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.
Jacksonville State received the number one overall seed in the Football Championship Subdivision playoff field Sunday morning. Four-time national champion North Dakota State received the third seed overall. Last year’s runner-up, Illinois State, was named the second seed overall in the field.
Jacksonville State lost just one game all season long. That occurred back in Week 2 against Auburn in a game many feel the Gamecocks let slip away from them. Jacksonville State ascended to the top of the FCS polls following the loss, of course at the time Auburn was still thought to be a potential College Football Playoff contender.
The only undefeated team in the FCS field is McNeese State. The Cowboys were given a four-seed. McNeese State had a season-opening game at LSU washed away by weather, but other seeded teams will bring records that include wins over FBS opponents. No. 5 James Madison went 9-2 this season, which included a 48-45 victory at SMU. No. 6 seed Portland State opened the season with a 24-17 victory over Washington State and later destroyed North Texas so bad the not so Mean Green fired their coach. Washington State is currently ranked in the top 25 of the FBS polls.
Richmond (No. 7) and Charleston Southern (No. 8) did not record wins over FBS opponents but were strong enough during the course of the season to be rewarded with a first-round bye and a seeded slot in the playoff field. Other schools making the FCS field include Fordham, Chattanooga, The Citadel, Coastal Carolina, New Hampshire, Colgate, Southern Utah, Sam Houston State, Montana, South Dakota State, Northern Iowa, Eastern Illinois, William & Mary, Duquesne, Dayton and Western Illinois.
If you thought a move to the FCS world would simmer Bo Pelini, think again. The former head coach of Nebraska is still raging as head coach of Youngstown State, as Saturday showed in epic fashion.
Here’s the situation. Youngstown State trailed North Dakota State, 27-24, late in the fourth quarter. The Penguins took the ball at its own 30-yard line with a chance to move down field for a tie or perhaps a win against one of the true powers of the FCS. With 29 seconds remaining on the clock and a shot a game-tying field goal about to be had, Pelini’s temper got in the way and drew not one, but two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Pelini was upset over a pass interference penalty on a previous series when Youngstown State was on defense. North Dakota State went on to score a touchdown on that drive.
“They didn’t like the way I was talking to them,” Pelini said of the officials after the game.
Pelini had plenty of reasons to feel hot under the collar. His Youngstown State team blew a 24-10 lead int eh fourth quarter for the loss.
A tie was broken Saturday afternoon between Ohio State and Harvard. The Buckeyes, winners of 23 straight games after pulling away from Illinois, now own the nation’s longest active winning streak in college football after previously being tied with the traditional power of the Ivy League.
Harvard was upset at home in Cambridge by the Penn Quakers. Harvard, like Ohio State, had started the day winners of 22 straight games dating back to 2013. Remember, Ivy League teams do not participate in the FCS playoffs (which is silly), so Harvard has been able to end the season with a win each of the past two seasons with nothing more to show for it than a pair of Ivy League titles (which, of course, isn’t all that bad). Before yesterday, the last time Harvard lost was October 26, 2013 against Princeton.
Penn took an early 21-6 lead on the Crimson, but the Quakers needed a second-half rally after Harvard took a 25-21 lead into halftime. Penn outscored Harvard 14-0 in the second half to leave with a win, their second win of the season against a top 25 team in the FCS. Penn opened the season with a win against No. 4 Villanova. This marks the first time in Penn’s history the Quakers beat two FCS top 25 teams on the road in the same season. The last time Penn beat two ranked FCS teams in the same season was 2006 (No. 22 Lafayette, No. 17 Harvard). The Ivy League is now a three-team race between Harvard, Dartmouth and Penn. Each is 5-1 heading into the final week of Ivy League play.
Meanwhile, in Columbus, Urban Meyer continues to roll in regular season games with the Buckeyes. Only three head coaches since 1936 have had more seasons with 10-0 starts than Meyer; Paul “Bear” Bryant (9), Joe Paterno (8) and Tom Osborne (7). Meyer has had five 10-0 seasons, which equals the number accomplished by Bobby Bowden and Bud Wilkinson. Those are some really good names to be sitting alongside for Meyer.
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.