Skip to main content

Projected FCS Playoff Qualifiers for 2016

DeVonte Dedmon.jpg

The more, the merrier.


The expansion of the FCS playoffs to 24 teams in 2013 has allowed most conferences to put multiple teams into the field.

Last year, eight conferences had at least two qualifiers, led by the Missouri Valley with five, CAA Football with four and the Big Sky with three.

This year, the power conferences are primed to flex their muscle a bit more, with the Missouri Valley challenging for a record six bids.

Related: Missouri Valley Strong Enough for 6 FCS Playoff Teams

With apologies to playoff staples New Hampshire, Eastern Kentucky and, recently, Fordham, here’s a sneak preview at the 2016 playoff field (in alphabetical order):

Image placeholder title

Charleston Southern (Big South champ)

Return to conference power Liberty on Nov. 12; won there in 2014

Image placeholder title

Chattanooga (Southern champ)

Only tough non-conference game is final one: Nov. 19 at Alabama

Image placeholder title

Colgate (Patriot champ)

Toughest league games on the road: Lehigh (Oct. 8) and Fordham (Nov. 5)

Image placeholder title

Dayton (Pioneer champ)

Difficult road schedule includes Duquesne, San Diego and Jacksonville

Image placeholder title

Duquesne (Northeast champ)

Last time we saw QB Dillon Buechel, he was throwing six touchdowns in FCS playoff game

Image placeholder title

Eastern Washington (Big Sky champ)

High expectations and talent, but replacing entire starting offensive line a recipe for disaster

Image placeholder title

Illinois State (at-large bid)

First regular-season game against North Dakota State since 2013 takes place in Fargodome on Oct. 1

Image placeholder title

Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley champ)

Beefed-up non-conference schedule will pay off in conference play

Image placeholder title

James Madison (at-large bid)

Easiest road game is at Maine, and that isn’t

McNeese State (at-large bid)

Will likely have to win at Sam Houston State (Nov. 5) to repeat as Southland champ

Image placeholder title

Montana (at-large bid)

Open Big Sky play at Cal Poly (Sept. 24), which has won the last two meetings

Image placeholder title

North Dakota (at-large bid)

Fighting Hawks are probably still talking about being left out of last year’s playoff field

Image placeholder title

North Dakota State (Missouri Valley champ)

Bison have skipped the non-conference cupcakes to try to tackle Charleston Southern, Eastern Washington and Iowa (in Iowa City).

Image placeholder title

Northern Iowa (at-large bid)

Panthers not far behind NDSU in toughness of non-conference start: at Iowa State, Montana and at Eastern Washington

Image placeholder title

Portland State (at-large bid)

Not as strong as last season, Vikings probably need to beat an FBS opponent again (they face San Jose State and Washington)

Image placeholder title

Richmond (CAA champ)

Difficult November finish awaits: James Madison, Delaware and at William & Mary

Sam Houston State (Southland champ)

All that remains is winning a national title, right?

Image placeholder title

South Dakota State (at-large bid)

Jackrabbits face TCU, North Dakota State, Illinois State and Northern Iowa on the road

Image placeholder title

The Citadel (at-large bid)

This year, Bulldogs host the other reigning SoCon champ, Chattanooga, on Oct. 15 and also will travel to Chapel Hill to take on reigning ACC Coastal champ North Carolina

Image placeholder title

Towson (at-large bid)

Just like North Dakota, CAA squad was one of the last teams left out of the 2015 playoff field

Image placeholder title

Villanova (at-large bid)

Head coach Andy Talley’s swan song surely deserves to wrap up in the playoffs

Image placeholder title

Western Illinois (at-large bid)

A 6-5 record got Leathernecks in playoffs last season; new coach Charlie Fisher expects even better mark

Image placeholder title

William & Mary (at-large bid)

Tribe have excellent offense and special teams, need quick rebuild on defense

Image placeholder title

Youngstown State (at-large bid)

Last year’s five Missouri Valley playoff qualifiers on this list; will Penguins make it a record six bids?

— 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 He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.

(Top photo by William & Mary Athletics)