With the regular season's homestretch approaching, conference championship races are heating up. There's no better time to predict conference champions than now as teams head into the season's final stretch.
Here are all 14 conference champions, predicted October 20, exactly one month before FCS playoff selections:
ASUN-WAC — Stephen F. Austin
The ASUN and WAC are sharing an auto-bid yet again in 2022. I think Stephen F. Austin wins the WAC and Jacksonville State, while ineligible, wins the ASUN. That said, I think Stephen F. Austin as a conference champion and will have the highest standing in the ASUN-WAC power ranking and walk away with the auto bid.
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Big Sky — Sacramento State
We'll know much more about the Big Sky Conference title race after a pair of intriguing Week 8 matchups, but for now, I have to go with Sacramento State. The Hornets have won the Big Sky title in each of their last two seasons played. In 2022, Sacramento State is undefeated with one of the best offenses in the nation. For now, they get the nod.
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Big South — North Carolina A&T
The Big South title race looks like it'll come down to a battle between Campbell and North Carolina A&T. I have the Aggies winning the title because of when the Campbell-North Carolina A&T game occurs.
In Week 8, Campbell heads to play at Jackson State on the Tigers' homecoming. A week later, after that tough task, the Camels play at North Carolina A&T for the "Greatest Homecoming on Earth." GHOE has been one of the best home-field advantages in the FCS in recent memory, with North Carolina A&T winning nine of its last 10 homecoming games with an average margin of victory of 33 points.
I see the Aggies winning the head-to-head matchup over the Camels, with that win boosting North Carolina A&T to a Big South title in its final year in the conference.
CAA — Delaware
I figured the CAA would be wide-open in 2022, and the conference has lived up to that expectation. There are six teams with one loss or less in conference play and a winning record entering Week 8. Who wins the conference right now is anyone's pick.
Who's my pick right now? After looking at the schedule and having an internal debate, I have to go with Delaware to win the CAA.
Although New Hampshire is the only undefeated team in conference play, the Wildcats still have Elon, Richmond and Rhode Island on the schedule, all currently ranked teams, plus Maine to end the season.
Meanwhile, Delaware has one conference loss and has Elon, Monmouth, Richmond and Villanova remaining on its schedule.
I think it's more likely Delaware wins out during its remaining CAA games than it is for New Hampshire to do the same. With three ranked teams left on the schedule, I could easily see the Wildcats going 1-2 in those games, especially since they lost to all three teams last year.
This prediction could change as soon as next week, but if I had to pick one team to not let me down, I'd pick the Blue Hens.
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Ivy — Princeton
Princeton is 5-0 entering Week 8, and the Tigers are one of four undefeated teams in Ivy League play. I know it's cliche, but defense wins championships, and Princeton has the third-best scoring defense in the FCS at 11.6 points per game. It's that defense that will carry the Tigers to an outright conference title for the first time since 2018.
MEAC — North Carolina Central
To win the MEAC, North Carolina Central has to beat the defending MEAC and Celebration Bowl champions, South Carolina State, this week. I see North Carolina Central winning that game because South Carolina State hasn't put together an offensive performance yet this season that can compete with quarterback Davius "Pee Wee" Richard and the Eagle offense.
From there, I see Delaware State as North Carolina Central's biggest competition, but I think Delaware State, while impressive, is probably a year away from winning the conference as the Hornets have a lot of young talent on the roster. Expect to see the Eagles in Atlanta for this year's Celebration Bowl.
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MVFC — South Dakota State
South Dakota State and Southern Illinois are both undefeated in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Yet, one thing stands out between the two teams.
The Jackrabbits already beat North Dakota State. The Salukis still have the Bison on their schedule. That's why South Dakota State is the pick for MVFC champion.
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NEC — Saint Francis (PA)
The NEC has three undefeated teams in conference play right now. Merrimack is 3-0 in its first playoff-eligible season. Saint Francis (PA) and two-time defending conference champion Sacred Heart are 2-0.
