Given the drama around powerhouse programs, close action, and regional rivalries, there are many reasons for fans to tune in to this year’s FCS Playoffs.
The 2023 FCS Playoffs began last weekend, with the first round of the annual 24-team fixture taking place last Saturday. Unlike the FBS level and its antiquated bowl system, the FCS level (formerly Divisions I-A and I-AA, respectively) has had a formal playoff system to determine a national champion for the past 45 years.
In the FCS playoffs, the top eight seeds received a first-round bye. After eight games that advanced eight winners to now face the first-round bye teams, the second round will begin this weekend with 16 teams remaining.
Here are six reasons why you should tune in to this year’s edition of the FCS Playoffs:
6. What happened to North Dakota State?
The Bison have been uniquely dominant at the FCS level in the past decade-plus, winning a mind-boggling nine national titles in a span of just 11 years. One could argue that the Bison juggernaut was bad for the FCS if the average fan would tune out — but honestly, the most compelling draw might still be the question of whether they can do it again, or whether they can rebound to their former glory.
North Dakota State, though, got blown out in last year’s FCS title game against South Dakota State by a score of 45-21. That sudden vulnerability, imagined or otherwise, has affected the Bison this season, as the team went only 8-3 in the regular season and is on track for its most losses in a season since 2010.
NDSU lost to each of its regional rivals this year: South Dakota State (again), South Dakota, and North Dakota, and looked oddly human for the first time in a long time. One sign of the Bison’s dominating ways appeared last Saturday, though, as NDSU defeated its first-round opponent Drake 66-3. The Bison outgained the Bulldogs by nearly 400 yards and scored six rushing touchdowns in the rout.