FCS Football Bracketology Bonus: Fall 2021

Bracketology Bonus: Fall 2021
We have finally arrived at the final week of the Fall 2021 season. Lest we forget their was a Spring 2021 season. One week remaining and a multitude of possibilities for both seeding and for the last few at-large spots into the field. There’s still eight of the automatic bids left to sew up also. Some that were perfectly set up by the schedule gods and a few others that could go down to some crazy tiebreaking scenarios.
Conference Champions and Automatic Bids
Below are all the FCS conferences and those who have a chance at winning them. Any tiebreaking scenarios will also be noted with these teams.
* Denotes a team who has clinched an automatic berth.
^ Denotes a team who has likely earned an at-large, if they don’t win an automatic
AQ7 (Western/Atlantic Sun)...
* Sam Houston (9-0 / 5-0): Bearkats have already clinched the automatic berth.
Big Sky…
If both Montana State and Sacramento State were to win or both were to lose, the automatic bid would go to a conference tiebreaker. Since both would be 8-0 or 7-1, depending, the automatic would go to the higher ranked in the Sagarin Rating or the NCAA Simple Rating System. Information on this has not been updated. However, Montana State would likely get the bid in either event with a better overall record.
^ Montana State (9-1 / 7-0): Bobcats could do no worse than a tie for the conference’s automatic bid by beating Montana. If Sacramento State were to lose, they would win it outright.
^ Sacramento State (8-2 / 7-0): Hornets could do no worse than a tie for the conference’s automatic bid by beating UC-Davis. If Montana State were to lose, they would win it outright.
Big South…
Kennesaw State (9-1 / 6-0): Owls win the automatic bid by beating Monmouth.
Monmouth (7-3 / 6-0): Hawks win the automatic bid by beating Kennesaw State.
^ Villanova (8-2 / 6-1): Wildcats win the automatic bid by beating Delaware OR by James Madison losing.
^ James Madison (9-1 / 6-1): Dukes win the automatic bid by beating Towson AND Villanova losing.
Missouri Valley…
According to all MVFC tiebreaking procedures I’ve seen, there’s nobody who can take the automatic bid away from North Dakota State. A win this week and they clinch outright.
Even with a loss to South Dakota, they end up in a three-way tie, along with Missouri State, at 6-2. Each would have a round-robin record of 1-1. South Dakota would be eliminated by common opponents, 4-0 to 4-0 to 3-1. NDSU beat Missouri State.
If Southern Illinois also won to make it a four-way tie at 6-2, there would be no round-robin records because Southern Illinois did not play NDSU or USD. Again, USD and SIU would be eliminated by common opponents, 4-0 to 4-0 to 3-1 to 3-1. NDSU beat Missouri State.
* North Dakota State (9-1 / 6-1): Bison have already clinched the automatic berth.
Sacred Heart (7-3 / 5-1): Pioneers are in the driver’s seat. They could make this all real easy and just win against Long Island and take the bid outright. They own all tiebreakers not involving Bryant and a few 3- and 4-team tiebreakers that do. Look at Bryant’s note. Anything they can’t clinch on, Sacred Heart literally does.
Bryant (6-4 / 4-2): Bulldogs only own three of eight possible tiebreakers to clinch the conference’s automatic bid. First, they have to win AND Sacred Heart needs to lose. If St. Francis beats Central Connecticut State, Bryant is in. If Central Connecticut State were to win, then Wagner would also have to beat Duquesne for Bryant to get in. Again, literally, every other scenario goes to Sacred Heart.
Ohio Valley…
* Tennessee-Martin (9-1 / 5-0): Skyhawks have already clinched the automatic berth.
* Holy Cross (8-2 / 5-0): Skyhawks have already clinched the automatic berth.
Davidson (7-2 / 6-1): Wildcats win the automatic bid by beating Drake OR San Diego losing.
San Diego (6-4 / 6-1): Toreros win the automatic bid by beating Stetson AND Davidson losing.
^ East Tennessee State (9-1 / 6-1): Buccaneers win the automatic bid by beating Mercer.
Mercer (7-2 / 6-1): Bears win the automatic bid by beating East Tennessee State.
^ Incarnate Word (8-2 / 6-1): Cardinals win the automatic bid by beating Houston Baptist OR Southeastern Louisiana losing.
^ Southeastern Louisiana (8-2 / 6-1): Lions win the automatic bid by beating Nicholls AND Incarnate Word losing.
At-Large Candidates
Along with the four clinched bids above, there are three, possibly four, bids that will belong to a team who doesn’t win their conference. That fourth team is East Tennessee State. There are also three conferences that will place a champion in the playoffs and the other team would be relegated to the at-large pool. So fourteen of the bids are accounted for, which would become fifteen if Mercer poaches the SoCon bid from ETSU.
Now we’re left with ten, potentially nine spots left to fill. From here, we’ll look at the remaining teams hoping to have done enough come Selection Sunday. It will be assumed that these teams will need to win to make the field. These teams will be listed in order of likelihood of making the field. They’ll be listed in the order of confidence in making the playoff field.
