Adam and Eve were the first to ignore Apple’s terms and conditions. We all know what happened to them.
FBS coaches who similarly overlook their FCS opponents are facing similar woes, especially in these days of rising success of FCS teams.
Consider: In just the first week of last season, 5 FCS teams posted wins over FBS opponents. Four others came within a single possession. Teams out west need to pay attention because only one of those FCS wins occurred east of the Missouri River.
By September 7th this season, we will have seen 66 games matching FBS teams against FCS opponents. It is relatively easy to conclude that nine of those games will have FCS winners. It’s much harder to foresee who those winners will be, but let’s take a look at some of the leading candidates early in the season.
UC Davis vs California. UCD was 1-1 against FBS opponents in 2018 under head coach Dan Hawkins, former head coach of Colorado. UC Davis is a contender for the FCS national championship while Cal isn’t a contender in its own half of its own conference. And, these Bears like turnovers just enough to make this a high-risk game for the PAC-12.
Cal Poly comes to Corvallis to play Oregon State. The Mustangs were 5-6 and wouldn’t seem to be much of a threat against any PAC-12, but OSU has had a tough time with FCS teams. Last year, Oregon State downed Southern Utah 48-25 and that seemed like an omen of better days—until the Thunderbirds won just one game all year in the FCS. Cal Poly is markedly better than SUU.
The same weekend, Oregon hosts Montana. Although the Grizzlies are a top-25 FCS opponent, Oregon has an even higher ranking in the FBS. While Oregon will win handily, Ducks fans won’t get to see one of the most creative and referenced offensive minds in college football because UM’s former head coach, Bob Stitt, is now at Texas State.
Others . . .
Army. The Cadets won 11 games last year but their schedule is largely discrediting because it included wins over two FCS teams, one FCS in cross over, and six FBS teams not ranked higher than 101. The schedule is equally discrediting this year with two more FCS. I’ve heard the lament that Army has difficulty scheduling stronger teams because the Cadets are independent. But, if New Mexico State, Notre Dame, BYU, and UMass can schedule well, then certainly Army can. Until then, it feels a bit like shame on them.
Colgate will play Air Force, and while the Raiders won’t be favored, they at least have to be mentioned because they produced a defense last season that will live among the legends of college football. Colgate did not allow a single FCS touchdown from September 8th to December 1. Returning defensive production is rated above average but probably not quite enough to ground the United States Air Force.
Nicholls State beat Kansas last year and now takes aim at Kansas State, a team that has been declining for three years and barely scraped by South Dakota of the FCS last year. Despite a new head coach, KSU are likely to have difficulty with Nicholls because the Colonels are a title contender in the FCS.
South Dakota State vs Minnesota. The SDSU Bison lost three games last season and two of those were against perennial national champion North Dakota State. Minnesota finished 7-6. This is a risky game for the Gophers even though they appear better this year and aren’t shy about bragging that they have the biggest player in college football (6’9″, 400 pounds).
Other games that will cause less stirring but are probably FCS wins include: Indiana State over Kansas, Furman over Georgia State, Kennesaw State over Kent State, and Jacksonville State over South Alabama,