Twenty-four teams make the FCS playoffs every year, but only eight teams receive a seed and a first-round bye. While getting a seed is an advantage by itself, there’s a bigger advantage that comes with the seeds. Here’s why getting a top-two seed in the FCS playoffs is important.
Why a top-two seed?
Every seed in the FCS playoffs is guaranteed to host a second-round game, thanks to a first-round bye. After the second round, the team with the best seed hosts every game until a neutral site contest for the FCS championship.
With four seeded teams split on each side of the bracket, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
More than home-field advantage
Home-field advantage alone is nice, but a top-two seed getting home-field advantage means nothing if the team doesn’t win at home.
Yet, in the case of the FCS playoffs, home-field advantage just means more. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the FCS playoffs have had immense success at home in recent years.
Nine of the last 10 FCS championship game participants have only played home games through the FCS semifinal round. If you stretch that number out to 2015, it still becomes 11 out of 14. Only one year during that span, 2016, had two teams that didn’t play only home games during the playoffs.
No. 1 and No. 2 seeds made up nine of the possible 14 national championship participants over the last seven years. Two No. 3 seeds — 2018 Eastern Washington and 2015 North Dakota State — had home-field advantage and advanced to the FCS semifinals.
|Year||Team||Seed||FCS playoff finish|
|2021||North Dakota State||No. 2||National Champion|
|Sam Houston||No. 1||Quarterfinals|
|2020-21||Sam Houston||No. 2||National Champion|
|South Dakota State||No. 1||Runner-up|
|2019||North Dakota State||No. 1||National Champion|
|James Madison||No. 2||Runner-up|
|2018||North Dakota State||No. 1||National Champion|
|Weber State||No. 2||Quarterfinals|
|Eastern Washington*||No. 3||Runner-up|
|2017||North Dakota State||No. 2||National Champion|
|James Madison||No. 1||Runner-up|
|2016||North Dakota State||No. 1||Semifinals|
|Eastern Washington||No. 2||Semifinals|
|2015||North Dakota State*||No. 3||National Champion|
|Jacksonville State||No. 1||Runner-up|
|Illinois State||No. 2||Quarterfinals|
*Eastern Washington and North Dakota State played only home games as a No. 3 seed thanks to quarterfinal losses from the No. 2 seeds.
Top-two seed = Championship?
Since the FCS playoffs expanded in 2013, adding eight seeds, a team that only played on its home field in the playoffs has won eight of nine FCS Championships. Seven of those eight were No. 1 or No. 2 seeds.
While the games must be played out on the field, there’s no denying the correlation between a top-two seed and FCS playoff success.