FCS Playoffs Overview – Week 9


The first eight weeks of the college football season, we’ve previewed CAA matchups.  It’s the conference we know best, and it followed that it should be our focus.  However, the FCS regular season is winding down and we’re approaching playoff time, so it’s important to start turning our focus there.

Last week and in this upcoming week, Saturday Blitz’s FCS Roundtable has discussed bubble teams that most likely won’t win their conferences but are on the edge of at-large consideration.  We’ll continue that a bit by looking at where each conference race is now and where it could end up by season’s end.  What teams will win automatic playoff berths?  What teams will get at-large invitations?

There are ten conferences whose regular season champions will earn automatic invitations to the FCS playoffs.  For those conferences without automatic berths, there’s only one team with a real chance at an at-large.  The Cal-Poly Mustangs sit at 5-3 and lead the Great West Conference.  Their three losses are to two FBS teams and Montana, but one win is over a sub-D1 team.  If they win out they’ll have seven D1 wins without a bad loss, which is a solid resume.

Below is an analysis of current conference leaders along with teams with playoff potential.

Big Sky

Montana State (8-1) and Montana (7-2) are pretty good bets right now to make the playoffs.  The lone wild card now is Portland State, which sits at 5-3.  Their final three games are against conference bottom-dwellers Sacramento State and Northern Colorado, plus a season finale against 3-5 Weber State.  The Vikings’ playoff hopes rest on winning out to reach eight wins and hoping other teams finish with seven or fewer victories.

Big South

This race comes down to two teams – Liberty (6-3) and Stony Brook (5-3).  Should both teams win the next two weeks, they’ll both enter the season finale at Stony Brook at 7-3 with 5-0 conference records.  The question comes down to whether the selection committee would give an at-large bid to a 7-4 team from the Big South.  No other team has fewer than four losses at this point.

Colonial Athletic Association

Maine (7-1) and Old Dominion (7-2) already have seven D1 wins; in recent history that would be good enough for at-large invitations.  Towson (6-2) plays at Maine this weekend and hosts New Hampshire (6-2) the following week.  James Madison (5-3) could use a win at New Hampshire this weekend to recapture momentum heading into the last two weeks.  Delaware (5-4) and William & Mary (4-4) are alive for seven wins but each has a win over a D2 team.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

There are currently five teams with exactly five wins – Morgan State, South Carolina State, Hampton, Bethune-Cookman, and Florida A&M.  Norfolk State leads the conference with a 7-2 mark.  The Spartans had a great chance to make a statement on national TV against Bethune-Cookman but lost.  This race is too tough to call at this point, and it’s doubtful the conference will get two teams in the tournament like it did in 2010.  All teams have at least two losses and there are no signature wins among the teams with winning records.

Missouri Valley Football Conference

At this point, North Dakota State should be written down as a definite “IN” for playoff consideration.  Northern Iowa is 6-2 and also should be playing after the regular season, assuming they don’t win the conference.  Illinois State is 6-3 but has yet to play UNI, and they have no signature win.  Youngstown State is 5-3 but has yet to play UNI or NDSU; Indiana State is also 5-3 but has NDSU this weekend.  If a third MVFC team makes the playoffs, it will be Illinois State.  A fourth team is unlikely given remaining schedules.


The NEC is likely only to get its conference champion in the tournament.  Albany (6-2, 5-0) is the current conference leader.  They finish their schedule with winnable games against Bryant, Monmouth and Sacred Heart.  Duquesne (7-2, 4-1) has its bye this week and finishes with Sacred Heart and Robert Morris.  Unless Albany falters at the end, it should represent the NEC in the playoffs.

Ohio Valley Conference

There are three OVC teams with conference records of 4-1 – Tennessee Tech, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State.  A fourth (Tennessee-Martin) has a 4-2 conference record (5-3 overall).  Below are the remaining schedules of these four teams:

  • Tennessee Tech: Murray State, at Eastern Kentucky and Austin Peay.
  • Eastern Kentucky: at Jacksonville State, Tennessee Tech and UT Martin.
  • Jacksonville State: Eastern Kentucky, at SEMU and at Tennessee State.
  • Tennessee-Martin: Three road games against Mississippi State, Tennessee State and Eastern Kentucky

Given that these teams play each other over the final three weeks, it’s likely that we won’t know the playoff teams until the final week.

Patriot League

Lehigh (7-1) and surprising Georgetown (7-2) currently are the two best teams in the league.  The conference race will likely come down to November 12, when the Mountain Hawks host the Hoyas.  If the teams both finish at 9-2 (meaning GU will have won the matchup next weekend), the selection committee will take a long look at taking both teams.  Lehigh has been ranked high most of the season and deserves a chance at an at-large bid.

Southern Conference

This top-heavy league most likely has Georgia Southern (7-1), Wofford (6-2) and Appalachian State (6-2) all making the playoffs.  They’ve been ranked at or near the top of the FCS all season long and have no “bad” losses to hinder their resumes.  Furman is currently 5-3 but hosts Appalachian State this weekend and closes against the Florida Gators.  Samford is also 5-3 but most likely will only reach seven wins at most, as it closes its regular season against Auburn.  If Furman reaches 7-4 with a loss to only Florida, the SoCon may see four teams make the playoffs.


There are three Southland teams to consider and they all play each other before season’s end.  Sam Houston State is 8-0 and closes its season at Southeastern Louisiana, against Northwestern State and Texas State.  One more win against any of these teams should result in a playoff appearance.  At 6-3, Central Arkansas only has two games remaining (at Northwestern State, against Texas State).  Lastly, Northwestern State finishes at home against Central Arkansas and at Sam Houston State.  Clearly the head-to-head battles will decide which teams go dancing in the playoffs.

So who makes the playoffs and who looks ahead to next week?  We’ll have a better idea by Sunday, and we’ll revisit all these teams’ chances at this time next week.

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