Fresh off a drumbeat from rival Montana, the Montana State football team earned the #4 spot in the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
The Bobcats (10-1), who defeated the Grizzlies 55-21 in last Saturday’s rivalry game, earned a first-round bye and will face the winner of No. 7 Weber State and No. 16 North Dakota on Dec. 3 in Bozeman.
Montana State won part of the Big Sky Conference title and will be in the playoffs for 12th and fourth time in the last five years. In 1984 the Bobcats won the title.
South Dakota State secured the top spot when the 24-team field was announced Sunday.
The University of Montana (7-4) earned an at-large bid in the postseason and will host Ohio Valley Conference champion Southeast Missouri State (9-2) at 8 p.m. Saturday in Missoula. The first-ever meeting of the two programs will air on ESPN 2.
South Dakota State (10-1) will make an 11th straight appearance in the postseason. The Jackrabbits, who lost to Sam Houston in the 2020 championship game, were automatically nominated as the Missouri Valley Football Conference winners. Sacramento State (11-0) won the Big Sky Conference automatic bid. Neither the Jackrabbits nor the Hornets have ever won the FCS championship.
The top eight seeded players, all of whom will earn a bye into the playoffs beginning Saturday, also include No. 3 North Dakota State (9-2), No. 5 William & Mary (10-1), No. 6 Samford (10-1). 1), #7 Word Incarnate (10-1) and #8 Holy Cross (11-0).
North Dakota State, the defending champion and winner of nine of the last 11 titles, made it into the field for the 13th straight year. The Bison have won 41 playoff games, the most ever. They defeated Montana State 38-10 for last season’s title.
William & Mary will make their 11th playoff appearance. The Tribe won the Colonial Athletic Association title on Saturday, beating entry Richmond at large 37-26. Samford won the Southern Conference in his sixth appearance.
Incarnate Word was widely promoted along with Southeastern Louisiana in the Southland Conference as a co-champion. Southeastern Louisiana hosts Idaho on Saturday (7-4).
Holy Cross received the Patriot League’s automatic offer for a fourth consecutive postseason appearance.
The playoffs conclude with the national championship on January 8th in Frisco, Texas.
LONG TIME NO SEE
Idaho’s appearance is the first since 1995. The Vandals are one of four Big Sky Conference at-large teams that make up the field. That ties the CAA for most teams in the field. Eastern Kentucky has made it for the first time since 2014, Fordham and William & Mary for the first time since 2015, and St. Francis for the first time since 2016.
Gardner-Webb (6-5) is the only team in the field that will make the playoffs for the first time. The Runnin’ Bulldogs won their first Big South Conference title since 2003 with a 38-17 win over North Carolina A&T. They will make their debut in Eastern Kentucky (7-4).
Other first-round games include Saint Francis, Pa. (9-2) at Delaware (7-4), Fordham (9-2) at New Hampshire (8-3), North Dakota (7-4) at Weber State (9-2), Southeast Missouri State (9- 2) at Montana (7-4), Elon (8-3) at Furman (9-2) and Davidson (8-3) at Richmond (8-3).
Tribune staff contributed to this Associated Press report.