So FCS fans, where do the conferences stand now with potential playoff bids with three weeks to go? I'm going to try to project this each Saturday evening around 10 p.m. ET for this week, next week and the week of Nov. 16, ahead of when Sam Herder and I give our "final call" on the actual "seeding take" after the Nov. 23 games.
I'm not trying to put teams in order with this piece (Sam and I do that on Mondays), just trying to react to what happened today and take a look at each of their roads ahead in the next few weeks — what is realistic? Who is a realistic candidate for a playoff spot? Who isn't? We address all of this in the piece below. Hey FCS Nation … it's November, baby. It's holiday time.
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First of all, how about a massive shout out to Monmouth for its big road win over Kennesaw State? This may be Kevin Callahan's best Monmouth team, and he's had some good ones in his 25+ year and nearly 160-win career … starting the program from scratch in the early 1990s and getting it to this point. That was a big win for the Hawks. Also, Weber State's massive win over Sacramento State on the road? Yeah, that may have just solidified the Wildcats' position in the Top Four, though Montana may disagree in Missoula on Nov. 16. We have some big ones remaining, folks.
So before I get into the FCS Playoff picture below, I'll do a quick shout out to North Carolina A&T rallying to win a tough one at S.C. State — who beat Wofford earlier this year. The MEAC has some serious depth at the top this year, and it is all led at this point by an 8-1 FAMU team whose only loss is to UCF. For those doubters out there (you know who you are) who think MEAC teams can't play? Ask Elon and Wofford, two pretty strong FCS programs this year who lost to MEAC teams. Or … hit up the FBS teams that lost to NC A&T from 2016-18.
In the Ivy League, we saw Princeton and Dartmouth set up their likely Ivy League title game next weekend by extending their records to 7-0 apiece. Harvard nearly ruined both the past two weeks, but both survived in dramatic fashion. Hey folks, Princeton hasn't lost a game since 2017, and Dartmouth has only lost one — to Princeton last year. To those doubting Ivy League football … which includes some of the same HBCU doubters … the NFL is holding on line three. Please pick up. Thank you.
Now let's take a look at the conferences and their potential "total" playoff spots:
BIG SKY (3-to-4 berths): Regardless of Weber State's big win at Sacramento State today, 36-17 (and let's hope Kevin Thomson recovers for SacSt), the really big question at this point is — can both Montana schools get in? The answer, of course, is YES. The bigger question is, can both avoid upsets along the way? As mentioned above, the Griz have a massive home game against Weber State on Nov. 16, then one of the biggest rivalries in the FCS with the "Brawl of the Wild" at Montana State the day before Selection Sunday. If the Griz take care of business from here until now? They'll be solidly seeded, eating Thanksgiving Turkey at home without a game to prepare for in Playoff Week One. If they slip up, it could get a bit more dicey but they're already at 7 wins and even an 8-4 record probably gets the Griz in. Montana State is in a trickier situation but still looks pretty good, though I will say this … the Bobcats can't lose two of the next three games (at No. Colo., at UC Davis and the Brawl at home) and expect to be handed an engraved invitation to the playoffs. That won't happen, the UND loss last week guarantees it won't.
BIG SOUTH (1-to-2): Honestly, I think the Big South title was settled today in Greater Atlanta (coupled with what happened one state over when North Alabama took down Campbell). The big question now that Monmouth looks secure to win the Big South is … could a potential 10-2 Kennesaw State team still get in as an at large if the rest of the country chops itself up? We're seeing it in the CAA, SoCon and Southland … and 6-6 teams aren't going to make the playoffs, folks. Yes, the two non-D1 wins will be wiped off the KSU resume … but the Owls did take FBS Kent State to OT before falling. How could that be viewed? This will be one of the biggest questions in the next three weeks if KSU doesn't fall again, which is feasible.
CAA (3-to-4): Obviously book James Madison a ticket here, as the Dukes look like they have the potential to finish 11-0 against the FCS (7-point loss to West Virginia in the opener will be dropped). After that? Write everything in pencil and keep the eraser handy. You have to think an 8-win CAA team is a playoff lock, but how many of these teams want to do it? UNH and Richmond are currently tied at 2nd, but both would have to win at JMU to get to the 8-win threshold. Don't count on that happening. Albany's path to 8 isn't easy either, with UNH and a road trip to Stony Brook ahead. Here's a biggie: Towson travels to Long Island to face Stony Brook this week, and the winner of this looks realistic to hit 8 wins … and Villanova, despite hitting the skids the past three games, could realistically hit the 9-win mark with three straight winnable home games. Makes your eyes cross, doesn't it?
