FCS Football Bracketology Bonus Edition

2022 Bracketology Bonus Edition
Alrighty then. The FCS has maneuvered through eleven weeks of football; twelve if you count Week Zero. Now is the time of season where some conference commissioners and athletic directors get together and take eleven conference automatic bid winners, then pick the thirteen best remaining teams to create the FCS Playoff field. Seeding, pairings and First Round home bidding will take place after that. So, let’s get into this and try to figure out where everything stands with one week to go.
Conference Automatic Bids Claimed (4)
Missouri Valley: South Dakota State (10-1 overall, 8-0 MVFC). Jackrabbits are done with their regular season and will be a lock for home field throughout the playoffs, should they continue to win, as the #1 or #2 seed.
Northeast: St. Francis (8-2 overall, 6-0 NEC). Red Flash are in an interesting spot as they have locked up the conference’s automatic berth, but not the conference championship. They finish this week at Merrimack, who has an identical record, but is ineligible for the playoffs because of their FCS transition status. Still, we will see St. Francis on the bracket tree come Selection Sunday.
Patriot: Holy Cross (10-0 overall, 5-0 Patriot). Crusaders have had a terrific season. They will look for perfection at Georgetown to finish up their regular season. Doing so will have them on a very short list for a national seed and First Round bye.
Southern: Samford (9-1 overall, 7-0 Southern). Bulldogs have a perfect record against the FCS this year, losing only to FBS Georgia, who’s not too bad, if you haven’t been paying attention. They finish at home against rival Mercer. A win would lock them into the seed lines, maybe even as high as #3, with the right breaks elsewhere. Even with a loss, they’re in the playoff field, with the possibility of a lower seed still in play.
Conference Automatic Bids Unclaimed (7)
Atlantic Sun / Western: I still have no confidence on what is going on here. You have two conferences, neither have enough teams to field for their own automatic berth. So they’ve created this wonky Power Ranking combining the two separate entities. Each conference will select their champions and the winners are to be compared with this Power Ranking. Cool, right? Finding this ranking is very difficult and up until a week or two ago, the process for determining the bid was virtually impossible to get information on. Here’s what we know; if Central Arkansas (5-5 overall, 3-1 ASUN) wins OR Eastern Kentucky (6-4 overall, 2-2 ASUN) loses, Central Arkansas will win the Atlantic Sun half. If they both lose, they will go into a three-way tie for the conference championship with Austin Peay (7-3 overall, 3-2 ASUN). The Western side is much simpler, the winner of this week’s game between Stephen F. Austin (5-5 overall, 2-1 WAC) at Abilene Christian (7-3 overall, 3-0 WAC) will be their champion. The bid is completely unclear, but one would assume that Abilene Christian winning would almost certainly give them the automatic.
Big Sky: For all the nightmare that the previous conference is causing, the Big Sky is very nice. Two teams are both 7-0 in conference play. If either wins and the other loses, the winner gets the automatic berth AND the conference championship. If they both win or both lose, it’ll go to a tiebreaker, but both will still make the playoffs and be seeds. Those two teams are Sacramento State (10-0 overall) and Montana State (9-1 overall). Sacramento State finishing undefeated, would make them a lock for a #1 or #2 seed with South Dakota State. Montana State winning their finale against Montana would lock them in as a #3 or #4, at worst.
Big South: This has gone down exactly like every conference would want it to. Two teams, undefeated in conference, playing each other the final week of the season. North Carolina A&T (7-3 overall, 4-0 Big South) travels to Gardner-Webb (5-5 overall, 4-0 Big South). The winner is in with an automatic bid, the loser will be eliminated, because the at-large resume just isn’t there, for either.
