Tag Archives: FCS

2019 FCS Versus Lower Division Football games

Kennesaw State begins their season against Point University as they look to defend the Big South crown. The Owls were ranked #14 by Athlon Sports and #22 by Hero Sports in the preseason polls. (Photo courtesy of Kennesaw State Athletics)

2019 FCS Versus Lower Division Football Games

With the beginning of 2019 season closing in, we take a look at the games between different divisions. In this article, we will provide a listing of all the 2019 FCS versus lower division football games. The lower divisions consisting of Division II, Division III, NAIA, NCCAA, etc. while the games will be broken down by week. The same breakdown was provided for the FCS versus FBS matchups as well.

All times listed below are Eastern Standard Time.

Weekly Breakdown

WeekDatesGamesNon-FCS Wins
18/29 – 9/180
29/5 – 9/7246
39/14111
49/2161
59/2862
610/520
710/1211
810/1910
910/2610
1011/200
1111/910
1211/162
1311/232

Week 1 (8 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
8/296 PMUnion CollegeMorehead State7-44
8/297 PMPikevilleMurray State20-59
8/298 PMBethel (TN)Lamar16-65
8/316 PMPoint U.Kennesaw State0-59
8/316 PMVirginia LynchburgMerrimack14-45
8/316 PMElizabeth City StateHampton7-65
8/319 PMSouthern OregonSacramento State19-77
9/15 PMMorehouse CollegeAlabama A&M30-35

Week 2 (24 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
9/58:35 PMWestern ColoradoIdaho State13-38
9/71 PMKentucky StateRobert Morris13-7
9/71:30 PMMars HillVMI21-63
9/74 PMWalshDuquesne3-44
9/74 PMLaneSouth Car. State0-34
9/74 PMLindenwoodE.Washington31-59
9/75 PMSimon FraserPortland State7-70
9/76 PMShawCampbell14-38
9/76 PMIndiana WesleyanButler27-30 (OT)
9/76 PMVirginia LynchburgDavidson7-45
9/76 PMVirginia StateNorfolk State21-44
9/76 PMVirginia UnionHampton36-17
9/76 PMEast StroudsburgWagner24-14
9/76 PMLouisiana CollegeStetson13-58
9/76 PMTuskegeeAlabama State31-38
9/77 PMMississippi CollegeAlcorn State7-45
9/77 PMTarleton StateStephen F. Austin37-26
9/77 PMTruman StateDrake10-7
9/77 PMArizona ChristianAbilene Christian14-66
9/77 PMTexas WesleyanHouston Baptist13-58
9/77 PMMidwestern StateN’Western State33-7
9/77 PMOkla. Panhandle St.SHSU0-77
9/77:30 PMShorterEast Tenn. State10-48
9/79 PMCentral WashingtonIdaho31-41

Week 3 (11 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
9/1412 PMCatholic UniversityGeorgetown0-69
9/143:30 PMNorth GreenvilleWestern Carolina17-20
9/144 PMKentucky ChristianMorehead State34-73
9/144 PMLincoln (PA)Delaware State12-58
9/146 PMFort Valley StateFlorida A&M20-57
9/146 PMTaylorButler17-14
9/147 PMEdward WatersSouthern0-61
9/147 PMW. Virginia WesleyanDavidson0-41
9/147 PMWestern New MexicoNorthern Arizona21-55
9/147 PMVirginia-WiseTennessee Tech14-31
9/147 PMLangstonArk.-Pine Bluff15-53

Week 4 (6 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
9/211 PMMayville StateMerrimack7-76
9/212 PMW. Virginia StateSoutheast Missouri St.10-56
9/214 PMElizabeth City St.North Car. Central7-45
9/215 PMEastern OregonPortland State9-59
9/216 PMW. New EnglandStetson28-59
9/218 PMValparaisoTruman State7-38

Week 5 (6 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
9/281 PMAve MariaJacksonville28-42
9/281 PMNC WesleyanStetson21-55
9/282 PMCharleston (WV)Valparaiso19-13
9/283 PMKentucky StateJackson State33-25
9/285:30 PMCentral State (OH)Alabama A&M20-63
9/286 PMReinhardtKennesaw State7-31

Week 6 (2 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
10/53 PMVirginia LynchburgMississippi Valley St.23-31
10/54 PMLaneArk.-Pine Bluff38-45

Week 7 (1 Game)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
10/123 PMMissouri S&TTexas Southern23-20

Week 8 (1 Game)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
10/193 PMVirginia LynchburgPrairie View0-51

Week 9 (1 Game)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
10/262 PMVirginia LynchburgHampton6-56

Week 10 (No Games)

Week 11 (1 Game)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
11/95 PMVirginia LynchburgSouthern7-58

Week 12 (2 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
11/161 PMFranklin PierceMerrimack
11/163 PMEdward WatersPrairie View

Week 13 (2 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
11/231 PMPoint UniversityFurman
11/231 PMSt. AndrewsPresbyterian

Those are the 2019 FCS versus lower division football games as of this writing. Any updates to dates or times will be provided as soon as they are known. Changes and corrections are welcome!

2019 FBS Versus FCS Games

Army is facing two FCS opponents in 2019 just as they did in 2018, 2016, 2015, and 2014. Will they fall into the FCS over FBS upset trap this year? (Photo courtesy of Army’s Athletic Department)

2019 FBS Versus FCS Games

The 2019 college football season starts in four weeks and the first few weeks present what are typically tune up games for the larger programs in Divison I. Below is a list of all 114 of the 2019 FBS versus FCS games by week.

Weekly Breakdown

WeekDatesGamesFCS Wins
18/29 – 8/31401
29/6 – 9/7281
39/14201
49/2190
59/2840
610/500
710/1210
810/1910
910/2600
1011/210
1111/900
1211/164
1311/236

Notes

While it is not uncommon to see FCS teams play multiple FBS opponents during the same season, it is far more uncommon for FBS teams to play two or more FCS teams due to bowl eligibility concerns. Only one of the two wins over an FCS opponent will count towards bowl eligibility. Effectively, 7 wins are needed for FBS teams who play two FCS teams (although this may not always be the case due to 5 win teams and bowl game scenarios).

This season, five FBS teams (Army, East Carolina, Florida, Liberty, and Virginia Tech) will play two FCS teams. Army, Florida, and Liberty all played two FCS opponents in 2018 as well. 27 FCS teams will play two FBS opponents during 2019. Below are the five FBS teams facing two FCS opponents this year.

Army – Morgan State (9/21), VMI (11/16)

East Carolina – Gardner-Webb (9/7), William & Mary (9/21)

Florida – UT Martin (9/7), Towson (9/28)

Liberty – Hampton (9/21), Maine (10/19)

Virginia Tech – Furman (9/14), Rhode Island (10/12)

FCS Upsets

There has been an average of approximately 9 FCS over FBS wins per season since 2010. 2013 marked the high point as 16 FCS teams defeated FBS opponents. Below is a chart showing the number of FCS wins as well as those wins as a percentage of FBS versus FCS games since 2010.

Below are the FCS versus FBS games by week. All times listed below are Eastern.

Week 1 (40 Games)

DateTime AwayHomeScore
8/297 PMWagnerConnecticut21-24
8/297 PMAlbanyCentral Michigan21-38
8/297 PMMorgan StateBowling Green3-46
8/297 PMRobert MorrisBuffalo10-38
8/297:30 PMGardner-WebbCharlotte28-49
8/297:30 PMC. ArkansasW. Kentucky35-28
8/297:30 PMFlorida A&MCentral Florida0-62
8/298 PMAlabama StateUAB19-24
8/299 PMS Dakota StateMinnesota21-28
8/2910 PMN. ColoradoSan Jose State18-35
8/3112 PMHowardMaryland0-79
8/3112 PMNorthern Iowa Iowa State26-29 (3 OT)
8/3112 PMIndiana StateKansas17-24
8/312 PMJames MadisonWest Virginia13-20
8/312 PMRhode IslandOhio20-41
8/313 PME WashingtonWashington14-47
8/313 PMBucknellTemple12-56
8/313:30 PMHoly CrossNavy7-45
8/313:30 PMIdahoPenn State7-79
8/313:30 PMEast Tenn. StateApp. State7-42
8/313:30 PMColgateAir Force7-48
8/314 PMPortland StateArkansas13-20
8/314 PMMontana StateTexas Tech10-45
8/316 PMIncarnate WordUT-San Antonio7-35
8/316 PMCampbellTroy14-43
8/316 PMSam Houston StateNew Mexico31-39
8/316:30 PMUC DavisCalifornia13-27
8/316:30 PMVMIMarshall17-56
8/317 PMNorfolk StateOld Dominion21-24
8/317 PMAlcorn StateSouthern Miss.10-38
8/317 PMNichollsKansas State14-49
8/317 PMStephen F. AustinBaylor17-56
8/317 PMIllinois StateNorthern Illinois10-24
8/317 PMMonmouthW. Michigan13-48
8/317:30 PMAbil. ChristianNorth Texas31-51
8/318 PMHouston BaptistUTEP34-36
8/318 PMArk.-Pine BluffTCU7-39
8/318 PMGramblingUL Monroe9-31
8/319 PMWeber StateSan Diego State0-6
8/3110 PMSouthern UtahUNLV23-56

