FCS Playoffs ‘Til I Die: Taking a Week Off?

You know what’s great, especially in this FCS playoff bracket picking game? Occasionally being right.

Most weeks, it seems, I need to rip up by bracket and start over, because of all the upsets and outcomes I failed to pick correctly.

Then there are weeks like last week, where Wofford takes care of business against Mercer, North Dakota State and Colgate keep winning and, well, Elon didn’t do anything wrong during their bye week.

It makes this week… calmer, more relaxed. More cut-and-paste and less checking of Google Maps because Jacksonville State has dropped from seeded team to 1st round host.

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 before 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: Fall behind 21-3 at one of the toughest places to play in all of FCS? No problem for 7-1 (5-0) UC Davis, who for the second straight week cam from behind to obliterate a conference opponent, with this week’s victim Montana, 46-21. A visit to Northern Arizona looms this week, and a huge home game against 6-2 (4-1) Eastern Washington looms after that.
  • Big South: 7-1 (3-0) Kennesaw State dispatched of Charleston Southern 38-10 this week, and have 5-3 Campbell on the docket this week in their march to the Big South title.
  • Colonial Athletic Association: It’s nice to be right occasionally, at least for one week, anyway. Last time out I projected 6-2 (4-1) James Madison as the eventual CAA champions, and they went out and eked out a tough win against Stony Brook 13-10, while Towson, who was undefeated in CAA play, was upset 40-36 by Delaware, knocking them out of the top spot. I still secretly think the Dukes got this, though they’ll have to take care of business against New Hampshire this weekend first. And if they falter, Towson, Maine and Delaware still loom with one conference loss each.
  • Missouri Valley: If 8-0 (5-0) North Dakota State beats Youngstown State this weekend and Western Illinois loses to Southern Illinois, the Bison will clinch the Missouri Valley autobid, because they will own head-to-head wins against the other two conference loss teams they could tie (South Daktota State and Northern Iowa). It might take one week, or two at most, but NDSU will be the Missouri Valley champs.
  • Northeast: With Sacred Heart’s resounding 49-26 win over Bryant, the 5-3 (3-0) Pioneers are in the driver’s seat for the NEC championship. A speed bump at home vs. Robert Morris looms this week, and a possible championship-clinching game against Duquesne (5-3. 2-1 NEC) looms.
  • Ohio Valley: Three teams, 6-2 (5-1) Jacksonville State, 6-2 (4-1) Southeast Missouri State and 4-4 (4-1) Murray State are in a thrilling OVC race to see who might take the conference title. SEMO is in the driver’s seat – if they win out, they’ll win the conference and the autobid, thanks to their win over Jacksonville State some weeks ago.
  • Patriot League: Barring an act of God, Colgate will be the winner of the Patriot League title an autobid. The question is whether a 9-1 record, and a smothering defense that held Georgetown to under 100 yards last week, will be enough to give the Raiders a seed.
  • Pioneer: San Diego pummeled Jacksonville 59-35 last week to remain the favorite in the Pioneer Football League race. Two teams, Drake and Marist, could dethrone the Toreros, and they both take on San Diego at home in the next three weeks.
  • Southern: 6-2 (5-1) Wofford just keeps winning must-win games. Last week’s 42-21 win over Mercer keeps the Terriers in the top spot, but 7-2 (5-1) East Tennessee State, 6-2 (4-2) Chattanooga, 4-4 (3-2) Mercer, 4-4 (3-2) Samford, and 3-4 (3-2) Furman all have credible shots at the title as well. There’s going to be a lot of meaningful games in the SoCon in November.
  • Southland: It’s hard to understate how huge 6-2 (5-1) McNeese State‘s win over 5-3 (4-2) Central Arkansas was. It puts McNeese State into the Southland driver’s seat, with three non-title contenders to go. Since this is the Southland, it’s a fools errand to say things are settled yet, but on paper, the Cowboys should barely eke out the Southland title over Central Arkansas, 5-3 (4-2) Nicholls, and 5-3 (4-2) Sam Houston State.


It’s always nice when you don’t have to change your seedings from last week to this week. All my teams from last week either won or were on a bye week, so, cut and paste.

  1. North Dakota State
  2. Kennesaw State
  3. James Madison
  4. UC Davis
  5. Eastern Washington
  6. Elon
  7. Wofford
  8. South Dakota State

Next Teams Up: Jacksonville State, Weber State, Colgate, Delaware

Rest of the field:

Colgate, Delaware, East Tennessee State, Jacksonville State, McNeese State, Northern Iowa, Idaho State, Illinois State, Rhode Island, Sacred Heart, Sam Houston State, San Diego, Southeast Missouri State, Stony Brook, Weber State, Towson

Last Four In:

Idaho State, Sam Houston State, East Tennessee State, Delaware

First Four Out:

Chattanooga, Nicholls, North Dakota, Central Arkansas

To me, it feels like there’s a pretty deserving SoCon or Southland team right not on the outside looking in. Central Arkansas might have played themselves right onto the bubble with their loss this week.

Potential 1st Round Matchups:

Sacred Heart at Rhode Island
Southeast Missouri State at Illinois State
San Diego at Weber State
Northern Iowa at Delaware
Idaho State at McNeese State
Sam Houston State at Stony Brook
Colgate at Towson
East Tennessee State at Jacksonville State

Potential 2nd Round Matchups:

SHU/URI winner at No. 1 NDSU
ETSU/Jacksonville State winner at No. 2 Kennesaw State
Colgate/Towson winner at No. 3 James Madison
USD/WSU winner at No. 4 UC Davis
Idaho State/McNeese State winner at No. 5 Eastern Washington
SHSU/Stony Brook winner at No. 6 Elon
SEMO/Illinois State winner at No. 7 Wofford
UNI/Delaware winner at No. 8 SDSU