Idaho Vandals feel like ‘contenders’ with FCS playoff bye, No. 4 seed, home-field edge

The University of Idaho football team will host a playoff game for the first time in 30 years.

The Vandals received the No. 4 overall seed in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, which comes with a first-round bye and the right to host second-round and quarterfinal games. The 24-team field was revealed Sunday on ESPNU by the FCS Playoff Selection Committee.

“I’m really just proud of our players and our assistant coaches for all the work they put in to earn a ... top four seed,” Idaho coach Jason Eck said. “... It’s just a great recognition of all the work that they really put in over the last two years, and I’m very excited about the opportunity that’s in front of us.”

Idaho (8-3) will host the winner of the Nicholls (6-4)-Southern Illinois (7-4) game at 8 p.m. Mountain time on Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+. Nicholls and Southern Illinois will play at noon Saturday at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale, Illinois.

If they were to win, the Vandals, also ranked No. 4 in the FCS Top 25 poll, would host a quarterfinal game on Dec. 9. The No. 5 seed in the bracket is Albany, which is ranked No. 9 in the FCS Top 25.

The Vandals are postseason bound for the second straight season, a feat that hasn’t occurred in Moscow since they made four consecutive appearances from 1992 to 1995. It is Idaho’s 13th I-AA/FCS playoff berth overall and its 16th postseason appearance, including three bowl wins at the FBS level.

But it’s a rare home playoff game for the Vandals, who last hosted postseason action in 1993 against Boston University in the then-Division I-AA quarterfinals. Idaho won that game 21-14 and lost in the semifinals 35-16 to eventual national champion Youngstown State.

The Vandals lost 45-42 to Southeastern Louisiana in the first round of the playoffs last season.

“Twenty-four teams make it, but there’s probably not 24 true contenders to win the whole thing, just like the NCAA basketball tournament. It’s no different,” Eck said. “But I think when you have one of those eight seeds, you’re a contender. You start at home and get to get fresh, and now it’s an all-new season.”

Four Big Sky teams made this year’s playoff field, with reigning league champion Montana (10-1) earning the No. 2 seed and Montana State (8-3) earning the No. 6 seed, meaning both got byes as well. Sacramento State (7-4) received an at-large selection and will travel to North Dakota on Saturday for a first-round game. UC-Davis (7-4), which had a 5-3 league record compared to Sacramento State’s 4-4 and defeated the Hornets in the regular-season finale, did not get a berth.

Eck said the Vandals will use the bye week to give players time to get healthy, including starting quarterback Gevani McCoy, who sat out Idaho’s regular-season finale against Idaho State with an injury. Redshirt freshman Jack Layne started in place of McCoy, completing 20-of-26 passes for 275 yards and six touchdowns — all in the first half — on the way to a 63-21 victory.

“I think in the next two weeks we’ll be able to get to full strength here,” Eck said. “We had some guys who missed last week because they were a little nicked up, like Gevani and (wide receiver) Terez Traynor. (Linebacker) Isiah King has been out for a while. But we’ll get all three of those guys back, and then we had some guys who got nicked (Saturday) in the (Idaho State) game — (tight end) Turon Ivy Jr. and (running back) Nick Romano. But I think having that extra time to get healthy will really benefit them.”

Tickets for the Vandals’ playoff game went on sale to season-ticket holders on Monday, and they will have until end of day Tuesday to secure seats. The remaining tickets will be released to the general public for purchase beginning at 10 a.m. Mountain time Wednesday. Tickets can be purchased by calling 208-885-6466 or by visiting