Colonial: We have a three-headed monster here, two of which play each other. William & Mary (9-1 overall, 6-1 CAA) goes to Richmond (8-2 overall, 6-1 CAA). The loser is out for the automatic, but both are safely in the playoff field, otherwise. A Richmond win secures the bid because of a head-to-head victory over New Hampshire (7-3 overall, 6-1 CAA), provided they beat Maine this week. A William & Mary / New Hampshire tie would go to an in-conference point differential tiebreaker. William & Mary sits at +67 and New Hampshire is at +61, coming into the final week. There is a maximum of 21 points awarded per game, so a William & Mary win by 16 points would clinch regardless.
Ohio Valley: As far as quirky goes, the OVC will be this season’s undefeated champion as QuirkMaster General. Southeast Missouri (8-2 overall, 4-0 OVC) hosts Murray State, to finish off their regular season. Tennessee-Martin (6-4, 4-0 OVC) will host Eastern Illinois. Notice how both can finish 5-0, or 4-1, if they both happened to lose? With all the conference realignment shifting this previous offseason, the OVC had to take one game off the schedule for each team. Unfortunately, this was one of them. So a resulting tie, which seems very, very likely will come down to, off all things, a coin toss. You read that right - a coin toss. Hopefully, this is on the up-and-up and a home cookin’ situation doesn’t happen unfairly to others across the nation. Southeast Missouri winning would have no effect on the playoff field as they are about as safe in the field as anyone, especially if they finish at 9-2. Tennessee-Martin, on the other hand, would have no signature wins, their best being against FCS transitioner Lindenwood. UT-M getting the bid would get the OVC a second bite at the apple and poach a bid from somewhere else.
Pioneer: The Pioneer is kinda like the Northeast, where a transitioning school may win the conference championship. St. Thomas is still undefeated and only Butler stands in their way from conference perfection, but still no bid. That makes this week’s game of Dayton (8-2 overall, 6-1 Pioneer) at Davidson (7-3 overall, 5-2 Pioneer) the automatic bid decider. Dayton would win by virtue of record, Davidson would own the head-to-head tiebreaker or the head-to-head sweep, if also involving Butler.
Southland: The bid here is a bit of a two-stage entity. Southeastern Louisiana (7-3 overall, 4-1 Southland) plays Thursday at Nicholls. A win would clinch them the automatic bid by virtue of a head-to-head victory over the winner of this following game. A loss would be very damaging, but maybe not crippling. But it would give the automatic to the winner of Incarnate Word (9-1 overall, 4-1 Southland) at Northwestern State (4-6 overall, 4-1 Southland). The bid doesn’t really matter to UIW, they are safely in the field regardless. The thought of Northwestern State sneaking in, might be enough to cause Southeastern Louisiana to lose their at-large.
So at this point, the field has eleven teams in as automatic qualifiers. Remember, four are clinched, seven are yet to be determined. From here, we’re going to take a look at those who are firmly in the field as an at-large, even if they happened to lose this coming weekend. 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.
Locked In At-Large Teams (6, possibly 8)
Sacramento State (10-0), CSM: 2, MAS: 1, SoS: 4, MOM: 5-0  - OR -
Montana State (9-1), CSM: 8, MAS: 5, SoS: 15, MOM: 5-0
Whichever of the Hornets or Bobcats does not win the Big Sky automatic is a 100% lock for an at-large and national seeds.
Weber State (8-2), CSM: 6, MAS: 3, SoS: 12, MOM: 3-2
Wildcats finish at Northern Arizona. Even with a loss, they already have an FBS win over Utah State plus wins over Montana and UC-Davis. Book them in. Maybe even in the seed conversation.
William & Mary (9-1), CSM: 4, MAS: 12, SoS: 50, MOM: 5-0  - OR -
Richmond (8-2), CSM: 13, MAS: 14, SoS: 36, MOM: 5-0
Both the Tribe and the Spiders are locks for the field. The winner of their game this week has the inside track towards the CAA’s auto, but that’s of little consequence. The winner is also likely to snag a national seed.
