FIRST — This is a combo outlook: This is reflective of results up to now PLUS a prediction of next week's result for each team, with a look at what the final seeding/playoff picture looks like. In all weeks past? We've gone only on the "up to now" look.
The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) provides the only full playoff bracket in Division I football. It's part of the charm of this brand of gridiron action. On Sunday, Nov. 19, the FCS Playoffs bracket will be revealed via the full 24-team bracket — with 10 automatic berths awarded to the participating conference champions and 14 at-large spots for the next best programs. In some ways, it is similar to March Madness in college basketball in the spring.
Why wait to prognosticate?
WHAT IS THE FCS?: The answer, with current standings
FCS Playoffs Seeding Picture
THE OBVIOUS: To me? The top three are obvious after next week's games: SDSU goes 11-0 after beating Missouri State, Furman goes 10-1 overall after beating rival Wofford and a 10-0 finish vs. the FCS, and the winner of The Brawl out in Missoula gets a top three spot. The next question? Who goes where and why? SDSU is a no-brainer for No. 1 — but the "who's No. 2" argument is going to be a toughie.
Here's my take: I think Montana will win The Brawl at home and finish 10-1 in the reg. season, and will take No. 2. Could Montana and Montana State have a quick rematch in the playoffs? Yep. But for now? I see the Griz winning The Brawl and earning the No. 2 spot — avoiding the SDSU juggernaut theoretically until Frisco. Furman, has done everything right this year but doesn't play in the Big Sky? It gets the No. 3 seed, and if you believe in seeding projections — will make a trip to Montana for the semifinals/final four right before Christmas. However, voting trends in the FCS STATS-PERFORM vote have shown that some voters think Furman should be No. 2 — but the question is this: If Montana finishes 10-1 and Furman finishes 10-1 — will that sentiment hold?
I doubt it.
AFTER THAT: Wow, this gets crazy — even for the seedings. With a loss in The Brawl, how much do you drop Montana State after its third close loss to damned good teams (Griz, Idaho, SDSU)? Do we really think the Bobcats are so bad they should be a bottom-half seed? Clearly, MSU is still a seed, and if it isn't — barring some kind of 40-point meltdown loss next weekend in Missoula — where does MSU fit? Well, there are many arguments to be made:
South Dakota has had its best season in recent memory and seems like a No. 4 to me, but close behind are Idaho and Delaware (UD here based on my pick of the Blue Hens' home win over Villanova in another massive showdown). Delaware has a complicated CAA situation, but a 9-2 record (9-1 vs FCS) likely puts it in the mid-range seeding situation. If host UD doesn't beat 'Nova in the big rivalry? This changes everything.
Montana State and Sacramento State are hoping for teams at the top to drop ... as are North Dakota State and Albany.
The Rest of the Pack
JUST MISSED SEEDS: NDSU and Albany to me are clear "near misses" for seeds if my predictions are correct, but both could slip in there depending on key wins. Also, Austin Peay goes to 9-2 with a big win over Central Arkansas — and could take its conference's automatic bid and be in the discussion for maybe more.
AUTO BIDS: It seems likely Gardner Webb will take the Big South-OVC conglomerate since it knocked off UT Martin a few weeks back, and Lafayette seems in good shape to take the Patriot. Nicholls has already taken the Southland, stunning everyone when it took out Incarnate Word — who is now hoping to take an at-large berth but will need help. True tossups? How about Duquesne and Drake in the NEC and Pioneer? Both need key wins this weekend or those two conferences could turn into confusing messes — but both those conference champs undoubtedly will be served up with road trips in the first round to very likely mismatch losses.
AT-LARGES/LAST THREE IN: This is where the real debate is: How many Big Sky-CAA-Missouri Valley-SoCon teams deserve to get in with that 7-4 (and maybe 8-3) range record? It gets messy after that. Also, since the Big South-OVC seems likely to go to Gardner Webb, it forces a potential 9-win UT Martin team into "at large world", and the Skyhawks have a resume worth of consideration — and that will bump up an FCS power conference team with a 7-4 record, just watch. But who will be bumped?
