What is the Playoff Situation in the FCS?

Many people are wondering what the playoff situation looks like in the FCS following the craziness this past weekend. I will try to discern it as much as I can based on the auto bids that were won and all the at large teams jockeying for position.


Montana Grizzlies (Big Sky) – The Griz are 10-0 again and have already locked up the Big Sky Conference for what seems like the 63rd consecutive time. Thanks to their victory over Idaho State and Northern Arizona losing to Eastern Washington, the Griz have guaranteed a spot in the postseason once again.

Massachusetts Minutemen/Richmond Spiders (CAA) – UMass rebounded from a shocking loss at Rhode Island to thump fading New Hampshire and secure the CAA North. Meanwhile Richmond locked up the CAA South by winning perhaps the best game of the year over Delaware 62-56 in 5 overtimes. The Spiders essentially gain a playoff birth but neither they nor UMass have locked up the autobid yet. Due to the confusing way the CAA does things, a lot can happen this weekend. UMass/Richmond can win the bid if one wins and the other loses. If they both win or lose then the CAA has to step in and do a tiebreaker. There is also the possibility that Delaware wins and UMass and Richmond lose which would give the Hens the autobid or all three could lose and JMU could win and then the Dukes get the autobid. In short, its mindboggling and makes my head hurt so lets just see how it plays out on Saturday.

Northern Iowa Panthers (Gateway) – The nation’s latest #1 ranked team looked the part in a 68-14 destruction of Indiana State. The win means the Panthers (10-0, 9-0) clinch the Gateway’s autobid and will more than likely be the top seed in the tourney barring a setback next week.

Delaware State Hornets (MEAC) – It’s the Hornets (9-1, 8-0) and not the Blue Hens of Delaware that lockup the first playoff birth for the state this year. DSU knocked off Norfolk State in OT 28-21. The Hornets rallied from a 21-3 fourth quarter deficit to claim victory and also end the Spartans’ bid for a playoff birth.

Eastern Kentucky Colonels (OVC) – The Colonels (8-2, 7-0) clinched at least a share of the OVC crown and their first postseason birth in 10 years by beating Austin Peay 28-14.

Fordham Rams (Patriot) – The Rams (8-2, 5-0) can do no worse than tie for the league title and have already picked up the league’s autobid. They are just playing for positioning next week.

Wofford Terriers (Southern) – The Terriers (8-3, 7-2) clobbered Chattanooga 42-16 and won at least a share of the Southern conference and the autobid. Wofford wins its 2nd ever conference title and its season is highlighted by a home victory over then #1 ranked Appalachian State.

McNeese State Cowboys (Southland) – Their perfect run almost ended last week but a win over Northwestern State means that the Cowboys (9-0, 8-0) clinch at least a share of the Southland title. They already had the autobid due to their only competition being provisional Central Arkansas aren’t eligible to play in the postseason until next year.

To recap, here are the teams already in the 16 team playoff:

Montana, UMass, Richmond, Northern Iowa, Delaware State, Eastern Kentucky, Fordham, Wofford, McNeese State

That means that there are seven slots available. Here’s what I make of it:

The CAA should get dibs here due to how much stronger it is than every other conference. I liken it to the FBS’ SEC in that all the teams within the conference are at least good and beat each other up week in and week out. With the exception of the top 1 or 2 teams of the other conferences, I’d take any team from the CAA to win an out of conference game. With that in mind, the committee should note how hard it is to go through a CAA schedule and not lose at least twice. I think any team that goes 6-2 or better should get in and that means Delaware and James Madison should get two spots. Delaware had the heartbreaking loss to Richmond at home and has an FBS win over Navy. One of JMU’s losses is to FBS North Carolina and their others are to Delaware and Richmond by a total of four points plus they have wins over New Hampshire Northeastern and Rhode Island, the last two being on the road.  The other teams that will be looked at are New Hampshire and Hofstra but I think their dreams ended last week with bad losses, UNH to UMass giving them their fourth conference loss and Hofstra losing to Northeastern.

Using conventional wisdom, here’s the new list of teams that are in:

Montana, UMass, Richmond, Northern Iowa, Delaware State, Eastern Kentucky, Fordham, Wofford, McNeese State, Delaware, James Madison

Now lets look at teams who could vie for the last five spots:

Eastern Washington – A win next week means the Eagles will be 6-2 in the Big Sky. They have a bad loss to Portland State but they might be okay considering the other loss was to powerhouse Montana and that they blew away 2nd place Northern Arizona in Flagstaff last week. 

