Despite the many ups and downs of playing the FCS college football season during a pandemic, 16 teams are about to have the opportunity for a final climb to the top of the mountain.

And, oh, do the FCS playoffs deliver on excitement.

An NCAA selection committee spent Saturday night finalizing the 16-team pairings, which will be released on Sunday on ESPNU (11:30 a.m. ET). The first round will commence next Saturday, the first of four straight weekends of a single-elimination format that will be capped by the national championship game on May 16 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco Texas.


The winners in these groups of first-round matchups would meet in the second round:

VMI (6-1) at No. 1 seed James Madison (5-0)

Sacred Heart (3-1) at Delaware (5-0)

Missouri State (5-4) at No. 4 seed Weber State (5-0)

Southern Illinois (5-3) at Eastern Washington (5-1)

Monmouth (3-0) at No. 3 seed Sam Houston (6-0)

Davidson (4-2) at .Jacksonville State (9-2)

Holy Cross (3-0) at No. 2 seed South Dakota State (5-1)

North Dakota (4-1) at North Dakota State (6-2) – teams met during regular season, but offer regional pairing


These 10 conference champions earned automatic qualifying bids:

Davidson (Pioneer)

Delaware (CAA)

Holy Cross (Patriot)

Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley)

Monmouth (Big South)

Sacred Heart (Northeast)

Sam Houston (Southland)

South Dakota State (Missouri Valley)

Weber State (Big Sky)

VMI (Southern)


The selection committee will make six at-large selections. The following group is a projection, with CAA member Richmond the first team left out of the projection:

Eastern Washington (Big Sky)

James Madison (CAA)

Missouri State (Missouri Valley)

North Dakota (Missouri Valley)

North Dakota State (Missouri Valley)

Southern Illinois (Missouri Valley)


The eight first-round sites will come from an NCAA list of 14 predetermined candidates. Two teams can be paired at one of the schools or a neutral site:

Delaware (Newark, Delaware)                

Eastern Washington (Cheney, Washington)

Jacksonville State (Jacksonville, Alabama)

James Madison (Harrisonburg, Virginia)

Kennesaw State (Kennesaw, Georgia)

Maine (Orono, Maine)

Missouri State (Springfield, Missouri)

Murray State (Murray, Kentucky)

North Dakota (Grand Forks, North Dakota)

North Dakota State (Fargo, North Dakota)

Sam Houston (Huntsville, Texas)

South Dakota State (Brookings, South Dakota)

Villanova (Villanova, Pennsylvania)

Weber State (Ogden, Utah)


All playoff games prior to the national championship game will be played at campus sites.

Some key dates:

Playoff Selection Show: Sunday (11:30 a.m. ET, ESPNU)

First Round: April 24 weekend

Quarterfinals: May 1 weekend

Semifinals: May 8 (noon ET on ESPN and 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2)

Championship Game (Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas): May 16 (2 p.m. ET, ABC)