2023 Villanova vs Delaware

CAA Rivalry Week Promises To Shape 2023 FCS Playoffs

CAA Rivalry Week Promises To Shape 2023 FCS Playoffs

Rivalry matchups around the nation including the Delaware-Villanova Battle of the Blue will help determine the bracket for the 2023 FCS Playoffs.

Nov 14, 2023 by Kyle Kensing
CAA Rivalry Week Promises To Shape 2023 FCS Playoffs

Rivalry Week brings with it inherent stakes that require no extra motivation. Still, when a Rivalry Week contest can determine a conference championship and placement in the FCS Playoffs, it does add some extra spice to the weekend. 

"I guess that's an added bonus, that we've both done well enough in the previous 10 games to put ourselves in this position," Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante said. 

Ferrante's Wildcats face longtime rival Delaware in the Battle of the Blue in Week 12 with the winner guaranteed at least a share of the Coastal Athletic Association championship. And while both Villanova and UD are presumably safely in the FCS Playoffs field, both sitting at 8-2 and ranked No. 10 and No. 7 respectively, the winner may add a top-eight national seed to go with the Battle of the Blue Trophy. 

"A lot of us say it week in and week out, no matter who you're playing in the CAA, but when you have the rivalry aspect to it...each team's going to show up, and they're going to play their tail off regardless of what their records are," Ferrante said. "Now the fact we both have the same record, playing of the same stakes, I think that just adds to it." 

The Battle of the Blue is one of four head-to-head matchups to determine at least shares of conference titles in the final week. The other rivalry matchup of the quartet is Montana-Montana State, the Brawl of the Wild. 

The heated, historic series between the Big Sky Conference heavyweights is for the league's title, and presumably no worse than a No. 3 seed in the FCS Playoffs for the winner. 

Neither Northeast Conference counterparts Duquesne and Merrimack nor United Athletic Conference foes Austin Peay and Central Arkansas are traditional rivals...but all rivalries have to start somewhere. What better place than in a head-to-head meeting for league championships and, at least in the case of the NEC, the only FCS Playoffs berth? 

While Austin Peay or Central Arkansas could realistically make the field with a loss in the de facto UAC championship game โ€” and Tarleton is still alive for an at-large berth, as well โ€” Duquesne and Merrimack is a win-and-you're-in, lose-and-you're-out scenario. 

In the CAA, the South's Oldest Rivalry and the most competitive series in all of college football โ€” coach Mike London noted the all-time 64-64-5 tie โ€” is both a championship opportunity and likely make-or-break playoff play-in for Richmond. 

The red-hot Spiders roll into William & Mary winners of five straight, and looking to make this the fifth consecutive fall season in which the visiting team claims the Capital Cup. The 2023 edition of the trophy doubles as Richmond's key to the postseason. 

Big Sky

Automatic: Montana (3)

At-Large: Montana State (4), Idaho (8), Sacramento State

On The Bubble: UC Davis, Weber State 

In addition to the Brawl of the Wild being for the Big Sky championship, the California rivalry between Sacramento State and UC Davis may determine a playoff bid. The Hornets still have a strong at-large case with a loss, but would be sweating it out on Selection Sunday. 

UC Davis' hope of making the Playoffs rides entirely on a win โ€” and even then, it's no guarantee. Each of Montana, Montana State and Idaho are all safely in the postseason regardless of Week 12 results. All three are in the hunt for national seeding. 

Big South/OVC

Automatic: Gardner-Webb

At-Large: UT Martin

On The Bubble: None

Gardner-Webb's head-to-head win over UT Martin earlier in the season gives the Runnin' Bulldogs the inside track on the Big South/OVC automatic bid into the Playoffs. That means bubble teams will be cheering for either GWU to lose to Charleston Southern, or for UT Martin to drop its non-conference tilt with Samford. The latter may be enough to pop the Skyhawks' at-large bubble. 


Automatic: Delaware (6) 

At-Large: UAlbany, Villanova

On The Bubble: Richmond, Rhode Island 

Each of UAlbany, Delaware and Villanova are presumably in the field, all sporting eight wins with just one loss against FCS each. Any of the three, but especially the winner of the Battle of the Blue, could move into the top-eight conversation. 

