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 all the way 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.
- 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)
Playoff Field Predictions
These predictions take current playoff resumes and all future scheduled games into consideration.
3. Weber St.
Big Sky – Weber St.
Big South – Kennesaw St.
CAA – JMU
OVC – Jacksonville St.
Pioneer – San Diego
Patriot – Holy Cross
MVFC – NDSU
NEC – Sacred Heart
SoCon – Furman
Southland – Nicholls
At-Large Bids (Ranked from most likely to least likely to get in)
15. Austin Peay
Bubble Teams Left Out
18. Illinois St.
This is going to be a fiasco to figure out who deserves seeds and who deserves to get in as an at-large bid. For the fun of creating headaches, let’s look at these hypothetical playoff resumes:
- 8-0 JMU (no ranked Ws)
- 6-0 Weber (no ranked Ws)
- 6-0 Kennesaw (5-0 vs. FCS, 1 ranked W)
- 8-1 NDSU (4 ranked Ws, loses to SDSU)
- 7-1 SDSU (3 ranked Ws, loses to UNI)
- 9-2 JSU (8-1 vs. FCS + FBS win)
Who gets the four seeds? Does an 8-0 JMU team with no quality wins get the nod over a 7-1 SDSU team that beat NDSU but lost to UNI? And what happens to a 6-2 UNI team that lost to NDSU and Illinois State but defeated SDSU? Would the MVFC get two of the five at-large bids? Or will the playoff committee divide those up evenly?
Does the number of D1 wins carry as much weight in the spring? JSU already has three wins from the fall, one being an FBS victory, which we know the playoff committee values. Could the Gamecocks be in the discussion for a seed if they win the OVC auto-bid?
If you’re a second-place team in some conferences, your shot at the playoffs is slim. This makes winning the auto-bid as important as ever. And when it comes to the playoff bubble, there are going to be a lot of good teams left out of the bracket that would crush some of the auto-bids in the playoff field.