We are less than one month from 2022-23 FCS playoff selections — Sunday, Nov. 20. With the playoffs creeping up, it's time to predict the entire 24-team playoff field ahead of the bracket reveal.
Before diving into the bracket, I’ll explain my process for selecting the predicted field. In this bracket projection, the selected teams are NOT an indication of the FCS playoff selection committee picks, but rather these picks are my opinion, taking into consideration all games through Oct. 21 while projecting future play throughout the remainder of the regular season.
The predicted bracket follows the format of the FCS playoffs, with 24 teams coming from 11 automatic bids and 13 at-large bids. Eight of these teams will be seeded and receive a first-round bye.
The first round of the predicted FCS bracket will be regionalized, following the selection committee's effort to limit travel. Likewise, the first round will avoid any matchups featuring conference teams that have played each other. Last but not least, first-round matchups will be regionally paired with teams seeded one through eight, also in an effort to limit travel.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get right into my 2022 FCS playoff bracket predictions.
2022 FCS playoff bracket predictions
FCS automatic bids, predicted
Projected Records in parentheses
|ASUN-WAC||Stephen F. Austin (8-3)|
|Big Sky||Sacramento State (11-0)|
|Big South||North Carolina A&T (8-3)|
|MVFC||South Dakota State (10-1)|
|NEC||Saint Francis (PA) (9-2)|
|OVC||UT Martin (8-3)|
|Patriot||Holy Cross (11-0)|
|Southland||Southeastern Louisiana (8-3)|
The only change from my FCS conference champions predictions is that I now have Chattanooga winning the SoCon after last week's dominant effort against Mercer.
The Ivy, MEAC and SWAC conference champions don’t get automatic bids to the FCS playoffs as their champions don’t participate in the postseason tournament. That said, my predictions for those conference title winners are as follows:
- Ivy — Princeton
- MEAC — South Carolina State
- SWAC — Jackson State
Projected FCS at-large bids
Projected records in parentheses
|Montana State (10-1)||Big Sky|
|Idaho (8-3)||Big Sky|
|Weber State (9-2)||Big Sky|
|William & Mary (9-2)||CAA|
|Rhode Island (8-3)||CAA|
|New Hampshire (8-3)||CAA|
|North Dakota State (9-2)||MVFC|
|Southeast Missouri State (9-2)||OVC|
|Florida A&M (9-2)||SWAC|
Undefeated against FCS teams
Montana State’s biggest game left on its schedule is Montana. The Bobcats play the Brawl of the Wild at home, a rivalry where the Bobcats have won four of the last five. I see Montana State getting back in the W column against Montana this year, securing a high seed in the playoffs.
One-FCS loss teams
The at-large bids are full of teams with one FCS loss.
Fordham makes the playoff field with only one FCS loss during the season to Holy Cross. It’ll be hard to leave out the Rams with that record and a likely Walter Payton Award finalist.
Florida A&M’s defense doesn’t look as good as it did last year when it made the playoffs, but one FCS loss to a top-five Jackson State team by season’s end likely gets the Rattlers in. While a game against Southern looms, Florida A&M plays the Jaguars at home where they have one of the nation’s longest win streaks.
2022 HBCU: Live HBCU football updates from the season
Idaho already has a win over then-No. 2 Montana on its resume, with its only two losses to date coming against FBS opponents. I see Idaho’s first FCS loss coming against Sacramento State, but from there, the Vandals win out.
I don’t see North Dakota State or UIW faltering down the stretch after losing conference games earlier this season.
Samford enters the playoffs with one FCS loss after losing to Chattanooga on the road and beating Mercer at home. After seeing how Chattanooga dominated Mercer in their game, I think Samford finishes second in the standings, right between the two SoCon opponents.
Lastly among the one FCS loss teams, I have Southeast Missouri State losing a game to Tennessee State on the road. That loss won’t be enough to knock the Redhawks from the playoff field with good non-conference wins over Eastern Kentucky and Southern Illinois on the resume.
The curious case of the CAA
The CAA is jumbled at the top of the standings right now, with plenty of cross-team play with playoff implications. Here’s how I see everything playing out.
I see Delaware winning out to take the conference. I see New Hampshire and William & Mary both losing one game. The Wildcats and the Tribe will have two FCS losses — the Tribe also have an FBS win — so they get in the playoffs.
From there, I have three teams left in the playoff hunt: Rhode Island, Richmond and Elon. Richmond still plays Delaware, New Hampshire and William & Mary head-to-head. I see the Spiders losing two of those games to finish the season 7-4. Elon already has two conference losses, and with Delaware still on the schedule, I see the Phoenix finishing with three conference losses and a 7-4 record overall.
Meanwhile, Rhode Island has one FCS loss currently, with playoff candidates New Hampshire and William & Mary remaining on the schedule. I think the Rams match up well with the Wildcats, thanks to the emergence of running back Marques DeShields. Rhode Island will win that game and finish the season at 8-3.
