The 2018 FCS Playoff Braket has been out for a little more than three hours, and the HERO Sports FCS team is already itching to see some games.
THE BRACKET #FCSPlayoffs ➡️ https://t.co/riC5NlfTwn pic.twitter.com/Rq0bQyIDjf
— FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) November 18, 2018
Brian McLaughlin, Sam Herder and Chase Kiddy got together immediately after the Selection Show was over to answer some of the key questions regarding controversies, future matchups, possible sleepers and more. Here we go.
The Biggest Seeding Surprise Was…
Chase: JMU not getting seeded. I personally didn't think Colgate deserved to be seeded, but I don't really think it's a mistake to give the Raiders a bye, either. I thought UC Davis deserved to be seeded, but wasn't sure the committee would seed three separate Big Sky teams. At 8-3, with more wins over playoff field teams than both Davis and Colgate combined, I thought the Dukes were safely in the top eight. However, the committee thought otherwise, citing JMU's Nov. 3 loss to UNH as a deciding factor.
Sam: Honestly, the biggest surprise is not the fact that three Big Sky teams are seeded, but that they’re all on the same side of the bracket. That’s up there for biggest head scratcher. A close second is JMU not getting into the Top 8. The reason given (the loss to a healthy UNH while other teams beat them) shows the committee doesn’t look too far into games.
Brian: I think it has to be not having James Madison in the Top 8. I had Colgate in at 8, by a hair over UC Davis — mostly because I believed the committee would not have three Big Sky teams in the Top 8 seeding. But I was wrong … we ended up with an unprecedented six teams from one conference, the CAA, but only one of them nabbed a seed. So we effectively were being told that yes … the CAA is the toughest conference, but because they beat each other up they only get their automatic-bid team in — Maine. I just don't follow that reasoning/logic. It doesn't add up.
The Team That Most Deserved to Make the Field, But Didn't, Was…
Chase: Indiana State. I don't think the Sycamores are some vintage Valley team, because I'm not even sure they're a top-25 squad. But if you go 7-4 in the Valley, even in a down year like 2018, you probably deserve to make the field. The fact that they were left out — and, by extension, that the Valley ended up with the same number of berths as the Southland — is a horrendously poor decision.
Sam: Indiana State. Having the same number of Southland and MVFC teams in is mind-numbing to me. I watch the Southland every week. It’s entertaining football. But it’s also “bad football bingo” kind of football, you know what I mean? The Sycamores should have gotten in by beating five MVFC teams in a row to end the season.
Brian: That's tie between Indiana State and Furman. There's no question 6-win Northern Iowa deserved to be in ahead of Indiana State based on their head-to-head result (33-0 UNI), but I think 7-win ISU also deserved a spot with the way it closed strongly this year. From 0-11 to 7-4, not too shabby. And Furman? Another redhot team at the end of the year. I can see the argument for the Paladins being left out, too, but there are arguments to have them in. I had both of these schools in.
The Biggest Surprise Inclusion in the Field Was…
Chase: Incarnate Word. Selecting a six-win team for the playoffs is not as controversial a decision in 2018 versus other years because of how weak the bubble is. However, selecting a six-win Southland team that went the entire year without beating a team that wasn't a member of the SLC is a pretty egregious error, at least in my estimation. I'm excited to watch Jon Copeland for one more game, but this pick was just flat-out wrong.
Sam: Incarnate Word for me. The rebuild for this program is awesome. But a a 6-4 overall team (yes, two losses to FBS teams) just shouldn't cut it for a Southland team. The MSU-UIW game and Lamar-UNI game could get ugly.
Brian: By a mile, Incarnate Word. Now, are the Cardinals one of the top FCS stories of the year? Absolutely they are. What Eric Morris did with this team, with a freshman talent at QB like Jon Copeland, just tells you what is about to happen for a team that went 1-10 last year to be Southland co-champs this year. My only problem with this selection is I just don't think the Southland deserved three in this year, and there's no way I would have had UIW ahead of Lamar since Lamar won 6 in a row to close the season and also beat UIW head-to-head.
Kudos to the Committee for…
Chase: Putting six CAA teams in the field. The Colonial was clearly the best conference in FCS Football this year, and it had more than five worthy playoff teams. After Elon lost a tight one at Maine on Saturday and dropped to 6-4, I wasn't sure the conference would get that sixth bid. It's something I've been speculating about for a while, and I think it's a well-deserved honor. It's certainly a historic day for the league. It's also a referendum on the merits of playing a challenging non-conference slate — it just might save you in November.
Sam: I was glad to see Delaware and Stony Brook still make the bracket at 7-4 despite suffering bad losses the day before the selection show. They're both definitely deserving to be in.
Brian: In the past few years, I've felt like there have been massive mistakes in the selection process — last year it was Eastern Washington and Delaware being left out, the year before it was Albany and the year before that it was North Dakota. Those were glaring errors. No matter what you think about this year (Indiana State being left out, UIW in, JMU not a seed) there are zero glaring errors in this year's picks. There are differences in opinion, but no mega mistakes. I know JMU fans are chapped, but hey … the New Hampshire loss cost you, that obviously is what it was. Indiana State was one of the most bubbly of bubble teams and didn't get in — it happens. The Sycs were far from a lock to get in, whereas EWU and Delaware last year were no brainers to get in. That's my praise for 2018 — I think the committee clearly had its toughest job in the four years I've covered the FCS, and no massive mistakes were made.
