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 guys break down their seeds, first-round teams, the last three in and the first three left out in the table below.
This is based on what the playoff field would look like if the season ended today and is predicted with the mindset of what the playoff committee would do.
|PAT||H. Cross||H. Cross|
|Near-seed-2||Mont. St.||Mont. St.|
|Last 3 in||Albany||Towson|
|Last 3 in||Towson||SIU|
|Last 3 in||UND||Kennesaw|
|1st 3 out||Nicholls||UND|
|1st 3 out||Maine||Nicholls|
|1st 3 out||East. Wash.||Maine|
- “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: My eight seeds have a pretty major shift in order thanks to the massive three-game gaggle we had this past weekend (UNI at SDSU, Weber St. at Montana and Furman at Wofford). I have moved Northern Iowa out, though only one spot outside with a 1-10 team remaining on the schedule … so stay tuned, Panthers fans. The replacement? Wofford … a SoCon team that hasn't lost an FCS game since it tinkered with its offense a bit in early September. Once the Terriers tweaked that? They've been undefeated against the FCS and they've earned the right to be a seed … though this weekend's game at The Citadel is no gimme.
The rest of the major shifting is Weber State dropping from No. 3 to No. 7 and the discussion of whether the Wildcats might be able to supplant James Madison at No. 2 is now over.
Where's The Movement?: After the seedings, I'd say the biggest movement is around the bubble. Let's face it, going into the final regular-season weekend, the bubble is massive. Albany and Towson are absolute locks next week if they secure their 8th wins (possible, but hardly a guarantee based on their matchups). My last team in is North Dakota, but there are scenarios where that could change even with a UND win this weekend. What's really interesting is to see a team like Maine, who we've discounted all year, be solidly in the discussion with the potential to win its fifth in the row this weekend (at UNH). The committee will drop Maine's two FBS losses and will consider it 7-3 and finishing hot. Keep an eye on the Black Bears, who haven't been discussed since September.
Also … I still need one more week of convincing before I'll consider putting Kennesaw State in here. The Owls had a statement blowout win this past weekend, but even with a win next weekend, they'll be evaluated only at 8-1, not 10-2 (drop the two lower division wins and FBS OT loss to Kent State). That 8-1 record with that strength of schedule guarantees nothing, but the Owls could slip in with the last bubble spot provided a lot of other bubble teams lose. My opinion? If they do hit the 8-1 (10-2) mark, I'll have them as my last bubble team in because the kids on this team didn't make this schedule, and all they did is win 10 of the 12 games put in front of them.
Conference Count: (Not including bubble teams or 1-bid leagues): MVFC – 5, Big Sky – 4, CAA – 4, SoCon – 2, OVC – 2, Southland – 2
Seeds – The order of my seeds was shaken up a bit with Montana beating Weber and SDSU beating UNI. I slid Sac State to No. 3 and kept it ahead of Montana because of the head-to-head win and one more quality win on its resume against Montana State. The Griz move to No. 4, one spot ahead of Weber. Northern Iowa got bumped from my seeds and in entered Villanova at No. 8. This was a tough one to decide who should be at No. 8. I went with Nova's 8-3 record against the FCS over Wofford's 7-2 because I like the Wildcats' quality of wins a bit more.
Where's The Movement?: My 24 teams in the field didn't change very much at all from last week. In fact, the only team to exit was Lafayette, who was replaced by Holy Cross as the Patriot League auto-bid front-runner. All of the other 23 teams remained the same with some adjustments on where they are.
Bubble explanation: These include the "Last 3 in" and "1st 3 out." Towson is 7-3 right now with those losses coming to teams in the bracket (Nova, Albany and JMU). The Tigers should beat Elon (4-6) to get their eighth win and make the playoffs. Southern Illinois is currently 7-4 with a big 45-20 FBS win against UMass. There have only been three FCS over FBS upsets this year and I think the committee will value these a lot. With NDSU coming to town next week, we'll see if a 7-5 SIU team gets in. And then there's Kennesaw State. I'm not a believer in KSU's resume, but I do believe the playoff committee is going to put the Owls in because of their overall record and name recognition.
For the bubble teams on the outside … again, this is if the season ended today. North Dakota is currently 6-4. The Fighting Hawks should beat SUU next week to hit 7-4. And with a win against Montana State, they would have a good argument to be in the field. But that's next week, not now. Nicholls is 7-2 against the FCS, including a win against UCA. I think Nicholls needs one more win to get into the playoffs, and that would be a huge one against SE Louisiana, who's currently in the field. Lastly, there's Maine. The Black Bears saved their season Saturday with a comeback win against Rhode Island. They are now 6-5. A win next week at UNH gives them a chance to make the field at 7-5. They do own a win against Albany, who's currently in the field.
Conference Count: (Not including bubble teams or 1-bid leagues): MVFC – 5, Big Sky – 4, CAA – 4, Southland – 2, SoCon – 2, OVC – 2, Big South – 2
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