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The FCS spring 2021 playoff bracket is set

A wild, unprecedented spring FCS regular season concluded with a predictably wild final regular season.

South Dakota State went to the Fargodome and beat North Dakota State, ending the Bison's string of nine straight Missouri Valley Football Conference championships. You could say the Jackrabbits were a bit excited.

In the CAA, James Madison beat Richmond to win the league's first and only South Division championship, but the undefeated and top-ranked Dukes will enter the playoffs as an at-large after CAA ADs selected Delaware as the conference champion. The Blue Hens survived this touchdown pass to beat Villanova in the North Division title game, the type of throw that'd make you rage quit if it happened to you in Madden.

In the Pioneer Football League, Davidson won its first conference title via cancellation on Friday night. When Stetson was forced to cancel, Davidson was declared league champion; the Wildcats then won the league outright when San Diego -- riding a PFL record 39-game conference winning streak until losing to Davidson a couple weeks back -- fell to Valparaiso on Saturday. Davidson is in the playoffs for the first time since 1969.

In the Patriot League, Holy Cross went to Bucknell and kicked the Bison around on their home field. The Crusaders won the first and only Patriot League championship game, 33-10, pushing the program to its fourth FCS playoff and second consecutive. The Cross is looking for its first playoff win.

Finally, in the SoCon, VMI wrapped up the best regular season in recent program history by winning the Military Classic of the South over rival The Citadel and the program's first SoCon title since 1977. This year's playoff will be VMI's first.

All that established, here were the auto bids heading into Sunday's bracket announcement:

Big Sky -- Weber State
Big South -- Monmouth
CAA 
-- Delaware
Missouri Valley -- South Dakota State
NEC -- Sacred Heart
Ohio Valley -- Jacksonville State
Patriot League -- Holy Cross
Pioneer League -- Davidson
SoCon -- VMI
Southland -- Sam Houston

Those teams will occupy 10 of the 16 slots in the streamlined bracket, leaving just six at-large bids with the subdivision's two premier powers (JMU, NDSU) taking up two of them. The slimmed down bracket removes first-round byes for seeded teams, and due to virus protocols games will be at predetermined sites this year.

And here is the bracket, announced Sunday by the FCS selection committee.

(1) South Dakota State vs. (16) Holy Cross
(8) Weber State vs. (9) Southern Illinois

(4) Jacksonville State vs. (13) Davidson
(5) Delaware vs. (12) Sacred Heart

(2) Sam Houston vs. (15) Monmouth
(7) North Dakota State vs. (10) Eastern Washington

(3) James Madison vs. (14) VMI
(6) North Dakota vs. (11) Missouri State

The first round begins Saturday and will conclude with a Sunday, May 16 championship game, returning to Frisco, Texas and airing on ABC.

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