FCS Bracketology Special - 11/1

FCS Bracketology Special: Expanded Landscape
So here were go, there’s three weeks remaining in the regular season. With this expanded edition of Bracketology, we’re going to explore exactly who’s still on the radar, what they have remaining, what they may have to do and what is likely to happen.  We’ll go through these teams, conference by conference.  Only teams with a shot of being in the conversation for an at-large or the potential for securing an automatic bid are going to be included.  The total list includes 52 of the 124 teams.  So strap in for a long read.  Let’s quit wasting time…
  1. Northern Arizona (6-2 / 5-0 Big Sky). Remaining schedule: @ Montana, vs. Montana State, @ Southern Utah.
  2. Southern Utah (6-2 / 4-1). Remaining schedule: vs. North Dakota, @ UC-Davis, vs. Northern Arizona.
  3. Weber State (6-2 / 4-1). Remaining schedule: @ Eastern Washington, @ Portland State, vs. Idaho State.
  4. Eastern Washington (5-3 / 4-1). Remaining schedule: vs. Weber State, @ North Dakota, vs. Portland State.
  5. Montana State (4-4 / 4-2). Remaining schedule: vs. Kennesaw State, @ Northern Arizona, vs. Montana.
  6. Montana (5-3 / 3-2). Remaining schedule: vs. Northern Arizona, vs. Northern Colorado, @ Montana State.
  7. Sacramento State (4-4 / 3-2). Remaining schedule: vs. Northern Colorado, @ Cal Poly, vs. UC-Davis.
  8. UC-Davis (4-4 / 2-3). Remaining schedule: @ Idaho State, vs. Southern Utah, @ Sacramento State.
OBSERVATIONS: Of the eight contenders in the Big Sky, every team lost to an FBS team and only Weber State has a win against a non-Division I opponent. That could hurt them later if they can’t secure an eighth win. Northern Arizona remains the only undefeated team in conference play, but their schedule is filled with contenders, with the finale at Southern Utah. SUU is the only other team who currently controls their own fate, along with NAU. This is because they already have head-to-head wins over Weber State and Eastern Washington, with whom they’re tied. It’s interesting that Montana at Montana State and UC-Davis at Sacramento State happen during the final week.
PROJECTION (4): Southern Utah (9-2) is most loved by the projections to win out and take the Big Sky automatic. Eastern Washington (8-3) is slightly favored over Weber State (8-3), but both should get bids. Northern Arizona (8-3) is narrowly projected to win at Montana, which should be enough to get them an at-large.
  1. Kennesaw State (7-1 / 3-0 Big South). Remaining schedule: @ Montana State, vs. Charleston Southern, vs. Monmouth.
  2. Monmouth (7-1 / 2-0). Remaining schedule: vs. Presbyterian, vs. Gardner-Webb, @ Kennesaw State.
  3. Charleston Southern (4-4 / 1-1). Remaining schedule: @ Gardner-Webb, @ Kennesaw State, vs. Liberty.
OBSERVATIONS: The schedule has a tasty treat tucked away in Week 12, that a lot of the FCS fanbase may haven’t even noticed nationally; Monmouth at Kennesaw State. It’s very possible, almost likely, that this game will decide the automatic bid for the Big South. The last three games for KSU pits them against another contender or a road game with a tough non-conference opponent. With two non-scholarship wins and a non-Division I victory, they may need to get the automatic. They could have a shiny record with very little meat behind it. Monmouth has no problems there and their next two games look like wins. They’re very close to being a locked right now. Charleston Southern is in trouble as far as an at-large goes. They, like KSU, have two non-scholarship wins and a non-Division I victory. One thing in their favor is that two of their losses are to FBS teams. But short of winning out, it’s probably not going to be enough.  They need mayhem to happen with Monmouth to get on track towards the automatic.
PROJECTION (2): It should be close, but we’re going to say Kennesaw State (9-2) uses home field advantage and beats Monmouth, taking the automatic. Monmouth (9-2) wins their others and garners an at-large bid.
