This week we feature the number “3”, as in this is my third stab at trying to pick the the FCS Playoff field.
They say three is a magic number, but unless your thinking about the best No. 3 in the FCS – that happens to be UC Davis’ Keelan Doss, pictured above – it’s hard to say what that means in the world of FCS.
Last week, the No. 3 team in the FCS, South Dakota State, lost a thriller in the Fargodome, 21-17, to the No. 1 team of the FCS, North Dakota State. It was the Jackrabbits’ third game of the season. They are 2-1.
Chattanooga, my pick last week to win the SoCon title, was in line to get their third conference win and potentially make their title bid into a near-formality. Instead, they lost to East Tennessee State – who instead ended up 3-0 in the SoCon.
3-0 Illinois State lost, to Missouri State 24-21. Idaho State upset Northern Arizona, to go 3-1 overall in the Big Sky. 3-1 Towson beat 1-3 Citadel, 44-27.
And 3-3 Prairie View upset 1-3 Grambling 22-16 to win the State Fair classic. (I realize that last game has nothing to do with the playoff picture, but I thought it was cool anyway.)
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 after 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: Weber State still sits atop the Big Sky, and nothing else happened within the conference that changes my pick.
- Big South: As if we needed further proof, Kennesaw State beat Samford 24-10 this week to amply justify our picking them as Big South Champions.
- Colonial Athletic Association: Something something James Madison. For yet another week, no analysis is really necessary, however I probably should mention the glee JMU fans felt when they squashed Richmond 63-10 this past week.
- Missouri Valley: North Dakota State. In case you weren’t impressed before, the 21-17 win over their closest competition, South Dakota State, ought to have won you over.
- Northeast: In our weekly episode of “Who is good in the NEC this week”, we have to look at the top teams of the conference, Bryant and Sacred Heart, and determine: does the 3-1 Pioneers’ 43-24 loss to Cornell signal that they should be demoted below 3-1 Bryant, or 3-2 Duquesne, or 2-3 St. Francis (PA), in the NEC pecking order? For now, I suppose, let’s keep Sacred Heart as our autobid winner – though it still sure seems like anyone has a shot at this.
- Ohio Valley: Jacksonville State is still written in Sharpie. Beating Austin Peay this weekend 48-32, possibly eliminating the Govs from postseason play this week, was a huge step towards another title.
- Patriot League: Colgate continued to impress by shutting out William and Mary this weekend. They’ll be favored in all of their upcoming Patriot League matchups.
- Pioneer: San Diego is still the favorite, and their 49-10 dismantling of Stetson only reinforces my opinion.
- Southern: Wofford is still my pick to win the SoCon, with surprising East Tennessee State emerging from last week’s win against Chattanooga as primary challenger to the Terriers.
- Southland: McNeese State must be living under a lucky number. With Sam Houston State’s overtime win over Central Arkansas, only 2-0 Incarnate Word, whose conference wins have come against cellar-dwellers Stephen F. Austin and Abilene Christian, is still undefeated in Southland play. At this rate, if the Cowboys can just keep stringing together wins and letting their opponents pick each other off, they might end up winning the title by Halloween.
Falling out of the seeding conversation is Maine and entering the seeding conversation is Stony Brook.
Few took notice of the 4-1 Seawolves as a serious CAA contender before the season, but I wasn’t fooled at all. With a big core of players returning from last year’s playoff team, I saw them as a definite contender, and this week we put them in the seeding conversation as well after Maine lost to Yale this past weekend.
- James Madison
- North Dakota State
- Jacksonville State
- Kennesaw State
- Stony Brook
- Weber State
- South Dakota State
Rest of the field:
Chattanooga, Colgate, Central Arkansas, Eastern Washington, Elon, Maine, Montana, McNeese State, Northern Iowa, Nicholls, Illinois State, Rhode Island, Sacred Heart, San Diego, Western Illinois, UC Davis
Last Four In:
Western Illinois, UC Davis, Rhode Island, Nicholls
First Four Out:
Sam Houston State, Montana State, Villanova, South Dakota
Potential 1st Round Matchups:
Sacred Heart at Rhode Island
Illinois State at Eastern Washington
San Diego at UC Davis
Elon at Chattanooga
Nicholls at Central Arkansas
Maine at Montana
Colgate at Western Illinois
Northern Iowa at McNeese State