And that's a wrap!
All the 2018 FCS regular-season games with playoff implications are complete. Like we've done since Week 1, our FCS staff of Brian McLaughlin, Chase Kiddy and Sam Herder predict who they think is going to make the 24-team bracket.
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The guys break down their seeds, first-round teams, the last three in and the last six left out in the table below:
|Non-seed1||UC Davis||JSU||UC Davis|
|Non-seed||ETSU||Ind. St.||Mont. St.|
|Last 3 in||UNI||UNI||Ind. St.|
|Last 3 in||Ind. St.||Furman||Lamar|
|Last 3 in||Furman||Lamar||Monmouth|
|1st 3 out||Stony B.||Samford||Elon|
|1st 3 out||Ill. St.||Elon||UIW|
|1st 3 out||Idaho St.||Idaho St.||Idaho St.|
|Next 3 out||EKU||Rhode Isl.||Furman|
|Next 3 out||Monmouth||Monmouth||EKU|
|Next 3 out||UIW||Ill. St.||Chatt.|
- “1-8” – Is obviously where we think schools will fit in as seeds, based on results so far.
- “NEC, PAT AND PIO” – The automatic berths for the NEC, Patriot and Pioneer conferences.
- “Non-seed 1,2,3” – These are the best three teams not seeded, ranked 1, 2, 3.
- “Non-seed” – These are the next batch of at-large teams 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.
When it comes to my Top 8 — the seeds — I have bumped Weber State to the No. 2 spot ahead of Kennesaw State because of overall body of work/resume. Kennesaw State went to five overtimes with a Jacksonville State team that lost 3 FCS games this year, essentially a tie, one way to look at it. Weber State's lone FCS loss came on the road when Northern Arizona looked playoff-bound and was healthy. I also have bumped Maine ahead of SDSU based on body of work, but again, they are interchangeable. To me, James Madison played its way back into a seeding at No. 7, and Colgate will be my controversial No. 8 seeding pick. To me it comes down to Colgate, UC Davis, Nicholls and Wofford for No. 8. I think the Raiders played Army as tough if not better (within 7 points with 2 minutes left today) than at least half of Army's opponents this year — and this is the best Army team in at least two decades. Colgate is 9-0 vs. FCS competition and beat two CAA teams and an Ivy League team. That's my take.
When it comes to the middle of the pack, at-large wise, I have a few strong feelings: 1) Lamar played itself into this situation when so many other schools nationwide just didn't. The Cardinals have won six in a row coming into the postseason, beat Southland co-champ Incarnate Word, along with the three teams that won the Southland the past three years — Central Arkansas, Sam Houston State and McNeese. Lamar deserves an at-large, and not by the hair of their respective chinny-chin-chin, either. Really hoping this team doesn't get overlooked.
Another distinction in my picks? Winning six games doesn't need to be reason for banishment this year. The collective isn't strong enough this year to make a proclamation that six wins rules you out. Northern Iowa is too good a 6-win team to exclude, and so is Elon (though injury plagued – but they earned this with their body of work) and Furman, who has been red-hot down the stretch but took a rear-end whooping against Elon early in the year. Both Elon and Furman had their seasons affected by the Hurricanes. Let's not penalize them for missing potential wins due to weather, and let's not penalize UNI — who Sagarin said had the best schedule strength among FCS elite coming into this weekend. These are the teams that deserve these spots, folks.
This is how I see it, but I am curious to see how the committee sees things. One thing I can say for sure — the committee has a tough job on its hands this year, and I don't envy them for the next several hours. This is going to be tough to sift through.
The hardest part of this final report was the bottom of the seeding and the bottom of the field. I feel pretty strongly about those first seven seeds, in one order or another, but there's a lot of different directions the committee could go for that No. 8 spot. In the end, if you take the politics out of it, I think UC Davis is the right choice. They've been a top-8 team for most of the season in every poll that matters (read: not the Coaches Poll). The offense is as good as anyone's, and the nine wins, nominal FBS upset & share of a conference championship is going to trump anything a potential CAA challenger like Towson or Stony Brook might have. Plus, wins over San Diego and Idaho State are better wins than FCS-undefeated Colgate has. I'm skeptical that the oft-political playoff committee would make a politically incorrect move like this, but I do think the Aggies have earned a bye, even if it means three seeds for an extremely top-heavy Big Sky.
Throughout the meat of the bracket, I think most of the bids speak for themselves. Few will question seven-win teams from the Big Sky, Valley or CAA when the bubble is this weak, so I don't expect much resistance for a team like Delaware, which finished the season with an uninspiring 2-game skid, yet still feels like a lock to make the playoffs because of what the rest of the field has done. If you play in a big-boy conference, and you won seven games, you're probably in.
And then…. we arrive at the bubble. I feel like we've made a lot of jokes this season (perhaps too many) about how it's such a headache to try to order these teams. It's impossible. It's a nightmare. Blah blah blah. But it's worth reiterating one more time that this playoff bubble genuinely is a complete crapshoot. Two or three teams are going to get in tomorrow that probably have no business playing in the playoffs, and trying to predict in advance which grain of sand the committee values is largely futile. For me, it's not so much that I picked three teams; instead, I think I eliminated the six or eight below them and just rolled with whatever was left. Samford and Idaho State both only have five Division I wins. Illinois State lost four of its last five and finished 3-5 in conference. Elon and Rhode Island are vaguely worthy candidates, but I can't see six teams making it from the CAA if the sixth team didn't even get to seven wins. Monmouth got smashed by every good team it played this year.
That left me with six-win Northern Iowa, six-win Furman, and SLC surprise Lamar. I don't think the committee has the stones to limit the Southland to one bid, so I think Lamar sneaks in there thanks to its six-game winning streak. Furman finished 6-2 in a deep SoCon. UNI feels likely simply because the Valley probably won't be limited to the two Dakota State schools, plus 7-win Indiana State.
Valley/CAA Watch: The CAA gets five teams in for the first time since playoff expansion. It's a well-deserved honor for the Colonial, which reclaimed its place as the best and most intriguing conference in FCS Football this season.
Seeds – Yes, I know many are going to hate having NDSU and SDSU on the same side, but that's where I feel the Jacks land and the committee shouldn't adjust things just to avoid a "potential" semifinal matchup. When we're that deep in the playoffs, who cares who plays. I moved JMU into the seeds. That should be a lock. And I went back-and-forth on UC Davis and Colgate for my No. 8. I decided to go with Colgate, more so because that's how I feel the committee will lean.
MVFC – I really didn't expect to do this, but I have four teams in. With how the bubble teams shook out, Indiana State should be in the field. If the Sycamores are in, so should UNI because the Panthers whooped them at the start of the season. I'm not convinced the Valley deserves four teams in, but when looking at the overall 24-team field, it's hard to exclude these four.
Overall thoughts: This was really, really hard. There are some teams I felt aren't really playoff-worthy. There are even teams I listed that didn't even feel bubble-worthy. But these are the teams we had to sort through. I guess there's nothing wrong with new blood in the postseason.
Conference Count: (Not including bubble teams) CAA – 5, Big Sky – 4, MVFC – 4, SoCon – 2, Southland – 2, OVC – 2
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