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, Chase Kiddy and Sam Herder are going to make weekly predictions on what they think the playoff field is going to look like.
BennettRank: Ranking all 125 FCS Teams
This is a combination of what would happen if the season ended today while also recognizing what lies ahead on each team's schedule.
The guys break down their seeds, first-round teams, the last three in and the last three left out in the table below:
|2||UC Davis||Weber||UC Davis|
|NEC||Sacred H.||Sacred H.||Sacred H.|
|Non-seed||Idaho St.||Idaho St.||Idaho St.|
|Non-seed||Ill. St.||Ill. St.||Ill. St.|
|Non-seed||Stony B.||WIU||Stony B.|
|Last 3 in||JSU||Nicholls||WIU|
|Last 3 in||Chatt.||ETSU||UND|
|Last 3 in||Nicholls||Maine||Chatt.|
|1st 3 out||UND||UND||JSU|
|1st 3 out||WIU||Rhode Isl.||UNI|
|1st 3 out||UNI||Mont. St.||Maine|
- “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.
So I kept the first four seeds static. I didn't see anything worth rocking the boat on with that. I will say that I hear the winds blowing when it comes to Weber State, SDSU and Delaware. They all have hiccups on their resume but in general look pretty solid. I do think that if the SoCon, Southland and OVC don't have a more definitive front-runner, it may turn out that the MVFC, Big Sky and CAA all have two seeds apiece. BUT …. there are three very key weeks to play.
Again I put Colgate as a seed. Folks, the Raiders have deserved it … so far. They've given up 23 total points this year heading into November. I wish we could have seen them against Furman, but hurricanes suck. Trust me.
As far as the SoCon, Southland and OVC are concerned, I really think Wofford is one more good showing away from being a seed. Keep an eye on the Terriers.
I do think that this week it looks like a 2-bid OVC — but if SEMO loses again it may be a 1-bid league. The SoCon may be a 2-3 bid league if it continues to define its leaders, and trust me … Samford is surging hard, folks. The Southland? McNeese is now firmly at the No. 1 spot … but three weeks remain.
All I can say at this point is … write this all in pencil, FCS.
Since we're heading into November, I really sat down with fresh eyes to scrub my bracket again, line by line. My initial response was that North Dakota State and Weber State have to be in those top two spots — they just have the best resumes in FCS Football to this point. That could change by the time the bracket is released, given the opportunities JMU has this month, but right now, I think you have to reward the Wildcats on the merits of their wins, even if my gut tells me JMU is the better team. I also adjusted Eastern Washington down, thanks to its lack of marquee wins, as well as its unfortunate news regarding starting quarterback Gage Gubrud.
Delaware might be the biggest mover of the week. It's not just the win over Towson that's impressed me, either. Good teams improve throughout the season, and the Hens appear to be a much better team at the end of October than they were at the end of September. The blemishes were a funky Week 1 loss to Rhode Island and a loss in Fargo, the latter of which is pretty easy to forgive. I think UD finishes 8-3 (with a loss at Stony Brook on 11/10), and with wins over Towson and Elon, I believe it would be firmly in the field.
Elsewhere: Stony Brook and North Dakota impressed me in losses. I was disappointed in multiple Valley teams — particularly Illinois State. ETSU needing multiple overtimes to vanquish Western Carolina was surprising. Montana State is the best 4-4 team in the country.
CAA/Valley Watch: Delaware's surge puts six CAA teams back in my field, but I fully expect to drop back to five after next weekend's games. The Valley is down to its core three teams (NDSU, SDSU, Illinois State) and Western Illinois, who has assembled a sneaky impressive set of wins over the last few weeks. Missouri State and UNI are completely off my grid for now. Both have at least one nice win but are just too inconsistent at this point.
Most of my teams from last week remain in the playoff field. There's just been some movement within these teams. The Southland got a bit more clear, although I still have only two teams in from that conference. And I'm still holding JSU to the bubble. Right now, the Gamecocks aren't in the field if the season ended today. But I do think they find themselves in the bracket when the regular season wraps up.
Seeds – SDSU took a brief hiatus from my seeds but returns with a convincing win at Illinois State, who moves out of being a seed. Delaware takes Towson's spot as a seed with the head-to-head win Saturday.
Additions/Subtractions – McNeese moved from barely in the field last week to on the outside of getting a seed with a big win against Central Arkansas to grab ahold of the No. 1 spot in the Southland standings. Northern Iowa suffered a bad, blowout loss at Western Illinois a week after beating No. 2 SDSU. UNI and WIU have basically the same resume, but with the head-to-head win, WIU is now in the field and UNI is out on the bubble.
Conference Count: (Not including bubble teams) CAA – 5, Big Sky (plus UND) – 5, MVFC – 4, SoCon – 3, Southland – 2