  1. James Madison (8-0 / 5-0 CAA). Remaining schedule: @ Rhode Island, vs. Richmond, @ Elon.
  2. Elon (7-1 / 5-0). Remaining schedule: vs. Towson, @ New Hampshire, vs. James Madison.
  3. Stony Brook (6-2 / 5-1). Remaining schedule: vs. Albany, vs. Wagner, @ Maine.
  4. Delaware (5-3 / 3-2). Remaining schedule: @ Maine, vs. Albany, @ Villanova.
  5. New Hampshire (5-3 / 3-2). Remaining schedule: @ William & Mary, vs. Elon, @ Albany.
  6. Maine (4-3 / 3-3). Remaining schedule: vs. Delaware, vs. Massachusetts, vs. Stony Brook.
  7. Villanova (4-4 / 2-3). Remaining schedule: vs. Richmond, @ Rhode Island, vs. Delaware.
  8. Richmond (4-4 / 2-3). Remaining schedule: @ Villanova, @ James Madison, vs. William & Mary.
OBSERVATIONS: James Madison has probably already qualified, even if they lost their final three games. Provided they don’t lose more than one game, a top 2 seed in the playoffs is a virtual certainty. Elon is most likely one victory away from being a lock also. The schedule sets up a beautiful finale when the two teams play for the automatic bid. Stony Brook is very close to clinching a bid also and they have a relatively easy schedule remaining, compared to some contenders. New Hampshire has a 13-year playoff streak at stake and two wins are going to be needed to get in. At 7-4, they’d be very safe, considering their schedule and an FBS win over Georgia Southern. Villanova and Richmond are both in a position where they need to win out, just so they can hope for some grace, and they play each other this week, eliminating the loser. Having only ten games on the schedule because of a hurricane cancellation, Maine probably needs to win out to get to 7-3. Six wins likely won’t do it.  Delaware looks good at 5-3, but two of those early wins are against non-scholarship teams. With that, ending at 7-4 will have them in the conversation, but they’re probably teeter-tottering.
PROJECTION (4): James Madison (11-0) looks good to finish unblemished and as the top overall seed in the playoffs. Projectors say Elon (8-3) will lose their last two games, but they’ll be okay. New Hampshire (8-3) will have to fight but another playoff appearance seems likely. Stony Brook (8-3) is projected to lose one and win one conference game left on the schedule. Villanova (7-4) winning their last game over Delaware (7-4) eliminates Delaware, but Villanova becomes the final team cut from the field.
  1. North Carolina A&T (8-0 / 5-0 MEAC). Remaining schedule: @ Norfolk State, vs. Savannah State, vs. North Carolina Central.
OBSERVATIONS: The champion of the Mid-Eastern Conference goes to the Celebrations Bowl to play the Southwestern Conference champion. However, other teams are eligible for the playoffs. This situation arose last season and the same North Carolina A&T received an at-large bid. If NC A&T wins out, they’re Celebrations bound. A loss to North Carolina Central, which has been their bane in recent history, they would be eligible again. Their overall schedule has been embarrassingly weak, but they do have a win over FBS Charlotte. If they end 10-1, in this scenario, they will likely poach a bid from a team in one of the more deserving conference.
PROJECTION (0): No at-large bid, North Carolina A&T wins the Mid-Eastern Conference and goes to the Celebrations Bowl.
  1. North Dakota State (8-0 / 5-0 MVFC). Remaining schedule: @ South Dakota State, vs. South Dakota, @ Illinois State.
  2. South Dakota (7-1 / 4-1). Remaining schedule: @ Northern Iowa, @ North Dakota State, vs. South Dakota State.
  3. Illinois State (6-2 / 4-1). Remaining schedule: vs. Western Illinois, @ South Dakota State, vs. North Dakota State.
  4. South Dakota State (6-2 / 3-2). Remaining schedule: vs. North Dakota State, vs. Illinois State, @ South Dakota.
  5. Northern Iowa (4-4 / 3-2). Remaining schedule: vs. South Dakota, @ Missouri State, vs. Indiana State.
  6. Western Illinois (5-3 / 2-3). Remaining schedule: @ Illinois State, @ Indiana State, vs. Southern Illinois.
  7. Southern Illinois (4-4 / 2-3). Remaining schedule: vs. Missouri State, vs. Youngstown State, @ Western Illinois.
OBSERVATIONS: North Dakota State has probably clinched at least an at-large already and barring multiple losses, they will be assured at least a top 2 seed in the playoffs. South Dakota is very close to having clinched a bid. One more win would guarantee it. In the case they win out, they would also take the conference’s automatic bid, and probably be a 3 seed. Illinois State and South Dakota State are each two wins from locking up bids and it’s possible that one more could do it. Western Illinois has a win against FBS Coastal Carolina, so two wins, getting them to 7-4, will probably get them in. Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois are both in need of winning out to get in. UNI would end 6-2 in conference play, probably resulting in a bid. SIU would end 5-3 and would probably need at least UNI to drop one. A non-con win over a non-scholarship might hold them back, even at 7-4.
