This has been an unprecedented past 12 months for college football with the Division I ranks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This past fall, we saw the FBS subdivision of Division I play through what right now looks like the peak of the pandemic of November and December. All FBS conferences did not start the fall season but all would finish with at least some sort of season.
For the FCS subdivision of Division I, it was much different. All FCS conferences would postpone its season until the spring of 2021. Some schools, however, decided to play nearly a full season in the fall of out-of-conference teams. Some of FCS schools played between 1-4 non-conference games in the fall. Some others did not play in the fall at all and will be playing this spring. While others will not play in either the fall or spring.
As we get ready for this first ever spring college football season within the FCS ranks, below shows all 127 schools that make-up the subdivision and shows what each school’s intentions are with the fill color showing where they stand for both the fall and the spring schedules, along with what in the Sagarin rankings would be the end rankings for the FBS side and what will be considered the preseason rankings for the FCS side. Note, that the Ivy League is the only FCS league that will not be playing in total but the other 12 FCS conference will have at least a portion of their league playing this spring.
Of the total of 127 Division I FCS schools, 94 of these schools intend to play this spring. However, all FCS conferences will look different and each will be playing different schedules. Some conferences like the Missouri Valley Football Conference will be playing a full conference schedule this spring of eight games, while other conferences like the Big South, NEC, and Patriot League will only play four conference tilts. All other FCS conferences are somewhere in between these two extremes in terms of their number of games.
The goal this year for those playing this spring will be to play in the Division I FCS playoffs that will be announced on Sunday, April 18. This spring season will see a reduced field from 24 teams it has typically been over the past several years to just 16 teams with 11 being the automatic bids from the champions from the FCS leagues and five at-large selections. The four rounds will be conducted each of the next four weekends, ending with the national championship game on Sunday, May 16th again in Frisco, Texas.
Of the 94 schools playing this spring, most will be eligible for the NCAA Divison I FCS playoffs but there are a few exceptions. The two SWAC division winners, who will be playing the SWAC Conference Championship game during the playoffs this spring, will not be able to participate in the playoffs but any SWAC team that was not a division champion would be eligible. There are also three teams playing this spring that currently have Academic Progress Rate (APR) sanctions in Howard, McNeese State, and Prairie View A&M that will not be eligible to play in the postseason. And there are also two recent Division II upgrades in Dixie State and Tarleton State, as well as one that moved up ahead of the 2019 season in Merrimack, that will not be eligible while each completes its Division I transition. So in reality, there are 86 eligible teams vying for the 16 NCAA postseason spots.
Below is a list of all 127 NCAA Division I FCS schools and the spring preseason ranking and the color shows if the teams played last fall and what each intends to do for the spring. There are 94 schools playing this spring and will be in the blue and yellow color codes. The 33 schools not playing this spring are in the green and gray color codes.
Of the Top 25 ranked teams in the Sagarin rankings, there are seven schools that will not be participating in the spring schedule, including the highest ranked #6 Montana, who will not play any games this academic year. #25 Central Arkansas was the lone school in the Top 25 that played last fall but will not play this spring.
The two teams that played in the most recent national title game in January of 2020 in North Dakota State and James Madison are the top two teams ranked this preseason. The Missouri Valley Football Conference had the most teams in the Top 25 with eight.
In the rankings, you will see the the FCS rankings first and the overall Division I ranking to the right of the the FCS ranking.
The numbers show the ranking in the within the FCS, as well as the overall Division I ranking.
The Top 10 and Top 30 are the overall Division I Sagarin rankings.
Originally from LaMoure, North Dakota, Kent is a 1996 graduate of North Dakota State University. His prior writing experience is over 15 years having previously worked with D2football.com, I-AA.org, and College Sporting News before coming to College Sports Journal in 2016. His main focus is college football is the Missouri Valley Football Conference within the Division I FCS. And in 2017, he began also to look at the FBS Group of Five conferences of the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.
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