(FYI: long writing process, short editing process)
I stepped away from the office around 3 p.m. yesterday to hang out with family. I was checking scores throughout the day and night, but mostly stayed Twitter silent since answering any questions and figuring out the playoff picture on my phone and away from the computer is tough. After updating resumes and spreadsheets today, here’s how I see yesterday’s results impacting the bracket.
First off, College GameDay deciding not to go to Missoula for the Brawl of the Wild sucks. My sense is many on the GameDay crew wanted to and were somewhat expecting to go to Montana until the big-wigs in the fancy offices decided to go to Michigan State-Ohio State because of ratings/market/money/etc.
But back to the FCS action … Yesterday’s results weren’t all too crazy besides a couple of outcomes. The playoff picture, in my opinion, got a little clearer than muddier. Which is something that typically happens in Weeks 11 and 12 while Weeks 6-10 make it seem like the bubble is going to be absolute madness.
Let’s go around the country with impactful games.
FCS Top 25: Sam Herder’s Ballot
Maine beat UMass 35-10
Had Maine beaten Stony Brook last week, this result would have been more significant. But the Black Bears are 5-5 overall and off of the playoff bubble.
NDSU beat YSU 49-17
A good “get right” game for NDSU after losing to SDSU. The Bison will get a chance at a ranked win next week at home vs. South Dakota. With a win, the Bison will be a Top 4 seed at 10-1.
Monmouth beat RMU 44-7 & Kennesaw beat UNA 28-24
Next week’s game between Monmouth and KSU (both 6-0 in the Big South) will determine the auto-bid. If Monmouth gets the AQ, KSU will very likely get an at-large bid at 9-2 with eight D1 wins. If KSU gets the AQ, Monmouth is on the bubble at 7-4.
Dayton beat Davidson 38-29
This gave Davidson its first Pioneer Football League loss. Davidson and San Diego are now tied at 6-1 at the top of the conference. Davidson has the head-to-head win over San Diego, so it will just need to beat Drake next week to secure the AQ.
SIU beat Indiana State 47-21
A needed “get right” opponent for SIU after losing two in a row to UNI and Mo State. The Salukis are 7-3 with then-ranked wins against UND and SDSU (who is still ranked). SIU is for sure in the bracket with a home win vs. YSU next week. It should be a victory, but a loss puts SIU on the bubble alongside several other teams looking to get in.
Holy Cross beat Fordham 52-24
Holy Cross clinches the Patriot League AQ.
SHSU beat EKU 42-28
SHSU cliches the AQ7 auto-bid and continues to roll to a Top 2 seed. EKU drops to 6-4. Even if they beat Jacksonville State next week to hit seven D1 wins, EKU is likely left out of the bracket, especially if SFA (who has the head-to-head on EKU) beats Lamar next week to hit seven D1 wins.
Rhode Island beat UNH 28-3
Rhody snaps a three-game FCS losing streak and is now on a two-game winning streak with last week’s 35-22 win over FBS UMass. The Rams are now 7-3. In my opinion, if they win at Elon next week, they are going to make the bracket at 8-3 with an FBS win, despite no ranked wins. If they lose to Elon, a 7-4 Rhody team with an FBS win is likely left out of the field.
Villanova beat Stony Brook 33-14
Nova takes care of business to improve to 9-2 overall and 9-1 against the FCS. The Wildcats are a lock to make the playoffs. If they want a seed, they will need to win at struggling (but a rival) Delaware.
USD beat SDSU 23-20
I got this game going on my phone in the final minutes right as SDSU got its fourth-down stop. I almost shut it off assuming the Jacks will win. Boy, was I glad I didn’t. What a wild finish. If you haven’t seen how it ended, here it is. You can point to several small things that if SDSU does them, the Jacks win. But they didn’t. And USD got a massive win. And the impact is huge. SDSU is no longer going to be a seed. At 7-3 with only six D1 wins, next week’s home game against UND is close to being a must-win for SDSU.
If the Jacks lose, are they left out because of their six D1 wins vs. the six D1 wins UND and UNI have, teams that would have the head-to-head on SDSU? Do any of those six-D1-win MVFC teams make it in this scenario? The Jacks are not a lock to make the bracket. USD, in my opinion, is in. The Coyotes play NDSU next week. Even with a loss, USD would be 7-4 overall and 7-3 against the FCS with seven D1 wins and three then-ranked wins against UND (no longer ranked), UNI, and SDSU.
