Championship Subdivision football is back, ladies and gentleman.
With the 2013 FCS season starting in just a couple of short days, the playoffs and thus FCS Bracketology will take a different shape as it expands from 20 to 24 teams, shifts from seeding the top five to the top eight teams, and hands out an extra automatic bid given out to the champions of the Pioneer Football Conference.
Missing from this years bracket will be otherwise noteworthy contenders. Old Dominion begins their transition to Conference USA and the FBS ranks starting this season playing as an Independent after only four seasons at the FCS level. Additionally, Southern Conference powerhouses Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will move up to the FBS and the Sun Belt Conference in 2014, making them both ineligible for the league title and automatic bids.
Having won the last two FCS national championships, North Dakota State remains the favorite yet again returning QB Brock Jensen and FCS Preseason All-American defenders in CB Marcus Williams and LB Grant Olson. However, not far behind is Montana State with Payton Award candidate QB DeNarius McGhee leading an explosive offense for the Bobcats and two-time runners-up for the FCS title Sam Houston State led by their FCS Preseason All-American RB Tim Flanders.
With the FCS playoffs expanding from 20 to 24 teams and the perennial powerhouses of Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and Old Dominion ineligible, there are plenty of spots open for teams to try to make a run at the FCS National Championship. Let’s take a look at who has the inside track at the start of the season.
Big Sky: #2 Montana State
Big South: Liberty
Colonial: #5 Villanova
Mid-Eastern: #23 Bethune-Cookman
Missouri Valley: #1 North Dakota State
Ohio Valley: #21 Eastern Illinois
Pioneer: San Diego
Southern: #8 Wofford
Southland: #3 Sam Houston State
Big Sky: #4 Eastern Washington, #20 Montana, #18 Northern Arizona
Colonial: #19 James Madison, #10 New Hampshire, #15 Richmond, #11 Towson
Missouri Valley: #13 Illinois State, #17 Northern Iowa, #6 South Dakota State
Ohio Valley: Eastern Kentucky
Southern: #24 Chattanooga
Southland: #7 Central Arkansas
Last Four Out: #14 Cal Poly, Delaware, Sacramento State, #16 Stony Brook
The bottom is the first round match up. The winner would then play at the above team in the second round.
#1 North Dakota State
Eastern Illinois @ Illinois State
San Diego @ Central Arkansas
#5 Eastern Washington
Eastern Kentucky @ Chattanooga
#4 Sam Houston State
Richmond @ Liberty
Wagner @ New Hampshire
Bethune-Cookman @ Wofford
#7 South Dakota State
Northern Iowa @ Northern Arizona
#2 Montana State
Colgate @ James Madison