Week 2 (28 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
9/68 PMWilliam & MaryVirginia17-52
9/610 PMSacramento StateArizona State7-19
9/712 PMSouthernMemphis24-55
9/712 PMKennesaw StateKent State23-26 (1 OT)
9/712 PMCharleston South.South Carolina10-72
9/712:30 PMWestern CarolinaN Car. State0-41
9/72 PMFordhamBall State29-57
9/72:30 PMTennessee TechMiami (OH)17-48
9/73:30 PMGramblingLouisiana Tech14-20
9/73:30 PMRichmondBoston College13-45
9/73:30 PMEastern IllinoisIndiana0-52
9/73:30 PMSouthern IllinoisMassachusetts45-20
9/74 PMMurray StateGeorgia17-63
9/74 PMWestern IllinoisColorado State13-38
9/75 PMNorthern ColoradoWash. State17-59
9/76 PMN Carolina A&TDuke13-45
9/76 PMMaineGeo. Southern18-26
9/76 PMGardner-WebbEast Carolina9-48
9/77 PMFurmanGeorgia State42-48
9/77 PMJackson StateSouth Alabama14-37
9/77 PMTennessee StateMid. Tennessee26-45
9/77 PMEastern KentuckyLouisville0-42
9/77 PMSouth DakotaOklahoma14-70
9/77 PMMcNeeseOklahoma State14-56
9/77:30 PMUT-MartinFlorida0-45
9/77:30 PMStony BrookUtah State7-62
9/78 PMPrairie ViewHouston17-37
9/710:45 PMNorthern ArizonaArizona41-65

Week 3 (20 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
9/1412 PMChattanoogaTennessee0-45
9/1412 PMFurmanVirginia Tech17-24
9/1412:30 PMThe CitadelGeorgia Tech27-24 (1 OT)
9/142 PMNorfolk StateCoastal Carolina7-46
9/144 PMSE LouisianaOle Miss29-40
9/144 PMBethune-CookmanMiami (FL)0-63
9/144:15 PMIdaho StateUtah0-31
9/144:15 PMCal PolyOregon State7-45
9/145 PMIdahoWyoming16-21
9/146 PMSouth Car. StateSouth Florida16-55
9/146 PMWeber StateNevada13-19
9/147 PMNew HampshireFlorida Int’l17-30
9/147 PMMurray StateToledo0-45
9/147 PMLamarTexas A&M3-62
9/147:30 PMNorthwestern St.LSU14-65
9/147:30 PMSE Missouri StateMissouri0-50
9/147:30 PMTexas SouthernLouisiana6-77
9/148 PMMissouri StateTulane6-58
9/1410:15 PMPortland StateBoise State10-45
9/1410:45 PMMontanaOregon3-35

Week 4 (9 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
9/2112 PMElonWake Forest7-49
9/2112 PMMorgan StateArmy21-52
9/213 PMCentral Conn. St.Eastern Michigan29-34
9/216 PMHamptonLiberty27-62
9/216 PMWagnerFlorida Atlantic7-42
9/216 PMWilliam & MaryEast Carolina7-19
9/217 PMSouthern IllinoisArkansas State28-41
9/2110 PMSacramento StateFresno State20-34
9/2112 AMCentral ArkansasHawaii16-35

Week 5 (4 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
9/2812 PMHoly CrossSyracuse3-41
9/2812:30 PMDelawarePittsburgh14-17
9/284 PMTowsonFlorida0-38
9/287 PMNichollsTexas State3-24

Week 6 (No Games)

Week 7 (1 Game)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
10/124 PMRhode IslandVirginia Tech17-34

Week 8 (1 Game)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
10/196 PMMaineLiberty44-59

Week 9 (No Games)

Week 10 (1 Game)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
11/24 PMWoffordClemson14-59

Week 11 (No Games)

Week 12 (4 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
11/1612 PMAlabama StateFlorida State
11/1612 PMVMIArmy
11/163 PMIdaho StateBYU
11/164 PMIncarnate WordNew Mexico State

Week 13 (6 Games)

DateTimeAwayHomeScore
11/23TBDMercerNorth Carolina
11/23TBDWestern CarolinaAlabama
11/23TBDSamfordAuburn
11/23TBDUT-MartinKentucky
11/23TBDEast Tennessee StateVanderbilt
11/23TBDAbilene ChristianMississippi State

Those are the 2019 FBS versus FCS games as of this writing. Any updates to dates or times will be provided as soon as they are known. Any missed changes and corrections are welcome!

Which Schools Would Be A Good Fit In The FCS?

Northwest Missouri State has won six Division 2 National Championships? Is a move to the FCS plausible for the Bearcats? (Photo Courtesy of The Podyum).

Which Schools Would Be A Good Fit In The FCS?

Last year, we looked at the FCS to FBS transition in a two-part series. Part one focused on how teams have historically performed going from the FCS to FBS. Part two analyzed the most likely candidates to consider a move to the FBS as well as two new programs. When going through the latter part, we found there would be some ideal landing spots in the FCS for certain schools.

We provided VCU and UT Arlington as two choices for a new program to land in the FBS. Biasedly, we like the choices we provided but when we take an even closer look at UT Arlington, there might be a better fit: the Southland Conference. The Southland members reside in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas making for lower travel costs. UTA would probably need to upgrade their facilities that have not been used for college football since 1985 (they have been used for high school football since that time).

UT Arlington is also currently part of the Sun Belt Conference, which makes the decision difficult. Do you forego the FBS conference to save on costs? Will you recoup the money needed for an expansion of the stadium? Is FBS the right fit? Those are only a few questions administrators will ask as they evaluate their options.

We will draw from two groups of teams: Division 1 programs that do not currently have a football program and current Division 2 schools. This list will not include known future FCS teams such as Merrimack College, Long Island University, Dixie State, or Augustana University.

Edit: The fine folks of Twitter have also pointed out that Tarleton State is considering a move to the Southland Conference in Division I. Tarleton State’s study can be found here. In addition, a new stadium built on the West Texas A&M campus along with a feasibility study by Collegiate Consulting could be a signal for an impending move to the FCS.

Let’s take a look at the (potential) candidates below. Please note, these are strictly speculative and this is simply a fun FCS thought experiment.

Northwest Missouri State (Jump Up)

Since 1998, the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats have been to the Division 2 National Championship ten times, winning six of those games. They have become the logical division two candidate to step up into the FCS.

Their current stadium capacity is 6,500, which is on the small end for a move up to FCS. The student population of roughly 6,500 is not ideal and there would need to be additional revenue generated from the Bearcats to accommodate the move to the FCS. It is also not suitable to hold the Missouri Valley Football Conference crowds. It may seem a bit harsh throwing them into the same conference as North Dakota State, but geographically this option makes the most sense.

Speaking of geography, their current configuration in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association is condensed from southern Nebraska to central Oklahoma and only as east to the Missouri-Illinois border. The current set up is tough to beat in terms of travel.

Verdict: It would be awesome to see the Bearcats move up to the FCS and be apart of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. However, that would increase costs in terms of travel and some stadium expansion for bigger crowds, which makes the jump unlikely at this time.

Cal State Fullerton (Restarted)

Cal State Fullerton had a football program until 1992 due to a terrible on field product and low attendance. Since 1995, there have been repeated efforts to bring it back. As this article lays out, there are some hurdles to get over before this becomes reality.

One issue is the 10,000 seat stadium built in 1992. Yes, that is acceptable by FCS standards (compared to other programs as well) but the revenue generated for those 10,000 seats would not be enough to fund the football team. There is a large student population of 37,000 so perhaps there would be enough demand.

The Titans would be placed in the Big Sky Conference, which already has three California based teams. The travel at times might be tough if they have several trips up north each year (and do not forget about the cost of travel for other sports if they all go to the Big Sky).

As of right now, the Titans call the Big West home for their other sports and all of those teams play in California. That is a huge cost addition that is tough to ignore. Even if they only have football sponsored in the Big Sky, the costs increased travel costs would be a huge burden.

Verdict: Unlikely due to the travel costs for the football team and expansion of the stadium. Another worry is the long-term attendance if the school does not do well on the field as happened in 1992.

Valdosta State (Jump Up)

Valdosta State has only been playing football since 1982, but have reached the pinnacle of Division 2 football four times in 2004, 2007, 2012, and 2018. Located at the southern border of Georgia this school would be perfect for the Southern Conference. This is similar to their current conference, Gulf Coast. The travel costs would be similar in this scenario.

The stadium fits 11,250, which is a good size for Division 2. It may need to be expanded especially if they continue to be a good football program in the FCS. The current student population is 11,000, which is on the lower end.

Verdict: This would make sense and be a good option. However, VSU does not seem too keen on a move at this time.

Grand Canyon (New Program)

Grand Canyon may seem like a random team, but there are reasons why they might be a good fit. They moved from Division 2 to Division 1 in 2013 when they joined the WAC. In 2017, the NCAA approved the move to Division 1 allowing the Antelopes to be eligible for the postseason. Also, they play in the southwest, which would make them a decent addition to the Big Sky.

