Get your conference champs, playoff picks and award winners... then cross your fingers
You make FCS predictions in August with confidence and a month later you’re scrambling for a do-over.
Welcome to the wild and wacky subdivision of Division I college football. All it takes is one Saturday for everything to change (OK, maybe not for North Dakota State’s FCS dynasty).
But the crystal ball appears clear right now, so let’s pump our chest and say this is how it will go in 2018:
FCS Conference Champions
Big Sky: Eastern Washington
Big South: Kennesaw State
CAA Football: James Madison
Ivy League: Yale
MEAC: North Carolina A&T
Missouri Valley: North Dakota State
Ohio Valley: Jacksonville State
Patriot League: Colgate
Pioneer League: San Diego
Southland: Sam Houston State
SWAC: Grambling State
FCS Playoff Field
Austin Peay (at-large), Colgate (Patriot automatic), Duquesne (Northeast automatic), Eastern Washington (Big Sky automatic), Delaware (at-large), Elon (at-large), Illinois State (at-large), Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley automatic), James Madison (CAA automatic), Kennesaw State (Big South automatic), McNeese (at-large), Montana (at-large), New Hampshire (at-large), Nicholls (at-large), North Dakota State (Missouri Valley automatic), Northern Iowa (at-large), Samford (Southern automatic), Sam Houston State (Southland automatic), San Diego (Pioneer automatic), South Dakota (at-large; replacing Youngstown State) South Dakota State (at-large), Villanova (at-large), Weber State (at-large) and Wofford (at-large).
Semifinals: North Dakota State over South Dakota State and James Madison over New Hampshire — all four teams were at least national quarterfinalists last season.
National Championship: North Dakota State over James Madison — the loaded Bison have a realistic shot to go 15-0.
FCS Award Winners
Walter Payton Award (offensive player) — Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State: career statistics are on the rise, but the 34 wins entering his senior season count the most.
Buck Buchanan Award (defensive player) — Ahmad Gooden, DE, Samford: as a junior, collected over 100 tackles as a defensive lineman, including 15.5 for a loss.
Eddie Robinson Award (coach) — Chris Klieman, North Dakota State: seeks to join Jim Tressel as the second head coach to win four FCS titles.
— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
(Photo courtesy NDSU Athletics)