FCS Playoffs ‘Til I Die: CSJ Picks The FCS Playoff Field, 11/15/2022

We’re now officially a week away from Selection Sunday, and Samford, with their win over Chattanooga, is officially in the field. Other than that, it’s a big heaping helping of chaos that means a ton can still happen on the last day of the regular season!

CSJ’s Sagarin Projections

If Jeff Sagarin’s famous college football ratings system were used to project the field of 24 teams this week, it would pick the following bracket. For the full breakdown, click here.

Massey Ratings

Another well-regarded rating system many people use as a tool is the Massey FCS Ratings System. If the playoff participants and at-large bids were determined by Massey Ratings this week, the winners would be (autobid clinchers highlighted):

ASUN-WAC: Abilene Christian
Big Sky: Sacramento State
Big South: Gardner-Webb
CAA: William and Mary
Missouri Valley: South Dakota State
NEC: St. Francis (PA)
OVC: Southeast Missouri State
Patriot League: Holy Cross
Pioneer: Davidson
SoCon: Samford
Southland: Incarnate Word

At Large Bids: Chattanooga, Furman, Idaho, Mercer, Montana, Montana State, North Dakota, North Dakota State, Richmond, Samford, Southeast Missouri State, Weber State, UC Davis

Who Wins the Autobids

Projected Autobids (* clinched):

ASUN-WAC: Abilene Christian
Big Sky: Sacramento State
Big South: North Carolina A&T
CAA: William and Mary
Missouri Valley: South Dakota State*
NEC: St. Francis (PA)*
OVC: Southeast Missouri State/UT Martin coin flip winner (projecting both to win Saturday)
Patriot League: Holy Cross*
Pioneer: Davidson
SoCon: Samford
Southland: Southeastern Louisiana

Why these teams?

WACSun Bid: The projection is Abilene Christian (7-3, 4-0) – projecting ACU beating SFA (5-5, 2-2) and Central Arkansas (5-5, 3-1) beating Jacksonville State: in this scenario, ACU wins the autobid on official projected head-to-head power ranking being above UCA in something called the “ASUN WAC Power Rankings”.

If Central Arkansas loses, an opening will emerge for Eastern Kentucky (6-4, 3-2) or Austin Peay (7-3, 3-2) to possibly be co-champs of the Atlantic Sun. If that happens, the WACSun bid will come down to computer ranking points.

Of these teams, Eastern Kentucky has the most intriguing at-large resume if it comes down to it, with a win over an FBS team bowl-bound Bowling Green of the MAC. Austin Peay, if they beat Alabama to end the year, would too, but unless they shock the world it seems unlikely that a win at home over Eastern Kentucky – and a lot of wins over lower third FCS teams – will be enough.

Big Sky Bid: The autobid will either come down to Sacramento State (10-0,. 7-0) or Montana State (9-1, 7-2), and both of these teams will be playing FCS playoff games after this week, one or both of them at home. But the outcomes of the games they’re playing this week are huge for at-large consideration.

If UC Davis (6-4, 5-2) can upset Sacramento State in their rivalry game, that will likely put the Aggies into the FCS playoffs, stealing an at-large spot. We are projecting Sacramento State to win their game.

If Montana (7-3, 4-3) can upset Montana State in their epic “Brawl of the Wild” game (where College Gameday is headed this week), that will likely put the Griz into the FCS playoffs, stealing an at-large spot. We are projecting Montana State to win their game, putting the Griz, at best, in our eyes, on the bubble.

Big South Bid: The projection is North Carolina A&T to upset Gardner-Webb to win the Big South title. The winner of the NCAT/G-W game wins the Big South title and the autobid Saturday. The loser likely won’t have a good enough resume to qualify in an extraordinary year.

OVC Bid: We are projecting both UT Martin (6-4. 4-0) and Southeast Missouri State (8-2. 4-0) to win this coming Saturday, which will have both the Skyhawks and Redhawks undefeated in OVC play. On paper they’ll be co-champs, but the autobid will come down to a coin flip.

If UT Martin gets the autobid by winning the coin flip, it will likely be at the expense of an at-large team. If SEMO goes 9-2 by beating 2-8 Murray State, they will have a fairly strong at-large resume of their own, with a 34-31 win over Southern Illinois (on the road) and winning seven out of their eight wins, at least, by double digits.

If UT Martin wins but loses the coin flip, they’d be in a similar boat as Austin Peay – a 7-4 team without a lot of wins over Top 40 FCS schools.

Pioneer Bid: While there a lot of teams that could theoretically be co-champs, only the Dayton (8-2, 6-1) or Davidson (7-3. 5-2) can win the autobid since they play each other on Saturday. Like the Big South, the rest of the league doesn’t have a team with a good enough resume to get into the conversation.

Solid At-large (9): Elon, Furman, Idaho, Incarnate Word, Montana State, North Dakota, North Dakota State, Richmond, Weber State

Of these nine teams, I hesitated the longest with Idaho. Assuming they win their in-state rival Idaho State, they’ll finish at 7-4 with their best win a 30-23 win on the road at Montana. We project it will barely be enough to get them in the “safe” at-large pool.

Chuck Last Four In: New Hampshire, Fordham, Montana, Delaware

Chuck’s Four Just Outside: Southern Illinois, Chattanooga, Mercer, Eastern Kentucky

Delaware (7-3, 4-3) has a very intriguing path to the playoffs. CSJ projects if they beat their rivals Villanova this weekend, an 8-3 record with wins over FBS Navy and Rhode Island barely eke out one of the last playoff spots.

Fordham, (8-2, 4-1) is another fascinating case. As long as they don’t stumble vs. Colgate, they’ll be 9-2 with narrow losses to an undefeated team on the road in overtime (Holy Cross) and an bowl-bound MAC team that may win their championship game (Ohio).

The huge question is whether these resumes are enough to squeeze out the 3rd and 4th placed teams of the SoCon, whom we are projecting to be Chattanooga (7-3, 5-2) and Mercer (7-3, 5-2). CSJ projects that will be the case.

CSJ Projected FCS Playoff Seeds

  1. South Dakota State
  2. Sacramento State
  3. North Dakota State
  4. Weber State
  5. Incarnate Word
  6. Holy Cross
  7. Montana State
  8. William and Mary