Part of The Analyst’s FCS series called “By the Numbers,” which analyzes data to help tell the story of FCS college football.                                               

The numbers don’t lie: There is a method to the madness of how the elite teams are still playing in December.

While they may take slightly different paths to success, statistically they’re very similar.

Let’s face it, the words statistics, similar and success all begin with the same letter, right?

The numbers prove the 10 teams that remain in the FCS postseason – eight in the national playoffs and Florida A&M and Howard in the Celebration Bowl – score early and often. If they didn’t, they’d be preparing for August 2024, and not another opponent this postseason.

They often break the spirit of their opponents early. They aren’t just scraping by, it’s a combination of offensive explosion and defensive suffocation.

Take a look:

The Breakdown


Point differential (scored versus allowed): +27.6 points per game (No. 1 among 128 FCS teams)

Scored: 455 (37.9 points per game – No. 4 in the FCS)

Allowed: 124 (10.3 points per game – No. 1 in the FCS)

Time of possession: 32 minutes, 1 second per game (No. 17 in the FCS)

The sum: The defending FCS champion Jackrabbits grind their opponents into a fine dust offensively, form an oxygen vacuum on defense, and are No. 5 in the FCS when it comes to turnover margin (+11). There’s little room for error with any opponent facing this club.


Point differential: +19.0 points per game (No. 2 in the FCS)

Scored: 498 (38.3 points per game – No. 3 in the FCS)

Allowed: 251 (19.3 points per game – No. 16 in the FCS)

Time of possession: 33:06 (No. 5 in the FCS)

The sum: Naysayers may say this isn’t the North Dakota State team of old, but the numbers don’t necessarily agree. The Bison are doing the same thing they’ve always done: They don’t throw the ball 60 times a game, they block and tackle, and play physical defense. They’re in the quarterfinals for the same reason as always (yes, 14 straight quarters).

MONTANA (11-1)

Point differential: +17.3 points per game (No. 4 in the FCS)

Scored: 385 (32.1 points per game – No. 18 in the FCS)

Allowed: 178 (14.8 points per game – No. 4 in the FCS)

Time of possession: 29:46 (No. 69 in the FCS)

The sum: It’s hard to argue against the idea that defense is the biggest reason Montana is in action this weekend, but the Griz have scored at a nice pace, too. Balance is a good reason they’ve captured their first Big Sky title since 2009 and are second-seeded in the playoffs.

FLORIDA A&M (11-1)

Point differential: +16.4 points per game (No. 5 in the FCS)

Scored: 368 (30.7 points per game – No. 27 in the FCS)

Allowed: 171 (14.3 points per game – No. 2 in the FCS)

Time of possession: 31:45 (No. 22 in the FCS)

The sum: Florida A&M is as potent-looking on paper as few HBCU teams have looked in recent years. The SWAC champion Rattlers play particularly stout defense and are set to face the Celebration Bowl against former MEAC rival Howard.


Point differential: +15.1 points per game (No. 6 in the FCS)

Scored: 403 (33.6 points per game – No. 12 in the FCS)

Allowed: 222 (18.5 points per game – No. 13 in the FCS)

Time of possession: 31:58 (No. 18 in the FCS)

The sum: This gritty Villanova team isn’t going to dazzle you, it’s just a hard-nosed eastern-style football squad that is built to deal with the meteorological elements that come later in the season. When your campus is in greater Philadelphia, you build your program to grind down opponents.

The Next Tier

ALBANY (10-3): +13.6-point differential

IDAHO (9-3): +11.8-point differential

FURMAN (10-2): +10.5-point differential

SOUTH DAKOTA (10-2): +9.2-point differential

HOWARD: +5.6-point differential