Richmond needs a win over William & Mary to solidify its playoff case, while Rhode Island โ€” having secured its fourth straight winning season under coach Jim Fleming โ€” needs a rare win at Towson and for some help to snag an at-large berth. 


Automatic: South Dakota State (Clinched)  (1) 

At-Large: South Dakota (5), North Dakota State (7), North Dakota, Northern Iowa

On The Bubble: Youngstown State, Southern Illinois, Illinois State 

Reigning national champion South Dakota State continues to cruise to the No. 1 overall seed, but that doesn't mean the Missouri Valley Football Conference isn't without Week 12 drama. 

Southern Illinois' late-season stumbles have left the Salukis needing a win over Indiana State to remain in the conversation. A 7-4 should be enough to get into the field, given the overall strength of the MVFC schedule and the Salukis' head-to-head win against Austin Peay. However, with Youngstown State vying for an at-large berth, there's no guarantee. 

Meanwhile, North Dakota State can rally to land a top-eight seed and continue its streak of avoiding the 1st Round every year since 2011 with a win at Northern Iowa โ€” but the Panthers may be playing for their postseason lives. 


Automatic: Duquesne 

At-Large: None 

On The Bubble: None 

A cut-and-dry NEC championship game between Duquesne and host Merrimack determines the league's automatic bid. Merrimack is seeking its first-ever FCS Playoffs berth. 


Automatic: Lafayette 

At-Large: None

On The Bubble: Holy Cross  

By virtue of its head-to-head win over Holy Cross earlier this season, Lafayette controls its postseason destiny. Beat Lehigh in their rivalry game, and the Leopards advance. Lose, and they are likely out โ€” so long as Holy Cross beats Georgetown. 

A Lafayette loss and Crusaders win over Georgetown less than a week after the Holy Cross basketball beat the Hoyas may be the only way HC continues its FCS Playoffs streak. 


Automatic: Drake 

At-Large: None 

On The Bubble: None 

Drake remains undefeated in Pioneer Football League play. With Davidson losing in a rout to Morehead State, Drake needs only defeat Butler in a battle of Bulldogs to advance to the FCS Playoffs. 

Although Butler cannot win the PFL, the Bulldogs come in as one of the hottest teams in the conference and have an opportunity to play spoiler after Drake's upset a season ago doomed Butler's postseason aspirations. 


Automatic: Furman (Clinched) (2)

At-Large: Mercer, Western Carolina, Chattanooga 

On The Bubble: None 

Having already clinched after Week 12, Furman is merely playing for 10 regular-season wins and the likely No. 2 overall seed. The Paladins wrap up with Wofford. Mercer is off in Week 12, and at 8-3 with a four-game winning streak that includes a 45-38 defeat of Western Carolina, the Bears should be locked into their first-ever FCS Playoffs. 

That leaves the SoCon's most intrigue up to Chattanooga and Western Carolina. Should WCU beat VMI to close out the campaign, the Catamounts should be firmly into the postseason โ€” particularly owning the head-to-head win over Chattanooga. 

As for the Mocs, they finish with Alabama. Barring a monumental upset, Chattanooga already knows it's headed into Selection Sunday needing the Maalox close at hand. 


Automatic: Nicholls (Clinched) 

At-Large: UIW 

On The Bubble: None 

By virtue of its rout of UIW a week earlier, Nicholls' defeat of Lamar locked the Colonels into a surprise and likely bubble-bursting automatic bid. Nicholls would not have been an at-large contender, but UIW presumably will be with a win over Houston Christian to wrap up. 


Automatic: Austin Peay 

At-Large: None 

On The Bubble: Central Arkansas, Tarleton 

Austin Peay claimed no worse than a share of the UAC championship by virtue of its eighth straight win. The Governors need to beat Central Arkansas in the regular-season finale to guarantee themselves a playoff berth, however. 

Central Arkansas' postseason case hinges on earning the automatic berth. Surprising Tarleton closed out its regular season with a 31-30 thriller to beat Abilene Christian, capping an eight-win season and now leaving its resume in the hands of the committee. 

The Texans' case includes a win at Central Arkansas, but a Div. II win takes some of the luster off of an eight-win docket.