Strong teams left out is harsh reality of smaller FCS playoff field

NCAA Football

(Stats Perform) – A team such as Illinois State, which won two road games in the 2019 FCS playoffs and held national champion North Dakota State without a touchdown in the quarterfinals, would not have qualified under the new 16-team spring proposal.

That’s the harsh reality of a smaller playoff field when the FCS conferences seek to make up a fall season that has mostly been postponed due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

FCS commissioners have suggested the one-time spring playoff would be smaller, and on Monday the Division I playoff selection committee recommended a 16-team field to the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee for review on Thursday. The playoff would continue to have 10 automatic bids for conference champions and the at-large bids would be reduced from 14 to six, with May 15 as the recommended championship date, presumably in Frisco, Texas.

The size of the playoff field has been 24 teams since 2013 after it was 20 from 2010-12. It was last at 16 teams in 2009.

To use the 2019 field as an example, these teams would have filled 15 of 16 spots:

– 10 automatic bids: Austin Peay (Ohio Valley), Central Connecticut State (Northeast), Holy Cross (Patriot), James Madison (CAA), Monmouth (Big South), Nicholls (Southland), North Dakota State (Missouri Valley), San Diego (Pioneer), Weber State (Big Sky) and Wofford (Southern)

– At-large teams Central Arkansas, Montana, Montana State, Sacramento State and South Dakota State combined on five of the eight seeds, so they were considered strong enough to be in.

That would mean the final at-large bid would have gone to one of these nine teams (listed with the selection committee’s Simple Ratings System ranking): Northern Iowa (10), Villanova (12), Southeastern Louisiana (16), Southeast Missouri (18), Kennesaw State (22), North Dakota (23), Furman (24), Albany (28) and Illinois State (29). With the lowest SRS, the Redbirds would not have been given the chance for the run that ended with a 9-3 thriller against North Dakota State.

But they wouldn’t have been alone among worthy playoff teams left on the sideline.

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