Richmond beat Delaware 51-27
Delaware gets handed its fifth loss. The Blue Hens could have made the bracket if they beat Richmond and then ranked Villanova next week to finish 7-4. Beating Nova will be a tall task. If they do it, a 6-5 Delaware team with good wins against W&M and Nova would have a long shot at a bid. We could be looking at a number of six-D1-win teams that will at least get consideration, but ultimately, there will be too many teams with seven or eight D1 wins in the at-large pool.
ETSU beat WCU 56-35
ETSU and Mercer are 6-1 in the SoCon now, and coincidentally play next week for the SoCon title and AQ. Even if ETSU loses, the Bucs are in the field with nine total wins and eight D1 wins, one being against P5 Vanderbilt. With a win, ETSU is in position for a potential seed at a 10-1 overall record.
UT Martin beat Tennessee Tech 42-3
UT Martin clinches the OVC auto-bid and is now 9-1 overall and 9-0 against the FCS. The combined record of its FCS opponents will make it tough for the Skyhawks to get a seed, though.
Montana beat NAU 30-3 & Montana State beat Idaho 20-13
Both teams are locks to make the playoffs regardless of the result in the Brawl of the Wild. Montana has eight D1 wins, one being against P5 Washington. Montana State has nine D1 wins. Next weekend’s game will have a Top 2 seed on the line for MSU and a seed on the line for Montana.
UND beat Illinois State 14-7
If UND beats SDSU in Brookings next week, the Fighting Hawks will get consideration for the playoffs. A 6-5 team making the bracket is at a pretty low percentage chance right now, but that percentage could go up depending on other results.
Missouri State beat UNI 34-27
As stated right above, a 6-5 team making the bracket is going to be tough. UNI got handed its fifth loss vs. Mo State. If UNI beats WIU next week, the Panthers will be 6-5 overall with three ranked wins against Sac State, SDSU, and SIU. Sac State and SIU should be playoff teams, and SDSU will be if it beats UND. If UND beats SDSU … UNI, UND, and SDSU would all have six D1 wins. The MVFC would have NDSU, SIU, Mo State, and USD in the field. Would a fifth team make it with six D1 wins? Past precedent is there. As for Mo State, the Bears are 7-3 overall. With an expected win at Dixie State next week, they would be 8-2 against the FCS with wins against likely playoff teams USD and SIU. That could be seedable but would depend on other results.
FAMU beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 37-7
FAMU keeps winning as other bubble teams drop. The Ratters are 8-2 overall with seven D1 wins. They need to beat Bethune-Cookman next week and have other results go their way to get in as an at-large bid. Eight D1 wins with a bad strength of schedule has been left out before.
Furman beat VMI 37-31
This is not a good loss for VMI, dropping it to 6-4 overall. VMI would have had a great shot at the bracket by beating Furman and WCU to hit eight D1 wins. Now, even beating WCU next week to reach seven D1 wins, the Keydets will need some bubble help. UTC, Mercer, and ETSU are ahead of VMI in the SoCon standings. Four SoCon teams in the playoffs is possible, but that is dependent on what happens in the CAA and the Big South. The MVFC and Big Sky could have five teams each. More SoCon scenarios right below…
Mercer beat Chattanooga 10-6
This was a massive win for Mercer. The SoCon is the most intriguing conference in the playoff picture, IMO. Mercer and ETSU are 6-1 in the conference and play next week, which will determine the SoCon champ and AQ. ETSU is a lock for the bracket no matter the result. If Mercer loses, the Bears would be 6-2 in the SoCon and 7-3 overall with only six D1 wins. Is six D1 wins enough?
If UTC beats The Citadel next week, it finishes with seven D1 wins, one being against ETSU. That would be hard to leave UTC out. But if UTC is in, you should probably put a six-D1-win Mercer team in as well because of the head-to-head. But then if VMI beats WCU next week, a seven-D1-win VMI team should be in the bracket if Mercer and UTC are in because VMI has a 45-7 head-to-head on Mercer and a 37-34 head-to-head on UTC.
No matter the result of ETSU vs. Mercer, it will be hard to leave any of these four SoCon teams out of the bracket as long as VMI beats WCU and UTC beats The Citadel. The question is would there be room for four? If there isn’t, who gets left out?
