CSJ Roundtable, Spring Postseason Edition: Our Thoughts On The Official FCS Bracket
April 20, 2021
The FCS Playoff bracket was announced this past Sunday at the conclusion of the historic spring football season. After the euphoria of realizing that the FCS actually made it to the finish line, despite lots of uncertainty, CSJ then proceeded to do what they do best – enter a spirited discussion on who really should have been in, out, seeded, or not.
College Sports Journal: Thoughts on the seeds?
Ben Schleiger: I thought Weber State gets punished and Jacksonville State rewarded. I don’t see either as a strong four seed, but Weber definitely got slapped on the wrist for their low margin of victory, despite being undefeated.
Kent Schmidt: I thought South Dakota State was the deserving of the top spot. The Jackrabbits did lose to North Dakota early in the season, but I felt the strength of schedule of the MVFC playing nearly a full schedule, this league was by far the strongest league overall and that to me deserves the top spot.
Sam Houston was a bit of a surprise to me being #2, but they went undefeated in Southland play and were deserving of a seed.
James Madison being #3 to me was more of a historical placement given its strength of schedule but still were an undefeated team so a seed was warranted.
Jacksonville State did have the most wins of any FCS school this season and was why the committee thought they were deserving of the #4 spot, but they also had two losses. I thought an undefeated Weber State should have been the fourth team instead.
Rob Butler: South Dakota State went to the Fargodome and beat North Dakota State, so of course they should have gotten the top seed. I’m glad Sam Houston got the #2 seed – the Southland was tough from top to bottom this year. Weber State should have been the #4 seed.
Ray Maloney: In a nutshell, the NCAA (AKA Mark Emmert) has no clue as to what they are doing. First of all, there is no way South Dakota State is the No. 1 team in the nation. Nor is Jacksonville State deserving of a No. 4 seed. Nor is Missouri State deserving of anything, other than motorcycle driving lessons for its coach.
Jamie Williams: I think they are probably right. I thought it would be SDSU/JMU at 1/2, Sam Houston at 3 and Weber at 4. But I don’t really have an issue with how it turned out. The only thing that kind of perturbs me is how the teams were laid out when the committee did their initial top 10 reveal. Seems they didn’t quite hold consistent to that. JMU was 1, and dropped 2 spots despite picking up a ranked win, easily. Jacksonville State wasn’t even in the Committee’s top 10 and got a seed. So that was inconsistent, but I think the 4 seeds are actually correct.
Chuck Burton: Congrats, Weber State – your reward for navigating one of the toughest schedules of the spring is Southern Illinois at home followed by a trip, if you win, to South Dakota State! Yeesh. The Wildcats deserve better. I firmly believe margin of victory should be a negligible factor in determining seeds – if you win all your games and you’re in a conference with proven great competition like the Big Sky, you should be a seed.
CSJ: Thoughts on five Missouri Valley teams in the field?
Ben: Just like when the CAA got a similar amount of teams in a few years ago, it does feel unjust to have five MVFC teams when there are other deserving teams in similar Top 25 spots comparatively.
The bias of the MVFC being the best conference in the top 25 leads those wins to look fantastic for ranked wins – it’s circular logic. The truth is that if they all have one loss and the majority of their wins look great due to “ranked wins” – no matter how the “ranked teams” actually do during the course of the season – then of course the committee will have an out as to why five were chosen.
The committee put in teams with playoff wins rather than playoff teams for some of the at-large bids. Out of Missouri State, North Dakota, and Southern Illinois I think only the Salukis were deserving of a playoff chance.
Chuck: Even in normal FCS Playoff years I’m against conferences’ fifth-best teams making the field, and to me, Southern Illinois had played themselves out of a playoff spot long before this past weekend, as anyone who witnesses their 44-3 shellacking at home to South Dakota State would attest. I felt there were multiple teams with fewer losses that deserved to be in the field above them. However, I was fine with Missouri State making it in, who at least had a couple of good wins to close out the year.
Ray: Yes, I am a proud graduate of North Dakota State and will never make any bones about that. Being a Bison defines a big part of who I am. I am also known for being critical of the Bison when the time is warranted and am reminded constantly of a conversation I had with a former NDSU coach when I called for his firing when the Bison were disappointing the fan base.
But, there is no way the MVFC should have five teams in this year’s playoff.
Rob: The MVFC is the toughest conference in FCS football – all five teams were deserving of bids. Each of the MVFC entrants had at least four wins – and most five – to clinch their bid.
Kent: I think the Missouri Valley benefitted in playing nearly a full conference schedule for getting the five teams in. When most schools were playing just conference schedules and only playing 4 or 5 games, having more wins in what I believe is the top ranked conference was the right choice when in doubt.
