FCS playoffs
UT Martin knocked off Eastern Illinois last weekend and continues to rise in the polls (PHOTO CREDIT: UTM Athletics)

FCS Playoffs Projection: One Seed Candidate Drops Hard

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

FCS poll vote

Western Carolina upped its record to 5-1 on the season with a nail-biting win against Chattanooga (PHOTO CREDIT: WCU Athletics)


There wasn't really a whole lot of movement here. The top four remained the same in their respective spots. The biggest debate question is whether Sacramento State is worthy of No. 4 or not, but why wouldn't it be? It lost to higher-seeded Idaho by single digits on the road, and beat Power Five Stanford — the only P5 win in the FCS so far this year. The FCS playoff committee will consider that a massive tiebreaker should there be a "rival" for No. 4 vs. the Hornets, but I'm just not seeing a worthy rival right now.

The bottom half of the seeding order is a bit trickier. I moved South Dakota and NDSU into the seeding situation after they sat out last week in the penalty box realm of "almost seeds". Even last week I doubted, with many future games available, that these two would be stuck outside the seeding picture for long. Let's face it, they'd beat 90-95 percent of the FCS, guaranteed. They will both likely win a lot more games this year. Western Carolina survived unranked Chattanooga on the road by only two points in a shootout, but the real question is — what will happen when Furman travels to Cullowhee, N.C. on Oct. 21 to play the Catamounts? That game will be awesome. Southern Illinois did drop out of the seeding picture right now after being blown out by Youngstown State.

The Rest of the Pack

FCS playoffs

Youngstown's TyShon King was just one reason the Penguins knocked off a strong Southern Illinois team last weekend (PHOTO CREDIT: YSU Athletics)

Again, there wasn't much movement after this past weekend's games. The biggest movers were Youngstown State coming into the poll after a 28-point pasting of Southern Illinois, as mentioned above. Also, North Dakota and Montana re-enter the picture after sitting out the past week or so. Weber State is the big debate at 3-3.

Here's the dilemma: Weber State beat Northern Iowa by 17, Northern Iowa beat Youngstown by 3, Youngstown beat Southern Illinois by 28 ... but this coming week we're going begin to phase out scenarios like this as the only way to rank, as we have enough results now to argue exceptions to the old "head to head, diehard" reasoning. The truth is, Weber State is not playing very well right now, but a school like Northern Arizona (2-4) has been very strong for the past three weeks but had some brutal results early on. This is where the human factor has to come in and decipher it all. But for now? Yep, Weber State is in the playoff picture — and with schedule rotation, avoids Sacramento State and Montana. But at this point? The Wildcats are down to their last out, last strike as far as the playoff picture is concerned.

North Dakota is back in, and considering how NAU's stock is rising, the UND win over NAU a few weeks back by 15 looks better and better every week, considering Weber State and Montana have both gone down to NAU and the Lumberjacks nearly knocked off Sacramento State last week (1-point loss). UND has lost to the teams it should lose to, and beat the teams it should — but at three wins, the big wins need to begin rolling in. Avoiding Southern Illinois and Youngstown State because of schedule rotation makes it interesting, but clearly the Fighting Hawks need four more wins out of six.

And yes, Montana is back in my poll vote and playoff picture. But there's no debate there, right? No need to discuss the Griz, right? See you next week ...

... Just kidding. The Griz are 5-1 and have earned the right to be in the discussion, so let's not waste time debating that, no matter how much you outsiders hate that school in Missoula. They love it. Two more wins and they'll be in the discussion for an at-large playoff berth, and three wins in the final five, and the Griz are a playoff lock. Games against Northern Colorado and Portland State get the Griz to 7 wins, but the argument will be this: What's the signature win? Is it the win over a wounded UC Davis, the win over D-II powerhouse Ferris State, or how about potential playoff-bound Butler? But it won't be one of the elite Big Sky teams if Montana doesn't handle Idaho, Sacramento State, or Montana State (Griz don't play EWU or Weber State due to schedule rotation). Honestly? If Montana is 7-4 with no elite Big Sky wins, there will be a massive debate on Nov. 19 about if this is a 7-4 team that needs to be left at home. So the Griz are in a good position, but they still have to win at least one of those three biggies left on the schedule to be a lock. Good luck with that, Griz, it won't be easy.

Just Missed

There are so many ways to look at this. Chattanooga played arguably its best game of the year this past weekend but lost by two at home to Western Carolina. Central Arkansas just keeps winning when it's not playing NDSU or a Power Five team, but there isn't that signature win yet. Villanova has one debatable signature win over Rhody (by 26), but lost badly to Albany. Basically, everyone in the "just missed" category has something going for it, and something going strongly against it. In other words, this category is "human".

The FCS Playoff Picture

(*) — Have beaten an FBS opponent in 2023.

1 SDSU 5-0
2 Montana St 4-1
3 Idaho (*) 5-1
4 Sac St (*) 4-1
5 Furman 4-1
6 West Carolina 5-1
7 South Dakota 4-1
8 NDSU 4-1
ALMOST 1 Delaware 4-1
ALMOST 2 Wm & Mary 4-2
BIG SO-OVC UT Martin 5-1
NEC Wagner 2-3
PATRIOT Holy Cross 4-2
PIONEER (&) Butler 4-2
UAC Austin Peay 3-2
AT LARGE East. Wash 2-3
AT LARGE Weber St. 3-3
AT LARGE Youngstown 3-2
AT LARGE SIU (*) 4-1
LAST 1 Albany 4-2
LAST 2 North Dakota 3-2
LAST 3 Montana 5-1
MISSED 1 Cent. Ark. 4-2
MISSED 2 Villanova 4-2
MISSED 3 Chattanooga 4-2
MISSED 4 Northern Ariz. 2-4
MISSED 5 New Hamp 2-3
MISSED 6 Illinois St. 3-2
MISSED 7 Mercer 4-2

(&) - In the Pioneer League, St. Thomas-MN is leading the league and can win the regular season title, but is ineligible for the FCS playoffs because of NCAA transitioning rules (up from D-III).