How the 2021-22 FCS Playoffs Will Work

The FCS was thrown into total disarray as coronavirus shut down the playoffs in the fall of 2020. In a neat twist, the FCS Playoffs came back in a modified form in the spring of 2021 with sixteen teams vying for the title. With some normalcy, hopefully, ahead of us, the playoffs will return to a 24-team format this fall. Let’s get into what exactly this all will look like…

Who Are the Automatic Qualifiers?

The 2021-22 season marks the first year that there will be eleven automatic qualifiers and thirteen at-large bids into the tournament. The list of the ten conferences with automatic bids from previous seasons are:

  • Big Sky
  • Big South
  • Colonial Athletic Association
  • Missouri Valley
  • Northeast
  • Ohio Valley
  • Patriot
  • Pioneer
  • Southern
  • Southland

The additions of the Atlantic Sun and the Western Athletic Conference to the FCS has led to a push to get another automatic qualifier in there. For the Fall of 2021, there is a joint collaboration between the two conferences called the AQ7. This includes all the WAC teams except for Dixie State and two teams from the Atlantic Sun in Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State. Following a round-robin format, the top team in this alliance will get the eleventh automatic bid.

How Are the At-Large Teams Selected?

This is the question that we are always attempting to answer in our FCS College Football Playoff Projections page. The remaining thirteen bids get selected from the pool of teams that either did not win their conference or are from a conference that does not get an automatic bid. There are no hard rules to which metric puts a team above or below another, but there are a few things the committee tries to do. Firstly, the committee avoids pitting teams from the same conference together in the First Round. Secondly, geography plays an integral part of the bracket. Teams are matched with ability in mind (best plays the worst), but also so that travel is kept to a minimum. Thirdly, records equal to or under .500 are typically avoided for placement in the tournament.

FCS Playoff Schedule

Date Round Notes
11/27/2021 First Round Matches Top 8 have byes
12/4/2021 Second Round Matches Winners of First Round and Top 8
12/11/2021 Quarterfinal Matches
12/18/2021 Semifinal Matches
1/8/2022 FCS Championship Played in Frisco, TX