Sunday, November 19, 2023

Gardner-Webb and NC Central Make FCS Playoff Field


As the clock struck noon on Selection Sunday, football fans across the nation eagerly tuned in to witness the unveiling of the 2023 FCS playoff bracket. The anticipation reached its peak as the NCAA Division I Football Championship Committee revealed the field of 24 teams competing for the prestigious title.

Two teams from North Carolina, Gardner-Webb and North Carolina Central, found themselves among the chosen few. For the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs, it was a testament to their resilience throughout a challenging season. Despite facing one of the toughest nonconference schedules in FCS football, the Runnin' Bulldogs secured significant victories against Elon and #13 UT Martin. They stumbled along the way, facing tough losses to FBS Appalachian State and fellow playoff team Austin Peay. However, as conference play unfolded, Gardner-Webb turned the tide, finishing strong with a 5-1 record and clinching the conference championship for the second consecutive year.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the North Carolina Central University Eagles soared into the playoffs on the wings of an impressive season. Fresh off winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the HBCU national championship, the Eagles showcased their strength in a schedule that included marquee matchups against UCLA and a trip to the Circle City Classic in Indianapolis. Victories against South Carolina State and Norfolk State highlighted their success, while a challenging loss to Howard kept them out of the Celebration Bowl for a second year in a row but opened the door to the FCS playoffs.

As the bracket unfolded, fans marveled at the matchups that would define the road to the national championship in Frisco, Texas. Gardner-Webb was slated to face Mercer in the first round, a game that promised intensity and excitement. Meanwhile, NC Central prepared for a showdown with Richmond, setting the stage for a clash between two formidable opponents. Both North Carolina teams will play away from home for the first round of the playoffs with a win putting each team on the road at one of the top eight national seeds.

Top 8 seeds

  1. South Dakota State
  2. Montana
  3. South Dakota
  4. Idaho
  5. Albany
  6. Montana State
  7. Furman
  8. Villanova

The playoff journey begins on Thanksgiving weekend on ESPN+, with the first-round matchups set to captivate audiences across the nation. 

GameTime (ET)TV channel
Sacramento State vs. North Dakota1 p.m.ESPN+
Lafayette vs. Delaware2 p.m.ESPN+
NC Central vs. Richmond2 p.m.ESPN+
Nicholls vs. Southern Illinois2 p.m.ESPN+
Gardner-Webb vs. Mercer3 p.m.ESPN+
Chattanooga vs. Austin Peay3 p.m.ESPN+
Drake vs. North Dakota State3:30 p.m.ESPN+
Duquesne vs. Youngstown State5 p.m.ESPN+