At 8-3 with two FCS losses to playoff teams, Mercer gets in the playoffs for the first time in program history.
Elsewhere, Weber State suffered its first loss to Montana State, but I see the Wildcats bouncing back with a win over Montana on Oct. 29. Yet, I have Weber State losing its second game of the year to Sacramento State the following week. From there, the Wildcats win out, finishing the season 9-2 with an FBS win. That gets Weber State into the playoffs.
INSTANT IMPACT: The top newcomers in FCS football halfway through the season
(Teams listed alphabetically)
Austin Peay 7-4 | ASUN
Austin Peay has just two pure FCS opponents left on the schedule as the Governors play FBS transitioning Jacksonville State and FBS powerhouse Alabama in its final four weeks. I see Austin Peay losing both games while defeating its FCS opponents to finish 7-4. Its only other FCS loss will have come to Central Arkansas.
Austin Peay has wins against two winless teams (Mississippi Valley State and Murray State) and a team with just one win that came against a non-FBS opponent (Presbyterian), severely hurting Austin Peay’s strength of schedule. With strength of schedule being a determining factor for the committee, that keeps the Governors out.
Elon (7-4) | CAA
See the CAA section above.
Illinois State (7-4) | MVFC
Illinois State finishes the season out of the playoffs. The Redbirds still have to play North Dakota State and South Dakota State in its final four games, with Youngstown State — not a pushover by any means — in between. That’s a rough three-game stretch for a team with playoff aspirations. Even if Illinois State goes 1-2 across that stretch with a win over Youngstown State, I see the Redbirds missing the playoffs.
Montana (7-4) | Big Sky
Montana has lost two straight games entering Halloweekend. The Grizzlies still have two top-10 teams on their schedule in Weber State and Montana State. I see Montana losing both of those games after watching the Grizzlies struggle during clutch moments in each of the last two weeks. A Montana team with four FCS losses and zero high-quality wins is not playoff worthy.
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North Dakota (7-4) | MVFC
North Dakota closes the season with North Dakota State, a game that I see as the final loss for the Fighting Hawks. North Dakota will finish the season at 7-4 with three FCS losses, including a head-to-head loss to Southern Illinois. However, the Fighting Hawks will have non-conference wins over Northern Arizona and Abilene Christian on their resume. Unfortunately, that won’t be enough to get North Dakota to the playoffs.
Richmond (7-4) | CAA
See the CAA section above.
Southern Illinois (7-4) | MVFC
Southern Illinois misses the playoffs with a 7-4 record. The Salukis folded against South Dakota in the second half, placing them firmly on the playoff bubble with North Dakota State (a projected loss) still on the schedule. Southern Illinois went winless against non-conference FCS opponents, which ultimately keeps the Salukis out of the playoffs.
Tarleton State (8-3) | WAC
I have Tarleton State finishing the season with two FCS losses. However, the Texans miss the playoffs because they played two games against non-DI opponents in Eastern New Mexico and Southwest Baptist. That means Tarleton State only has six FCS wins, with its best win coming against either Abilene Christian or Sam Houston. Without a high-quality win, there’s nothing to give the Texans the final boost into the playoff field.
Projected FCS seeds
Here’s how important seeding is to the FCS playoffs. Teams that have only played home games through the FCS semifinal round have been nine of the last 10 participants in the last five FCS championship games. Every one and two seed has this advantage.
That said, here are the predicted seeds for the 2022 FCS playoffs. All teams are seeded in order.
First Round Bye
1. South Dakota State
2. Sacramento State
3. Montana State
5. Holy Cross
8. North Dakota State
Predicted first-round pairings
Here are the first-round pairings with second-round opponents.
|First Round Matchup (home team in Bold)||Second Round|
|Florida A&M at Samford||No. 1 South Dakota State|
|Stephen F. Austin at Southeastern Louisiana||No. 2 Sacramento State|
|Southeast Missouri State at UT Martin||No. 3 Montana State|
|Fordham at New Hampshire||No. 4 Delaware|
|Rhode Island at Saint Francis (PA)||No. 5 Holy Cross|
|North Carolina A&T at William & Mary||No. 6 Chattanooga|
|Davidson at Mercer||No. 7 Incarnate Word|
|Weber State at Idaho||No. 8 North Dakota State|
Conferences with multiple teams in the projected bracket
|Conference||No. of Teams||Teams (Automatic Bid in Bold)|
|Big Sky||4||Sacramento State, Montana State, Idaho, Weber State|
|CAA||4||Delaware, William & Mary, Rhode Island, New Hampshire|
|SoCon||3||Chattanooga, Samford, Mercer|
|MVFC||2||South Dakota State, North Dakota State|
|OVC||2||UT Martin, Southeast Missouri State|
|Patriot||2||Holy Cross, Fordham|
|Southland||2||Southeastern Louisiana, UIW|