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Picking the FCS Playoff Bracket, 11/11/2014 edition

As I finalize the release of my book, I realize that something I really enjoyed doing, picking the FCS playoff field, I hadn't done yet this year.  With two weeks to go, below the flip, check out what I think the bracket will look like.



The following teams have clinched autobids to the playoffs and will definitely be in the 24-team field:

Clinched A Bid:

Fordham (no worse than co-champion of the Patriot League; wins tiebreaker for autobid)
Chattanooga (clinched sole possession of SoCon championship)

The following teams are my predictions as to who gets the autobids that have not been determined definitively yet:

Projected Autobids:

Eastern Washington (Big Sky)
Coastal Carolina (Big South)
New Hampshire (CAA)
South Carolina State (MEAC)
North Dakota State (Missouri Valley Football)
Sacred Heart (NEC)
Jacksonville State (OVC)
Jacksonville (Pioneer Football)
Southeastern Louisiana (Southland)

The following teams are my predictions as to who the at-large teams will be:

Illinois State (Missouri Valley Football)
Villanova (CAA)
Northern Arizona (Big Sky)
Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley Football)
South Dakota State (Missouri Valley Football)
James Madison (CAA)
Idaho State (Big Sky)
Indiana State (Missouri Valley Football)
Bethune-Cookman (MEAC)
Sam Houston State (Southland)
Eastern Kentucky (OVC)
Richmond (CAA)
Liberty (Big South)

This could be the strongest at-large field we have ever seen in FCS, which does not bode well for Bucknell's chances should they finish the season at 9-2.

Bucknell's resume is complicated that they beat one of the contenders for the NEC autobid (Sacred Heart) while losing to the other (Bryant).  Either Sacred Heart or Bryant will be the NEC champion, but it's hard to judge how that affects the Bison's chances: whether a "win over a tournament team" weighs more than a "loss to potential another at-large team", or vice-versa.

Bucknell may be up against teams with an FBS win (Liberty, over Appalachian State, and Bethune-Cookman, over FIU) or wins over FCS Top 25 teams (Montana, Montana State, Youngstown State, Northern Iowa).  This works against the Bison, but the magic number to watch for is seven.  Teams that don't have six Division I wins will not be in that pool of possible at-large teams, and the fewer there are, the better Bucknell's chances are.

What works in Bucknell's favor is that multiple SoCon teams either finish with FBS teams (Western Carolina, vs. Florida) or can't get to more than six D-I wins (Wofford, Samford) because they've had to add sub-Division-I wins to their schedule once Appalachian State and Georgia Southern left the SoCon.  The SoCon looks a lot like a one-bid league, which helps schools like Bucknell and Liberty.

The short version is that Bucknell needs to absolutely win their last two games, and hope for some pandemonium in the Missouri Valley, Big Sky, and CAA the next few weeks.  Bison fans should rooting very hard for Western Illinois, for example, because if they win their last two games, that would open up more slots for sure.

Seeds:
1. UNH, 2, North Dakota State, 3. Eastern Washington, 4. Illinois State, 5. Jacksonville State, 6. Coastal Carolina, 7. Villanova, 8. Fordham

And here's a quick and dirty view of what a potential bracket might look like:


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