OK, so here's the thing about the FCS Playoffs: The top eight teams get to eat Thanksgiving dinner at home with no game that weekend (nice reward … some more sweet potato casserole please). Each year, the NCAA tries to structure things so that teams don't have to travel extensively at least for the first two rounds, if not three. There's a lot of give-and-take, which means 'human input'.
So resident FCS lover Brian McLaughlin (that's me) took a personal look at creating the bracket after Week 10, as in — if the season had to end today. Seeds, first-round hosts, who is in, who is out, who barely missed, you name it.
[divider]MORE: Compare Any Two FCS Players or Any Two FCS Teams[divider]
So … why this way?
Sorry folks, North Dakota State may have fallen this weekend on the road, but the Bison would still be the Missouri Valley champions if the season ended today because they're the only team with one conference loss. Obviously that can change, but right now? They're No. 2. A one-loss Valley champ should be in the top two based on this year's situation. Period.
Jacksonville State and Central Arkansas enter the fray at No. 3 and No. 4 because they're undefeated against FCS competition. However, their resumes are not as impressive as North Dakota State's, so they need to hope for one more NDSU loss to move up. As far as the three first-round byes, three seeded Valley teams just makes sense (NDSU, SDSU, USD). The Big Sky hasn't quite materialized as of today, the SoCon has seen a lot of parity, and Elon is still seeking that signature CAA win — which it could get in the next two weeks. So that's the explanation.[divider]
A couple of nuggets to throw out before I post below: First off, to me Kennesaw State and Monmouth are very much in contention for the Big South title, and there's at least an outside chance there may be a second bid in the league. For now, I'm going with Kennesaw State because of its big win today against a Big Sky team, along with common opponent data — and I'm not listing a second Big South team just yet. Also, I'm going with Colgate in the Patriot League because they're just playing better than everyone right now, even though it lost to Lehigh earlier. I'm going with Duquesne and San Diego in the Northeast Conference and Pioneer League, too, as they are the frontrunners, but a tip of the cap to Central Connecticut, who may make the NEC very interesting if it can take the league title away from Duquense next week.
So here's how I see it, as of the results of Nov. 4:
FIRST ROUND SLATE (Nov. 25)
Colgate at Stony Brook (statistical comparison)
Montana at Western Illinois (statistical comparison)
Kennesaw State at Western Carolina (statistical comparison)
Samford at Sam Houston State (statistical comparison)
Northern Iowa at Weber State (statistical comparison)
San Diego at Southern Utah (statistical comparison)
Duquesne at Delaware (statistical comparison)
New Hampshire at Furman (statistical comparison)[divider]
SECOND ROUND WITH SEEDS (Dec. 2)
1. James Madison vs. Stony Brook/Colgate winner
2. North Dakota State vs. Western Illinois/Montana winner
3. Jacksonville State vs. WCU/Kennesaw winner
4. Central Arkansas vs. Sam Houston/Samford winner
5. South Dakota State vs. Weber State/Northern Iowa winner
6. South Dakota vs. Southern Utah/San Diego winner
7. Wofford vs. Delaware/Duquesne winner
8. Elon vs. Furman/New Hampshire winner[divider]
THE REST OF THE WAY (Quarters, Semis, Final)
QUARTERS (Dec. 8-9)
JMU bracket host Elon bracket
NDSU bracket host Wofford bracket
JSU bracket host South Dakota bracket
UCA bracket host SDSU bracket[divider]
SEMIS (Dec. 15-16)
JMU bracket hosts UCA bracket
NDSU bracket hosts JSU bracket[divider]
CHAMPIONSHIP (Jan. 6)
at Frisco, Texas[divider]
IN, BUT RIGHT ON THE BUBBLE
These teams are hanging in by a thread … [divider]