The NCAA Division I playoff selection committee spread the wealth in the 24-team FCS playoff pairings that were announced Sunday.
National power North Dakota State may not be into sharing.
Seven of the 10 conferences involved had multiple qualifiers in the field, which hadn’t happened since 2015. North Dakota State, the two-time defending champion and a winner of a record seven FCS titles, earned the No. 1 seed following a 12-0 regular season.
The Bison, making their 10th straight appearance out of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, and James Madison have been ranked 1-2, respectively, all season, so as expected, the CAA Football champion Dukes (11-1) claimed the No. 2 seed. On opposite sides of the bracket, they could be on a collision course for the championship game on Jan. 11 in Frisco, Texas. The Dukes handed the Bison their only playoff loss since 2011 en route to capturing the 2016 title.
Both teams have first-year head coaches.
“As a team, we talk about 1-0,” NDSU’s Matt Entz said on the ESPNU selection show. “Each week is its own season, each week has its ups and downs. We try to eliminate any distractions from the outside world, we try to eliminate the noise, make the main thing the main thing.”
Said JMU’s Curt Cignetti: “This is step one, winning the conference, going undefeated in the conference, getting a bye in the playoffs. But this team has its sights set on higher goals. They’re hungry, we’re healthy, we’re in a good position right now to begin this playoff run.”
The Missouri Valley and the Big Sky led the field with four qualifiers each. The Big Sky gained a record number of seeds by filling No. 3 through 6 with Weber State, Sacramento State, Montana State and Montana, respectively. South Dakota State from the MVFC was the No. 7 seed and Central Arkansas followed at No. 8.
Also with multiple bids were the CAA and Southland with three each and the Big South, Ohio Valley and Southern conferences two each. The champions from the Northeast, Patriot and Pioneer also moved into the field along with North Dakota, an independent.
Austin Peay and Sacramento State earned their first playoff berths. The last four teams left out of the field, announced in alphabetical order, were New Hampshire (6-5), South Carolina State (8-3), Southern Illinois (7-5) and Towson (7-5).
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