Don’t bother looking at my previous editions of “Playoffs ‘Til I Die” to get a solid playoff bracket. Like the rest of America, I had Eastern Washington and UC Davis in my brackets and now, let’s just say, they are not.
As the Big Sky autobid turns, however, we inch ever closer to a better playoff bracket. More is known now after five games as to who might be headed to the FCS Playoffs, and though this one, too, won’t be worth the paper it could be printed on, we are at least a tiny bit closer.
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 FCS playoff irrelevance instead of participation in the greatest Division I playoff system ever created.
Projected Conference Champions/Autobid Winners
The path is cleared for three possible teams to be the Big Sky autobid winner, and it’s basically a toss-up between 5-1 Montana, 5-1 Montana State, 3-2 Sacramento State, and 4-2 Weber State. All their recorded losses came to FBS teams so far, so in “scientific” P’TID fashion, we’ll make an imaginary eye test to determine who should get the autobid. Montana State has a win over an FCS Top 25 team (Southeast Missouri State), and they have one extra win against a Division I opponent. Very narrowly, I say Montana State gets the nod, despite a scare this weekend against Cal Poly.
4-1 Kennesaw State has “met expectations” by doing exactly as expected, beating the teams they should beat and narrowly losing to FBS Kent State. They’re still the autobid for now, but don’t keep your eye off of 4-1 Campbell, who could surprise and make a run at the Big South autobid.
Colonial Athletic Association
5-1 James Madison passed both of their road tests the last two weeks against Elon (a blowout, 45-10) and Stony Brook (a sloppy game where they won in OT, 45-38). The team that seems best suited to possibly beat James Madison might be 6-0 Villanova, who play the Dukes this week in what should be the game of the year so far in the CAA.
Something, something, 6-0 North Dakota State, something, something. Really, what more needs to be said?
4-1 Central Connecticut State really got my attention with a resounding 28-3 win over Sacred Heart this past weekend. The Blue Devils are 4-1 with only an FBS loss to Eastern Michigan on a blocked punt in the final minute. All signs point to a showdown with 3-2 Duquesne for the NEC title, but CCSU seems to have the edge at the moment.
The OVC title race looks like it’s going to be a really good one this season, with seven out of its nine members all in the thick of things. The early frontrunner seems to be 3-2 Southeast Missouri State, with losses to FBS Missouri and top Big Sky contender Montana State as well as a thrilling 43-37 overtime win against upstart Tennessee Tech last weekend. Right behind the Redhawks and Golden Eagles are Austin Peay, Jacksonville State, Eastern Kentucky, and UT Martin, all of whom are in the thick of things.
The Patriot League is just starting conference play, but so far 2-3 Holy Cross seems to be the team that is currently, barely, on top so far. 4-1 Georgetown, 2-3 Lehigh, and 2-4 Fordham all will be heard from before the season is done..
The question “Dayton or San Diego” has a few more names added to it this week as Davidson (1-0) and Drake (2-0) are also in the mix in the early going. 2-2 San Diego heads to Davidson this week in a game that should clarify an awful lot in who the PFL autobid will be.
Furman‘s statement win against Samford really stood out last week, putting them at an impressive 4-2, 3-0 conference record. Navigating the SoCon is never easy, and 3-2, 2-1 Wofford and 3-3. 2-0 Chattanooga still loom, but the Paladins have that look of a team that could end up in the conversation as a seeded team.
Every year is seems like there’s Southland Carnage, and this year is no exception, with a multitude of zero-, one- or even two-loss teams still in the conversation in this wacky league. This week with Nicholls‘ resounding 34-14 win over Central Arkansas though puts the Colonels at 3-2, 2-0 and puts them on top for now. Expect that to potentially change, but for now, it’s Nicholls.
- North Dakota State (↔️)
- James Madison (↔️)
- South Dakota State (↔️)
- Montana State
- Weber State (1 ⬆️)
- Furman (↔️)
- Villanova (1 ⬆️)
- Northern Iowa
Next Teams Up: Montana, Nicholls, Southeast Missouri State, Towson
Rest of the field:
Austin Peay, Central Arkansas, Central Connecticut State, Delaware, Holy Cross, Illinois State, Kennesaw State, Montana, Nicholls, Sam Houston State, San Diego, Southeast Missouri State, Stony Brook, Towson, Wofford, Youngstown State
Last Four In:
Youngstown State, Wofford, Sam Houston State, Austin Peay
First Four Out:
Chattanooga, Sacramento State, North Dakota, Southeastern Louisiana
Potential 1st Round Matchups
Holy Cross at Stony Brook
Central Connecticut State at Delaware
Wofford at Towson
Austin Peay at Illinois State
Central Arkansas at Youngstown State
Southeast Missouri State at Sam Houston State
Nicholls at Kennesaw State
San Diego at Montana
Potential 2nd Round Matchups
Auston Peay/Illinois State winner at No. 1 North Dakota State
CCSU/Delaware winner at No. 2 James Madison
Holy Cross/Stony Brook winner at No. 3 South Dakota State
San Diego/Montana winner at No. 4 Montana State
SEMO/Sam Houston State winner at No. 5 Weber State
Nicholls/Kennesaw State winner at No. 6 Furman
Wofford/Towson winner at No. 7 Villanova
Central Arkansas/Youngstown State winner at No. 8 Northern Iowa
Chuck has been writing about Lehigh football since the dawn of the internet, or perhaps it only seems like it. He’s executive editor of the College Sports Journal and has also written a book, The Rivalry: How Two Schools Started the Most Played College Football Series.
Reach him at: this email or click below: