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2018 FCS Playoff Bracket Analysis

North Dakota State is looking to win its seventh FCS title this decade

NCAA Football: DI Football Championship Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

A little over an hour ago, the 2018 FCS Playoff Bracket was set. As always, there were gripes about who made it, who didn’t, and who was disrespected by the committee in terms of their seeding. Below are my thoughts on what the Selection Committee got right, what they got wrong, and general comments about the bracket. You can find the FCS Playoff Bracket here.

National Seeds

No. 1 North Dakota State

No. 2 Weber State

No. 3 Eastern Washington

No. 4 Kennesaw State

No. 5 South Dakota State

No. 6 UC Davis

No. 7 Maine

No. 8 Colgate

Respect for the Big Sky

I expected that the Big Sky would have three teams earn national seeds, but I was a bit surprised to see Weber State, Eastern Washington, and UC Davis all ranked in the top six. Putting both Weber State and Eastern Washington ahead of Kennesaw State was very surprising to me. On paper, the Wildcats have a good resume, but this team has not been as strong as No. 2 seeds typically are.

Weber State was pretty fortunate all year long. The Wildcats went 9-2 despite having just a +63 point differential, and they didn’t play UC Davis or Montana in Big Sky play. They did knock off Eastern Washington 14-6, but that was just Eric Barriere’s second game as a starter following star quarterback Gage Gubrud’s season-ending injury.

No love for Kennesaw State

The Owls have a legitimate complaint about being ranked No. 4. Detractors will say that they played in a relatively weak conference compared to the three teams ranked above them, and to be fair the Big South was pretty weak. However, the Owls’ wins over Samford and Jacksonville State in non-conference play were quality victories.

If the Owls had defeated Jacksonville State by double-digits in regulation, I think that would have been enough to earn them a No. 3 seed. Instead, the two teams played a five overtime thriller, and that may have dinged Kennesaw State in the eyes of the committee. Now, if the chalk holds, the Owls must play North Dakota State in the Fargodome for the right to play for the national title in Frisco.

A national seed for a Patriot League team

Pat League lovers Dan and Ty from the Solid Verbal are probably elated over Colgate receiving some love in the form of a first-round bye from the committee. The Raiders had the best scoring defense in the nation by a mile, and that was a pleasant turn from what we saw last season, when defense was largely optional in the conference.

I don’t expect Colgate to win a playoff game though. The Raiders will face the winner of James Madison-Delaware, and the Dukes are likely to be sizable favorites over Colgate if they get past the Blue Hens. Colgate’s best non-conference win was a 10-3 victory against a New Hampshire team that was without star quarterback Trevor Knight, and the Patriot League was not a good conference this year.

First-round match-ups

Montana State vs. Incarnate Word

James Madison vs. Delaware

Towson vs. Duquesne

Wofford vs. Elon

Nicholls State vs. San Diego

Northern Iowa vs. Lamar

Jacksonville State vs. East Tennessee State

Southeast Missouri State vs. Stony Brook

Bubble Surprises

I was stunned to see Incarnate Word and Stony Brook make it into the postseason, and a little surprised to see 6-5 Northern Iowa get in.

Incarnate Word is a great story. The Cardinals first started their football program in 2009, and they made the leap to the FCS after just four years. However, this team did not deserve a postseason bid. Their best win came over 6-5 McNeese State, and they lost to the two top teams in the Southland, Lamar and Nicholls State. It’s a head scratcher to remember that Austin Peay was left out last year with a much better resume than this year’s Incarnate Word team.

The Seawolves would have only had themselves to blame if they were left at home. Stony Brook just needed to beat previously winless in conference Albany in its last game of the season to lock up a spot, but instead the Seawolves were upset by the Great Danes. The committee had plenty of reasons to leave them out, and to see them get a spot was a surprise.

Teams That Were Snubbed by the Selection Committee

I thought for sure Indiana State would make it into the playoff bracket. The Sycamores ended their season with five straight wins, and the committee has rewarded teams ending their seasons on a high note in the past. However, Indiana State was left out after taking South Dakota State to overtime in Brookings, even though they went 7-4 on the year.

Furman has a decent gripe too. The Paladins were hammered by Elon in non-conference play, but they only lost to East Tennessee State by two points on the road, and they hammered Wofford by 20 points. The Selection Committee did not have much respect for the Southern Conference this year though.