw St.
CAA – JMU
MVFC – UND
NEC – Duquesne
OVC – Jacksonville St.
Patriot – Holy Cross
Pioneer – San Diego
SoCon – Chattanooga
Southland – Nicholls
At-Large Bids (Ranked from most likely to least likely to get in)
16. UC Davis
Bubble Teams Left Out
Duquesne is now in for my NEC auto-bid, replacing Sacred Heart (my previous favorite) after it won the head-to-head matchup on Sunday.
SEMO and Idaho move out of the at-large bids after losing. Replacing them are UC Davis (who beat Idaho on Saturday but play Weber State this weekend) and VMI (who is 2-0 out of the SoCon with a good win against Furman).
The seeds also shuffled around a bit, but with the same four teams.
James Madison’s strength of schedule was a big talking point leading up to this season. I said the easier schedule could help the Dukes in the seeding discussion because they have the name recognition and have proved their worth in the playoffs, unlike past Kennesaw State or Jacksonville State teams that wanted higher seeds. However, I also said JMU has to dominate its opponents to secure a top-two seed, or else its SOS could be used against the Dukes. With a near loss to Elon, that drops JMU from last week’s No. 1 seed to the No. 4 seed. Because the Dukes may not have a ranked win on their resume, they need to start dominating to show they are a top-four team.
I think Weber State has a great shot to go undefeated, and it has a ranked opponent coming up this week in UC Davis. North Dakota has the best resume right now with three ranked wins, but I believe there will be one loss at some point this regular season, which is why I have Weber No. 1. But a 7-1 UND would be seeded.
And Jacksonville State is looking good for a seed as it already has a 5-1 overall record, 4-0 against the FCS with an FBS win. The Gamecocks do not have a win against a currently-ranked team, though.
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, even if that means the MVFC takes two at-large bids.
Sam Houston State, South Dakota State, and Villanova stay in as my second-place teams in their conferences. VMI enters the at-large bids with a 2-0 start, although the SoCon may end up beating itself up too much to get its second-place team in.
And right now, I have UC Davis as the second-place team in the Big Sky, but Idaho and Eastern Washington are still in the mix.
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