FCS Playoffs - Field, Pairings

November 19, 2023 by CollegeFootballPoll.com Staff and NCAA.com

Here is the field and the first-round pairings of the 2023 FCS National Championship Playoff.

FCS Playoff Automatic Qualifiers:

Conference AQ Clinched
ASUN-WAC (UAC) Austin Peay
Big Sky Montana
Big South-OVC Gardner-Webb
CAA Villanova
MVFC South Dakota State
NEC Duquesne
Patriot Lafayette
Pioneer Drake
SoCon Furman
Southland Nicholls

Official at-large bids (14):

10 of our 14 picks were selected.

Big Sky (3): Montana State, Idaho, Sacramento State
Big South/OVC: None
CAA (3): Albany, Richmond, Delaware
MEAC (1): North Carolina Central
MVFC (5): North Dakota, North Dakota State, South Dakota, Southern Illinois, Youngstown State
SoCon (2): Mercer, Chattanooga
Patriot: None
Pioneer: None
Southland: None

Our at-large bid predictions (14):

This is what we predicted on Sunday morning before the selections. BOLD were correct. We missed on 3 picks as UT-Martin, Eastern Illinois and Incarnate Word were omitted while NC Central, Southern Illinois, North Dakota received bids.

Big Sky (3): Montana State, Idaho, UC Davis (iffy: Sacramento State)
Big South/OVC (2): UT-Martin, Eastern Illinois
CAA (3): Albany, Richmond, Delaware
MVFC (3): South Dakota, Youngstown State, North Dakota State
SoCon (2): Mercer, Chattanooga
Patriot: None
Pioneer: None
Southland (1): Incarnate Word

Preseason Predictions of 24-Team Playoff Field

In alphabetical order, these are the teams we had predicted would make the playoffs, either by AQ or at-large bid. BOLD were correct. We preseason predicted half the field.

Butler, Central Arkansas, Chattanooga, Eastern Kentucky, Elon, Furman, Holy Cross, Incarnate Word, Mercer, Montana, Montana State, New Hampshire, North Dakota, North Dakota State, Richmond, Sacramento State, St.Francis, South Dakota State, Southeastern Louisiana, Southeast Missouri, Stephen F. Austin, Weber State, William & Mary, Youngstown State.

First-round Games

November 25 (all times eastern)

Gardner-Webb (7-4) at Mercer (8-3), 3 p.m. (ET) (ESPN+)
- Winner at 1-seed South Dakota State (11-0)  on 12/2 at 2 p.m.
Computer Pick: Mercer by 4.82

Duquesne (7-4) at Youngstown St. (7-4), 5 p.m. (ET) (ESPN+)
- Winner at 8-seed Villanova (9-2) on 12/2 at Noon
Computer Pick: Youngstown State by 16.64

N.C. Central (9-2) at Richmond (8-3), 2 p.m. (ET) (ESPN+)
- Winner at 5-seed Albany (9-3) on 12/2 at Noon
Computer Pick: Richmond by 8.09

Nicholls (6-4) at Southern Ill. (7-4), 3 p.m. (ET) (ESPN+)
- Winner at 4-seed Idaho (8-3) on 12/2 at 10 p.m.
Computer Pick: Southern Illinois 4.40

Sacramento St. (7-4) at North Dakota (7-4), 1 p.m. (ET) (ESPN+)
- Winner at 3-seed South Dakota (9-2) on 12/2 at 2 p.m.
Computer Pick: North Dakota by 4.37

Drake (8-3) at North Dakota St. (8-3), 3:30 p.m. (ET) (ESPN+)
- Winner at 6-seed Montana State on 12/2 at 3:00 p.m.
Computer Pick: North Dakota State by 28.24

Chattanooga (7-4) at Austin Peay (9-2), 3 p.m. (ET) (ESPN+)
- Winner at 7-seed Furman on 12/2 at 1 p.m.
Computer Pick: Austin Peay by 5.72

Lafayette (9-2) at Delaware (8-3), 2 p.m. (ET) (ESPN+)
- Winner at 2-seed Montana on 12/2  at 9 p.m.
Computer Pick: Delaware by 16.21

Bracket (2nd Round through Final)

Home team on bottom.

12/2 12/8-9 12/15-16 C'ship (Frisco)
(1/7, 2 PM)
or Mercer
or Youngstown
8 Villanova
NC Central
or Richmond
5 Albany
or Southern Ill.
4 Idaho
Sacramento St.
or North Dakota
3 South Dakota
6 Montana State
or Austin Peay
7 Furman
or Delaware
2 Montana

Also This Week

There are two games on the regular season schedule.

The 99th Turkey Day Classic will pit old rivals Alabama State and Tuskegee against each other. Altogether, the schools have played 103 times since 1902 with Tuskegee holding a 102-38-3 edge. Other teams faced Alabama State in the Turkey Classic from 2012 through 2021 after almost all of the previous Turkey Day games had featured Tuskegee against the Hornets since 1924. Exceptions were 1971 (MVSU), 1986 (Clark), 1987 & 1991 (Johnson C. Smith), 1992 (Fayetteville State),

The Bayou Classic pits Southern against Grambling on the field, and the weekend activities get kicked off on Friday night with the Battle of the Bands. Southern is 40-34 all-time vs. Grambling. Games called the 'Bayou Classic' in New Orleans began in 1974, but extenuating circumstances forced the game to be moved twice. In 2005, they met in Houston due to stadium damage from Hurricane Katrina. The 2020 game was postponed due to Covid and eventually took place in April of 2021, but the game was relocated to Shreveport due to upgrades being performed at the Superdome. Southern holding a 24-23 edge in New Orleans. The team split the relocated games.


This season has 117 of the 133 FBS schools facing one FCS opponent, and Army playing two such games for a total of 118 FBS-FCS matchups.

Of the 16 FBS schools that do NOT play a FCS program, 7 are in the B1G (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, Wisconsin). 6 more are evenly split between the Big 12 (Houston, Oklahoma, Texas) and Pac-12 (Colorado, USC, Washington). The other three are Liberty (CUSA) , UTSA (American), and Virginia Tech (ACC).

All four of the remaining scheduled FBC-FCS games took place this week with FBS teams taking all of them in blowouts. Abilene Christian lost 38-10 at Texas A&M, Chattanooga was drubbed 66-10 at Alabama, North Alabama was a 58-13 victim at Florida State, and Sacred Heart lost 31-3 at UConn.

The FBS programs were 114-4 this year against the FCS schools. Over-all, the FBS is a collective 1,800-152 (.922) since we began tracking this in 2003.

Here are the FCS wins in 2023, so far:
September 9: Idaho 33, Nevada 6
September 9: Southern Illinois 14, Northern Illinois 12
September 9: Fordham 40, Buffalo 37
September 16: Sacramento State 30, Stanford 23

Streaks - Current FCS Longest

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE - Won 25 straight over-all, 18 straight conference games, 8 straight road games.
Last: 35-17 home win vs. Missouri State in regular season finale on Saturday, November 18.
Next: 2nd round FCS Playoffs

MONTANA STATE - Won 26 straight home games.
Last: 37-7 loss at Montana in regular season finale on Saturday, November 18.
Next: 2nd Round FCS playoffs

WESTERN ILLINOIS - Lost 24 straight over-all, 18 straight conference games, and 11 straight home games.
Last: 48-6 home loss vs. South Dakota in season finale on Saturday, November 18.
Next: 2024 season opener

CAL POLY - Lost 16 straight true road games.
Last: 48-21 home loss to Weber State in season finale on Saturday, November 18.
Next: 2024 season opener