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Bears earn No. 8 seed, first-round bye in FCS playoffs

UCA will host the winner of Southeast Missouri and Illinois State, which meet this Saturday in Cape Girardeau, Mo. on Dec. 7.
Credit: UCA

CONWAY, Ark. — The University of Central Arkansas Bears earned an FCS national seed and the Thanksgiving weekend off when the NCAA FCS Championship Bracket was announced on Sunday morning on ESPNU.

The 9th-ranked Bears (9-3, 7-2) earned the No. 8 seed, meaning a first-round bye this Saturday and a second-round home game on Dec. 7 on "The Stripes" at First Security Field at Estes Stadium. UCA will host the winner of Southeast Missouri and Illinois State, which meet this Saturday in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

The Bears, co-champions of the Southland Conference along with the Nicholls Colonels, will be making their fifth appearance in the FCS Playoffs, and third in the past four years. The game will be the third home playoff game for the Bears since 2016.

UCA, which earned its second national seed in the past three years, beat Illinois State at Estes Stadium in the first round of the 2016 playoffs before losing at Eastern Washington. In 2017, the Bears lost to New Hampshire in the second round in 2017 after receiving a first-round bye as a Top 8 seed.

The Bears have an FBS victory this season over Western Kentucky on the road in the season opener on Aug. 29. WKU, from Conference USA, is 6-4 overall and 4-2 in league play, and also owns a road win over Arkansas. The Bears also beat No. 19/20 Austin Peay on the road, a team that won the Ohio Valley Conference championship.

UCA closed the regular season with a pair of impressive SLC victories, beating Stephen F. Austin 30-7 at home and going on the road for a 52-35 win over Incarnate Word on Friday night in San Antonio, Texas. The Bears and Colonels both finished with 7-2 records, with Nicholls receiving the SLC's automatic bid to the playoffs by virtue of its win over UCA on Oct. 5 in Thibodaux, La.

UCA has won at least nine games for the sixth time since moving to NCAA Division I in 2006, and the third time in the past four seasons. 

Kickoff will be 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7 on "The Stripes." The winner of that game will face either the Nicholls State-North Dakota winner or No. 1 seed North Dakota State in the third round on either Dec. 13 or Dec.14.