What To Know About The 2021 FCS Spring Playoffs

Quarterback Trey Lance #5 of the North Dakota State Bison passes against the Butler Bulldogs during their game at Target Field on August 31, 2019, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

If you thought you had to wait until the fall to watch Division I football, think again. The Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA, is playing its season this spring. It’s a terrific level of football to watch and for college football betting.

The FCS is made up of 127 teams. The scholarship maximum is 63 compared to the 85 scholarships in FBS. While there may not be 70,000-seat stadiums or $100 million budgets at the FCS, it’s a strong brand of football where the top 30 teams are stronger than the bottom 30 teams in the FBS.

FCS teams routinely beat FBS teams every season.

There are big-time players at this level. Eight FCS players decided to forgo the spring season and recently played in the Senior Bowl. Three of which won practice awards.

Some notable current NFL players who came from the FCS are Carson Wentz, Darius Leonard, David Johnson, Cooper Kupp, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Joe Flacco.

Guys like Kurt Warner, Ron Jaworski, Adam Vinatieri, Jared Allen, Brian Westbrook, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Tony Romo, Matt Birk, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Steve McNair, and so many others played their ball at the FCS/D1-AA level.

The Playoffs

The best part about the FCS is the playoff bracket to determine a true national champion, something the FBS level can’t seem to wrap its mind around.

A normal FCS playoff bracket is 24 teams. Ten auto-bids come from 10 conferences and there are 14 at-large bids. There are 13 conferences in the FCS. The Ivy League does not participate in postseason play, and the MEAC and the SWAC send their conference champions to the Celebration Bowl to determine the HBCU national champion.

With a shortened spring season, it will be a 16-team playoff. There will be 11 auto-bids and five at-large bids. The extra auto-bid will go to the MEAC champion.

As of this writing, 96 teams are playing in the spring season, and 31 have opted out.

Teams can play up to eight regular-season spring games in a 13-week period with the last regular-season game occurring no later than April 17. A minimum of four games must be played to qualify as an at-large bid.

The first regular-season game is scheduled for Feb. 13.

Notable Playoff Dates

  • Selection Show: Sunday, April 18
  • 1st Round: Weekend of April 24
  • Quarterfinals: Weekend of May 1
  • Semifinals: Weekend of May 8
  • Championship game: Sunday, May 16 (Frisco, Texas)

Past Champions

2019North Dakota State
2018North Dakota State
2017North Dakota State
2016James Madison
2015North Dakota State
2014North Dakota State
2013North Dakota State
2012North Dakota State
2011North Dakota State
2010Eastern Washington

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Sam Herder is a writer for BetMGM and HERO Sports. A North Dakota State journalism grad, he spent several years in the print media industry before writing for online outlets. Sam has covered sports at all levels — high school, college, and professional — since 2011.