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The FCS Playoff Picture comes into focus

Delaware is one of a number of teams on the bubble

NCAA Football: Delaware at Virginia Tech Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the last week of the regular season, the playoff picture is finally starting to stabilize. Most of the spots have been decided at this point, but there are still about six or seven spots up for grabs.

James Madison looks destined to grab the No. 1 overall seed, but seeds 2-4 could be tricky. Jacksonville State, Central Arkansas, and North Dakota State all have strong cases. While the Gamecocks and the Bears both lost to FBS opponents, the Bison lost to a fellow FCS team. However, North Dakota State plays in a far tougher conference than either Jacksonville State or Central Arkansas, so the committee will have an interesting decision to make.


James Madison

Jacksonville State

Central Arkansas

North Dakota State

Sam Houston State



South Dakota State

San Diego

Weber State

Stony Brook

Southern Utah

Central Connecticut State - The Blue Devils stunned Duquesne last Saturday to claim the automatic bid as the Northeast Conference champion. CCSU hasn’t won more than four games in a season since 2010 and has never been to the FCS playoffs before this year. Welcome to the postseason Central Connecticut State!


South Dakota - The nightmare scenario for the Coyotes is unfolding. South Dakota has now lose three of its last four and was blown out by both Illinois State and North Dakota State. This team has probably done enough to make the playoffs already with an FBS win and victories over Western Illinois and Youngstown State. However, if the Coyotes lose their season finale to South Dakota State, that will mean losses in four of their last five and the committee might punish them for it.

Western Illinois - Even if the Leathernecks happen to lose their season finale against Southern Illinois, they should be in by virtue of their impressive performances on the road. Western Illinois pounded possible Big Sky champion Northern Arizona 38-20, hammered FBS Coastal Carolina 52-10, punished Illinois State 31-14, and beat Northern Iowa 38-29. No other team has four road wins that are that impressive.

Nicholls State - The Colonels are 8-2 and face a tricky test in having to play a triple option team on the road on short rest this week. A win would leave no doubt, but a loss may be problematic. Nicholls only has one quality win on its schedule, the season opener against McNeese State, and got pounded by 49 points by Sam Houston State. The Southland has been very top heavy this season and Nicholls’ lack of quality non-conference wins could hurt it.


Lehigh - All the Mountain Hawks need to do is win at home against rival Lafayette this week to clinch the automatic bid from the Patriot League. Lehigh is a 15-point favorite, so it should get the job done, but rivalry games are always tricky. If the Mountain Hawks do get the win, they are pretty much guaranteed the last seed as they will be the first team to make it to the FCS playoffs with a losing record since 2013.

New Hampshire - You can’t leave out the Wildcats provided they knock off Albany in their season finale. They got the signature win they needed last week against Elon and have an FBS victory to their resume too. However, a loss to 3-7 Albany would be New Hampshire’s second bad loss of the season and could leave them on the outside looking in with such a crowded bubble.

Northern Arizona - The Lumberjacks have one good win, a 21-point victory over Illinois State. However, losing at Montana two weeks ago really hurt their chances considering how crowded the picture is in the Big Sky. Weber State and Southern Utah have already grabbed spots, and Montana and Eastern Washington might end up making it too. If Northern Arizona beats Southern Utah on the road this week, the Lumberjacks have to be in. If they don’t however, this team is almost certainly out.


Monmouth-Kennesaw State


In both of these games, the winner is guaranteed a spot, while the loser is placed squarely on the bubble.

While most people have the loser of Monmouth-Kennesaw State in anyways, I think whichever side loses that game is out barring a very close game. On the other hand, I have the loser of Samford-Furman as in except in the case of a blowout.


McNeese State


Eastern Washington

Illinois State

Western Carolina

Northern Iowa