Saturday, November 21, 2009

FCS Playoffs 2009: Bracket Projection

FCS Playoff Watch 2009 #1
FCS Playoff Watch 2009 #2
FCS Playoff Watch 2009 #3: Midweek Update and Predictions
FCS Afternoon: Countdown to the 2009 Playoffs
FCS Playoffs 2009: Bracket Projection
FCS Bracket Announced: Comment and Predictions

Holy Cross (9-2; Patriot Auto-Bid)
#1 Villanova (10-1; CAA Auto-Bid)

Eastern Washington (8-3; At-Large)
William and Mary (9-2; At-Large)

Elon (9-2; At-Large)
#4 Richmond (10-1; At-Large)

South Carolina State (10-1; MEAC Auto-Bid)
Appalachian State (9-2; SOCON Auto-Bid)

Eastern Illinois (8-3; OVC Auto-Bid)
#2 Southern Illinois (10-1; MVFC Auto-Bid)

New Hampshire (9-2; At-Large)
McNeese State (8[9]-2[3]; At Large)

South Dakota State (8-3; At-Large)
#3 Montana (11-0; Big Sky Auto-Bid)

Weber State (7-4; At-Large)
Stephen F. Austin (9-2; Southlands Auto-Bid)

As always, the pairing rules leave a number of things to be desired. In this case, four of the top six teams are in the top part of the bracket, including three of the four CAA teams. So how did I get there?

At-Large Bids

Teams with nine wins or more from the top conferences choose themselves, so there is no question about Elon, New Hampshire, Richmond, and William & Mary. Teams from the top conferences with eight or more wins typically get in as well, so there is no great question about Eastern Washington, McNeese State, or South Dakota State. After this, the picture is about a clear as mud, given the losses today by Lafayette, Liberty, and Northern Iowa. Who has a shot at the final spot? As I see it, it comes down to a 9-2 team with a weak schedule (albeit with 9 DI wins), Colgate, and two 7-4 teams from top conferences, Northern Iowa, and Weber State. Given the committee’s practice of choosing four-loss teams from strong conferences in each of the last two years, I suspect that Northern Iowa or Weber State will get the nod. Of these two teams, Weber State by far has the best victory, over Appalachian State Eastern Washington, and its worst loss, Montana State was not as bad as Northern Iowa’s worst loss, to Illinois State. Weber State gets the last bid.


There are five obvious candidates for seeds this year, the auto-bid winners from the top four conferences, Appalachian State, Montana, Southern Illinois, and Villanova, and another team, Richmond, which both had a near-perfect record and a tough schedule. I place Villanova in the #1 spot, since they topped the computer numbers, played an entirely DI schedule, and picked up an FBS win. Southern Illinois is in the #2 slot since no FCS team got closer than a touchdown this year, and they lost only to FBS opponent Marshall by a field goal. Montana is placed in the #3 slot despite their undefeated season, since FCS teams repeatedly ran them close, including 1-10 Idaho State. The committee might be tempted to give SOCON champion the #4 seed, but Richmond has one fewer loss and an FBS win under its belt.

Seeded Pairings

Holy Cross is the closest non-conference matchup for Villanova; a very short trip by plane or a long bus ride.

Eastern Illinois will travel by bus to take on the Salukis in the Illinois championship.

South Dakota State is the closest non-conference matchup for Montana, but the distance is so long that this pairing is very much in doubt.

Elon will have a medium bus trip up I-85 to take on Richmond.

Non-Seeded Pairings

There is only one obvious geographic pairing in this group, Appalachian State and South Carolina State – and Appalachian State will likely take the home game. Beyond this, there are problems, given the vast distances between the remaining six teams. Who will have home games? Based on attendance, McNeese State, Stephen F. Austin, and William and Mary. Who to pair with them? New Hampshire's shortest (permissible) plane flight would be to McNeese State in Louisiana, and Weber State's shortest plane flight would be to Stephen F. Austin in Texas. This unfortunately leaves Eastern Washington to fly cross-country to William and Mary. Any of these pairings could completely go in a different direction!

Finishing the Bracket

Elon/Richmond and SCSU/Appalachian State make for a neat, southeast pod. After that, we are once again left with a mess. Here is the rationale. William & Mary Would have a short trip to a potential second round matchup with Villanova.Weber State and McNeese State would have (shorter) trips to Montana than any other pair of teams. This leaves New Hampshire and McNeese State as the leftover pairing, matched up with Southern Illinois. As always, however, the committee may choose to fudge its rules to produce a better bracket than their rules dictate.

Bids by Conference

CAA: 4
Big Sky: 3
Southland: 2
OVC: 1
Patriot: 1


Mark said...


UNI's loss today really did not help their chances of getting into the playoffs; however they still have a stronger schedule and rating at the end of the day than does Weber State. UNI has struggled in their last 5 games, but I would argue that they have more quality wins than Weber State even though state beat E. Wash.

Anonymous said...

Weber State did not beat App. State as you have posted above.

Profane said...

Anonymous 10:46,

Thanks, had McNeese State on the mind.

. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
. said...

What about Florida A&M? You mentioned them as a fringe bubble but they are ranked just under your projected bubble teams in the coaches poll. Is there any chance they make it?

Profane said...


Here is the tale of the tape where Weber State and UNI are concerned (wins/losses categorized by GPI):

Weber State: 7-4 (Wins: 11, 23, 35, 47, 57, 68, 79; Losses: FBS, FBS, 5, 11)

Last team out:
Northern Iowa: 7-4 (Wins: 32, 33, 34, 54, 84, 105, 115; Losses: FBS, 2, 10, 40)

Weber State looks better to me.

. said...

Also, Florida A&M's losses come from Top BCS ranked Miami(#20), Top FCS ranked SC State (#7) and a loss to Hampton when they lost the first and second string QB's and had to play a freshman.

Profane said...

. said...,

Same analysis for Florida A&M:

Record 8-3
Wins: 60, 86, 87, 97, 101, 103, 117, 117,
Losses: FBS, 12, 85

The real killer was the lost last week - otherwise it would essentially be the Rattlers and Colgate tied for last team out. As it is, I have Florida A&M about five teams out - behind UNI, Colgate, Liberty, and Prairie View A&M.


SC State shouldn't have to play App State, given their close rankings at #6 & 7. After William & Mary's lost, I would move App St to #5 and SC State to #6. SC State has 19 straight MEAC conf wins and deserve a first round home game. I realize the close proximity of the 2 schools, but wouldn't a #6 or 7 ranked team played a lower ranked team?


I would remove Eastern Illinois due to their loss to Tenn State today, and definitely have Jacksonville State in the playoffs.

Profane said...


Beyond the four seeded teams, rankings do not matter in terms of how the committee makes pairings. The #1 seed has been occasionally 'rewarded' by playing the #5 team in the rankings in the first round.

Jacksonville State is ineligible for the playoffs this year, EIU takes the auto-bid from the OVC.

Anonymous said...

this seems mighty strange for SC State to have to go to App. State when they have a better record played well agianst a USC team and has a strong aattendance record. Looks like the invisible hand is at play again! shame on the committee for matching these two up and possible tghinkingof having the game at App. State, according to this prediction.

Profane said...

Anonymous 3:39,

It comes down to pairing rules - see my comment in the Bracket announcement thread.