There is another factor at play, but it could be double-edged. Grand Canyon has over 90,000 students enrolled, but 70,000 of those students are enrolled in online classes. That is a massive revenue stream if they are to pursue a football program. There are a solid 20,000 students on campus, which is great for GCU, but the question becomes what happens if they are not successful on the field? Does the attendance start to dip badly? How would the fans react (and not just on social media)? Will the 20,000 on-campus students be enough to justify spending money on facilities over the long run?

Speaking of on-campus limitations, GCU would need to build a new stadium to host games. They currently have some impressive new facilities so we know it can be done properly, but cost of a new stadium is always a concern. Travel costs would also certainly be a concern as part of the Big Sky. With the Lopes are currently in the WAC, they have a unique travel schedule at times stretching from Chicago, Illinois (Chicago State is in the WAC) to Seattle, Washington.

There is not much momentum for a football team at GCU right now, but that could change.

Verdict: We will say likely, even if not for another decade or two. Grand Canyon is clearly building something impressive and eventually football will be part of that vision. They may even go for FBS football if the perfect situation arises (Mountain West perhaps?)

Northern Kentucky (New Program)

Northern Kentucky recently moved from the Atlantic Sun Conference to the Horizon League. The school was previously part of Division 2. The main reason for the move was due to geography as most Atlantic Sun schools played in southeast with several in Florida.

NKU has a student population of 14,500, which is on the lower end, but not the worst. For a stadium, they would have to build from scratch as none of near campus options could be reasonably fitted to host a football game.

The Norse would fit in well with the Ohio Valley Conference for their new football team. The longest trip would be to northern Alabama to face Jacksonville State. The travel costs would be comparable for the other sports though the inclusion of football would make the travel costs skyrocket due to the size of the roster.

Verdict: Unlikely. Previous estimates made by NKU pushed them towards a path to Division 1 instead of a football team. A new stadium plus all the other costs associated with the introduction of a football team make it prohibitive.

Wrap Up

While we think all the schools mentioned above would be great fits for the FCS in terms of geography and the new conference, it is impossible to ignore the costs. Whether it is a new stadium or just an expansion, that has to be measured against the additional revenue generated. In most cases, it just is not viable to make the move even if all five programs would make for wonderful additions to the FCS. However, the allure of FBS football has not stopped some like Liberty and Massachusetts from making the jump.

FBS and FCS Changes For 2019 Season

Merrimack College is moving up from Division II to Division I and will compete at the FCS level in football (photo courtesy of Merrimack College).

FBS and FCS Changes For The 2019 Season

The college football season does not kickoff until August 24, but that won’t stop us from getting excited. We will start by detailing the FBS and FCS changes for the 2019 season.

Overtime Rule Changes

We start with a general rule change regarding overtime. The change this season is that teams will go for two instead of starting at the 25 yard line commencing with the fifth overtime. Four overtime periods will be played as they previously were with each team getting the ball. Previously, teams played as many overtimes as necessary with each team getting a possession until one team failed to match the other team in points for that overtime period. In addition, the third and fourth overtimes will still require the teams to go for a two-point conversion.

Another note: a two-minute break has been mandated after the second and fourth overtimes. At least we will have a chance to catch our collective breath.

FBS Changes

Amazingly, there are very few changes in terms of team movements. The one note is that Liberty will be bowl eligible in 2019 after moving up from FCS in 2018. The Flames will remain an Independent team and will once again play New Mexico State twice this season as they did in 2018.

FCS Changes

The plethora of changes to detail will take place at the FCS level. The overtime rules discussed above will apply here as well.

General Schedule Quirk

Thanks to the NCAA’s draconian bylaws, the 2019 season allows for a 12 game regular season at the FCS level instead of the usual 11. Why? Simply due to the calendar. 14 Saturdays between Labor Day weekend and the last Saturday in November (see bylaw 17.10.3 on page 272) allow for the 12 games to be played.

This last time this occurred was in 2013 and will happen again in 2024. For FCS fans, the likelihood of a permanent 12 game regular season are zero after the NCAA rejected a proposal back in 2017.

Conference Changes – Up From Division II

We start with the two teams moving up from Division II into FCS competition.

Merrimack College is moving from the Division II Northeast-10 Conference to the FCS Northeast Conference. The Warriors will become full Division I members starting with the 2023-24 academic year. They won’t be playing a full Northeast Conference schedule this season, but hope to do so in 2020. As part of the transition, the Warriors are ineligible for the NEC title and FCS playoffs this season.

The second team moving up from Division II to FCS is Long Island University. They too are moving from the NE-10 to the NEC. LIU is merging the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds and LIU Post Pioneers to become the LIU Sharks. The Pioneers were part of the Division II level while the Blackbirds were already at the Division I level, but did not sponsor football. The Sharks will be competing with a 7 game conference schedule in 2019. LIU will be eligible for the NEC title.

Moving Down To Division II

Savannah State will be departing the FCS to drop down to Division II as announced in late 2017. The Tigers were a member of the MEAC since 2010 and now re-join the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). The Tigers were a member of the SIAC from 1969 through 1999 before becoming a then Division 1-AA (now FCS) Independent. The MEAC will have 9 football teams in 2019.

Moving From FCS Independent Status

Two teams are moving from an FCS Independent to the Big South. Those schools are the Hampton Pirates and North Alabama Lions. The Big South will have 8 teams this season.

Hampton left the MEAC after the 2017 season after joining the conference in 1995. The Pirates played as an FCS Independent in 2018 in their transition year to the Big South. They played 10 games (Tennessee State game was cancelled due to Hurricane Florence) and went 7-3. The Pirates are eligible for both the Big South title and the FCS Playoffs.

Meanwhile, North Alabama moved up from Division II for the 2018 season. After a 7-3 season in 2018, the Lions will face a full slate of FCS teams for the first time including 7 games against Big South foes. The Lions are not eligible for the Big South title and are ineligible for the FCS Playoffs until 2022 when their transition to Division I is complete.

Stuck In Indepedence

North Dakota is in their final season as an FCS Independent on their way to becoming a Missouri Valley Football Conference member. North Dakota has left the Big Sky Conference, but maintains the previously scheduled Big Sky matchups. The games will count in the conference standings for the Fighting Hawks’ opponents. UND will not be eligible for the Big Sky title, but can still be selected as an at-large team for the FCS Playoffs.

Future Moves

The Big South is full of changes this year and next. 2019 will mark the final year for Presbyterian as a football member of the conference. They will be an Independent in 2020 and then become a member of the Pioneer Football League starting in 2021. Presbyterian joined the Big South in 2009.

Dixie State, currently a Division II member, will move up to Division I starting in 2020. They will compete as an FCS Independent in 2020 while their other sports will compete in the Western Athletic Conference. Dixie State is part of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Association and currently has no plans for joining an FCS football conference. The Trailblazers will not be eligible for the FCS Playoffs until 2024 due to the transition.

Augustana announced their intention to transition to Division I in December 2018. They currently reside in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, but have not discussed a Division I conference to join. It is assumed they will join the Summit League, however, that conference does not offer football. In that case, the Vikings will then have to decide whether they want offer scholarship football or not. This, in turn, will help decided if they land in a conference such as the Pioneer Football League (non-scholarship) or the more geographically appropriate Missouri Valley Football Conference.

More FCS football conjecture can be found here.

Edit: Thanks to the folks on Twitter, both Tarleton State and West Texas A&M have considered moving to the FCS. Tarleton State’s feasibility move can be found here with the Southland Conference explicitly mentioned. West Texas A&M released a bullish statement after working with Collegiate Consulting and they are opening a new football stadium for the 2019 season.

Staying Put

Much to the delight of Stetson fans and alumni, the Hatters are staying put at the Division 1 level. Despite an examination into dropping to Division II or Division III, there will be no change for Stetson’s affiliation at this time. Stetson currently plays in the Pioneer Football League at the FCS level after bringing back the team starting with the 2013 season.

That covers the FBS and FCS changes for the 2019 season and we look forward to the start of the season as well as more content in the next few months!

Transitioning From FCS To FBS Part 2: Potential Teams

North Dakota State has been the absolute best team at the FCS level since 2010. The Bison are natural candidates for the FBS but does it truly make sense? (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Transitioning From FCS To FBS Part 2: Potential Teams

Welcome to second portion of our two-part series examining the transition from the FCS to FBS. In part one we looked at how teams have fared in the past. In this second part, we look at the teams best suited for the transition and also look at a few other teams.

To recap part one briefly, we looked at the schools that transitioned from FCS to FBS since 1987. The teams that performed the best were teams that had multiple playoff appearances in the final five FCS seasons. The second best group was the new programs followed by teams that had one or no playoff appearances in the final five FCS seasons.

We will make some assumptions about each team below that may or may not hold true if these scenarios in reality. For one, we look at each team separately and do not take into account all the dominoes from a potential realignment with our other teams. That would be far too time consuming to consider.

Secondly, geography and travel are big components of the analysis. We look first at which geographical area would be best and then look at the additional travel required if they were to move conferences.

Finally, keep in mind that while these teams would see increased revenues after they moved, they would also see increased costs in the form of stadium upgrades and travel for other sports would increase among other factors.

Now we can look at potential jumpers and new programs with the criteria we laid out in the first part. Please note, the below is purely a fun, speculative exercise.

North Dakota State (Jump Up)

North Dakota State is the first team discussed any time FCS to FBS transitions are explored. The Bison have only won six of the last seven FCS National Championships as of this writing and have clearly been the best team of the decade at the FCS level. There is one issue that really hurts the Bison and that is location.

NDSU is currently the most northern member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference until 2020 when North Dakota joins. NDSU is geographically awkward if they were to move up to the FBS. The best fit would be the Big 10 especially in terms of their location and style of play. However, the Bison would probably have to prove themselves at the FBS level first which would put them in the Mountain West. Again, this is not exactly ideal.

Also consider the Fargodome, which has a capacity of 19,000 for football. They would have to upgrade the stadium to accommodate the increased number of fans. That would take money, which the Bison would recoup over time, but what about the additional travel costs not just for football, but also the other sports?

Verdict: We would love to see North Dakota State make the transition, but it does not seem likely given some of the logistical constraints.

Sam Houston State (Jump Up)

Here is another FCS powerhouse each year. The Bearkats have made seven straight playoff appearances with two National Championship losses to North Dakota State (those pesky Bison). Sam Houston State has one of the best offenses each season in the FCS and play in the Southland Conference.

The Southland Conference is a wonderful geographical set up for the teams. All members are from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, which is more than convenient. So where would they land if they went to the FBS? There are three conferences: The American Athletic Conference,  Conference USA, and Sun Belt.

The American Athletic Conference would place the Bearkats in the West along with Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa, and Navy. Navy is a horrendous fit for the West Division, which means that the AAC could balance the divisions by getting a second West team and moving Navy to the far more natural East. In this case, they would face six west opponents and two east opponents each season.

Conference USA currently has 14 teams with seven from the West Division located in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. If C-USA expanded to 16 teams that would leave only one game per season they would face an East Division opponent (based on an 8 game conference schedule). They would also face that East opponent on the road once every other year. Not a bad move based on assumptions above.

The Sun Belt is the final option and teams leaving the Southland Conference frequently find the Sun Belt as their FBS destination. The conference has been split into East and West Divisions among its 10 members. The West Division has teams from Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. Based on an 8 game schedule, they would have to face two East opponents each year with one at home and one on the road.

Finally, Sam Houston State would have to increase the size of the stadium from the current size of roughly 12,500.

Verdict: The Southland Conference is a wonderful spot for Sam Houston State right now. If they were dead set on the FBS, then Conference USA would be the best option.

James Madison (Jump Up)

James Madison is a recent addition to the top level of the FCS. The Dukes have made the playoffs four straight seasons, but the last two put them up with the best. In 2016, they upset the Bison for the National Championship and then followed that up in 2017 with a loss to Bison in the title game. To be fair, this is not the same sustained success as the previous two entrants, but strong enough for consideration.

The Dukes currently play in the Colonial Athletic Association, which stretches from Maine to South Carolina. JMU sits at the southern edge of the conference, which might make travel costly depending on the scheduling rotation.

JMU, like Sam Houston State, has several options. They could go to the American Athletic, Conference USA, or Sun Belt. James Madison would face the opposite of SHSU’s possibilities for all three.

The Dukes would be in the East for the AAC though that would make it unbalanced in terms of natural East and West programs. For C-USA, they would be a natural fit for the East Division while the same would be true for the Sun Belt.

James Madison has a solid stadium size already at 25,000, which will make the costs relatively less expensive for expansion.

Verdict: James Madison sits in an awkward geographical position for the three conferences above. Conference USA would be the best fit for costs and travel as they would only face a West opponent on the road once every other year.

Jacksonville State (Jump Up)

The Jacksonville State Gamecocks have dominated the Ohio Valley Conference with four straight titles. They have made the FCS playoffs five straight seasons with a title game appearance in 2015 (yes, they lost to NDSU).

As part of the OVC, Jacksonville State is the southern most member, but it is a comfortable distance to northern most team, Eastern Illinois. The team furthest to the west is Southeast Missouri State on the Missouri-Illinois border, which again, is not too bad.

If the Gamecocks were to go to the FBS they too have the options of the AAC, C-USA, and Sun Belt. However, one fits better than the other two and that is the Sun Belt.

JSU’s location in northeast Alabama puts them right in the middle of the conference in terms of location. That would make them ideal to be put in either division as needed. Or the Sun Belt could flip the division from east and west to the north and south while also adding another team to have an even number of teams.

The JSU stadium can hold 24,000, which will help limit the amount they need to spend on expanding the stadium.

Verdict: The Ohio Valley is a decent fit for them, but if they are looking for the FBS, the Sun Belt makes sense. While the AAC and Conference USA are both plausible, the Sun Belt felt most natural.

Eastern Washington (Jump Up)

Eastern Washington has also been a mainstay in the FCS Playoffs. Since their National Championship in 2010, they have made the playoffs five times and progressed to at least the quarterfinals on each occasion. Four of the five appearances resulted in a semifinal appearance.

The Eagles play in the Big Sky Conference which stretches from Washington all the way to the middle of Arizona and out to the eastern border of North Dakota. As mentioned above, the University of North Dakota will be moving to the Missouri Valley Football Conference and it is not hard to see why when their closest in conference opponent is Northern Colorado.

There are two natural destinations for EWU with the Pac-12 and Mountain West. The Pac-12 is a long shot considering they would probably want to see how they perform in the FBS before having them join. So that leaves the Mountain West.

The Eagles would probably be put in the Mountain Division, which would require travel to Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The travel is not horrendous outside of the trip to New Mexico every other year. The west division would be very similar to New Mexico and would also have to be done every other year.

The stadium capacity of Roos Field is a paltry 8,600, which means a huge outlay to expand the size. At least their red turf would go along nicely with Boise State’s blue turf.

Verdict: The current travel arrangements do not differ much as if they were to play in the Mountain West. The stadium expenditure would probably be another point of concern. The reality is go for Pac-12 money (though unlikely) or stay put in the Big Sky.

Virginia Commonwealth (New Program)

VCU, currently in the Atlantic 10 for all other sports, would make a wonderful addition to Conference USA. They are located in Richmond, which is the capital of Virginia. That provides a great fan base for any potential team. VCU has not fielded more than a club team for football. In addition, a stadium would be required for the football team making the likelihood of this happening slim.

What VCU does have in terms of location also applies to the student body. The Rams have the second highest enrollment in the state (not counting Liberty’s online degree numbers). That provides a solid footing if they choose to pursue adding a football program.

There have been some worries expressed by current Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin. He feels that the costs would exceed the revenue generated as noted here. It appears that as long as McLaughlin is at VCU, the Rams will not have a football team without someone donating what is needed.

Verdict: Highly unlikely given the current AD and all the startup costs for the program.

University of Texas Arlington (New Program)

UT Arlington previously had a football program until 1985 when the constant financial losses caused the school to stop sponsoring the sport. It may be time for the Mavericks to make a comeback to the field. UTA is the fourth largest school in Texas with an enrollment of 42,000 in the football crazed state.

Back in 2004, students voted to increase tuition by $2 per semester hour if football was brought back. All good then, right? Well, not quite. The costs would be enormous especially if the ultimate goal is the FBS. The stadium, which currently holds 12,500, would need a massive upgrade to host FBS football games. To pay for the new sport, the cost would most likely go to students in the form of higher tuition as noted above.

One area that UTA would not have to worry about is finding a FBS conference. They are part of the Sun Belt in the other sports offered by the school. That is one piece of the puzzle they will not have to worry about if they bring back football. UTA would have good knowledge about the travel costs if they were to play in the Sun Belt.

Verdict: Viable but UTA needs to be prudent about the costs and expected revenue so they do not make the same mistake from 1985.

That concludes the second part of our series on the FCS to FBS transition. We hope you enjoyed the speculation and analysis!

Transitioning From FCS To FBS Part 1: Past History

Liberty upset Baylor to open the 2017 and Now the Flames will be in the FBS. Is there anything from the FCS jumpers that may indicate how Liberty will perform in 2018? (Cooper Neill/Getty Images North America)

Transitioning From FCS To FBS Part 1: Past History

Welcome to a two part series where we take a look at how teams perform when they move from the FCS to FBS. We went all the way back to 1987 when Akron made the jump from the the then named Division 1AA (now FCS) to Division 1A (now FBS).

Part one will look at the past with how previous teams performed when they transitioned. Part two will focus on which teams could make the jump from FCS to FBS or start a football program.

We logged each team’s five seasons prior to the transition as well as the first five seasons in the FBS. We looked at how many seasons it took for each program to reach the postseason in the FBS. 28 teams have made the jump from FCS to FBS since 1987 and Liberty will become number 29 in 2018.

After combing through the data, we found some obvious trends and perhaps a surprising trend. Let’s take a closer look at the three groups of teams.

Perennial FCS Playoff Teams

We will start with an obvious trend: teams that had multiple playoff appearances in their final five FCS seasons were more successful than those that did not make multiple appearances. This makes sense because good teams in the FCS will naturally be more prepared to compete in the FBS.

Multiple Playoff Appearances
Team 1st FBS Year Years
Nevada 1992 1
Louisiana-Monroe 1994 19
Marshall 1994 1
Troy 2001 4
Western Kentucky 2008 5
Massachusetts 2012 Haven’t reached bowl
Georgia Southern 2014 2
Appalachian State 2014 2
Coastal Carolina 2017 Haven’t reached bowl
9 4.9
Teams Avg. Years

The table above shows that teams to make multiple playoff appearances in their final five FCS seasons have, on average, made a bowl game by their fifth season of FBS football. Three notes on this:

  1. Both Massachusetts and Coastal Carolina have yet to reach the FBS postseason since making the jump. Coastal Carolina will only be in their second year of FBS in 2018.
  2. Some observers may note that UNLV became part of the FBS in 1978, however, they went from Division 2 straight to FBS and are not included in the calculations above.
  3. Both Georgia Southern and Appalachian State had more than six wins their first season in 2014  but thanks to draconian NCAA rules both teams were ineligible for a bowl game.

Now let’s look at how these teams perform in their five final seasons of FCS football followed by their first five FBS season.

Pre Transition Single Year Average
Season Wins Losses
Year -5 8.8 4.1
Year -4 9.0 4.0
Year -3 8.7 3.6
Year -2 9.3 3.6
Year -1 8.9 3.3
All 5 Years Avg 8.9 3.7
Post Transition Single Year Average
Season Wins Losses
Year 1 5.4 6.4
Year 2 5.8 6.4
Year 3 6.6 5.4
Year 4 6.3 6.0
Year 5 6.3 5.7
All 5 Years Avg 6.1 6.0

Two notes on the post FBS transition:

  1. Both Georgia Southern and Appalachian State have not yet completed their 5th season in the FBS. The numbers above may change after 2018, but probably not too drastically.
  2. Coastal Carolina is only included in Year 1 of the post transition averages. Like Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, the inclusion of CCU’s results may slightly alter the numbers.

As expected, teams that are good before leaving the FCS would be the most likely to make the jump. Once in the FBS, they struggle a bit compared to their time in the FCS, but going roughly 5-6 in year one is pretty impressive. As will be shown later, these teams show the least amount of fall off when completing the transition.

Next up, we turn our attention to the teams that have little playoff experience before making the transition.

FCS Teams Lacking Playoff Experience 

It stands to reason that good FCS teams would perform better moving up to the FBS, but how about FCS teams that are not as good? We have some evidence of this category and we use the criteria of a team that had one or no FCS playoff appearances in their final five seasons.

1 or No Playoff Appearances
Team 1st FBS Year Years
Akron 1987 19
Louisiana Tech 1989 2
Arkansas State 1992 14
North Texas 1995 7
Central Florida 1996 10
Boise State 1996 4
UAB 1996 9
Middle Tennessee 1999 8
Buffalo 1999 10
Connecticut 2000 5
Texas State 2012 Haven’t reached bowl
11 8.8
Teams Avg. Years

One note on North Texas:

  1. North Texas was in the FBS from 1975 to 1982 as an Independent. However, financial issues forced them to drop back to the FCS level for a decade (1983-1994). Due to that length of time at the FCS level, we include them in this group.

On average, it took until roughly the ninth season at the FBS level for the teams above to reach the postseason. Why would these teams make the jump if they have not been overly successful against FCS competition?

Some of these decisions were made several years in advance and their crystal ball probably did not foresee a relative downturn for the football program. If these administrators thought their football teams would not be as good perhaps they would reconsider their move.

Another reason is geographical fit to cut down on travel costs. Speaking of money, that is always a consideration in the form of more TV revenue as well as the exposure to a wider audience due to the TV contracts. More exposure on TV leads to more people being aware of the college’s presence and potentially more students.

Moreover, the facilities are already mostly there. There may be some stadium upgrades needed, but the structures are already in place so the cost is not nearly has high as if they were starting from scratch.

Whatever the reasoning behind the move, we cannot deny these teams struggle. Let’s look at the final five years in the FCS compared to the first five years in the FBS.

Pre Transition Single Year Average
Season Wins Losses
Year -5 6.6 4.8
Year -4 6.4 4.8
Year -3 5.6 5.3
Year -2 5.7 5.6
Year -1 5.6 5.5
All 5 Years Avg 6.0 5.2
Post Transition Single Year Average
Season Wins Losses
Year 1 3.2 7.8
Year 2 4.5 6.5
Year 3 5.5 5.5
Year 4 4.8 6.6
Year 5 4.7 6.7
All 5 Years Avg 4.6 6.6

The teams lacking FCS playoff experience average two wins less than teams with multiple FCS playoff appearances. In fact, the worst season for perennial playoff teams (5.4 wins in the first season) is nearly identical to the BEST average of the low playoff experience teams (5.5 in the third year).

As previously stated, this is logical. Better FCS teams are better prepared for the FBS, will be more likely to succeed, and have less catching up to do.

One final group to look at is new programs. All these schools played at least one season at the FCS level before embarking on their journey to the FBS.

New Schools

This concluding group of teams started from scratch before joining the FBS.

New Programs
Teams 1st FBS Year Years
South Florida 2001 5
Florida Atlantic 2004 4
Florida International 2004 7
UT-San Antonio 2012 5
South Alabama 2012 3
Georgia State 2013 3
Old Dominion 2014 3
Charlotte 2015 Haven’t reached bowl
8 4.3
Teams Avg. Years

Four notes on this group of teams:

  1. Like Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, Old Dominion had more than six wins in 2014 but those pesky NCAA rules kept them out of a bowl game.
  2. Old Dominion previously had a football program in the early and mid 20th century. 2009 was the first season since 1940 and given the length of time, they were reasonably considered a new program.
  3. Old Dominion made the FCS Playoffs in both 2011 and 2012 and thus qualify as a playoff perennial as well. We chose to make them a new program given how recently they restarted the program.
  4. South Florida, Florida Atlantic, and UT-San Antonio all had winning records in their first season, but once more the NCAA rules prevented these teams from being selected for a bowl.

Note the average seasons it has taken new programs (4.3) compared to playoff perennials (4.9) and the playoff lacking teams (8.8). That is impressive considering they are going from no football competition whatsoever to FBS. Outside of Charlotte, every team listed above went from zero to a bowl appearance within a decade of their first season.

Post Transition Single Year Average
Season Wins Losses
Year 1 4.8 7.0
Year 2 4.9 6.8
Year 3 4.9 7.4
Year 4 4.1 7.9
Year 5 6.2 6.3
All 5 Years Avg 4.9 7.1

The new shooters also have a respectable average win total for all five years given the infancy of the programs. The question then becomes how are these teams able to compete relatively early in their school’s history? Take another look at the list of teams:

Teams
South Florida
Florida Atlantic
Florida International
UT-San Antonio
South Alabama
Georgia State
Old Dominion
Charlotte

Where are the majority of teams located? In the southeast, the most popular area for college football. Here is a link to the New York Times‘ article that provides a graphical representation of how popular college football is around the nation. Even UT-San Antonio, while not in the southeast, is in another football crazed part of the US: Texas. While not nearly the same caliber as their SEC counterparts, the fact these teams are in top recruiting states certainly helps.

The location does not explain everything as there are major costs and considerations of starting a new program. Will there be funding from outside sources? Will fans continue to show up if the team is not doing well on the field? Will the additional exposure make up for the initial outlay of costs? What are the burdens to the additional students and surrounding areas? These are just some of questions to consider when starting a football program with the intent of making it to the FBS.

Clearly these programs thought it was worth the effort and expenses to make it to the FBS. So far, these programs have seen success in the form of reaching the postseason early in their history.

Wrapping Up

After looking at the three sets of teams it is clear that you want to be a team with multiple FCS playoff appearances before heading to the FBS. To be fair, this involves some luck in the way of scheduling, injuries, and coaching changes to name a few.

For teams that have little FCS playoff experience, the best idea would be to wait until the program has shown consistent success against the best teams. This is not always practical as they window to join the FBS may be small or their football program may just have been sub-par for several seasons before the transition.

If an administration is intent on going to the FBS, then they will have to be patient and hope for some luck along the way. Consider Louisiana Tech, a team that made the Independence Bowl in their second FBS season. In addition, Connecticut was a team that went from Independent status to the Big East (albeit watered down) within 5 years of joining the FBS. Finally, there is Boise State. The Broncos went to a bowl game in their fourth FBS season, but are now one of the best Group of 5 schools every season.

That leads us to the 2018 debut of Liberty as a FBS team. The Flames have posted a winning record each season since 2007. However, they only went to one FCS playoff in their final five seasons at that division. Facing a majority of FBS teams (Idaho State and Norfolk State are the two FCS opponents), they will probably struggle this season.

Finally, we have the new programs. They do surprisingly well at the FBS level reaching the postseason in their fourth of fifth year, on average. Location is important along with some luck to help them become successful.

One closing note to make is that the above analysis looks solely at the on field performance. The decision to make the move from FCS to FBS is far more involved and nuanced. We will touch on some of those factors in our second part.

Join us for part two where we take a look at which schools would best fit to make the jump from FCS to FBS or start a new program.

James Madison Cruises To 2017 FCS National Title

James Madison claimed their second FCS National Championship in school history. (Photo Courtesy of JMU via Twitter).

