FCS vs FBS – 2017 Edition

Money, experience, exposure, recruiting, old rivalries; there are many different reasons that FCS teams play FBS teams, but one thing these games all have in common is that for FCS teams it has the potential to be one of their biggest games of the year. FBS teams schedule FCS teams for a number of reasons as well. Since the games are played nearly always at the FBS school, they have to pay a smaller amount to the FCS team than compared to an FBS opponent. It is also an opportunity for some additional playing time for their second and third string that they might not get otherwise. They also get an expected win that counts toward their bowl eligibility. At least it is an expected win. It is far from guaranteed.

Over the last 4 years FCS teams have knocked off a number of FBS teams. To be precise, 43 FCS teams have beaten FBS opponents from 2013-2016. Also of note, since Division I football split into two subdivisions in 1978, 4 FCS teams have knocked off ranked FBS teams including the infamous game where Appalachian State beat #5 Michigan in 2007, James Madison beat #13 Virginia Tech in 2010, Eastern Washington beat #25 Oregon State in 2013, and North Dakota State beat #13 Iowa in 2016.

Many of those 43 victories since 2013 have come against schools from the G5 conferences, but 13 of them were against the Power 5 conferences as well. That may make the victories a little sweeter, but any win against an FBS opponent is something to be proud of for an FCS school. Competing with only 63 scholarships against FBS teams with 85 says a lot about the caliber of FCS teams. Another interesting stat is that in the last 10 years, a team from the Southern Conference met the previous year’s BCS/CFP champion 7 times. That includes The Citadel’s game against Clemson this coming November. Nothing like playing the best of the best.

There are 98 FCS/FBS match ups this coming season. As expected most will be mismatches, but there might be a few where the upset will happen. I say “upset”, but there is a game in week 1 where the FCS team is actually favored over their FBS opponent. Overall this season, there are 5 games where the chance of an FCS victory is pretty good as well as 15 games that have potential to be very interesting. As always, there will be upsets that nobody sees coming and that is what I love about this game.

5 games with a good chance for an FCS victory:

  1. James Madison, the 2016 FCS Champion, takes on East Carolina on September 2nd and according to many sources the Dukes are actually the favorites. JMU may have lost a little of its running back production from last year, but don’t expect them to slow down. They averaged almost 47 points a game last year on their way to the FCS title. Playing in the AAC, ECU went 3-9 last year. The Pirates did get some promising transfers, but whether they make an impact in week one is a big question.
  2. Northern Iowa takes on Iowa State also on September 2nd.   I am not sure why Iowa State continues to schedule them considering the Panthers won in 2013 and 2016. Iowa State also lost to NDSU in 2014. The Cyclones have only won 11 games total in the last four years. UNI struggled a bit last year to get Ws, but they lost a lot of close games in the MVFC and are more than capable of knocking off Iowa State…again.
  3. On September 23rd Western Illinois takes on Coastal Carolina who is still in transition to FBS. The last time these teams met was in 2015 when CCU pulled out the win, at home, late in the game. But Western Illinois is still loaded from last year where they made lots of noise in the MVFC and they also knocked off FBS Northern Illinois 28-23.
  4. South Dakota, yet another team from the Missouri Valley Football Conference, meets Bowling Green on September 9th. While the Coyotes were only 4-7 last year, they lost 5 of those games by one score. They are close, and with most of their play makers back they can challenge a Bowling Green team who lost their star running back and veteran QB who only managed to go 4-8 last year playing in the MAC.
  5. Maine plays Massachusetts on November 11th at Fenway Park. Late season FCS vs FBS games can be tricky because FBS squads can hold up better than FCS teams this late in the season due to their depth. But games with a rivalry history make for interesting match ups. UMass moved up to FBS only 5 years ago and Maine will not be overawed by their former conference mate. In fact, the Bears beat UMass in 2013, 24-14, when the Minutemen played in the MAC. Now independent, UMass will be racking up a lot of miles as they shotgun their schedule around the country. Maine returns much of their squad, but will break in a new QB so this game being late in the season may work well for them. Maine is also one of 5 FCS teams to take on more than one FBS opponents this year. They also play UCF on September 30th.

