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.
|PAT||H. Cross||H. Cross|
|Last 3 in||Monm.||SHSU|
|Last 3 in||Albany||UNH|
|Last 3 in||The Cita.||SIU|
|1st 3 out||UNH||Monm.|
|1st 3 out||YSU||Albany|
|1st 3 out||SE La.||The Cita.|
- “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: For this week, you have to bump SDSU back to No. 5 — with the full understanding that the Sac State vs. Weber State game this weekend will drop one of the two and let the Jacks back into the Top Four … which, if you remember? It guarantees a home game the first two rounds. It's a big deal. Also, for the time being? We can't have Villanova "in" but the CAA is so volatile that it could change. What a nutty month November will be.
Where's The Movement?: Stony Brook beat Villanova and took James Madison to overtime a few weeks ago. We might want to keep an eye on that program. UND was another riser, based on the fact it beat a solid Montana State team, which beat some other "domino effect" programs. We'll see if that actually holds up down the stretch.
Conference Count: (Not including bubble teams or 1-bid leagues): MVFC – 5, Big Sky – 4, CAA – 4 SoCon – 3, Big South – 2, OVC – 1, Southland – 1
Seeds – Let's start with seeds 3-5. Villanova moved out of my seeds, where it was No. 5 last week. I kept South Dakota State at No. 3 despite its loss to NDSU, kept Sacramento State at No. 4 and moved Weber State up a spot to No. 5. Now, since this bracket is based on what the field would look like if the season ended today, it would make sense for Sac State and Weber to jump SDSU. They are undefeated against FCS opponents with a slightly tougher strength of schedule, according to Massey. But this is where you weigh resumes on paper vs. the human element of who you think is the better team. And right now, I still think SDSU is the third-best team in the FCS, which is why I kept the Jacks at No. 3. Montana and Kennesaw stayed in my seeds. I still have a gut feeling the Owls are going to be seeded as more teams lose and they keep rolling in a strength of schedule that ranks 110th in the FCS by Massey. I added Central Arkansas in my seeds. While some of its close wins make me question how good this team is, you can't deny the impressive resume: 5-1 against the FCS with an FBS win and a strength of schedule ranked 23rd.
Where's The Movement?: Four teams left my bracket from last week: Nicholls, Chattanooga, UT Martin and Delaware. Taking their place: SEMO, North Dakota, Wofford and Southern Illinois. SEMO and Wofford look like front-runners to win their conference's auto-bid now. It's going to be fascinating to see how UND and SIU finish out the regular season and how their resumes stack up against other teams in the playoff hunt. Teams like Monmouth, Albany and The Citadel are on the verge of making my bracket and are on the bubble. Monmouth is 6-1 against the FCS but has a strength of schedule of 75th. That's what kept them out of the playoffs last year after finishing 8-3. And Albany and The Citadel need a couple of more weeks to strength their playoff resumes.
Conference Count: (Not including bubble teams or 1-bid leagues): CAA – 5, MVFC – 5, Big Sky – 4, Southland – 2, SoCon – 2, OVC – 1
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