It’s that time of year again!
This year, we are picking a bracket based on staff picks, Sagarin Ratings, the FCS Coaches’ Poll, and some special sauce to determine who we think will be in the playoff field, who is seeded, who is in, who is out.
In the FCS playoffs, there are 10 conferences that get autobids, the Big Sky, Big South, CAA, Northeast, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, Patriot League, Pioneer Football League, Southern, and Southland Conferences.
Two conferences, the SWAC and MEAC, choose to send their champions to the Heritage Bowl, a postseason event that’s separate from the FCS playoffs. What this means is that their conference champions play in the Heritage Bowl and not the playoffs, though second-placed teams could be considered instead,
A third, the Ivy League, chooses to not send its members to the FCS playoffs.
Projected Conference Champions/Autobid Winners:
- Big Sky: Southern Utah looks like the odds-on favorite, thanks to the fact that they get a bit more favorable of a schedule than Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks do control their own destiny – if they win out, they will be Big Sky Champions.
- Big South: Kennesaw State gets a slight nod thanks to the fact that they host Monmouth at home during the last weekend of the season. The Owls, Hawks, and the Charleston Southern Buccaneers are still in the conversation for the Big South title and autobid.
- Colonial Athletic Association: Undefeated James Madison is the odds-on favorite to repeat as CAA champs and get the No. 1 overall seed, but the title chase and autobid might not be decided until the final weekend of the year when they face surprising 7-1 Elon.
- Missouri Valley: It’s hardly set in stone with three brutal games left, but “all” North Dakota State needs to do is beat one-loss South Dakota at home and beat Illinois on the road to win the title. A huge test remains this week versus South Dakota State as well.
- Northeast: Duquesne has the edge, and if they beat their nearest competition at home, Central Connecticut State on November 11th, they should clinch the autobid.
- Ohio Valley: Every year it feels like we can pencil in Jacksonville State as the OVC champs, and barring a disastrous finish to the season this should be the case again.
- Patriot League: The Patriot League autobid is a hot mess, thanks to Lehigh’s loss to Fordham last Saturday and a seven-way, 3-3 tie for the championship still incredibly in play. If Lehigh or Lafayette win out, one or the other will be the Patriot League champions, but the team with the most favorable schedule and record is actually Colgate. The Raiders need Lehigh to lose one more game, though, and will be watching every week to see if that happens.
- Pioneer: San Diego plays Drake this weekend in the game that will likely determine the Pioneer champs. At home, I think the Toreros get the job done.
- Southern: Wofford will have to take care of business against 2-7 Chattanooga at home and 0-9 VMI on the road, and if they do, they will be SoCon champs, thanks to their opening-day win over Furman.
- Southland: Can Central Arkansas avoid the November Southland Curse and not slip up in their last three conference games? If they do, they will be Southland conference champs and would be in line for a seed.
- James Madison
- North Dakota State
- Jacksonville State
- Central Arkansas
- Southern Utah
- Sam Houston State
- South Dakota
Rest of the field: Colgate, Duquesne, Eastern Washington, Elon, Kennesaw State, Illinois State, Monmouth, Northern Arizona, San Diego, South Dakota State, Stony Brook, Villanova, Weber State, Western Carolina, Western Illinois, Wofford