Last week’s bracket? Pure trash.
Elon, a seed? That evaporated once Delaware upset them 28-16.
Eastern Washington, king of the Big Sky? Weber State says “not so fast,” delivering a humbling 14-6 win over the Eagles.
Wofford, top dogs in the SoCon? The Furman Paladins had something to say about that, knocking the Terriers off the top spot with a 34-14 defeat.
All the upsets and all the craziness made my bracket last week birdcage-lining material.
This week I’ll do my best to have my projected bracket not be birdcage lining.
Once again, a quick recap of the rules for the ability to qualify for the FCS Playoffs:
The field for the FCS Playoffs is determined at the conclusion of the FCS regular season, which is the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
There are 10 conferences that get autobids to the playoffs, 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 Celebration Bowl, a postseason event that’s separate from the FCS playoffs. (Additionally, the SWAC also plays a championship game, and also have scheduled some games on Thanksgiving or beyond.) What this means is that their conference champions play in the Heritage Bowl and not the playoffs, though second-placed teams that don’t have Thanksgiving or later games 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: All Eastern Washington had to do to knock Weber State out of the title discussion and keep on a clear path to the title was to win this Saturday, but they didn’t. The Wildcats’ win opens up the path for 3-0 UC Davis to win the Big Sky. Suddenly the Aggies, with a favorable schedule, are the team with a clear path.
- Big South: Kennesaw State, who have a bye week this week, have two very interesting games left. One is vs. 5-1 Campbell on 11/3, which will likely determine the Big South autobid. The other is vs. Jacksonville State on 11/17, which could be both the start of a most excellent Rivalry and could help determine one or more of the seeds.
- Colonial Athletic Association: There are seven teams in the CAA with zero or one conference losses. Two teams, Towson and Maine, are 3-0 and have some winnable games on their schedule, but it’s Maine who avoids a brutal matchup with James Madison on their schedule. If Maine can’t take care of business, Towson, James Madison, Delaware, Stony Brook, Delaware, or Elon could be involved in a massive tie for the league title, with the autobid determined by tiebreakers. Nobody wants that.
- Missouri Valley: North Dakota State. Off a bye week, this week they face one of the few teams that could knock them off the path for the Missouri Valley title – Illinois State. If they beat the Redbirds their path to the title will almost be completely clear, as they’ve beated South Dakota State head-to-head and the rest of the conference would have two losses already.
- Northeast: My current pick for the NEC title, Sacred Heart, has a big game this weekend versus one of the title contenders this weekend, Central Connecticut State. The winner of this contest will have the upper hand, though Bryant and Duquesne still loom in the background.
- Ohio Valley: Jacksonville State is still written in Sharpie. If they can beat Southeast Missouri State and Murray State in consecutive weeks, even an act from a higher power won’t be able to dislodge them from the OVC title.
- Patriot League: Speaking of teams written in sharpie, Colgate is pretty much there with a 3-0 record in conference. They have a bye this week after shutting out regional rival Cornell last week 31-0.
- Pioneer: Dayton gave San Diego a scare last week, but the Toreros won 36-34 to remain the favorite in the Pioneer Football League race.
- Southern: Is that... East Tennessee State alone on top of the SoCon? Yes – for the first time since 1996, the Bucs are in sole possession of first place thanks to their 26-23 win over The Citadel and Wofford’s upset loss to Furman last weekend 34-14. A huge road game against the Terriers looms this week.
- Southland: McNeese State sat on their bye week and just saw the planets align even more in their favor in the SoCon race with Lamar’s upset over Incarnate Word (27-21) and Abilene Christian’s upset over Nicholls (28-12). The Cowboys can now likely knock Incarnate Word out of the title conversation if they beat them at home this weekend.
Falling out of the seeding conversation is – three different teams!. Elon, Eastern Washington and Wofford fell out, and the teams taking their place are… UC Davis, East Tennessee State and Maine.
You might think picking those three seeds are a bit nuts, but take a peek at their schedules. I think they all have favorable schedules and if they can manage one big win (for example, ETSU beating Wofford this week), I think it won’t be a question that, say, a 9-2 or a 10-1 ETSU gets a seed.
- North Dakota State
- Kennesaw State
- South Dakota State
- James Madison
- Jacksonville State
- UC Davis
- East Tennessee State
Next Teams Up: Eastern Washington, Elon, Wofford, McNeese State
Rest of the field:
Colgate, Central Arkansas, Eastern Washington, Elon, McNeese State, Northern Iowa, Idaho State, Illinois State, Rhode Island, Sacred Heart, San Diego, South Dakota, Stony Brook, Weber State, Towson, Wofford
Last Four In:
Northern Iowa, Wofford, Idaho State, South Dakota
First Four Out:
Sam Houston State, Delaware, Missouri State, North Dakota
Potential 1st Round Matchups:
Sacred Heart at Rhode Island
South Dakota at Illinois State
San Diego at Weber State
Wofford at McNeese State
Northern Iowa at Central Arkansas
Elon at Stony Brook
Colgate at Towson
Idaho State at Eastern Washington
Potential 2nd Round Matchups:
UNI/UCA winner at NDSU
SHU/URI winner at Maine
USD/ISU winner at SDSU
Elon/SBU winner at JMU
Colgate/Towson winner at ETSU
USD/WSU winner at UC Davis
WOFF/MCNE winner at Jax State