PROJECTION (5): North Dakota State (11-0) should find a way to go undefeated, though it won’t be easy. South Dakota (9-2) should get a couple wins and gain a national seed. South Dakota State (7-4) should get in having beaten WIU and Illinois State. Illinois State (7-4) projects to beating WIU at home this week, getting the MVFC’s fourth bid. Western Illinois (7-4) takes a fifth bid for the conference by virtue of their FBS win, win over Northern Arizona and 5-3 conference record. Northern Iowa (6-5) just misses the cut.
  1. Duquesne (7-1 / 4-0 NEC). Remaining schedule: @ Liberty, vs. Central Connecticut State, @ Bryant.
  2. Central Connecticut State (5-3 / 3-0). Remaining schedule: vs. St. Francis, @ Duquesne, vs. Robert Morris.
  3. St. Francis (5-3 / 3-1). Remaining schedule: @ Central Connecticut State, vs. Sacred Heart, @ Eastern Kentucky.
OBSERVATIONS: Duquesne controls their own destiny. And really, it all comes down to their road trip in two weekends to Central Connecticut State. CCSU also controls their own destiny. They play both of the other contenders the next two weeks. A win over St. Francis would eliminate them, setting up the aforementioned showdown with Duquesne. A loss to St. Francis and a win over Duquesne could set up an unlikely automatic bid for St. Francis.  But that would include Duquesne also losing to Bryant. As you can see, St. Francis is completely at CCSU’s mercy.
PROJECTION (1): The Northeast is almost certainly a one-bid, automatic conference. The bid should come down to the game between Duquesne and CCSU. We’re giving the nod to Duquesne (9-2), since they host the game.
  1. Jacksonville State  (7-1 / 5-0 OVC). Remaining schedule: vs. Murray State, @ Tennessee-Martin, vs. Tennessee State.
  2. Austin Peay (5-4 / 4-1). Remaining schedule: @ Tennessee Tech, @ Eastern Kentucky, vs. Eastern Illinois.
  3. Eastern Illinois (5-4 / 4-2). Remaining schedule: vs. Eastern Kentucky, - BYE -, @ Austin Peay.
  4. Tennessee-Martin (4-4 / 2-3). Remaining schedule: @ Southeast Missouri State, vs. Jacksonville State, @ Tennessee Tech.
  5. Tennessee State (4-4 /1-4). Remaining schedule: vs. Lynchburg, vs. Southeast Missouri State, @ Jacksonville State.
OBSERVATIONS: As it seems every year lately, Jacksonville State is probably going to end up the conference’s automatic. Having defeated the only two teams within two in the loss column, it’s pretty much a formality. Austin Peay hosts Eastern Illinois the final week of the regular season, in what could be a de facto playoff play-in game. With only two games left, EIU has to win both to have a shot. Austin Peay is in a unique situation, as they were granted a 12th game to help FBS Central Florida fill out their schedule because of the early season hurricane cancellations. Winning out would get them to an incredible 8-4, with three of their losses coming to FBS teams. 7-5 will keep them in the conversation, but they need to beat EIU for that to happen. Tennessee-Martin and Tennessee State could both win out to get to 7-4, but each play Jacksonville State, so that seems unlikely. Even in the event they would make that 7-4 threshold, UTM has a win over a non-Division I opponent and TSU has two non-scholarship wins. TSU does hold a FBS win over Georgia State, which makes them a trickier discussion.
PROJECTION (1): The automatic automatically goes to Jacksonville State (10-1) and they should receive a national seed. The projections say Austin Peay (7-5) holds off Eastern Illinois for second place in the Ohio Valley.
  1. Colgate (5-4 / 3-1 Patriot). Remaining schedule: - BYE -, @ Lafayette, @ Georgetown.
  2. Lehigh (2-6 / 2-1). Remaining schedule: @ Bucknell, vs. Holy Cross, vs. Lafayette.
  3. Lafayette (2-6 / 2-1). Remaining schedule: @ Georgetown, vs. Colgate, @ Lehigh.
  4. Bucknell (4-4 / 1-2). Remaining schedule: vs. Lehigh, vs. Georgetown, @ Fordham.
OBSERVATIONS: This conference is a mess. Until a recent run by Colgate, it looked like the conference’s automatic bid was going to have a losing record. That could still happen. Colgate has two weeks to prepare for the road game at Lafayette and a win the final week would clinch it. Lehigh and Lafayette are alive only because they have a win over Colgate (Lehigh) or a game pending and the possibility to tie them (Lafayette). Bucknell could win out to 7-4, but with three non-scholarship wins and the Patriot’s overall weakness, an at-large is virtually zero.