Liberty – The Flames are a perfect 3-0 this year in the Big South but to say their schedule was cupcake is a dramatic understatement. Probably their biggest win was Coastal Carolina who stunk it up this year and any game they played out of conference that was of any significance, they lost. I would be shocked if the committee let them in.

New Hampshire Wildcats/Hofstra Pride/Villanova Wildcats- I’ve grouped these schools together because I don’t think they get in based on one reason: bad losses. Their reputation as CAA schools precedes them but UNH has four losses and Hofstra and Villanova each have three. Hofstra also has to contend with that ugly 40-3 pasting put on them by UNH in Long Island a few weeks ago. Villanova has respectable losses (JMU, UMass and Richmond) but I don’t see them beating Delaware next week which would give them four losses and a ticket home. I wouldn’t be surprised or upset if any of these teams got in however as each has shown they can compete with anyone in the country.

Southern Illinois Salukis – They’re in. Plain and simple. They’re 9-1 and 5-1 in the Gateway with N. Iowa the only reason they didn’t finish first. No problems for the committee here.

Cal Poly Mustangs – The Mustangs’ hopes probably ended with a 31-28 loss at home to North Dakota State. They sit at 2-2 in the conference and the loss at South Dakota St. hurts. They’ll be hard pressed to get in though I’ve seen stranger things.

Iona Gaels/Duquesne Dukes – These guys’ problem is that they play in a crappy conference (the MAAC) with no strength of schedule. It’d be a joke for one of them to get in and not say Villanova or Hofstra.

Norfolk State Spartans – Their loss to Delaware State pretty much ended their season. The MEAC’s autobid is usually the only bid that the committee gives to this conference and for good reason.

Albany Terriers – They’re interesting because they beat Fordham and their losses have come against Montana and Hofstra. They’re undefeated in the NEC and I think the committee will definitely give them a look as long as they dont trip up next week against C. Connecticut.

Eastern Illinois Panthers – I think these guys get in. They’re second in the OVC and have close losses to E. Kentucky and Illinois State although that last one isn’t looking as good anymore.

Dayton Flyers/San Diego Toreros – The Pioneer League has the same issue as the MAAC does, a crappy schedule strength. Sure they’re both 6-1 in the conference but who have they played? Nobody. I wouldn’t give either of these teams a fighting chance against the worst CAA squad.

Appalachian State Mountaineers – They’re in. Plus if they have a convincing win this weekend, they could get a seed. Though they looked off against Wofford and GA Southern, the ‘Neers are starting to get hot at the right time and look ready to make a 3rd straight title defense.

Georgia Southern Eagles – The Eagles are difficult because although they did beat App State in Boone, they lost three conference games including maybe a back breaker to Furman at home last week. That might overshadow the win and keep GSU out.

Colgate Raiders – A lot of people have been telling me to put them on the radar and while they are a team to consider, I’m not sure the committee will put more than one Patriot league team in. Colgate (7-3, 4-1) will need a lot of help from the teams above it and it also has to beat a game Holy Cross squad this weekend in Worcester. Also that loss to mediocre Cornell doesn’t help either. Don’t see them getting in.

Here’s my prediction for the 16 team playoffs:

Montana, UMass, Richmond, Northern Iowa, Delaware State, Eastern Kentucky, Fordham, Wofford, McNeese State, Delaware, James Madison, Eastern Washington, Southern Illinois, Eastern Illinois, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern

I had a tough time picking the last spot but ended up with GA Southern based on their win over App State. If you can go on the road and beat the team that beat Michigan in the Big House, you have a good football team and I’d be willing to overlook an early loss to Chattanooga at home.

Now, I know that the committee uses absolutely no conventional wisdom when it comes to how they do their seedings and matchups so using my own wisdom, here’s my top four seeds along with what I think should be the first round matchups:

1 – Northern Iowa, 2 – Montana, 3 – McNeese State, 4 – Southern Illinois

NORTHERN IOWA v. Eastern Kentucky,  APPALACHIAN STATE v. James Madison, RICHMOND v. Wofford, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS v. Eastern Illinois, MCNEESE STATE v. Eastern Washington , MASSACHUSETTS v. Fordham, DELAWARE v. Delaware State, MONTANA v. Georgia Southern


2 Responses

  1. You forgot about Colgate. The committee loves the Patriot kids.

  2. Very true. It’ll be interesting to see how the at large bids shape up. I’ve always tried to predict these but without much success. I guess thats why the committee gets paid the big bucks to do this and I don’t!

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