One Strange First-Round Game Is…
Chase: All those East Coast/mid-Atlantic teams to choose from, and Stony Brook has to go 1,000 miles to Missouri for a game with SEMO. And if they win, they get to fly 2,200 more out to Utah. That's the way the geography ball bounces sometimes with the playoffs, so it is what it is. I'm sure the Seawolves were happy just to get in after losing the finale to Albany. But man… that's a tough flight plan.
Sam: I think the first-round matchups are fair based off of the criteria given to the committee. Most teams are matched up decently as far as proximity. But seeing UIW, a team from Texas, play in Montana winter should be interesting.
Brian: I was surprised by San Diego going to Nicholls and Incarnate Word going to Montana State. I think the more natural fit would have been San Diego at Montana State in the first round and Incarnate Word going to another school and Nicholls hosting another team. Those games made me scratch my head the most, but there's certainly nothing wrong with the matchups — just way more travel for both games than I would have anticipated the committee choosing.
Is This Seriously a First-Round game?!
Chase: JMU hosts Delaware in a game worthy of the quarterfinals. Instead, a pissed-off Mike Houston team will take out its frustration on a UD team with a stingy, playoff-caliber defense. As soon as I saw that JMU wouldn't get a bye, I knew it'd be hosting the Blue Hens in a first-round matchup, but this all-CAA bloodbath is nonetheless worthy of a December kickoff date.
Sam: JMU-Delaware is the easy choice here. I expected this one maybe in the second round. But not the opening round.
Brian: To me, James Madison hosting Delaware is like last year's Weber State-Western Illinois game. Sure as hell didn't see this coming, but then again … I thought James Madison would be off this week, too. To me, this is no earlier than a second-round game and maybe even a potential quarterfinal. But nope, we'll have one of these two eliminated by this time next week. Obviously they're matched up because they didn't face each other in the regular season in CAA play. This is a big one that should have a nice crowd on hand in Harrisonburg.
They Might not have Deserved to Make it, But Watch Out For…
Chase: Elon. I really didn't think the Phoenix would get tabbed after losing Davis Cheek, Malcolm Summers and three of their last five games. But the committee chose to reward the program for what it managed to do before injuries crippled an otherwise good team, and I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Coach Cignetti and his underrated defense finds a way to win against back-to-back option teams. Elon is developing a knack for outperforming your modest expectations.
Sam: Lamar. Having three Southland teams make the field shocked me, but I did predict two to get in the bracket and my correct guess was Lamar. They've won six games in a row and are hot right now.
Brian: Kudos to Elon for getting in. For the second straight year, the Phoenix have looked good. Granted, the injuries have taken their toll at the end of the year, but this is a well-coached group and you get the feeling they'll be ready to hit when they hit Wofford next weekend. They had a brutal road to get to this point.
The Individual Matchup You Can't Miss Is…
Chase: Taryn Christion v. Tom Flacco. Okay, so this isn't exactly a head-to-head matchup, but I feel relatively confident that SDSU will host Towson in the second round, and this could be a quarterback duel for the ages.
Sam: Not to diminish what Colgate has done, but I think we’re going to see NDSU vs. JMU in the quarterfinals. The matchup that’s going to be key is JMU’s OL vs. NDSU’s DL. The Dukes looked better up front recently, but Rhode Island and Towson defenses aren't exactly Stony Brook and Elon defenses. NDSU’s DL is probably a Top 3 unit in the FCS (I don’t know how you really rank that) and even better than last year’s. They got the best of the JMU OL in Frisco and my question is how much better is this year’s JMU group up front than last year’s?
Brian: A potential FCS quarterfinal in Atlanta between South Dakota State and Kennesaw State, if they survive their second round games. How about future NFL linebacker Christion Rozeboom of SDSU against Kennesaw State's badass QB Chandler Burks and that KSU option offense? That should be a fascinating matchup.
Please, FCS gods, Give Us…
Chase: We're all thinking it, so I'll go ahead and say it. The good people of FCS Football want Dukes/Bison III. I don't think many of us expected it to potentially be played in the first 10 days of December, but I think we'll take it whenever we can get it.
Sam: Wofford vs. Kennesaw would be fun in the second round. And I do think Colgate could be competitive with JMU with that defense, but if we don't get an NDSU-JMU game in the quarterfinals, I think the nation will be disappointed.
Brian: How about that monster potential rematch of Eastern Washington and Weber State, played in Utah in the FCS semifinals the weekend of Dec. 14/15? The last game, Weber State shutdown Eastern Washington 14-6, but the Eags have been on fire behind new QB Eric Barriere ever since. That could be a biggie, and the winner likely plays NDSU in the championship. Which team wants that shot the most?
HOW'D WE DO? Our Bracket Projections from Saturday Night