Each team will be listed with their overall record, CSM Power Ranking, Massey Ranking, Projected Ending Strength of Schedule, Record in their Last Five (Momentum) and a note. Those listed in the conference section with a carrot, will not be listed here and assumed already making the field.
^ Denotes a team who has likely earned an at-large berth
# Denotes a team who wins and likely clinches and at-large berth
^ Eastern Washington (8-2), CSM: 4, MAS: 5, SoS: 20, MOM: 3-2
Eagles are a no doubt lock. Wins over UNLV (FBS), Montana and UC-Davis plus the computer numbers? Will be pushing for a seed. Finish @ Portland State.
^ UC-Davis (8-2), CSM: 18, MAS: 16, SoS: 41, MOM: 3-2
Aggies are locked in too. Beating Tulsa (FBS) is the highlight. A winning record in the Big Sky helps. Finale could add another huge win with the benefit of losing not hurting much. Finish vs. Sacramento State.
^ Montana (8-2), CSM: 14, MAS: 9, SoS: 27, MOM: 4-1
Grizzlies lack a huge FCS win, but started the season with a bang, beating FBS Washington. Eight wins as a Big Sky team makes them a lock. Mega-rivalry game could push them into lower seed area. Finish vs. Montana State.
^ Missouri State (7-3), CSM: 7, MAS: 4, SoS: 5, MOM: 4-1
Bears end MVFC play at 6-2, no denying them of a bid. Great computer numbers and wins over playoff bound South Dakota and Southern Illinois plus wins over playoff hopefuls Northern Iowa and North Dakota. Lock them up. A win to end and a little craziness, they could be the one three-loss team to get a seed. Finish @ Dixie State.
^ Southern Illinois (7-3), CSM: 11, MAS: 6, SoS: 10, MOM: 3-2
Salukis have a road win banked at SDSU with awesome computer numbers and a certain winning record in MVFC play. Stone dead lock. Might be sweating a little if they lost their finale, but should still feel confident. Finish vs. Youngstown State.
^ South Dakota (7-3), CSM: 24, MAS: 11, SoS: 8, MOM: 4-1
Coyotes hold wins over SDSU, North Dakota and at Northern Iowa. A winning record in the MVFC, book’em, Danno. The potential for their biggest win remains and it happening would likely even push them past Missouri State in the three-loss seed talk. Finish @ North Dakota State.
# Rhode Island (7-3), CSM: 37, MAS: 43, SoS: 57, MOM: 2-3
Rams are a different bunch. They definitely have the look of a playoff team, but some perplexing losses to Towson and Maine sandwich a 44-point drubbing by Villanova. They have a win over Massachusetts (FBS), but it seems most teams in the playoffs could have beat them. A win gets them to eight total and 5-3 in the Colonial. Should be enough. Lose and they probably stay home. Finish @ Elon.
# South Dakota State (7-3), CSM: 15, MAS: 2, SoS: 8, MOM: 3-2
Jackrabbits have great computer numbers. A Colorado State (FBS) win and giving NDSU their only loss to date is their calling card. Unfortunately, they only have six Division-I wins as one of their non-conference victories was sub-FCS. A win and they’re easily in the field. A loss? Don’t let them see you sweat. Finish vs. North Dakota.
William & Mary (6-4), CSM: 36, MAS: 31, SoS: 30, MOM: 2-3
Tribe are a good team. They probably benefited some by beating a couple Patriot League teams in their non-conference schedule. Did get a huge road win at Villanova, which helps. A win in their finale should get them in, as they’d be 7-4 / 5-3 in the Colonial. Like URI, that’s probably enough. Finish vs. Richmond.
Northern Iowa (5-5), CSM: 19, MAS: 8, SoS: 3, MOM: 2-3
Panthers are Team: Jekyll & Hyde. When they’re good and on, they’re tough. Other times, they get in their own way. Wins against Southern Illinois and two road wins at SDSU and Sacramento State highlight the resume. One final win would only get them to 6-5, but nobody on the outside looking in has their quality of big wins and computer numbers. Making it as the sixth MVFC would be wishful thinking. A SDSU loss would help them immensely. Finish vs. Western Illinois.
Virginia Military (6-4), CSM: 29, MAS: 46, SoS: 55, MOM: 3-2
Keydets are probably wishing they had those games against The Citadel and Furman back. Winning one or both of those games and they could be cruising into the playoffs again. As it stands, they still have wins over Chattanooga and a ragdolling of Mercer. It’ll be tough to make the field as a third SoCon team. They need to hope ETSU beats Mercer and then pray. Finish vs. Western Carolina.