PROJECTION (1): The Patriot is going to be a one-bid conference, the automatic. It should be won by Colgate (7-4), but nothing is certain here this year.
  1. San Diego (6-2 / 5-0 Pioneer). Remaining schedule: vs. Drake, @ Davidson, vs. Marist.
  2. Drake (5-3 / 4-1). Remaining schedule: @ San Diego, @ Campbell, vs. Jacksonville.
OBSERVATIONS: The Pioneer looked headed for a two-way 8-0 tiebreaker a couple of weeks ago, but Campbell lost a few since then and San Diego has continued winning. San Diego hosts Drake this weekend and the winner should be the automatic qualifier. Neither school figures to be at-large candidates, with more than four or five non-scholarship wins with more to come and a non-Division I victory.
PROJECTION (1): The Pioneer will be a one-bid conference, the automatic. Likely to be San Diego (9-2) as they host Drake and have been the class of the Pioneer for years.
  1. Wofford (7-1 / 5-1 SoCon). Remaining schedule: vs. Chattanooga, @ Virginia Military, @ South Carolina.
  2. Furman (6-3 / 5-1). Remaining schedule: - BYE -, vs. The Citadel, @ Samford.
  3. Western Carolina (6-3 / 4-2). Remaining schedule: @ The Citadel, vs. Mercer, @ North Carolina.
  4. Samford (5-3 / 3-2). Remaining schedule: @ Mercer, vs. East Tennessee State, vs. Furman.
  5. The Citadel (5-3 / 3-3). Remaining schedule: vs. Western Carolina, @ Furman, @ Clemson.
  6. Mercer (4-4 / 3-3). Remaining schedule: vs. Samford, @ Western Carolina, @ Alabama.
OBSERVATIONS: It’s been a mystery why the Southern Conference allows the regional FBS teams to push them into these late season match-ups, when they gone through the gauntlet and have even less chance of pulling upsets. Maybe that’s why. Wofford is looking pretty solid for nothing less than an at-large and wins against two of the conference’s lower ranked teams should get them to eight or nine wins. Furman has come on late, winning six in a row. Two more locks them into the field, one and they’ll be sweating. Western Carolina gets to play 12 games this year because of the Hawai’i travel exemption. Two wins would almost surely secure a bid. In fact, they play FBS North Carolina, which rises the ‘brow to seeing a possible FCS/FBS upset. Samford probably needs to win out with a non-Division I win as part of their resume. The Citadel and Mercer each need to win out to be in the conversation for one of the final bids. Unfortunately, they finish with Clemson and Alabama, respectively. Of course, those FBS teams will afford them very little respect.
PROJECTION (2): Wofford (9-2) should win out and take the SoCon automatic. Red hot Furman (8-3) projects to slip by their last two opponents. Western Carolina (7-5) projects to split their last two conference games and just miss the field.
  1. Central Arkansas (7-1 / 6-0 Southland). Remaining schedule: @ Lamar, @ Incarnate Word, vs. Abilene Christian.
  2. Sam Houston State (7-1 / 5-1). Remaining schedule: vs. Incarnate Word, @ Abilene Christian, vs. Houston Baptist.
  3. Nicholls (6-2 / 5-1). Remaining schedule: vs. Houston Baptist, @ Stephen F. Austin, @ Southeastern Louisiana.
  4. Southeastern Louisiana (5-4 / 5-2). Remaining schedule: @ McNeese, - BYE -, vs. Nicholls.
  5. McNeese (6-2 / 4-2). Remaining schedule: vs. Southeastern Louisiana, vs. Northwestern State, @ Lamar.
OBSERVATIONS: Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State are virtual locks for playoff bids and national seeds, provided they win out. And comparatively speaking to the rest of the Southland, that should be a minimal issue. Nicholls will be knocking down the door for a bid if they win two of their last three. Losing to Southeastern Louisiana could open that door for McNeese to slip by them, but it would be difficult considering the opening game victory by Nicholls over McNeese. McNeese would probably get a bid if they won out. Winning two would lump them in with many of the other 7-4 teams since they did not play an FBS team and did beat a non-Division I program and a non-scholarship team. Southeastern Louisiana could make an interesting case if they won their last two. They’d have the tiebreaker for third place in the conference and would have beaten the two other contenders for that spot in those two games.
PROJECTION (3): Central Arkansas (10-1) and Sam Houston State (10-1) are superior to their remaining opponents. They should cruise into the playoffs easily. McNeese (9-2) gets the important games at home and should win their way into the field. Nicholls (8-3) may lose that final game on the road and it will cost them a bid despite the season opening win at McNeese.