James Madison Cruises To 2017 FCS National Title

The James Madison Dukes won their second FCS National Championship in school history after defeating the Youngstown State Penguins 28-14. The Dukes used an impressive defensive performance in which they recorded 5 sacks, forced 3 turnovers, and held the Penguins to 21 yards rushing on 31 carries.

The Dukes were playing without star linebacker Brandon Hereford due to suspension and then lost fellow linebackers Dimitri Holloway and David Ezeagwu midway through the first quarter. That makes their performance even more impressive.

The Dukes were able to get going with their special teams blocking a punt to give them a short field. Two plays later, Bryan Schor hit Jonathan Kloosterman for a 14 yard score and a 7-0 James Madison lead. The Penguins had a poor punt on their next drive and the Dukes made them pay again with Schor hitting Rashard Davis for an 18 yard touchdown on a controversial call.

Trailing 14-0, Youngstown State had a decent drive going that resulted in a 45 yard field goal attempt, but the kick never got off as the snap was fumbled. Two drives later, James Madison got big back-to-back pass plays from Schor to Davis (33 yards) and Domo Taylor (31 yards). The drive resulted in Khalid Abdullah punching it in for a 21-0 lead.

The Penguins did get a late first half score thanks in large part to a partially blocked punt that set up Hunter Wells hitting Shane Kuhn for a 17 yard touchdown. That made it 21-7 at halftime with the Dukes holding a commanding yardage edge of 208-88 after 30 minutes.

The Penguins started the second half with the ball, but a fluke interception (video below) gave the ball back to James Madison.

YSU committed two defensive pass interference penalties on the drive and Abdullah ran it in from 2 yards out to extend the lead to 28-7. The Penguins mounted another solid drive, but a snap over the head of Nathan Mays was recovered by JMU’s Darrious Carter. The Penguins next drive required a fourth and 12 conversion, but the potential touchdown was broken up and the Dukes took over.

James Madison controlled the contest for the remainder of the game with Youngstown State scoring a garbage time touchdown. Wells found Jermiah Braswell for a 7 yard score to close the game out 28-14.

The Penguins were led by Wells who threw for 271 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception, but he was harassed for most of the game. Jody Webb had 41 yards rushing on 17 carries to go with 10 catches for 63 yards while Alvin Bailey finished with 7 receptions for 68 yards.

It was not a spectacular offensive performance from the Dukes, but it did not have to be. They were efficient with Schor going 7 of 12 passing for 112 yards with 2 touchdowns and no picks along with 36 yards on the ground. Abdullah, who was named Most Outstanding Player, had 101 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing on 26 carries. The Dukes committed no turnovers.

James Madison won their first title back in 2004 when they defeated Montana 31-21 with Mickey Matthews as head coach. This time it was Mike Houston in his first season leading the Dukes to a national title and a 14-1 overall record for the 2016 season.

2017 FCS National Championship Preview

The 2017 FCS Championship will be determined on January 7, 2017 between Youngstown State and James Madison.

Note: This is the National Championship preview following the 2016 FCS Season.

2017 FCS National Championship Preview

The FCS season has just one game left and it is the National Championship between the Youngstown State Penguins (12-3) and James Madison Dukes (13-1). Both teams have had tough roads to get here and are deserving of their spot in the National Championship.

The FCS National Championship will be played on Saturday, January 7 at Toyota Stadium from Frisco, Texas. The game will be shown on ESPN2 with a kickoff time of 12 PM Eastern.

Through four rounds, our predictions have gone 19-3. Below are the links to our predictions for the previous rounds along with the record for that round.

First Round Predictions (7-1)

Second Round Predictions (7-1)

Quarterfinal Predictions (4-0)

Semifinal Predictions (1-1)

Below is the 2017 FCS National Championship game preview and we will also provide a prediction for this matchup.

Youngstown State Road To The National Championship

First Round: Defeated Samford 38-24 at home

Second Round: Defeated #3 Jacksonville State 40-24 on the road

Quarterfinals: Defeated Wofford 30-23 at home in 2 overtimes

Semifinals: Defeated #2 Eastern Washington 40-38 on the road

Youngstown State Penguins Preview

The Penguins opened the playoffs with a comfortable 38-24 win over Samford and then had a great game plan against Jacksonville State (force Eli Jenkins to throw) and won 40-24 to reach the Quarterfinals. They won a hard-fought game at home versus Wofford 30-23 in double overtime and then played a wild contest out west at Eastern Washington. Kevin Rader’s catch against the defender’s back gave YSU the 40-38 win and the berth in the title game.

The Penguins average 28.5 points (37 in the playoffs), 431.6 yards, 257.5 yards rushing, and 174.1 yards passing per game on offense. Quarterback Hunter Wells has gone 7-1 since taking over the starting spot from Ricky Davis. Wells has thrown for 1,453 yards (63.5%) with 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

Wells will be boosted by a strong backfield combination of Jody Webb (1,301 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 6.1 yards per carry) and Tevin McCaster (616 yards with 11 touchdowns and 4.9 YPC). Webb has six straight 100 yard rushing performance and is averaging 157 yards per game in the playoffs. McCaster had a breakout game against Eastern Washington with 154 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns on 29 carries. This duo will be leaned on to get the offense going.

It is worth noting that the team’s second leading rusher, Martin Ruiz, will not play in this game. He had 1,153 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, but was arrested on a weapon charge.

The receivers are not overwhelming with Alvin Bailey the leader in both receptions (40) and touchdowns (5). Bailey is third on the team in yards at 443. Darien Townsend has 32 catches for 525 yards and 4 touchdowns while Webb has caught 26 passes for 328 yards and no touchdowns. Damoun Patterson is worth keeping an eye on because he is the big play guy. He has only 18 catches, but has 461 yards (25.6 yards per catch) and 2 touchdowns. If the running game struggles, this group will have to step up.

The Youngstown State defense allows 19.4 points, 324.4 total yards, 128.1 yards rushing, and 196.3 yards passing per game. The points allowed per game in the playoffs are at 27.3, which is a concern, but they have come up with big stops when needed.

Defensive ends Derek Rivers and Avery Moss have been a menacing duo all season. Rivers had 13 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss on the year while Moss has recorded 9.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Linebacker Armand Dellovade has 11.5 tackles for loss and leads the team in total tackles at 98. These three as well as the other players in the front seven will have their hands full with James Madison’s rushing attack. The Penguins have intercepted only 12 passes all season, but LeRoy Alexander has accounted for a third of those. Kenny Bishop leads the team with 11 pass breakups.

The kicking duties fall to Zak Kennedy and he has not been great this season. He has converted only 13 of 19 field goal attempts with a long of 46 yards. He has also made 37 of 38 extra points. Mark Schuler has done very well punting the ball with an average of 42.4 yards with 26 landing inside the opponent’s 20.

Jody Webb leads the team in kick returns averaging 23.9 yards per return, but has not recorded a touchdown. Darien Townsend has a 19.4 yards per average return on kickoffs, but can be dangerous on punts. He has averaged 11.9 yards per return on punts and returned one for a touchdown.

James Madison Road To The National Championship

First Round: Bye

Second Round: Defeated New Hampshire 55-22 at home

Quarterfinals: Defeated #5 Sam Houston State 65-7 at home

Semifinals: Defeated #1 North Dakota State 27-17 on the road

James Madison Dukes Preview

James Madison opened the playoffs with a bye before back-to-back blowouts. They decimated New Hampshire 55-22 with quarterback Bryan Schor throwing for 371 yards and 5 touchdowns. In the Quarterfinal versus Sam Houston State, the Dukes obliterated the Bearkats 65-7 with 144 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground from Trai Sharp and 141 yards and 3 touchdowns rushing from Khalid Abdullah. The defense held the prolific passing of Jeremiah Briscoe to just 143 yards on 13 of 44 passing with no touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

The Semifinal was on the road against the 5 time defending National Champions North Dakota State. Abdullah ran for 180 yards on 23 carries while Schor threw for 242 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception. The defense held the Bison to 132 yards rushing and a 3.4 yards per carry average.

The offense for James Madison averages 48 points, 525.6 yards of offense, 284.6 yards rushing, and 241.1 yards passing per game. Bryan Schor leads the team as the quarterback and has thrown for 2,890 yards with 27 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. More impressively, he has completed 73.7% of his passes.

Schor is complimented in the backfield by Khalid Abdullah, who has rushed for 1,708 yards with 20 touchdowns and averages 6.3 yards per carry. Schor is third on the team in rushing with 543 yards and has 10 rushing touchdowns so he can also get the offense moving with his legs. Trai Sharp had big games versus New Hampshire and Sam Houston State, but was held to just 14 yards on 4 carries against North Dakota State. He has the potential for big runs if he can get some touches in the Championship game.

The receiving group is pretty balanced with many contributors. Brandon Ravenel leads the team with 45 catches for 720 yards and 5 touchdowns. Domo Taylor has 34 catches for 547 yards and 3 touchdowns and Rashard Davis has 39 catches for 478 yards and 2 touchdowns. Terrence Alls has 39 catches for 575 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season, but he will miss the National Championship along with 6 other players.

