The FCS Playoff bracket is out. We know who will get to rest next week, and who will be going where next Saturday in the first round.
[divider]MORE: Compare Any Two FCS Players or Any Two FCS Teams[divider]
Here's the 2017 FCS Playoff Bracket — announced at 11 a.m. ET Sunday morning on ESPNU.
THE FCS SEEDS (These eight will host on Dec. 2)
1. James Madison (11-0) vs. Stony Brook/Lehigh
2. North Dakota State (10-1) vs. NAU/San Diego
3. Jacksonville State (10-1) vs. Kennesaw/Samford
4. Central Arkansas (10-1) vs. New Hampshire/CCSU
5. South Dakota State (9-2) vs. UNI/Monmouth
6. Sam Houston State (10-1) vs. Nicholls/South Dakota
7. Wofford (9-2) vs. Elon/Furman
8. Southern Utah (9-2) vs. Weber St/WIU[divider]
SEEDING REACTION: The top four are in the exact order I had last night, and the 'NDSU being No. 2' argument held up, it would appear. If you win the Valley at 10-1, you deserve a top two seed and homefield throughout December. The only difference here is the committee put Sam Houston State at No. 6. I could maybe see an argument for the Bearkats to have snuck in at No. 8 ahead of my choice, Western Illinois, but I disagree that the Bearkats should be ahead of two automatic bid teams in Wofford and Southern Utah.
The Bearkats' top win now is a blowout victory over a Nicholls team that was a bubble team that got in. It's Richmond win was decent too, but the Spiders finished 6-5. Then there's the Central Arkansas game, which was never really never in doubt. There's no question Sam Houston State should be a playoff team and should have hosted in the first round, but No. 6 is a bit high, in my opinion.[divider]
Lehigh at Stony Brook (compare these teams)
San Diego at Northern Arizona (compare these teams)
Samford at Kennesaw State (compare these teams)
Central Connecticut State at New Hampshire (compare these teams)
Monmouth at Northern Iowa (compare these teams)
South Dakota at Nicholls (compare these teams)
Furman at Elon (compare these teams)
Western Illinois at Weber State (compare these teams)
FIRST ROUND REACTION: The biggest surprises for me here are Monmouth and New Hampshire getting in — and for different reasons. UNH definitely played a challenging schedule, but losing to a 4-7 Patriot League team by 25 points (Holy Cross) and being shutout this weekend by 4-7 Albany probably should have pushed the Wildcats out. To their defense, they did beat an FBS team in Georgia Southern, and they did knock off another playoff team in Elon.
And Monmouth? It did beat a conference champion in Lehigh (5-6), but like UNH it also lost to Albany. (I'm starting to wonder if Albany should be in the playoffs, using this criteria). Nicholls is the third team that surprised me. The loss this week to a 6-5 Southeastern Louisiana team — coupled with the Colonels' blowout loss to Sam Houston State — made me think they were out. In these three teams' place? I would have had Austin Peay, Delaware and Eastern Washington.[divider]
FIRST EIGHT OUT (ranked by Brian McLaughlin)
BUBBLE BURST REACTION: As said above, Austin Peay, Delaware and Eastern Washington surprise me as 'out'. Montana would have been in had it won at Montana State this weekend, and Western Carolina would be in if it had beaten Mercer last weekend. Youngstown State and Illinois State needed only one more Valley win and they'd be buzzsaws in the playoffs. Heck, they'd be buzzsaws if they were placed in this week.
Nobody would want to face them. The field is lucky. McNeese's biggest problem is Nicholls beats them out because of that 2-point head-to-head game back in August. Think early games don't matter? Think again. In all, I think the committee only made 2 mistakes out of the 24 teams it put in … I think Delaware and Eastern Washington should definitely be in ahead of New Hampshire and Monmouth. Austin Peay and Nicholls I think were 50/50 for the final spot in the field, and could see arguments for both 8-win teams.
THE QUARTERS, SEMIS AND FINAL
QUARTERS (Dec. 8-9)
JMU bracket host SUU bracket
NDSU bracket host Wofford bracket
JSU bracket host Sam Houston St. 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]