The truth is? There could be multiple 8-3 teams that don't make the playoff field. It certainly looks possible. And what happens if say — North Carolina Central out of the MEAC doesn't win its conference and is available at 9-2? Then we'll go dizzy.
There is a lot to consider, but below is my bracket — taking into consideration current records AND a prediction of the final result on Nov. 18 (and trust me, there are some 50/50 type games listed below).
The FCS Playoff Picture
(Prediction is results up to now AND a game pick for next week's final regular season games)
(*) — Have beaten an FBS opponent in 2023. (#) — Clinched automatic playoff berth via conference title.
NOTE: In the Pioneer League, St. Thomas-MN is having a strong season, but is ineligible for the FCS playoffs because of NCAA transitioning rules (up from D-III), as is Tarleton State out of the UAC.
|SEED||FINAL PRED.||REC||PREDICT WK 12 (N18)||STRK|
|1||SDSU (#)||11-0||BEATS MIZZ ST||WON 11|
|2||Montana||10-1||BEATS MONT. ST||WON 7|
|3||Furman (#)||10-1||BEATS WOFFORD||WON 9|
|4||South Dakota||9-2||BEATS WIU||WON 3|
|5||Idaho (*)||8-3||BEATS Idaho St||WON 1|
|6||Delaware||9-2||BEATS Villanova||WON 2|
|7||Montana St||8-3||loses at Montana||LOST 1|
|8||Sac St (*)||8-3||BEAT UC Davis||WON 2|
|ALMOST 1||NDSU||8-3||BEATS UNI||WON 2|
|ALMOST 2||Albany||9-3||BEATS MONMOUTH||WON 5|
|ALMOST 3||Austin Peay||9-2||BEATS CENT ARK||WON 9|
|CONF. AUTO BIDS|
|BIGSO-OVC||Gardner Webb||7-4||BEAT CHAR SO||WON 5|
|NEC||Duquesne||7-4||BEATS MERRIMACK||WON 1|
|PATRIOT||Lafayette||9-2||BEATS LEHIGH||WON 2|
|PIONEER(&)||Drake||8-3||BEATS BUTLER||WON 8|
|SOUTHLAND||Nicholls (#)||6-4||BEATS SE LA||WON 2|
|AT LARGE||Villanova||8-3||loses at Delaware||LOST 1|
|AT LARGE||UT Martin||9-2||BEATS SAMFORD||WON 3|
|AT LARGE||North Dakota||7-4||BEATS ILL. ST||WON 1|
|AT LARGE||Youngstown||7-4||BEATS MURRY ST||WON 1|
|AT LARGE||Mercer||8-3||OPEN WEEK||WON 4|
|LAST 3 IN|
|BUBBLE 1||West. Carolina||8-3||BEATS VMI||WON 3|
|BUBBLE 2||SIU (*)||7-4||BEATS IND ST||WON 1|
|BUBBLE 3||UIW||8-2||BEATS HCU||WON 1|
|FIRST 3 OUT|
|OUT 1||Chattanooga||7-4||loses to P5 Bama||LOST 1|
|OUT 2||Richmond||7-4||loses W&M||LOST 1|
|OUT 3||Cent. Ark.||7-4||loses Austin Peay||LOST 1|
|CLOSE TO IN|
|CLOSE||Wm & Mary||7-4||BEAT RICHMOND||WON 2|
|CLOSE||East. Illinois||8-3||BEAT ROBT MORR||WON 4|
|CLOSE||UC Davis||6-5||loses to Sac State||LOST 1|
|CLOSE||Illinois St.||6-5||loses to UND||LOST 1|
|CLOSE||UNI||6-5||loses to NDSU||LOST 2|
MORE: MCLAUGHLIN'S POLL VOTE: After Week 11
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