Now that it's the second round of the FCS Playoffs, the big question on everyone's mind is which seeded teams, if any, will be upset this weekend. We've written a couple of articles about it (that you can find here and here), and you're blowing up Brian McLaughlin's spot on Twitter, all looking for answers to that elusive question.
So I thought it might be fun to take a look through the recent history books and see if we can find any trends in the 24-team playoff era (since 2013) that might guide us toward a greater understanding of this year's playoff.
Upsets Since 2013
Sam Houston State 37 | #3 Jacksonville State 26
Analysis (All 2nd Round Records)
Seeded Teams Overall Record: 22-10 (.688)
Seeded Teams Record When Playing Conference Opponent: 10-3 (.769)
Seeded Teams Record with Top 25 Scoring Offense: 19-5 (.792)
Seeded Teams Record with Top 25 Scoring Defense: 11-2 (.688)
Seeded Teams Record with Top 25 Scoring Offense and Defense: 10-0
Seeded Teams Record with Top 25 Scoring Offense OR Defense: 20-7 (.741)
Seeded Teams Record with Top 10 Scoring Offense OR Defense: 12-4 (.750)
#1 Seeds Record: 4-0
#2 Seeds Record: 4-0
#3 Seeds Record: 2-2
#4 Seeds Record: 3-1
#5 Seeds Record: 2-2
#6 Seeds Record: 1-3
#7 Seeds Record: 3-1
#8 Seeds Record: 3-1
At its most basic, my conclusion after all this work is that good teams win, for the most part. Obviously, 32 games is a very small sample size to actually learn much, but there are a few interesting things I'd like to point out.
Seeded teams have a better winning percentage against teams from their conference than they do overall, which I found surprising. I would have thought that the familiarity of a conference opponent would help narrow the gap between a seed that's probably a better team, and their challenger.
It's weird that six seeds are 1-3 through this whole thing. It's almost definitely a product of small sample size, but keep an eye on Sam Houston State, this year's six seed, just in case. Less surprising is the fact that one and two seeds are undefeated, so I wouldn't worry about James Madison or North Dakota State this weekend. I didn't really need historical data to tell you that, but it's there anyway.
Three of this year's seeds are in the top 25 in both scoring offense and defense, the aforementioned JMU and NDSU along with Central Arkansas. If our trends hold, those three teams should be fine this weekend.
It's worth noting that Wofford is the only one of this year's seeds to not be in the top 25 of scoring offense or defense. Part of that is a product of their triple option system, but it's still not great. The only other time that's happened in the 24-team era was in 2015 when another triple option school, Charleston Southern, beat the Citadel 14-6 in the second round.
Warning: I'm basing this part entirely on my research, which is from an incredibly small sample size. If you want information on specific matchups, check out this great piece by Sam Herder.
James Madison and North Dakota State, as I said before, are solid bets to win. Jacksonville State has lost twice as a three seed, including last year to YSU, so who knows. UCA, based on their scoring offense and defense, would seem to be a quarterfinal team.
South Dakota State is playing a conference opponent in UNI (who did already beat them this year), and they are eighth is scoring offense this year, so the percentages are in their favor. Sam Houston State is the six seed, so they'll probably lose. Wofford's the only team without a top 25 scoring offense or defense so maybe they're in trouble. Southern Utah is playing a conference opponent in Weber State, which would seem to give them an edge, but the Big Sky has had three seeds upset since 2013, the most of any conference.
So there you go, hope this was illuminating. Enjoy the games this weekend![divider]