Guide to The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs

I have been itching to write this article for some time now, but it was necessary I wait until near the end of the season. For some of my readers college football, and in particular the FCS, are new territory. It’s no secret our friends in the UK prefer the NFL over college. And even those who follow a college team usually follow FBS level teams. 

Other than Notre Dame playing in Dublin (some day I’ll attempt to clear up how a Catholic school named for a French cathedral came to be the “Fighting Irish”), the biggest games in the UK are the London NFL games. Those matchups are huge even for those who don’t follow the competing teams. I mean, how else do you get so large a crowd for the Jacksonville Jaguars? But that’s another story.  A True Playoff

The chief reason I brought the NFL into this discussion is the FCS playoffs work more like the NFL playoffs than the CFP does. Whereas the CFP is four teams chosen entirely by committee, the FCS playoffs are comprised of 24 teams which then play a full tournament. It wasn’t always like this, of course. The FCS had a four-team playoff at its inception and has expanded every few years. The 24-team bracket has been in place since 2013, the lone exception being 2020 (16 teams) during the Covid-shortened season. The Breakdown

There are currently 15 FCS conferences: ASUN, Big Sky, Big South, Colonial, Ivy League, MEAC, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Pioneer, Southern, Southland, SWAC and WAC.  The Pioneer League is not a scholarship conference and does not receive an automatic bid. The Ivy League chooses to not participate.  The MEAC and SWAC do not accept automatic bids. These two conferences are comprised of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and their respective champions have played in the Celebration Bowl since 2015. Other teams in these conferences may accept at-large bids, as did North Carolina A&T in 2016. The 11 automatic bids are issue to the champions of the participating conferences. As with NFL divisions, these champions are determined by record and have tiebreakers to decide a champion when necessary. The other 13 spots are chosen by committee. The committee has guidelines such as overall record and wins against Div I teams. The committee then seeds teams, the top 8 qualifying for first round byes. Also, the top two seeds are guaranteed homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. That means a team’s performance during the regular season is of utmost importance. There are other factors in construction of the bracket, such as conference affiliation and “geographical proximity.” But those things affect how the first and second rounds are constructed rather than determining the participants. 

Selection Show and Championship Game The final regular season games are Saturday, November 20. After those are complete and all bids are determined the committee will sort the bracket. The selection show, similar in some ways to the March Madness selection show, will be Nov 21 at 12:30 pm ET on ESPNU. Then it’s on to the tournament.  For the twelfth consecutive year the Championship game will be in Frisco, Texas. The game will be Saturday, Jan 8, 2022, and will be played at Toyota Stadium. 

For my readers in the UK, or anywhere else for that matter, this an excellent chance to see a bona fide college football playoff. The competition is outstanding, and the passion is real.    

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