It's a mix of normal and abnormal this season in college football's Football Championship Subdivision. The defending champion (North Dakota State) and runner-up (Montana State) earned top-four seeds in this year's playoffs, and maybe the second-most consistent program in FCS (South Dakota State) is No. 1. Everything feels right there.
Everything else, however ... is different. James Madison is gone, choosing instead to be awesome in FBS. Jacksonville State is joining the Dukes in making the jump next year and was therefore booted from playoff eligibility.
Aside from the three heavyweights above, only six other teams from last year's 24-team playoff field made it this season. And the national title favorite might be a team with zero all-time playoff wins. If you're a fan of the new and the different, this year's playoffs are for you.
At least, they are until North Dakota State wins the whole damn thing again.
The action gets started on Saturday. Here are the schedule and SP+ projections for the round of 24:
• Elon at Furman (noon, ESPN+). SP+ projection: Elon 29.6, Furman 28.8. Winner faces No. 7 Incarnate Word.
• Saint Francis (PA) at Delaware (2 p.m., ESPN+). SP+ projection: Delaware 34.6, SFU 25.8. Winner faces No. 1 South Dakota State.
• Fordham at New Hampshire (2 p.m., ESPN+). SP+ projection: UNH 31.1, Fordham 30.5. Winner faces No. 8 Holy Cross.
• Davidson at Richmond (2 p.m., ESPN+). SP+ projection: Richmond 41.7, Davidson 19.5. Winner faces No. 2 Sacramento State.
• North Dakota at Weber State (4 p.m., ESPN+). SP+ projection: Weber State 34.9, UND 22.7. Winner faces No. 4 Montana State.
• Gardner-Webb at Eastern Kentucky (5 p.m., ESPN+). SP+ projection: EKU 31.0, GWU 24.8. Winner faces No. 5 William & Mary.
• Idaho at Southeastern Louisiana (7 p.m., ESPN+). SP+ projection: Idaho 32.3, SELA 31.5. Winner faces No. 6 Samford.
• SE Missouri State at Montana (10 p.m., ESPN2). SP+ projection: Montana 34.5, SEMO 27.1. Winner faces No. 3 North Dakota State.
Elon-Furman, Fordham-New Hampshire and Idaho-Southeastern Louisiana are all projected to be ridiculously close, and late on Saturday night Montana will get a nationally televised opportunity to justify its selection despite a 7-4 record and a late funk (all four losses came in the last six games).
To get up to speed on the teams and names you need to know in the coming weeks, let's use my FCS SP+ rankings to rank the field from least likely to most likely to take home the crown.