All three schools must play each other, starting with Sacred Heart at Merrimack this week. In Week 9, Saint Francis heads to Sacred Heart. Then, to close the season, Saint Francis visits Merrimack.
While Merrimack does play both teams at home, I think the Warriors may be a year away from their first playoff appearance. Meanwhile, Saint Francis could enter its matchup with Sacred Heart undefeated against FCS opponents. I think the Red Flash, led by the conference's second-leading scoring offense and defense, can knock off the reigning champs. Saint Francis has the offensive firepower and balance to finish undefeated in conference play, potentially running the table against the FCS.
OVC — UT Martin
Currently, the OVC looks like a two-horse race between UT Martin and Southeast Missouri State, with both teams undefeated in conference play and ranked in Week 8's FCS Coaches Poll. Unfortunately, the two schools don't meet head-to-head this season.
UT Martin already has three conference wins, playing its final two conference games across the final two weeks of the regular season. Southeast Missouri State has two conference wins and plays its final three conference games across the final three weeks of the regular season.
When it came to picking which team wins between the two, UT Martin gets the nod, thanks to the scheduling. While both the Skyhawks and the Redhawks have Tennessee State and Eastern Illinois on the schedule, UT Martin gets Tennessee State on the road and Eastern Illinois at home, while Southeast Missouri State has to play both on the road in back-to-back weeks.
It's hard to win on the road, leaving room for a slip-up for the Redhawks.
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Patriot — Holy Cross
Holy Cross was my preseason pick to win the Patriot League and I also predicted the Crusaders to run the table. So far this season, I haven't seen anything to change my mind as the Crusaders have arguably the nation's best 1-2 punch on offense in quarterback Matthew Sluka and wide receiver Jalen Coker and an elite defense featuring All-American linebacker Jacob Dobbs.
October 29's game against Fordham looms as a potential winner-takes-all matchup. I think Holy Cross can score enough points to keep up with Tim DeMorat and the nation's most explosive offense, while the Crusaders' defense forces timely stops, coming away with the win.
Pioneer — Davidson
St. Thomas is currently undefeated in Pioneer Football League, but the Tommies aren't eligible for the playoffs this year. While St. Thomas has shown it is capable of winning the conference, already beating Davidson head-to-head, I have the Wildcats taking the PFL's automatic bid.
Davidson won the last two conference titles and shut out Butler already this season. While season-ending games against San Diego and Dayton remain, I see the Wildcats winning both of those games to make it three-straight playoff appearances.
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SoCon — Mercer
Mercer has never made the FCS playoffs, but I think 2022 will be the year the Bears get over the hump. It all starts with a huge conference game against Chattanooga this week, one which I see Mercer winning thanks to quarterback Fred Payton and a big-play offense.
From there, Mercer has room to falter down the line, holding a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Mocs. While Samford is also undefeated in conference play entering Week 8, the Bulldogs face the Mocs and Bears in back-to-back weeks to close the season, a rough slate for any team.
When it's all said and done, I see Mercer standing atop an ever-competitive SoCon.
Southland — Southeastern Louisiana
Southeastern Louisiana will take the Southland title thanks to a head-to-head win over UIW. I think the Lions got their slip-up game out of the way with last week's loss to Texas A&M-Commerce. Southeastern Louisiana will run the table in the rest of conference play and win the conference.
SWAC — Jackson State
Jackson State is almost guaranteed to make the SWAC Championship, with wins over all but one SWAC East team (Alabama A&M). That means teams like Florida A&M would need the Tigers to lose two SWAC games to even have a chance at the SWAC East title.
Once Jackson State reaches the SWAC Championship game, odds are the Tigers will play Southern or Alcorn State from the West division. Even if one of those teams beats Jackson State during the regular season, it'll be hard for them to beat a team as talented as the Tigers twice, especially coming off a loss. And if Jackson State wins said game in the regular season, then it will already have the formula for a SWAC Championship win.