15 games to keep an eye open for an upset:

  • Tennessee State at Georgia State (31 Aug)
  • Fordham at Army West Point (1 Sep)
  • Cal Poly at San Jose State (2 Sep)
  • Central Arkansas at Kansas State (2 Sep)
  • Eastern Washington at Texas Tech (2 Sep)
  • Northern Arizona at Arizona (2 Sep)
  • Southeastern Louisiana at Louisiana-Lafayette (2 Sep)
  • Southern Utah at Oregon (2 Sep)
  • Western Carolina at Hawaii (2 Sep)
  • Youngstown State at Pittsburgh (2 Sep)
  • Gardner-Webb at Wyoming (9 Sep)
  • Jacksonville State at Georgia Tech (9 Sep)
  • Villanova at Temple (9 Sep)
  • Colgate at Buffalo (16 Sep)
  • Wofford at South Carolina (18 Nov)


Complete listing of FCS and FBS match ups for 2017:

26 August, Saturday

  • Portland State at BYU

31 August, Thursday

  • Austin Peay at Cincinnati
  • Florida A&M at Arkansas
  • Holy Cross at Connecticut
  • North Dakota at Utah
  • Presbyterian at Wake Forest
  • Rhode Island at Central Michigan
  • Sacramento State at Idaho
  • Tennessee State at Georgia State

1 September, Friday

  • Fordham at Army West Point

2 September, Saturday

  • Abilene Christian at New Mexico
  • Alabama A&M at UAB
  • ​Albany at Old Dominion
  • Bethune-Cookman at Miami
  • Cal Poly at San Jose State
  • Central Arkansas at Kansas State
  • Central Connecticut State at Syracuse
  • Charleston Southern at Mississippi State
  • Eastern Kentucky at Western Kentucky
  • Eastern Washington at Texas Tech
  • Elon at Toledo
  • Grambling State at Tulane
  • Hampton at Ohio
  • Houston Baptist at Texas State
  • Howard at UNLV
  • Incarnate Word at Fresno State
  • Lamar at North Texas
  • Jackson State at TCU
  • James Madison at East Carolina
  • Liberty at Baylor
  • Missouri State at Missouri
  • Montana State at Washington State
  • North Carolina Central at Duke
  • Northern Arizona at Arizona
  • Northern Iowa at Iowa State
  • Northwestern State at Louisiana Tech
  • Portland State at Oregon State
  • Southeast Missouri State at Kansas
  • Southeastern Louisiana at Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Southern Utah at Oregon
  • Stephen F. Austin at SMU
  • Stony Brook at South Florida
  • Towson at Maryland
  • UC Davis at San Diego State
  • VMI at Air Force
  • Western Carolina at Hawaii
  • William & Mary at Virginia
  • Youngstown State at Pittsburgh

7 September, Thursday

  • Idaho State at Utah State

9 September , Saturday

  • Abilene Christian at Colorado State
  • Alabama A&M at Vanderbilt
  • Alabama State at Troy
  • Alcorn State at Florida International
  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Akron
  • Austin Peay at Miami (OH)
  • Chattanooga at LSU
  • Delaware at Virginia Tech
  • Eastern Illinois at Northern Illinois
  • Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky
  • Gardner-Webb at Wyoming
  • Howard at Kent State
  • Indiana State at Tennessee
  • Jacksonville State at Georgia Tech
  • Montana at Washington
  • New Hampshire at Georgia Southern
  • Nicholls at Texas A&M
  • Northern Colorado at Florida
  • Savannah State at Appalachian State
  • South Dakota at Bowling Green
  • Southern at Southern Miss
  • UT Martin at Ole Miss
  • Villanova at Temple
  • Weber State at California

16 September, Saturday

  • Alabama A&M at South Alabama
  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Arkansas State
  • ​Bethune-Cookman at Florida Atlantic
  • Colgate at Buffalo
  • Delaware State at West Virginia
  • Furman at North Carolina State
  • Idaho State at Nevada
  • Mercer at Auburn
  • Morgan State at Rutgers
  • North Carolina A&T at Charlotte
  • Northern Colorado at Colorado
  • Samford at Georgia
  • Southern at UTSA
  • Tennessee Tech at Ball State

23 September, Saturday

  • Southern Illinois at Memphis
  • Wagner at Western Michigan
  • Western Illinois at Coastal Carolina

30 September, Saturday

  • Maine at UCF
  • Murray State at Louisville

11 November, Saturday 

  • Maine vs. Massachusetts

18 November, Saturday

  • Delaware State at Florida State
  • Mercer at Alabama
  • The Citadel at Clemson
  • Western Carolina at North Carolina
  • Wofford at South Carolina

Written by 

Born and raised in New Jersey, but gravitated south to graduate from The Citadel in 1985. Served 23+ years in the USAF retiring in 2008 as a Field Grade Officer. Logged 4600+ flying hours as an Aircraft Commander and Instructor Pilot in the KC135. After retiring from active duty, worked as a Program Manager on various Air Force weapon systems. Retired completely as of May 2016. I have followed SOCON football since my days as a cadet. I like statistics, but also find value in looking at the intangibles as well, such as a team's emotions and motivation.

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