(SportsNetwork.com) - Even on the day his New Hampshire football team became the nation's top-ranked team two weeks ago, coach Sean McDonnell conceded something about the team they replaced at No. 1, North Dakota State.
"They're the best team in the country," McDonnell said.
Top-ranked New Hampshire earned the No. 1 seed for the 24-team NCAA Division I Football Championship on Sunday, but North Dakota State would appear to be the team to beat heading into the playoffs. The No. 2 Bison, also seeded No. 2, have won the last three FCS national titles and are chasing an unprecedented fourth in a row.
Along the way to their title three-peat a year ago, NDSU defeated New Hampshire by 38 points in the national semifinals at the Fargodome.
As the top seeds this season, both teams would play at home through the semifinals. The FCS championship game will be played on Jan. 10 in Frisco, Texas.
"It was very, very close in a much-discussed situation," selection committee chair Robert Hill said on the ESPNU2 selection show, "but we felt New Hampshire, after losing their first game of the year against an FBS opponent (Toledo) went undefeated the remainder of the season whereas North Dakota State lost a conference midway through their conference season. So we felt like that New Hampshire had the better of the two (playoff resumes) in terms of consistency, and we went with New Hampshire."
New Hampshire (10-1) have qualified for the playoffs for the 11th straight season and enter on a 10-game winning streak after winning an outright championship in CAA Football. North Dakota State (11-1), making a fifth straight appearance, shared the Missouri Valley Conference title with Illinois State. The Valley tied the single-season record of FCS qualifiers with five teams.
Eight seeds will have first-round byes when the playoffs kick off on Saturday.
Ohio Valley Conference champion Jacksonville State (10-1) earned the No. 3 seed, followed by Big Sky champion Eastern Washington (10-2) at No. 4, Illinois State (10-1) at No. 5, Villanova (10-2) from the CAA at No. 6, Big South co- champion Coastal Carolina (11-1) at No. 7 and Southern Conference champion Chattanooga (9-3) at No. 8.
Indiana State (7-5) from the Missouri Valley and Stephen F. Austin (8-4) from the Southland Conference are regarded as the final two at-large selections. Hill, the athletic director at Stephen F. Austin, mentioned Bethune-Cookman (9-3) from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference as being perhaps the first team left out of the at-large selections.
2014 NCAA DIVISION I FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
(Campus sites until the championship game)
(All times ET)
Saturday, Nov. 29
Sacred Heart (9-2) at Fordham (10-2), noon (ESPN3)
Indiana State (7-5) at Eastern Kentucky (9-3), 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
Morgan State (7-5) at Richmond (8-4), 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
Southeastern Louisiana (9-3) at Sam Houston State (8-4), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)
South Dakota State (8-4) at Montana State (8-4), 4 p.m. (ESPN3)
San Diego (9-2) at Montana (8-4), 4 p.m. (ESPN3)
Liberty (8-4) at James Madison (9-3), 4 p.m. (ESPN3)
Stephen F. Austin (8-4) at Northern Iowa (8-4), 8 p.m. (ESPN3)
Saturday, Dec. 6
Sacred Heart-Fordham winner at No. 1 seed New Hampshire (10-1), 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
Indiana State-Eastern Kentucky winner at No. 8 seed Chattanooga (9-3), 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
Morgan State-Richmond winner at No. 7 seed Coastal Carolina (11-1), 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
Stephen F. Austin-Northern Iowa winner at No. 5 seed Illinois State (10-1), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)
Southeastern Louisiana-Sam Houston State winner at No. 3 seed Jacksonville State (10-1), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)
South Dakota State-Montana State winner at No. 2 seed North Dakota State (11-1), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
San Diego-Montana winner at No. 4 Eastern Washington (10-2), 4:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Liberty-James Madison winner at No. 6 seed Villanova (10-2), 4:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Friday, Dec. 12 and Saturday, Dec. 13
Second-round winners, TBA
Friday, Dec. 19 and Saturday, Dec. 20
Quarterfinal winners, TBA
Saturday, Jan. 10
Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas
Semifinal winners, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)