Defending national champion North Dakota State earned the No. 1 seed for the NCAA Division I Football Subdivision Championship playoffs on Sunday.
The Bison (10-1), the champions of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, were one of five seeded teams in the 20-team field. The others were No. 2 Eastern Washington (9-2) and No. 3 Montana State (10-1) from the Big Sky Conference, No. 4 Old Dominion (10-1) from CAA Football and No. 5 Georgia Southern from the Southern Conference.
"Once you're crowned champion, without question, you're no longer going to be a school that's just running under the radar," North Dakota State head coach Craig Bohl said. "I think people will look and say, 'OK, this team has a proven track record, they've got players who can win a championship.' And therefore, other opponents I'm sure look and say, 'They're a good program, we're going to need to get ourselves ready to play to win.'"
North Dakota State, which beat Sam Houston State in last year's championship game, will face the winner of the Eastern Illinois at South Dakota State first- round game in the second round Dec. 1.
The 10 conference champions to gain automatic qualifying bids were Bethune-Cookman (Mid-Eastern Athletic), Central Arkansas (Southland), Coastal Carolina (Big South), Colgate (Patriot), Eastern Illinois (Ohio Valley), Eastern Washington (Big Sky), Georgia Southern (Southern), North Dakota State (Missouri Valley), Villanova (CAA) and Wagner (Northeast).
The 10 at-large bids were given to Cal Poly (Big Sky), Appalachian State (Southern), Illinois State (Missouri Valley), Montana State (Big Sky), New Hampshire (CAA), Old Dominion (CAA), Sam Houston State (Southland), South Dakota State (Missouri Valley), Stony Brook (Big South) and Wofford (Southern).
New Hampshire made the playoffs for the ninth straight year, the longest active run in the FCS, and one ahead of Appalachian State.
Among the conferences, the Big Sky, CAA, Missouri Valley and SoCon had the most qualifiers with three each.
Four first-round games will kick off the action on Nov. 24: Colgate at Wagner; Coastal Carolina at Bethune-Cookman; Eastern Illinois at South Dakota State; and Villanova at Stony Brook.
The first-round winners will advance to the second round on Dec. 1, and play one of the top four seeds.
The quarterfinals will be held on Dec. 7 and 8. They will be followed by one semifinal on Dec. 14 and the other on Dec. 15.
The FCS national championship game will be held on Jan. 5 at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
The selection committee was faced with leaving a high number of teams with playoff-worthy resumes out of the at-large mix. They included Albany (9-2), Eastern Kentucky (8-3), Lehigh (10-1), Northern Arizona (8-3), Richmond (8-3), UT Martin (8-3), Tennessee State (8-3), The Citadel (7-4) and Towson (7-4)
2012 NCAA DIVISION I FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
(Campus sites until the final)
(All times ET)
Saturday, Nov. 24
Colgate (8-3) at Wagner (8-3), noon (ESPN3)
Coastal Carolina (7-4) at Bethune-Cookman (9-2), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)
Eastern Illinois (7-4) at South Dakota State (8-3), 3 p.m. (ESPN3)
Villanova (8-3) at Stony Brook (9-2), 3 p.m. (ESPN3)
Saturday, Dec. 1
New Hampshire (8-3) at Wofford (8-3), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)
Central Arkansas (9-2) at No. 5 Georgia Southern (8-3), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)
Coastal Carolina-Bethune-Cookman winner No. 4 Old Dominion (10-1), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)
Illinois State (8-3) at Appalachian State (8-3), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)
Eastern Illinois-South Dakota State winner at No. 1 North Dakota State (10-1), 4 p.m. (ESPN3)
Cal Poly (9-2) at Sam Houston State (8-3), 4 p.m. (ESPN3)
Colgate-Wagner winner at No. 2 Eastern Washington (9-2), 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Villanova-Stony Brook winner at No. 3 Montana State (10-1), 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8
Friday, Dec. 14 and Saturday, Dec. 16
Saturday, Jan. 5
FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas
1 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN3)