Elon (8-3), CSM: 15, MAS: 21, SoS: 28, MOM: 3-2
The Phoenix have already completed their regular season. Having three signature wins: William & Mary, Richmond and Delaware and losses only to Rhode Island, New Hampshire and FBS Vanderbilt, lock the door.
North Dakota State (8-2), CSM: 11, MAS: 4, SoS: 21, MOM: 4-1
The Bison have two losses; a near miss at FBS Arizona and their “Dakota Marker” game with South Dakota State. A win against North Dakota in the final week could leave them wins over three to five teams with winning records.
* Southeast Missouri (8-2), CSM: 14, MAS: 18, SoS: 44, MOM: 4-1
The Redhawks are in as an-large even if they lose a potential coin flip for the Ohio Valley Conference auto-bid. They’d possibly be in lower national seed talk had they not lost to Eastern Kentucky a few weeks back.
Furman (8-2), CSM: 20, MAS: 10, SoS: 29, MOM: 5-0
The Paladins have been playing very well. If they lost to Wofford this week, they would finish 7-2 against the FCS. That might make some teams sweat a little bit, which is why you don’t schedule sub-FCS opponents. But wins over Chattanooga and Mercer bring them to lock status, even in a worst case scenario.
* Incarnate Word (9-1), CSM: 3, MAS: 8, SoS: 58, MOM: 5-0
Going to assume that Southeastern Louisiana takes care of business and takes the Southland automatic. That would leave the Cardinals here to take the at-large route to the payoffs. A huge win over Southern Illinois to start the year, followed with an FBS win over Nevada, it’s hard to believe they’ve lost at all considering the rest of their schedule. Provided they finish 10-1, a national seed is possible, if not likely. But they’re in, 100%.
* These two teams, Southeast Missouri and Incarnate Word, are definitely in the field. If either would happen to pick up their conference’s automatic, it would open up the corresponding number of bids below.
At-Large Contenders (5 to 7)
Here’s where things get complicated. There should be bids available for five to seven teams from this list. This will be contingent on the Ohio Valley coin flip, presuming there is one. Tennessee-Martin getting that bid will shrink the list number lower, as Southeast Missouri would slot into the At-Large Lock group, as opposed to the Automatic Unclaimed group. Same holds true for the Southland. If Southeastern Louisiana or Northwestern State end up with their automatic, Incarnate Word would slip into the At-Large Lock group also. This would lower the Contenders list by another. That being said, the top five teams here SHOULD be safe with a victory this coming week. A loss will open up a chance for the next corresponding team on this list.
North Dakota (7-3), CSM: 24, MAS: 11, SoS: 2, MOM: 4-1
Without the numbers, I would have had the Fightin’ Hawks 5th or 6th on this list. But the computer numbers are awesome and to be here would mean a victory over North Dakota State.
Montana (7-3), CSM: 12, MAS: 6, SoS: 16, MOM: 2-3
Again, Grizzlies have great computer numbers. Winning against Montana State would be a huge feather in the cap. On top of that, their losses read like a who’s who in football.
Delaware (7-3), CSM: 9, MAS: 24, SoS: 41, MOM: 2-3
The Blue Hens are probably going to be sweating, even if they win at Villanova to close it out. Those two MEAC non-conference wins don’t help the computer numbers. The win over FBS Navy, that one does. Getting to 8-3 should be enough.
Chattanooga (7-3), CSM: 23, MAS: 17, SoS: 26, MOM: 3-2
The Mocs don’t have the FBS win like Delaware, but they have better computer numbers and a very good looking win over Mercer. Winning at Western Carolina is imperative for them clinching.
New Hampshire (7-3), CSM: 28, MAS: 31, SoS: 40, MOM: 4-1
The Wildcats computer numbers are soft, compared to other teams that could be in the 8-3 pool with a win. They do have wins over Elon and Rhode Island, but their calling card would be a share of the CAA title (could still be theirs), at 7-1.