The defense allows 21.7 points, 348 yards of offense, 137.8 yards rushing, and 210.2 yards passing per game. They have been dominant and physical the entire postseason (see both Sam Houston State and North Dakota State games for some great examples). Star linebacker Brandon Hereford had 96 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss, but will miss the game along with Alls and five others.

Simeyon Robinson and Martez Stone will anchor the defensive line with Robinson recording 4 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss this year. Stone also has 4 sacks and 7 tackles for loss and both will be key to stopping the run and getting pressure on the quarterback. Gage Steele will be the main linebacker and he has 98 tackles on the season with 4.5 tackles for loss.

Leading the secondary is Raven Greene, who has a team high 6 interceptions and also is tied for second on the team with 7 pass breakups. Taylor Reynolds leads the team in pass breakups with 12 and also has 2 interceptions.

Tyler Gray will handle the field goal duties, but he is just 14 of 21 on the season with a long of 45. Gunnar Kane will be the punter and he averages 42.2 yards per punt and has landed 20 inside the opponent’s 20.

The Dukes have two dangerous kickoff returners between Robbie Walker (21.5 yard average) and Brandon Ravenel (23.9 yard average and a touchdown). The real difference could be on punt returns where top returner Rashard Davis has averaged 29.9 yards per return and taken four (!) back to the house for a touchdown.

Prediction

Youngstown State is making their first appearance in the FCS National Championship since 1999 and they have won four titles in school history (1991, 1993, 1994, and 1997). Those four titles came with Jim Tressel as the head coach and Tressel is now the President of Youngstown State. As for James Madison they have only been to one National Championship and that was in 2004 when they defeated Montana 31-21.

Both teams are coming into this contest facing a slew of suspensions. They have been known for a few weeks so there should not be much surprise on either side in that regard. Both teams like to the run the ball and prefer to get their offense started that way. However, James Madison can rely on Bryan Schor’s arm if needed. Hunter Wells has played admirably since taking over the starter and has shown the ability to get the job done throwing as well.

We like the more physical team to win this game and we are going with James Madison. We are taking the Dukes to win 35-21 to claim their second FCS National Championship.

2016 FCS Playoffs Semifinal Predictions

James Madison’s only loss was to North Carolina (pictured above). Since then the Dukes have won 10 straight including their 65-7 demolition of Sam Houston State in the FCS Quarterfinals. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America)

2016 FCS Playoffs Semifinal Predictions

Four teams remain in the hunt for the 2016 FCS National Championship. Three of the top four seeds, #1 North Dakota State, #2 Eastern Washington, and #4 James Madison, are alive along with unseeded Youngstown State. All four are worthy of reaching the National Championship for the right to play for the title.

The two semifinal games will be played over two days. The first game featuring the five time defending National Champions, North Dakota State, will be played on Friday, December 16. The second game featuring the #2 seed Eastern Washington will be played on Saturday, December 17. Through three rounds, our predictions have gone 18-2. Below are the links to our predictions for the previous rounds along with the record for that round.

First Round Predictions (7-1)

Second Round Predictions (7-1)

Quarterfinal Predictions (4-0)

Below are the predictions for the FCS Semifinal games. We will begin with the Friday game of James Madison at North Dakota State.

#4 James Madison (12-1) at #1 North Dakota State (12-1)

Game Time: Friday, December 16 at 7 PM Eastern (ESPN2)

James Madison has played in two playoff games and they have both been blowouts. They dismantled New Hampshire in the second round 55-22 after a slow first quarter. Bryan Schor threw for 371 yards on 30 of 37 passing for 5 touchdowns and an interception.

Their Quarterfinal game against Sam Houston State was even more impressive. They held one of the best offenses in FCS to just 7 points in 65-7 thrashing of Sam Houston State. SHSU’s Jeremiah Briscoe went a horrid 13 of 44 for 143 yards passing and 2 picks. The running game got going for the Dukes with 144 yards and 2 touchdowns from Trai Sharp and 141 yards and 3 touchdowns from Khalid Abdullah. The special teams also had a punt return for a touchdown and blocked  another punt that they then returned for a touchdown.

North Dakota State opened with San Diego in the second round and they had little trouble with them in a 45-7 win. Easton Stick threw for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns while rushing for another 99 yards. The team averaged 9.6 yards per carry with 299 yards total on the ground.

The Bison’s Quarterfinal matchup was against a familiar foe in South Dakota State. The Bison lost to them 19-17 in the regular season and they had a slow start to the Quarterfinal. SDSU took a 10-0 thanks to the hidden ball trick play.

After that, the Bison were in total control. They got a 49 yard touchdown run from Lance Dunn (after a 71 yard touchdown pass to Dimitri Williams was taken off the board). Their next drive was a soul crushing 20 play possession that took off 12:09 on the clock. Stick kept the ball for a 3 yard touchdown run and the Bison took a 14-10 lead they never relinquished. The Bison won 36-10 with Stick throwing for 188 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, and rushing for another 83 yards and 2 scores. King Frazier had 101 yards rushing while Dunn finished with 91 yards and a score on the ground.

James Madison is full of playmakers on offense with Bryan Schor at quarterback and Khalid Abdullah running the ball. The emergence of Trai Sharp the last three weeks have really helped Dukes on offense. Sharp has 301 yards the last three games, which is more than half of his entire season total (593 yards). The Bison allow 99.2 yards rushing per game.

North Dakota State’s offense will probably be the key to this game. The Bison are averaging 290.6 rushing yards per game over their previous five contests. They want to use that run game to wear down the defense, salt the clock, and score touchdowns. They did that very well against South Dakota State and their key was going 10 for 13 on third down. If James Madison wants to have any chance, they need to stop the run, prevent long drives, and, most importantly, get off the field on third down. Easier said than done.

This game features two physical teams that prefer to run the ball, but can use the passing attack to beat their opponent if needed. James Madison has the better offense here, but the Bison have the better defense. Who will win that battle?

We like James Madison to win this game 31-28. To pick against the Bison, at home, as 5 time defending National Championships, and with a stellar run game, is very hard to do. They could easily make this pick look terrible, but we like the Dukes here.

Youngstown State (11-3) at #2 Eastern Washington (12-1)

Game Time: Saturday, December 17 at 6:30 PM Eastern (ESPNU)

Youngstown State is the only team remaining to have played in the first round. They faced Samford in a game they controlled throughout and won 38-24. Their second round game was against Jacksonville State and they did exactly what they needed to do. They forced Eli Jenkins to throw the ball and he went 6 of 26 passing with 140 yards, a touchdown, and 2 interceptions. The defense gave up 317 yards rushing, but they forced a run first team into a deficit and forced them to pass. Jody Webb finished with 140 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns while Hunter Wells threw for 290 yards and a touchdown on 10 of 18 passing for Youngstown State.

The Penguins had a stiff test in the Quarterfinals as well with Wofford coming to town. Wofford took a 9-0 lead after the first quarter, but YSU responded with two touchdowns to make it a 13-9 lead. After that, the teams exchanged scores until late in the game when Youngstown State hit a 32 yard field goal to tie the game at 23. Wofford attempted a 53 yard field goal at the end of regulation, but it came up short and the game went to overtime.

Overtime was full of twists and turns. Wofford decided to go for it on fourth and one from the YSU 3, but the pitch hit off Lorenzo Long’s hands and went out of bounds. The Penguins had a chance to win it in the first overtime, but Zak Kennedy’s 37 yard field goal was wide right. YSU started the second overtime with a 2 yard touchdown run by Tevin McCaster and then forced an incompletion on fourth down against Wofford’s offense to seal the 30-23 win in double overtime.

Eastern Washington had a bye in the first round and then faced Central Arkansas in the second round. After giving up the first 14 points, the Eagles scored the final 31 points and held the Central Arkansas offense to 75 yards in the second half. Gage Gubrud went 47 of 64 passing with 449 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 31-14 win. He also rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown in a complete performance from him.

Eastern Washington used that strong second half defensive performance against Central Arkansas and parlayed that into a full game against Richmond. In their 38-0 shutout, they held Richmond to 205 yards of total offense including 48 yards on the ground and only 1.3 yards per carry. Gage Gubrud had a more pedestrian game going 21 of 32 for 287 yards with 3 touchdowns and a pick. Cooper Kupp caught 6 passes for 128 yards and a score despite worries over his shoulder.

The weather for this game is expected to be bitterly cold in Cheney, Washington. That would seem to favor the running attacks, which Youngstown State has a distinct advantage in. The Penguins average 257.1 yards per game on the ground and their playoff average is at 244.7 yards per game. Jody Webb (1,200 yards and 6 touchdowns) and Martin Ruiz (1,153 and 12 touchdowns) are the leading rushers, but Ruiz may not play against an EWU defense that allows 188.4 yards rushing per game. Ruiz played little in the Wofford game after being arrested on firearm charges.

Eastern Washington only averages 131.3 yards per game on the ground. Will the weather completely shut down their pass attack? That is difficult to envision because the Eagles will still throw the ball around plenty. However, we saw cold weather shut down Sam Houston State’s offense at James Madison when the weather was cold. The difference here is that Eastern Washington is used to this weather, even if it is not ideal to play in. They know what to expect and should be prepared.

