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Assessing the FCS Playoff Picture

How far will North Dakota State drop?

NCAA Football: North Dakota State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

At halftime of the Georgia Southern-Appalachian State tonight, the second set of rankings from the FCS Playoff Committee will be presented. It’s safe to say that James Madison is 100 percent in and an absolute lock to be the No. 1 overall seed provided the Dukes win out, but there should be a shakeup to the rest of the rankings after No. 2 North Dakota State and No. 5 South Dakota lost this weekend.

Jacksonville State and Central Arkansas are the two schools that look poised to move into the second and third spots, and it should be really interesting to see what happened to the fourth seed. North Dakota State will probably land there, but there’s a chance the committee could put Elon, Wofford, or Sam Houston State in that spot too.


James Madison

Jacksonville State

Central Arkansas

North Dakota State

Sam Houston State

Wofford - The Terriers move into the lock category after a win against 2-8 Chattanooga, but the victory didn’t come easily. In what has been a recurring theme all season, Wofford played down to its opponent and ended up going to double overtime with Chattanooga before pulling out the win. A win this week against 0-10 VMI would give the Terriers the Southern Conference championship and should be a relative cakewalk since the Keydets have only scored in the double digits three times all year.

Elon - While the Phoenix don’t have the history of Wofford, they are the Colonial’s version of the Terriers. Elon keeps finding ways to win and gutted out a double-overtime victory against an opponent with a losing record too. All eight of Elon’s wins have been by one possession.


South Dakota State - A win over North Dakota State should make the Jackrabbits the highest ranked two-loss team in the country tonight. South Dakota State now has wins over Western Illinois, NDSU, and Duquesne this season, and is almost definitely a lock even if they lose out.

South Dakota - The Coyotes are limping across the finish line and although they too are probably in, a win in one of their next two would assure them a spot. Unfortunately, those final two opponents are the two best teams in the Missouri Valley, NDSU and SDSU.

San Diego - Once again, the Toreros have crushed all of their competition in the Pioneer League and are poised to grab the conference’s automatic playoff berth. San Diego hammered Drake last week and has defeated every other Pioneer team by at least 16 points. The Toreros will probably have to go on the road in the first round of the playoffs as the Pioneer is the most lightly regarded conference in the FCS, but this team is essentially in.


Weber State - The Wildcats’ win over Eastern Washington this week puts Weber State into a three-way tie for first place in the Big Sky. At 7-2, Weber State is almost certainly in with a win in one of its last two games. They will be heavy favorites in those two games as they travel to winless Portland State and host 4-6 Idaho State.

Southern Utah - The Thunderbirds are in the same spot as Weber State and might be in already with wins over Northern Iowa, Weber State, and Eastern Washington. However, they have two tough tests to close out the season and will probably drop one of the two.

Stony Brook - Remember when little Stony Brook almost went into South Florida and almost knocked off the Bulls? Well it turns out that the Seawolves were legit. Stony Brook has benefited from dodging three of the top teams in the Colonial this season and are sitting at 6-1 in conference play. Their best wins are against a three-loss New Hampshire team and a four-loss Richmond squad, but this team has probably done enough provided they beat Wagner this week.


Illinois State

New Hampshire

Nicholls State

Western Illinois


McNeese State

Northern Arizona



Eastern Washington

Western Carolina

Northern Iowa




Kennesaw State


Central Connecticut State