No. 1 seeds not quite automatic in FCS playoffs

·1 min read

(Stats Perform) - The next time the NCAA conducts its annual FCS playoffs, try telling members of the top-seeded team they have only a 26 percent chance of the winning the national championship.

They won't believe it.

You probably won't, either.

Surprisingly, though, it's been the case to date.

The playoffs have been contested 42 times since 1978, the first year of the Division I split into I-A (now FBS) and I-AA (now FCS). The first three playoffs included only four teams and didn't have seeding before seeds were introduced in 1981 when the field was expanded to eight teams.

Only 10 of the 39 No. 1 seeds – 25.6 percent – have gone on to capture the national title. Ten other champions have been No. 2 seeds, and that group held a lead over the No. 1 champs until North Dakota State tied up the totals in the 2019 season. Four of the eight Bison teams that won FCS titles in the decade were top-seeded in the playoffs, so prior to their dynasty, No. 1 seeds were emerging as champion under 20 percent of the time.

This season, all 13 FCS conferences postponed their schedules due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Most schools are planning a spring season, so the 2020 champion could be crowned in a 16-team playoff, which would conclude in mid-May. The field would be decreased from the usual 24 teams, and the seeding is expected to be decreased from eight to four teams.


FCS champs as No. 1 seeds: Eastern Kentucky (1982); Southern Illinois (1983); Georgia Southern (1989); Youngstown State (1994); Montana (2001); Appalachian State (2006); and North Dakota State (2012, '13, '18, '19).