FCS Playoffs ‘Til I Die: CSJ Picks The FCS Playoff Field, 10/28/2021

Photo courtesy Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

There were ramifications galore from last week’s FCS games, affecting seeding, autobids, and survival. In the Big Sky, Weber State’s 35-34 win on the road at Eastern Washington simultaneously kept the Wildcats in the FCS Playoff hunt and likely knocked the Eagles out of the top overall seed. In the NEC, Sacred Heart’s dominating 31-13 win over Duquesne threw that autobid title race wide-open. And in the Missouri Valley, Northern Iowa kept their playoffs hopes very much alive with a dominating 26-17 win over South Dakota State on the road in Brookings.

Below check out highlights of last week’s big games, and check out out CSJ composite playoff bracket as well.

Highlights From Last Week

Weber State 35, Eastern Washington 34

Northern Iowa 26, South Dakota State 17

Sacred Heart 31, Duquesne 13

CSJ Staff Composite Picks For Autobids

Projected Autobids:

ASUN-WAC: Sam Houston
Big Sky: Montana State
Big South: Kennesaw State
CAA: Villanova
Missouri Valley: North Dakota State
NEC: Sacred Heart
OVC: UT Martin
Patriot League: Fordham
Pioneer: Morehead State
SoCon: VMI
Southland: Southeastern Louisiana

CSJ At-Large Picks (13): Chattanooga, Eastern Washington, East Tennessee State, Incarnate Word, James Madison, Missouri State, Montana, Northern Iowa, Rhode Island, Sacramento State, South Dakota State, Southern Illinois, UC Davis

First Four Out: William and Mary, Eastern Kentucky, Monmouth, South Dakota

Again, no autobids have been determined yet, so for most FCS teams, everything is still to play for this week. Two conferences in particular, the SoCon and NEC, seem extremely wide open with almost every team with a path to the conference title (and autobid).

Publicly, fans at Florida A&M and other SWAC teams have been wondering whether their second-placed divisional teams might be in the mix for at-large selection. In SWAC East, Florida A&M could get to 9-2 with their only losses to FBS South Florida and a 1 point loss to presumed SWAC East Champions Jackson State in the first week of the season. Similarly, although Prairie View A&M cannot play in the postseason (thanks to their scheduled game against Mississippi Valley State on November 27th during the first round of the playoffs), there is a path for Alcorn State to go 3-1 the rest of the way, losing to Prairie View November 13th (possibly making the Panthers SWAC West’s Champions) and then tuning around and beating Jackson State the following week on November 19th, which could be a quality win.

The at-large resumes of Florida A&M and Alcorn State are something we’re keeping an eye on at CSJ, but as of right now, it seems like their expected records and strength of schedule puts them behind other schools at the moment. Although it’s an inexact science, for comparison’s sake, Sagarin’s ratings rank Alcorn State’s (32.68) and Florida A&M’s (38.65) strength of schedules much, much lower than, say bubble team South Dakota (52.40), so in our consensus estimation they would need some help in terms of other contenders losing in order to get into the discussion. They’re in the discussion, but a pathway will still have to open.

CSJ Consensus FCS Playoff Seeds

  1. North Dakota State
  2. Sam Houston
  3. Southern Illinois
  4. Villanova
  5. James Madison 
  6. Eastern Washingon
  7. Montana State
  8. Southeastern Louisiana

CSJ’s Bubble Team of the Week

Eastern Kentucky.  At 5-2, the Colonels have a pretty good record, with wins over Austin Peay, Tarelton, Abilene Christian, and most recently a 38-35 thriller against Central Arkansas on the road, which puts them squarely in the playoff discussion. The question is – if they lose to nationally-ranked Sam Houston, do they have a legitimate shot at an at-large bid at 8-3?  

Strangely, their narrow 23-21 home loss to 4-4 Indiana State might hold the key. Indiana State is not out of the running for an at-large playoff shot – if they continue to impress, even finishing at 6-5, that loss might not look so bad in retrospect. Also factoring in is their win over 3-4 Austin Peay (see below). If the Governors run the table and win the OVC, suddenly one of the big beneficiaries might be a group of Colonels from Eastern Kentucky,

CSJ’s Fearless Predictions Of Games This Week With Playoff Implications

Austin Peay at UT Martin. Chuck: The Skyhawks (2-0, 6-1 overall) face off against the Governors (3-4, 1-1) in what might be UT Martin’s toughest test left in the season. Austin Peay is coming off of a crushing 47-6 win over title contender Murray State, while the Skyhawks survived a late surge by Southeast Missouri State 38-30. Expect another game with fireworks, whether APSU QB Draylen Ellis (who sat out last week for disciplinary reason) or QB Sheldon Layman (who played last week) lead the offense. Fearless Prediction: UT Martin 35, Austin Peay 21

Jamie: Austin Peay has underachieved all season. After being the preseason pick to win the OVC and a big win in week one against Chattanooga, the Governors really fell off. But this is their chance to salvage the season even though they wont make the playoffs at this point. UT Martin hasnt lost a game against an FCS opponent all season. The Governors will change that this weekend. Fearless Prediction: Austin Peay 29, UT Martin 23

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