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 half of the season will be projections. But as the season progresses and more games are played, this turns 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.
|6||Sac St.||Sac St.|
|PAT||H. Cross||H. Cross|
|Last 3 in||UNH||SHSU|
|Last 3 in||The Cita.||SIU|
|Last 3 in||SE La.||Kennesaw|
|1st 3 out||UT Martin||UT Martin|
|1st 3 out||Towson||The Cita.|
|1st 3 out||Richmond||Richmond|
- “1-8” – The seeds.
- “NEC, PAT AND PIO” – The automatic berths for the NEC, Patriot and Pioneer conferences.
- “Near-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 teams that will play in the 1st round (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.
Seeds: SDSU and UNI move ahead of Sacramento State after the Hornets had a pretty substantial loss (with a key injury to talented QB Kevin Thomson) to a solid Weber State program. The Wildcats are still undefeated vs. FCS and now have wins over my No. 5 seed (UNI) and No. 6 seed (Sac St.) and they get to play my No. 7 seed later this month (Montana). SDSU also gets UNI on Nov. 16, as well as No. 8 seed Illinois State this week — with both at home. So, as you can see above … there could be some substantial shifting in this seeding picture, but for now? I like this list and this order.
Where's The Movement?: Well, I outlined some of it above. Let's face it, the movement is everywhere when it comes to this at-large picture situation. It's about as stable as the ground adjacent to the San Andreas fault in California. At this point, I'm really curious about the potential of the OVC and SoCon to get one and maybe even two at-large berths, but a lot of stuff has to happen. The CAA continues to chop itself up, and that will only help the OVC, SoCon and maybe even the Big South (could Kennesaw State creep back into this picture at 10-2? Yep, it could if the rest of the country continues to be hellbent on going 6-6). Lots to watch down the stretch. For now? My at-large stable is a volatile place to be, and that's putting it gently. As any coach would say, "WHO WANTS THIS?"
Conference Count: (Not including bubble teams or 1-bid leagues): MVFC – 5, Big Sky – 4, CAA – 3, SoCon – 3, OVC – 2, Southland- 2
Seeds – I went back and forth with South Dakota State and Weber State as my No. 3 seed. These projections are based on what we think the playoff committee is going to do. And Weber easily has a better resume than SDSU's. Both are 7-2 overall while Weber is 7-0 versus the FCS and SDSU is 7-1. Weber has two currently-ranked wins against UNI and Sac State. The Jacks' best win came against YSU, who is no longer ranked. But I still see a more complete team in SDSU when I watch these two play. Of course, both have huge games remaining and that will help this debate. The Jacks looked pretty dang impressive Saturday even with a new starting QB in Keaton Heide. The offense found some creative ways to move the ball. I don't love the quality losses argument, but SDSU nearly defeating Minnesota and NDSU tells me the Jacks are the third-best team in the country right now, even without J'Bore Gibbs.
Kennesaw State left my seeds from last week after a brutal loss. Sliding into the seeds is Northern Iowa, who had a really good win against No. 7-ranked Illinois State and is 6-2 versus the FCS with those losses coming against Weber and NDSU. Sac State moves down in the seeds after a decisive loss to Weber but needs to stay ahead of Montana with the head-to-head win there. And Central Arkansas continues to have a great resume with a 6-1 record versus the FCS along with an FBS win.
Where's The Movement?: Again, our projections are based on what we think the committee is going to do. And even though I highly question Kennesaw State's resume being worthy of an at-large bid, I do think the committee will put the Owls in. At this point, with a bunch of teams beating up on each other, KSU is going to have a good-looking win total (even if two of those wins technically don't count) compared to a ton of 7-win teams. So I did not bump the Owls out of my field. But two teams did leave my bracket: Elon and Stony Brook. The CAA just is not doing itself any favors. Taking their place is Monmouth, who is now the front-runner for the Big South auto-bid, and the OVC's front-runner Austin Peay. I moved Furman and New Hampshire to my near-seeds. Both teams have been hot lately outside of one questionable loss. It is getting tougher to find worthy resumes for seeds. Montana State doesn't have a great win on its resume besides SEMO, who might be in the playoffs at season's end, and the team the Bobcats recently lost to, North Dakota, has some bad losses and I don't think the FightingHawks are close to being in the seed discussion.
Conference Count: (Not including bubble teams or 1-bid leagues): MVFC – 5, Big Sky – 4, CAA – 3, Southland – 2, SoCon – 2, OVC – 2, Big South – 2
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