Mercer (7-2), CSM: 25, MAS: 28, SoS: 58, MOM: 4-1
Bears are a team who’d be on this list because they didn’t win their conference’s automatic bid in their final game. Having only a ten game schedule hurts because it’s an extra game they could have won. On top of that, their one non-conference game that wasn’t a “blood money” affair, was sub-FCS. Ouch! Losing to get here would mean having only two FCS losses, but also only six FCS wins. Is that enough? That’s putting a lot of stock into wins over Chattanooga and Furman. Finish @ East Tennessee State.
Stephen F. Austin (7-3), CSM: 20, MAS: 27, SoS: 84, MOM: 4-1
Lumberjacks could finish at 8-3 and not even sniff a bid. And it’s not because they didn’t beat who they were supposed to, it’s that those they would have beaten were so low on the totem pole, they’re almost covered by the weeds, a sub-FCS, two transitioning teams and a low SWAC team. You can see the proof in their horrible strength of schedule. Finish @ Lamar.
Eastern Kentucky (6-4), CSM: 32, MAS: 38, SoS: 39, MOM: 3-2
Colonels have a very similar resume to their last opponent. Difference is they could finish with one more victory, at 7-4. Unfortunately, they don’t have a ton of heft behind those seven wins. In pro wrestling terms, they’d be the best of the other AQ7 mid-carders. Finish vs. Jacksonville State.
Kennesaw State (9-1), CSM: 31, MAS: 36, SoS: 87, MOM: 5-0
Owls would only be in this spot because they lost their Big South title tilt in the final week. Even with a shiny 9-2 record, they’d be sweating as their resume goes to trial. One of those wins is sub-FCS, but one of the losses is to FBS Georgia Tech. Still, the best win would be Jacksonville State or North Carolina A&T. If The Committee doesn’t see it as pyrite, they’ll be golden. Finish vs. Monmouth.
Chattanooga (6-4), CSM: 23, MAS: 25, SoS: 43, MOM: 4-1
Mocs are likely entering prayer services this final week. Will the upset of ETSU weeks ago be enough to overcome just losing to Mercer? They really need Mercer to win the SoCon and pray The Committee pushes them ahead of VMI, whom they lost to in early October. Finish vs. The Citadel.
North Dakota (5-5), CSM: 38, MAS: 14, SoS: 7, MOM: 3-2
Fighting Hawks are fighting an uphill climb. But being here would mean they just had their biggest win of the season. All their other toughest opponents were unfortunately losses. Getting to 6-5 and 4-4 in the MVFC is an accomplishment, but likely not enough. Finish @ South Dakota State.
Delaware (5-5), CSM: 48, MAS: 42, SoS: 35, MOM: 2-3
Blue Hens would only be in this spot with a season ending win. They’d probably wish they’d won one more along the way. Really, they’re kind of the barometer of the Colonial; total mid-level team. Can win a few big ones, but capable of losing should-be’s also. Likely a pipe dream, but you never know. Finish vs. Villanova.
Monmouth (7-3), CSM: 16, MAS: 33, SoS: 64, MOM: 4-1
Hawks would be here because they lost their Big South title game in the final week. With their best win being Fordham or North Carolina A&T and average computer numbers, they’re a “win and in” only team. Finish @ Kennesaw State.
Jacksonville State (5-5), CSM: 27, MAS: 44, SoS: 21, MOM: 3-2
Gamecocks would have a pretty good final win, making it to 6-5, including a win over Florida State (FBS). It would end up being a decent profile that was one non-conference win from being an almost certain lock. The computer numbers are as good as anyone’s outside the Missouri Valley or Big Sky. Just a little short. Finish @ Eastern Kentucky.
Florida A&M (8-2), CSM: 62, MAS: 65, SoS: 110, MOM: 5-0
Rattlers are listed here as a courtesy to the SWAC’s third place team. If you look at the record and the fact they could end the season on an eight-game winning streak, it’s impressive. 9-2 is nothing to scoff at either. But the SoS ranks in the bottom 20, more than 20 spots worse than anyone on this list. Their only loss would be considered a bad loss for any other contender. It is what it is. A good season, but not even close to playoff-worthy. Finish vs. Bethune-Cookman.
Wrapping It Up
So where do we go from here? Well, we start on Thursday. Nicholls and Southeastern Louisiana will do their traditional final week Thursday clash. From there, we go to Saturday...duh! Almost all the games start in the afternoon. Of course, Missouri State at Dixie State has to start after dark, forcing all of us bracketologists, map makers and poll voters to wait until that game has been decided. For this bracketologist, I may just get this year’s final version done by midnight, Central time.
As far as looking at who makes the field, there’s a pretty good outline here. The at-large community is pretty vast, but there’s only going to be three or four spots available, as six of the aforementioned nine or ten will be accounted for. And two of those could be had by the right teams winning next weekend.
That would make it one or two spots, depending, for those final thirteen teams listed. And as far as the favorite? I would go by my list, otherwise, why would I have put it together? But The Selection Committee can go many different directions, especially when you have ten different minds and opinions coming together to select a field, seed and pair them together.
♫♪ It’s the most wonderful time of the year! ♪♫