MVFC (4-to-5): NDSU and SDSU are no brainers, and then Northern Iowa looks like a rock-solid 8-win team or better. Consider these three teams in. The next tier of three is Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Youngstown State. Illinois State travels to Youngstown State in the final week, and the winner of that game should be a lock, and even the loser may have an outside shot at a bubble berth. The interesting team is really SIU because realistically this team finishes 7-5 but has a blowout FBS win (UMass) and another FBS loss to drop (Arkansas State). As crazy as this year's FCS has been, don't be surprised if SIU gets one of the last spots in that scenario — and that UT Martin win on Sept. 14 looks better and better, especially if the Skyhawks win the OVC, which is possible. The Salukis may want to root for that UTM next week at Austin Peay.
OVC (1-to-2): What the OVC — as a collective — is going to want is for two teams to solidly hit the 9-win mark here (actually, UT Martin goes to Kentucky the final week, but its two SEC games this year won't hurt its record). That would potentially include the conference winner, which could be either Austin Peay, UT Martin or SEMO at this point. The UT Martin at Austin Peay game next week is a big one, and SEMO will be watching closely. All three have a serious chance of winning the league outright, though UT Martin would be out of the hunt if it falls to APSU. I will be clear though … I am not confident an 8-4 OVC team (without the automatic bid) is any kind of lock here. If you're an OVC team hoping for an at-large berth, don't flirt with 8-4.
SOCON (1-to-2): This is a really, really interesting situation. I think there are realistic scenarios for 1, 2 or (maybe maybe maybe – June Carter Cash voice) 3 bids coming from this league, pending of course on the rest of the FCS. Furman at Wofford on Nov. 16 is a biggie, as is Wofford at The Citadel a week later. Let's just say these three teams keep the slates clean, aside from when they play each other. Keep in mind that The Citadel is the only FCS team this year to beat a P5 — Georgia Tech, something the Miami Hurricanes couldn't do a few weeks ago. That is a massive feather in the Bulldogs' resume cap (Jim Gaffigan inner monologue voice: "Do Bulldogs wear caps? Really?"). Truly, Furman and Wofford both really need to win their rivalry game against each other. Summary? There's a very obvious path for the SoCon to get two teams in, they just need to perform and cross their fingers another conference doesn't steal the spot.
SOUTHLAND (1-to-2): I don't even want to try to begin to tell any of you who makes it out of this gauntlet, aside from Central Arkansas. The reason I feel confident about UCA is because the Bears are threefold: They're already at 7 wins, own an FBS win (Western Kentucky) and have two of the next three Southland games at home (UCA is on a four-game win streak and is undefeated at home). Also, UCA will have the Hawaii loss wiped off the resume. You can just about book the Bears, but geez, in this conference who knows? The big problem is none of these teams outside of UCA can hit 9 wins now, so if the Southland wants to guarantee two in? The collective probably needs UCA to slip up and lose the automatic bid, but still hit 9 wins (maybe even 8 gets UCA's resume in?). Sam Houston State, Nicholls and SE Louisiana all have two league losses and probably have the most potential to do something — but man, that SE Louisiana Hurricane cancellation with a rock-solid MEAC team in Bethune-Cookman? How big does that loom now? The Lions could have had a solid sixth win coming into these final three games. Maybe the playoff committee takes that into account (like Elon last year) if SE Louisiana wins out? Maybe it should.
THE OTHERS (1 apiece): The NEC, Patriot and Pioneer are all battling for their automatic berths — with Holy Cross and San Diego taking major steps towards winning the Patriot League and Pioneer League today. The NEC remains up the air with CCSU, Duquesne and Robert Morris all still undefeated at 4-0 in league play. I'm going to go ahead and say that after today, I don't think a MEAC team will slip in for one of those last at-large spots. The reasoning? North Carolina A&T won a biggie today at South Carolina State and continues to look more and more like the team that will get the Celebration Bowl berth (since FAMU is on a self-imposed postseason ban, though the Rattlers will win the reg. season MEAC title). I just don't see a third-place MEAC team having the resume to get in.
SWING AND A B-MAC WHIFF
WEEK 10 PICKS: See which ones B-Mac messed up
So, my apologies go out to two schools: My first missed pick is the Northern Iowa at Illinois State game. I went with the Redbirds because they were at home and they're tough, but it turns out UNI is battle-tested and ready to crush MVFC competition this side of NDSU. Honestly? I should know this since this program went to overtime with an Iowa State team that is 13 points away right now from being 8-0. Kudos to the Panthers, who continue to prove they could be a solid FCS Playoff seed.
And for that matter, kudos to the Weber State team that knocked them off by 12 points. And a double "Kudos" goes to the 'Cats as they come home to Utah after an outstanding win at Sacramento State. And the biggest "kudos" of all? It goes to Jake Constantine, the Weber State quarterback Jake Constantine. All of us in the purported "FCS National Media" wondered about what Jake could do when pressed. Well? We learned all of that today as he tossed 2 TDs with zero INTs, had a QB rating of 161.2 and just flat out looked damned good against a very, very good team. The truth is? Weber State isn't reliant on one phase of the game. It's a balanced program. Josh Davis crushed it with 177 yards rushing … and the defense held firm when it had to. As Forrest Gump said … that's all I gotta say about that. This is a good team.
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