Jamie: Its hard to argue it too much. Teams that could have played themselves into the field lost on Saturday, so it almost forced the committee to give Missouri State and Southern Illinois the last two slots. Had Southeastern Louisiana played even a little defense and beat the Salukis, they would have been in, and no one would have had an issue with the teams.
CSJ: Who got stiffed?
Rob: Weber State. If the Wildcats feel any disrespect or slight by the seeding, maybe it’s a good thing. They’ll be ready for Southern Illinois.
Kent: Weber State to me was the team despite getting a home game in the first round. An undefeated conference champion from one of the three leagues to get multiple teams into the tournament should have received a seed in my opinion.
To add to the insult, if they beat Southern Illinois they will most likely face the #1 overall seed in South Dakota State. If they were the 5th best team in the bracket, that’s a really cruel blow.
Ben: Richmond, UC Davis, Kennesaw State, and Murray State are teams I think could use a get well soon card from the committee. Not all of these teams are better than all of the MVFC at-larges, but comparatively Richmond and UCD should be upset that this is a smaller playoff year.
Ray: Ben nailed it perfectly, a get well soon card hand delivered by Emmert and the rest of the committee to Richmond, Murray State and others is more than warranted..
Jamie: If I had to pick one team I thought should have been in the field, MAYBE East Tennessee State. They beat their conference champion, but their loss to Mercer ultimately kept them out. There really aren’t 16 deserving teams.
In the playoff bracket, it sure seems like Sam Houston got stiffed. Sure, they got the 2 seed. But if they make it to Frisco, boy will they have earned it. Monmouth is no slouch out of the Big South. I do think they win that. But after that, they would either face Eastern Washington or North Dakota State. Survive that and its potentially James Madison. All three of these teams represent all of the FCS National Champions of the last decade!
Chuck: Shouldn’t Austin Peay have gotten more serious consideration as an at-large? They had two bad losses to start the sping (vs. UT Martin and Tennessee Tech), but they closed the year by beating Jacksonville State (the No. 4 seed) and “nationally-ranked” Murray State (quoted as a “quality win” for Jacksonville State’s resume for being a seed).
Adding to this is the fact that three loss Southern Illinois seems to have made the field pretty much solely on the strength of its win over North Dakota State. Why is a win over two-loss, unseeded NDSU at home supposedly worthy, but a win over two-loss, seeded Jacksonville State on the road not?
You shouldn’t be able to have it both ways – either Jacksonville State is a 4 seed, and Austin Peay’s win is the best at-large win resume victory in FCS this spring, or it’s not, and Austin Peay deserves to be sitting at home and Jacksonville State deserves to sent on the road in the first round of the playoffs. It’s not both, which is that the FCS Playoff committee chose to do.
CSJ: The FCS Playoff committee had a golden opportunity to invite 5-1 Southern as the final team in their bracket, but chose not to do so. Was this a mistake?
Chuck: Though I think Austin Peay was a deserving team that was left out, I felt like Southern’s 5-1 record was a great chance to offer an olive branch to the SWAC, who hadn’t had a representative to the FCS Playoffs since Jackson State in 1997. That’s because the SWAC chose to create a conference championship game, which had the effect of freezing out their best teams from consideration for the official NCAA FCS postseason.
Southern, one of the teams of the legendary HBCU Rivalry the “Bayou Classic”, had the record, and a rare opportunity to participate. In normal years, the timing of their Rivalry game vs. Grambling means they choose not to participate in the playoffs. But this spring, their team, and their fans, would have given these playoffs a huge boost of interest from the SWAC community and also been a headline that would have highlighted the playoffs from coast to coast.
Instead, the FCS Playoff subcommittee picked as its final school Southern Illinois, a three-loss team that finished in 5th place in their conference and also lost 44-3 at home to South Dakota State. Opportunities like this to expand the viewership and reach of the FCS Playoffs don’t come around very often, and the FCS Playoff subcommittee blew their chance here in a big way.
Ben: In an equality standpoint, yes, because it may as well be a free-for-all this year and other conferences are represented. But, from a quality opponent perspective, I think they would get matched up with a one or two seed and see their playoff hopes get dashed by a 30-point margin.
Jamie: I don’t agree. Their strength of schedule was pretty bad. There was some debate as to whether the SWAC opted out of the playoff picture anyway, but it was a moot point.
Ray: Ben is right – I think the goal of a selection committee is to reward teams based on the body of work they completed. Perhaps this year, more than many past years, that body of work is even more important and Southern did all it could.
Kent: No, I don’t think so. I think the best six at-large teams really got the spots. But in some ways I would have liked to see another conference represented in this tournament to truly get a national titlist.
Rob: Southern has played better since losing to Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but I don’t think their resume is playoff-worthy. However, the future is bright for the Jaguars – the NCAA’s waiver of eligibility this season will allow everyone back in the fall. Their roster is loaded with fifth and sixth-year players.