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.
Four conferences have determined their champions this week and they all have automatic bids to the 2017-2018 FCS Playoffs:
- NEC: Central Connecticut State
- Ohio Valley: Jacksonville State
- Pioneer: San Diego
- SoCon: Wofford
Projected Conference Champions/Autobid Winners:
- Big Sky: If Southern Utah beats Northern Arizona next weekend, the Thunderbirds will win the Big Sky championship and autobid, and that’s what CSJ is projecting. Alternative scenarios:
- If Northern Arizona wins and Weber State loses, Northern Arizona would win the Big Sky title and FCS playoff bit outright.
- If Northern Arizona wins and Weber State wins (they did not play during the regular season), their record against common opponents is considered. NAU lost to Montana and Weber State lost to Southern Utah, so if Montana also loses to Montana State, Weber State wound be Big Sky champions and win the autobid.
- If Northern Arizona, Weber State and Montana all win, the tiebreaker will come down to Sagarin rating at the end of the season between NAU (currently 107) and Weber State (currently 93). It would stand to reason that Weber State would then win the autobid at the conclusion of the regular season.
- Big South: The winner of the game this weekend between Kennesaw State and Monmouth will determine the Big South champion and autobid winner. The loser of this game, the 9-2 Hawks or 9-2 Owls, may be in consideration for an at-large bid.
- Colonial Athletic Association: Undefeated James Madison is still the odds-on favorite (and CSJ’s pick) to repeat as CAA champs and get the No. 1 overall seed, but 8-2 Elon could still win a CAA co-championship and officially win the autobid if they beat the Dukes this weekend and Stony Brook loses to Maine.
- Though Stony Brook could also finish with a 7-1 conference record, in the event of a 3-way co-championship James Madison would win the autobid by virtue of their win over New Hampshire (eliminating Elon from the 3-way tiebreak) and holding a near-certain Sagarin ELO_CHESS ranking over Stony Brook at season’s end.
- Missouri Valley: If North Dakota State beats Illinois State this weekend – and CSJ thinks that will happen – the Bison will once again be Missouri Valley champions.
- If NDSU loses to Illinois State, South Dakota State beats South Dakota, and UNI loses to Indiana State, South Dakota State would be conference co-champions with NDSU and would win the autobid by virtue of their win over the Bison.
- If NDSU loses to Illinois State, South Dakota State loses to South Dakota, and UNI beats Indiana State, North Dakota State would be conference co-champions with UNI and would win the autobid by virtue of their win over the Panthers.
- If NDSU loses to Illinois State, South Dakota State beats South Dakota, and UNI beats Indiana State, North Dakota State would be conference co-champions with UNI and South Dakota State and would win the autobid by virtue of the 3-way conference tiebreaker rules.
- Patriot League: If 4-6 Lehigh beats 3-7 Lafayette next weekend in the 153rd meeting of the most-played college football Rivalry (CSJ’s projection), the Mountain Hawks will win the Patriot League’s autobid and no worse than a co-Patriot League championship with Colgate. If Lehigh loses to their arch-rival, the Raiders will win the autobid and may win the Patriot League title outright.
- Southland: If Central Arkansas beats 2-8 Abilene Christian, the Bears will win the outright Southland Conference championship and the autobid will await. If the Bears lose, they would still be Southland co-champions with Sam Houston State and/or Nicholls, depending on the outcomes of their games. Only Sam Houston State could win the autobid in a three-way tie situation, and if Nicholls and UCA end up tied with 8-1 conference records, UCA would still win the autobid thanks to their win over SHSU.
- James Madison
- Jacksonville State
- Central Arkansas
- North Dakota State
- Sam Houston State
- South Dakota State
- Weber State
These are based off of the FCS Committee’s released seedings from last week and the outcome of this weekend’s games. CSJ feels Elon will be knocked out of the seeding conversation, with Weber State entering at the No. 8 slot.
Rest of the field: Central Connecticut State*, Delaware, Eastern Washington, Elon, Furman, Kennesaw State, Lehigh, New Hampshire, Nicholls, Northern Arizona, Northern Iowa, San Diego*, South Dakota, Southern Utah, Stony Brook, Western Illinois