Every week of action in the FCS shapes the playoff picture. While coaches and players will give you the cliche answer of wanting to compete for a conference championship, the long-term goal is always to set yourself up for a playoff seed or a playoff bid.
As more games are played and conference foes eat each other up, the 24-team bracket is going to change. But our FCS staff of Brian McLaughlin and Sam Herder are going to make weekly predictions on what they think the playoff field is going to look like.
The first few weeks will be projections. But as the season progresses and more games are played, this will turn into a "what the playoff field would look like if the season ended today."
The guys break down their seeds, first-round teams, the last three in and the first three left out in the table below.
|Last 3 in||SHSU||Mont.|
|Last 3 in||Mont.||EKU|
|Last 3 in||SEMO||Ill. St.|
|1st 3 out||YSU||Ind. St.|
|1st 3 out||SE La.||The Citadel|
|1st 3 out||The Citadel||SE La.|
- “1-8” – The seeds.
- “NEC, PAT AND PIO” – The automatic berths for the NEC, Patriot and Pioneer conferences.
- “Non-seed 1,2,3” – These are 3 teams right on the verge of being a seed, ranked 1-3.
- “Non-seed” – These are the next batch of at-large teams in alphabetical order.
- “Last 3 in” – The last three teams we think squeak in.
- “1st 3 out – The first three schools left out of the bracket.
This is the wild wild west of "first stabs" when you take a shot at the FCS Playoff picture on Sept. 1 but I'm not afraid. Why not? This is generally how I voted on the Top 25 this week, without Yale, Alcorn State and NC A&T since they won't be in the FCS playoffs (a travesty in my opinion). I also have tweaked some of my preseason thoughts from early June. Montana State comes to mind. I'm playing a bit more wait-and-see with the 'Cats since we did the preseason look, considering the QB situation. Murray, Anderson and now a new QB heading things up — I just want to see how that shores up at MSU.
New Hampshire is another because I want to see how the Wildcats handle Coach McDonnell's sudden step down because of health-related issues. I really want to play wait and see with Jacksonville State and Wofford, who I was very high on in the preseason. Were those just blips and these teams rattle off 10 wins in a row and still win their conferences, or is something wrong?
Also, with this, I tried to balance what I've seen the playoff committee typically do with the number of teams from particular conferences. I think that's a factor, too. Have to admit too, after seeing North Alabama … too bad it isn't playoff eligible yet. Might be a factor already in the Big South. Also — just like with the playoff committee — if a team lost to an FBS opponent or pounded a lower-division school, it has zero effect on my ranking. I will use that method all year. Anyway, it's really early … and this order will change a ton between now and Thanksgiving. Let the debate begin, and most importantly, let's have fun.
Conference Count: (Not including bubble teams) MVFC – 5, CAA – 4, Big Sky – 4, Southland – 3, SoCon – 2, OVC – 2
It's mentioned above, but here's the deal with these predictions. The first 3-4 weeks of this season, these are projections of what we think the bracket will look like in November. But as more games are played, it'll pivot to what the bracket would look like if the season ended today. We won't do that yet because there are a whole lot of good 0-1 teams right now. We need to give these playoff resumes some time to differentiate before we label it "if the season ended today."
Seeds – While I have JMU as my national title favorite, I'm putting my playoff committee's hat on and right now, you keep the defending champs as the No. 1 seed. But as the season progresses and if a certain team has a better playoff resume, I won't hesitate to move that team above the Bison even if NDSU doesn't have any losses. It's all about the overall playoff resume, not what happened last year. Most of my other seeds are 0-1 with FBS losses, which makes this whole thing interesting to start. I did move UCA into my seeds because of that big FBS win. You have to respect that for now.
Additions/subtractions: There's obviously nothing to put here now. But in the future, this section will be where I explain why some teams entered the playoff field and why some left.
Conference Count: (Not including bubble teams) Big Sky – 5, MVFC – 5, CAA – 4, Southland – 3, OVC – 2, SoCon – 1 …. (I have no doubt that the SoCon will get more than one team in, I'm just waiting to see which teams rise to the occasion after Wofford's disappointing loss.)
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