First things first – Weber State moves up a spot in my eyes. I think their body of work is far superior to that of James Madison, mostly because the CAA is a train wreck this year. Speaking of the CAA, I have three teams in the field right now: James Madison, New Hampshire, and Villanova. That being said, the winner of Towson @ Stony Brook would likely make the field if they win out. It’s also worth noting that Villanova has a very easy remaining schedule (all three games are at home), but the way they’ve been playing, it wouldn’t be surprising if they lose to Richmond and/or Delaware. The conference that had the best weekend was – by far and away – the Big Sky Conference. Weber State dominated Sacramento State but – more importantly – Montana and Montana State took care of business. Moreover, Northern Iowa handled Illinois State (Weber beat Northern Iowa earlier in the year) and Monmouth destroyed Kennesaw State (the Grizzlies beat Monmouth early in the season). Moreover, SEMO continued to play well and is likely going to make the playoff field as an at-large out of the Ohio Valley Conference, giving the Bobcats a quality win against a team likely making the field. I expect that the “extra” at-large bids coming from a weak CAA (and weak Southland) will get spread around a bit. Kennesaw State might still get a bid out of the Big South, the Southern Conference can likely make a claim for an extra bid, the Ohio Valley Conference has three strong teams at the top, and the Big Sky + North Dakota have a shot of 5 bids total. The MVFC is looking like a 4-5 bid conference (depending on how Illinois State and Southern Illinois finish the year).
First Tier (control their own seeding destiny) – Only an undefeated winner (in the FCS) of the MVFC is a lock to be a top 2 seed in my opinion. If both the Big Sky and CAA have FCS-undefeated teams, it’ll come down to strength of schedule. These teams are in my next tier (the second tier).
North Dakota State (9-0 FCS) – Key wins @ Delaware, vs. UC Davis, vs. Northern Iowa, @ South Dakota State, @ Youngstown State. Important games remaining include: @ Southern Illinois.
Second Tier (guaranteed top 4 seed if they win out) – I’ll put these teams in order based upon my best guess at how the committee will value their strength of schedule/quality of wins/losses/who they beat on the road.
Weber State (7-0 FCS) – Key wins vs. Northern Iowa, vs. Northern Arizona, @ UC Davis, @ Sac State. Important games remaining include: vs. North Dakota, @ Montana.
James Madison (7-0 FCS) – Key wins @ Stony Brook, vs. Villanova, vs. Towson. Important games remaining include: vs. New Hampshire.
South Dakota State (7-1 FCS) – Key wins vs. Southern Illinois, @ Youngstown State. Key losses: vs. North Dakota State. Important games remaining include: vs. Illinois State, vs. Northern Iowa.
Third Tier (possible top 4 seeds if they win out, likely seeded 5-8 if they win out)
Sacramento State (5-1 FCS) – Key win vs. Eastern Washington, @ Montana State, vs. Montana. Key losses vs. Weber State. Important games remaining include: @ Northern Arizona, @ UC Davis.
Montana (7-1 FCS) – Key wins @ UC Davis, vs. Eastern Washington. Key losses: @ Sac State. Important games remaining include: vs. Weber State, @ Montana State.
Central Arkansas (6-1 FCS, BCS victory) – Key win @ Western Kentucky (FBS), vs. Sam Houston State. Key loss @ Nicholls State. Important games include: vs. Southeastern Louisiana.
Fourth Tier (teams that could hypothetically earn a low seed if they win out).
Northern Iowa (6-2 FCS) – Key wins vs. Youngstown State, @ Illinois State. Key losses @ Weber State, @ North Dakota State. Important games remaining include: @ South Dakota State.
Montana State (6-2 FCS) – Key wins vs. Southeast Missouri State, vs. Northern Arizona. Key losses vs. Sac State, @ North Dakota. Important games remaining include: @ UC Davis, vs. Montana.
New Hampshire (5-2 FCS) – Key wins @ Stony Brook, vs. Villanova. Key loss @ Holy Cross, @ Delaware. Important games remaining include: @ James Madison, vs. Maine.
Illinois State (6-2 FCS) – Key win vs. Northern Arizona. Key losses vs. North Dakota State, vs. Northern Iowa. Important games remaining include: @ South Dakota State, @ Youngstown State.
Furman (6-1 FCS) – No key wins. Key losses vs. Citadel. Important games remaining include: @ Wofford.
Fifth Tier (teams that have a non-zero chance to make the playoffs, even if they don’t earn an automatic bid). The probability of each team depends on their current record and (obviously) future performance. Teams such as UC Davis must obviously win out to make the playoffs.
Sam Houston State
Southeastern Missouri State
Central Connecticut University
I’ll predict the playoff field if the field were filled today. There will be obvious changes as numerous likely playoff teams will face each other between now and the end of the season.
First, the seeds:
1. North Dakota State (expected automatic bid – Missouri Valley Football Conference)
2. Weber State (expected automatic bid – Big Sky Conference)
3. James Madison (expected automatic bid – Colonial Athletic Association)
4. South Dakota State (at-large bid – Missouri Valley Football Conference)
5. Sacramento State (at-large bid – Big Sky Conference)
6. Montana (at-large bid – Big Sky Conference)
7. Central Arkansas (expected automatic bid – Southland Conference)
8. Northern Iowa (at-large bid – Missouri Valley Football Conference)
Other expected automatic bids:
Monmouth (Big South)
Central Connecticut State (Northeast Conference)
Austin Peay (Ohio Valley Conference)
Holy Cross (Patriot League)
San Diego (Pioneer League)
Wofford (Southern Conference)
This leaves ten additional at large bids. I’ll put them in my expected order from safest to most at-risk given their current situation:
Montana State (at-large bid – Big Sky Conference)
Furman (at-large bid – Southern Conference)
New Hampshire (at-large bid – Colonial Athletic Association)
Villanova (at-large bid – Colonial Athletic Association)
Illinois State (at-large bid – Missouri Valley Football Conference)
North Dakota (at-large bid – Independent/Big Sky Conference)
Nicholls State (at-large bid – Southland Conference)
Kennesaw State (at-large bid – Big South)
Southeast Missouri State (at-large bid – Ohio Valley Conference)
Southern Illinois (at-large bid – Missouri Valley Conference)