Last week the playoff field for Division 2 and Division 3 was set, and we are still two weeks away from learning what four teams will compete in the fourth College Football Playoff. Today it was the FCS playoff field that was unveiled for the first time. Not surprisingly, defending national champion James Madison, the top-ranked team in FCS, took the top spot in the 24-team field.
At 11-0, it was expected the Dukes would be the number one overall seed. The Colonial Athletic Association champions are in the FCS playoffs for a fourth-straight season. The number two seed is a familiar name to those following FCS football. North Dakota State (10-1) took the second overall seed in the playoff field. The five-time national champs remains a force to reckon with once again and will hope to get a shot at playoff revenge against James Madison in this year’s championship game. It was James Madison that eliminated the Bison from the postseason last year with a 27-17 upset in the semifinals.
JMU went on to top Bo Pelini and Youngstown State in the championship game after the unseeded Penguins went on a miraculous run to the championship game. Youngstown State had taken out the No. 3 seed Jacksonville State (40-24) and No. 2 seed Eastern Washington (40-38) before falling against the No. 4 seeded Dukes. Youngstown State did not reach the postseason this year.
Jacksonville State takes the three-seed, followed by Central Arkansas, South Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Wofford and Southern Utah. Other automatic entrants through conference championship automatic qualifiers include Kennesaw State, Central Connecticut State, Lehigh, and San Diego. At-large teams making the field include Northern Arizona, Weber State, Monmouth, Elon, New Hampshire, Stony Brook, South Dakota, Northern Iowa, Western Illinois, Furman, Samford, and Nicholls State.
You can view the full bracket HERE.
Often times it can be easy to lose track of players that move from the spotlight of a major power conference like the ACC to the often overlooked playing fields of the FCS. If you forgot about former Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee, then you can certainly be excused. He just started his second season at James Madison of the Colonial Athletic Association, one of the strongest or deepest conferences in the FCS on a regular basis, and he has started his 2015 season with a bang.
Lee was named the Offensive Player of the Week by the Colonial Athletic Association on Monday for his strong efforts in James Madison’s season-opening victory over Morehead State. In the win, Lee completed 18-of-25 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns before being rested in the third quarter. Lee also rushed for 105 yards on 13 rushing attempts and scored a fourth touchdown on the ground. Combined, it was the third-best single-game total yardage of Lee’s career. The highlights of the day came via a 66-yard touchdown run and a 66-yard touchdown pass to JMU receiver Ishmael Hyman.
Lee left Georgia Tech in the spring of 2014, ultimately landing with the Dukes in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It was there Lee was reunited with the coach that had previously attempted to recruit him to North Carolina, Everett Withers. The new head coach of the Dukes was quick to insert Lee into the offense in 2014. James Madison went 9-3 last season and participated in the FCS playoffs. Lee set new school records for single-game passing, completion percentage, single-seaosn touchdowns and more while also collecting some awards and recognition throughout the season. He finished fourth in the Walter Payton Award voting (Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams, now at Oregon, finished second in the voting) and he beat out Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke and Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller for the 2014 Dudley Award (top Division 1 football player in Virginia).
Lee and the Dukes have two more games to play before hitting the road for the first time this season. James Madison, ranked No. 13 in the STATS FCS Poll, will travel to SMU. The Mustangs are in their first season under head coach Chad Morris, and have already shown some offensive flair in the season-opening loss at home to Baylor. James Madison is no stranger to pulling an upset of an FBS foe. The Dukes upended Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in 2010. Can Lee lead James Madison to score a win against an FBS opponent once again? We will find out on September 26.
Lee was joined on the CAA’s first set of weekly honors by teammate Raven Greene. The safety was named the conference’s defensive player of the week after totaling eight solo and nine total tackles and one forced fumble.