Austin Peay (7-3), CSM: 26, MAS: 32, SoS: 42, MOM: 3-2
The Governors have soft computer numbers also. And winning to get to 8-3 is the tallest order of anyone on this page. They travel to FBS Alabama. Call it a 2% chance of winning, but if they did? It’s an automatic passport to the First Round.
Mercer (7-3), CSM: 17, MAS: 16, SoS: 25, MOM: 3-2
The Bears getting to 8-3 looks like an uphill climb. For one, they go to Samford. Secondly, the teams between these two in the SoCon standings, Mercer has lost to and Samford beat them both.
UC-Davis (6-4), CSM: 16, MAS: 13, SoS: 7, MOM: 5-0
The Aggies have been on fire. But other than Idaho, last week, every team they’ve beaten is someone they should have. That means Idaho is their lone signature win. Getting to 7-4, by beating Sacramento State, may even jump a team or two from the potential 8-3 block.
Idaho (6-4), CSM: 21, MAS: 15, SoS: 11, MOM: 3-2
The Vandals have terrific computer numbers. Other than beating Montana, they don’t have a big win. Winning at Idaho State isn’t going to help either. Some help from teams losing would help a lot, especially Montana. They would both be 7-4 and Idaho would have that head-to-head win, at least.
Eastern Kentucky (6-4), CSM: 18, MAS: 33, SoS: 27, MOM: 3-2
The Colonels could find themselves in the Atlantic Sun title mix. And if they were fortunate enough to be bestowed the conference championship, maybe they could jump the WAC’s champion and get an automatic instead.
Southeastern Louisiana (7-3), CSM: 22, MAS: 26, SoS: 47, MOM: 4-1
To be here, the Lions will have had to lose to Nicholls. That would be a horrible look on the season’s final week. The computer numbers are soft, but they would have wins over Incarnate Word and Jacksonville State. The ultimate wild card in this spot.
Rhode Island (6-4), CSM: 27, MAS: 39, SoS: 34, MOM: 3-2
The Rams have no losses to bad teams, but other than beating Elon, they have nothing else to back it up. One more win would have clinched it. Beating Albany at home, to get to 7-4, seems very unlikely to get it without complete mayhem happening.
Fordham (8-2), CSM: 10, MAS: 40, SoS: 78, MOM: 4-1
The “Bronx” Rams may have more background support than anyone near the bottom of this list. A close loss to Holy Cross and FBS Ohio, but their best win is probably Monmouth, who won’t even finish above .500. They do have the FCS’ highest scoring offense at 50 ppg and they give up 34 ppg. Always exciting. But it looks like more flash than substance, sadly.
Tennessee-Martin (6-4), CSM: 32, MAS: 38, SoS: 46, MOM: 3-2
With a win and landing here means they would have lost the OVC coin flip to Southeast Missouri. Even with the win the resume is even thinner than Fordham’s and their style of games are not anywhere near as exciting. A loss and they’re not even in consideration.
Youngstown State (6-4), CSM: 34, MAS: 27, SoS: 22, MOM: 4-1
A win this week would give the Penguins their best win to get to 7-4, but it would also make Southern Illinois a sub-.500 team. That's not going to be enough to make the field.
Florida A&M (8-2), CSM: 69, MAS: 53, SoS: 109, MOM: 5-0
The Rattlers. The team who was gifted a bid last season and was completely handled in the First Round. HBCUs do not have a glowing record in the playoffs this century. The computer numbers are not there, nor a significant win. Putting them at the bottom of this list is more than enough credit to the decent season they have had.
Okay, that's all I have for the Bonus Edition. This should give everyone a pretty good outline as to where all the potential playoff participants are currently sitting. It’s not impossible for some movement to happen, even within the confines of this last week. And, as I’ve said before, when you have ten different figureheads coming together with completely different rationale - anything is possible. See you all Saturday night or early Sunday morning for the final Bracketology before this Sunday’s official release.