JMU beat W&M 32-22
JMU gets its fourth then-ranked win. However, Weber, UNH, and Delaware are no longer in the polls. JMU should beat Towson next week to finish 10-1. That will be a Top 4 seed. The question is how the committee views ranked wins, and if they think the Dukes have enough “quality wins” to be the No. 2 or 3 seed. If W&M drops out of the polls after this loss (I don’t think they should, but we’ll see what other voters do), JMU could have zero wins against currently-ranked teams.
For W&M, the Tribe is 6-4 overall and 6-3 vs. the FCS. It needs to beat Richmond next week for a shot at the bracket. If it does, a 7-4 W&M team that is 7-3 against the FCS with a decisive win against a likely seeded Villanova team will get strong consideration. But if Rhody goes 8-3 with an FBS win, would the CAA get a fourth team in? JMU, Nova, and an 8-3 Rhody team would get in before W&M. The Big Sky has five locks, in my opinion. The MVFC will get 4-5. The SoCon could get 4, as explained above. The Southland will get two. The Big South could get two, depending on the KSU-Monmouth result. Is there room for a fourth CAA team?
UIW beat Nicholls 27-23
This gives Nicholls its fifth loss, third vs. the FCS. Even if Nicholls beats SLU next week, a six-D1-win team is going to have a tough time making the bracket. UIW hits eight D1 wins, one being against FBS Texas State and one against SLU. UIW is a lock for the playoffs and will secure the AQ if it beats HBU next week.
SLU beat NW State 56-28
SLU hits eight D1 wins. The Lions are a lock for the playoffs, in my opinion, even if they lose to Nicholls.
SFA beats UCA 27-14
This eliminates any playoff hopes for UCA to make the bracket with a 5-5 record and four D1 wins. SFA will have a shot if it beats Lamar next week. The Lumberjacks would finish 8-3 overall with seven D1 wins. They will need a lot of help on the bubble to make the field. There may not be enough at-large bids for SFA to get in. The Big Sky, MVFC, CAA, and the SoCon will take a majority of them, leaving possibly just one or two for the Big South, Southland, and AQ7 second-place teams to fight over. And the second-place Southland team, whether it’s UIW and SLU, likely has one locked up already.
EWU beat UC Davis 38-20
A much-needed win for EWU. The Eagles will get a seed if they beat PSU next week to finish 9-2 overall. UC Davis drops to 8-2. With eight D1 wins including an FBS victory against Tulsa, the Aggies are already in the bracket. They will have a chance at a seed if they beat ranked Sac State next week.
Sac State beat Portland State 49-20
This eliminates PSU from any playoff contention. The Vikings are 5-5 overall with only four D1 wins. Sac State is a playoff lock at 8-2 with eight D1 wins, 7-0 in the Big Sky, and a ranked win against a playoff team Montana. If Sac State beats ranked UC Davis next week, the Hornets will be a seed.
Who Has A Playoff Bid Locked Up?
(In my opinion)
SHSU (AQ7 auto-bid secured)
In the hunt: SFA, EKU
Montana State (9 D1 wins)
UC Davis (8 D1 wins, 1 FBS win)
Sac State (8 D1 wins, ranked win over playoff-bound Montana)
EWU (7 D1 wins, 1 FBS win, 2 wins over playoff-bound Montana and UC Davis)
Montana (8 D1 wins, 1 FBS win)
Kennesaw (8 D1 wins)
In the hunt: Monmouth
JMU (9 D1 wins)
Villanova (8 D1 wins, 1 over playoff-bound JMU)
In the hunt: Rhode Island and W&M
NDSU (9 D1 wins)
USD (7 D1 wins, wins over playoff-bubble teams UND, UNI, and SDSU)
Mo State (7 D1 wins, 6-2 MVFC finish, win over USD, wins over bubble teams UNI, SIU, and UND)
In the hunt: SIU, SDSU, UNI, and UND
UT Martin (OVC auto-bid secured)
Holy Cross (Patriot auto-bid secured)
ETSU (8 D1 wins, 1 FBS win)
In the hunt: Mercer, VMI, UTC
SLU (8 D1 wins)
UIW (8 D1 wins, ranked SLU win, 1 FBS win)
In the hunt: Nicholls
FAMU is in the hunt for an at-large bid out of the SWAC