One thing to keep in my about this game is that Youngstown State may be without four or five players including Martin Ruiz. If that is the case, their work is going to be even more difficult.

Youngstown State has a good offense to play in the cold weather. That is to run the ball, but this Eastern Washington defense has been completely different the last 90 minutes of game time. Gage Gubrud will be able to complete enough passes to the trio of Kupp, Shaq Hill, and Kendrick Bourne. If needed, Gubrud can use his legs to run the ball as he is the leading rusher for the Eagles with 558 yards and 5 touchdowns. We will pick Eastern Washington to win this game 28-17.

Check back the first week of the new year for a preview of the FCS National Championship game.

2016 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal Predictions

Cooper Kupp's health will be the focus coming into and during the game against Richmond. He is a top receiver in the FCS and a crucial part of the Eastern Washington pass offense. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images North America)
Cooper Kupp’s health will be the focus coming into and during the game against Richmond. He is a top receiver in the FCS and a crucial part of the Eastern Washington pass offense. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images North America)

2016 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal Predictions

The 2016 FCS Playoffs bracket has been cut down to 8 teams. There was some exciting action in the second round and some blowouts as well. The Quarterfinals will be played on both Friday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10. All four games can be found on various ESPN channels. An updated bracket can be found here.

After going 7-1 in the first round with our predictions, we matched that again in the second round to move our two round total to 14-2. We will make our predictions for the quarterfinals starting with the #1 seed North Dakota State and #8 South Dakota State.

#8 South Dakota State (9-3) at #1 North Dakota State (11-1)

Game Time: Saturday, December 10 at 12 PM Eastern

South Dakota State started their playoffs with a 10-7 win at home against Villanova last week. It was an ugly game with the Jackrabbits rushing for just 7 yards. Taryn Christion threw for 190 yards and a touchdown on 20 of 33 passing. The defense allowed 321 yards of offense to Villanova, but allowed just that one score and were stingy once the Wildcats got inside their territory.

North Dakota State opened their 5 time title defense with a 45-7 walloping of San Diego at home. Easton Stick threw for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns, ran for another 99 yards on 4 carries, and the rushing attack was devastating. The Bison had 299 yards on 31 carries as a team (Lance Dunn had 93 yards and 1 TD while Bruce Anderson rushed for 61 yards and a TD) and they averaged 9.6 yards per carry.

This is a rematch of the game on October 15 that South Dakota State won 19-17 in this building. The Bison held a 17-3 lead midway through the third quarter, but SDSU chipped away at the lead. Christion hit Jake Wieneke from 2 yards out with 1 second left and the Jackrabbits pulled off the upset. The Jackrabbits put up 523 yards of offense that day, which was the second most against NDSU’s defense behind Eastern Washington’s 556 yards in the Bison’s second game.

So how will this game go? Probably pretty similar to the first one. The Jackrabbits have the better offense, but the Bison have the better defense. This game will come down to the Bison’s offense. If they can control the clock, shorten the game, and gave success running the ball, then they will probably win. The combination of Dunn, King Frazier, Stick using his legs to extend plays/drives, Chase Morlock, and Anderson will be tough to stop. The Bison had 161 yards rushing in the first game versus SDSU and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.

In a close game, we like the North Dakota State Bison to win and move on to the semifinals. They will be tested by Taryn Christion, but will do enough to win 21-16. The winner of this game will play either Sam Houston State or James Madison in the semifinals.

#5 Sam Houston State (12-0) at #4 James Madison (11-1)

Game Time: Friday, December 9 at 7 PM PM Eastern

Sam Houston State was tested in their second round game at home versus Chattanooga. Despite leading the whole game, the Bearkats needed a late fourth down stop to win 41-36. Jeremiah Briscoe threw for 363 yards and 5 touchdowns with 1 pick on 20 of 40 passing. Yedidiah Louis had 8 catches for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Bearkats put up 421 yards of offense, but it was Chattanooga’s offense who did better with 531 yards.

James Madison blew the doors off New Hampshire at home 55-22. After falling behind 7-0 midway through the first, they responded with 31 straight points to take a 31-7 halftime lead. The Dukes had 408 yards passing (Bryan Schor had 371 yards with 5 touchdowns and 1 interception) and 567 yards of total offense.

This game will be all about offense. SHSU averages 53.1 points and 570.4 yards per game. James Madison averages 48.3 points and 525.8 yards per game. The defenses are porous with SHSU allowing 26.8 points and 428.5 yards per game while JMU allows 23.3 points and 354.5 yards per game.

Sam Houston State and Jeremiah Briscoe can put up points, but can their defense stop the Dukes? They will be motivated going in the road after getting the #5 seed. We like a high scoring game and James Madison to come out on top 48-38. The winner of this game will play either South Dakota State or North Dakota State in the semifinals.

Wofford (10-3) at Youngstown State (10-3)

Game Time: Saturday, December 10 at 2 PM Eastern

Wofford sure knows how to play in close games. They staved off Charleston Southern in round one with a 15-14 victory. In the second round, they went on the road and defeated The Citadel 17-3, but that score is far from how close the game was. The game was tied at 3 after three quarters, then the Terriers took a 10-3 lead after Joe Newman broke off a 36 yard touchdown run. Devin Watson picked off a Citadel pass and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown in the final minute to make it 17-3. The Citadel also missed three of their 4 field goal attempts.

Youngstown State dominated Samford 38-24 in the first round with that game’s score flattered by two late Samford touchdowns. The Penguins second round game was more impressive though. They went on the road to Jacksonville State and held them in check during the second half to win 40-24. They allowed 317 yards on the ground to Jacksonville State, but they built a lead that forced them to throw the ball. Eli Jenkins hit only 6 of his 26 pass attempts for 140 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. The Penguins finished with 520 yards of offense with 290 yards passing and one touchdown from Hunter Wells and 140 yards rushing and 2 big scores from Jody Webb.

Wofford will be running the ball pretty much non-stop in this game. They have averaged 182 yards per game rushing in the playoffs compared to only 38.5 yards passing per game. It will be a heavy dose of Lorenzo Long, who has 1,382 yards and 16 touchdowns on 274 carries this year. In the playoffs, he has 188 yards and 2 touchdowns on 41 carries. Youngstown State allows 117.8 yards rushing per game.

Youngstown State is similar to Wofford in that they like to run the ball a lot. However, they have a passing attack that can get the job done if needed. Martin Ruiz (1,149 yards and 12 TDs) and Jody Webb (987 yards and 6 TDs) are the main ball carriers. Hunter Wells had his best game against Jacksonville State with 290 yards passing. The Penguins are facing a Wofford defense that gives up 91.2 yards rushing and 186.4 yards passing per game.

If Wofford wants to win this game they will need to stop the run and for Wells to throw the ball. The problem is that since Wells became the starter, he has not had a bad game since the North Dakota State contest. He had 0 touchdowns and three interceptions in his first two starts, but has since thrown 4 touchdowns with no interceptions. Wofford will also want to keep this game very low scoring, which is possible if they can force a lot of three and outs.

We like Youngstown State to win this game 24-10. The Penguins will keep Lorenzo Long in check and the offense will score enough points at home to force Wofford into an uncomfortable position. The winner of this game will play either Richmond or Eastern Washington in the semifinals.

Richmond (10-3) at #2 Eastern Washington (11-1)

Game Time: Saturday, December 10 at 4 PM Eastern

Richmond opened with an easy 39-10 win over North Carolina A&T in the first round. Their second round game was much more difficult and they needed to mount a fourth quarter comeback to win 27-24. They trailed 24-7 at halftime, but a touchdown pass and touchdown run from Kevin Johnson, along with 2 field goals from Griffin Trau, saw them win as time expired.

Eastern Washington had a bye in the first round and won over Central Arkansas in the second round 31-14. It was a different kind of win because they fell behind 14-0, but dominated the game after that. It was the defense that had a strong second half outing allowing just 75 yards in the final 30 minutes. Gage Gubrud threw for 449 yards and 2 touchdowns on 47 of 64 passing.

There were concerns about Eastern Washington’s defense going into the game last week, but they way they played after letting up 2 touchdowns was impressive. They are going to have to stop Kevin Johnson, who has 604 yards (66.7%) passing and 3 touchdowns with no picks. Johnson is also a threat to run the ball and keep plays alive, especially near the red zone. The Eagles will need to stop Brian Brown from catching too many passes, but good luck with that. Brown has 77 receptions for 1,441 yards and 11 touchdowns this year.

Eastern Washington fans will want to keep an eye on the health of star receiver Cooper Kupp. He started the game despite a shoulder injury and played well catching 10 passes for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did not play most of the second half due to the injury, and his loss for an entire game would be huge. Still, the Eagles can rely on Shaq Hill (72 catches for 1,077 yards and 15 touchdowns) and Kendrick Bourne (74 catches for 1,051 yards and 6 touchdowns) if Kupp cannot play or his action is limited.

Richmond is a resilient team and if they can keep this game close, they will not be deterred. It will help if Kupp cannot play for Eastern Washington that will help Richmond. We like Eastern Washington, even if Kupp does not play, to win this game 28-24. The winner of this game will play either Wofford or Youngstown State in the semifinals.

Check back next week for predictions for both of the semifinal games in the 2016 FCS Playoffs.