FCS Schools Flex Muscle During College Football’s Opening Weekend
Every year, we scoff at so many of the games on the schedule for the opening week of the college football season because they match up FBS teams from the FCS subdivision (formerly division 1-AA) in what we assume will be lopsided games.
We’ve had a few shocking upsets over the years, such as Michigan losing to Appalachian State or James Madison beating Virginia Tech, but things reached a new level this season with eight FCS schools winning games over FBS teams the first weekend of the season, with no less than five others coming close, showing us that many FCS programs are no longer a pushover for the big boys of college football.
The most shocking upset of the weekend was Eastern Washington, a FCS semi-finalist last season, beating the Oregon State Beavers, who became just the third ranked team to ever lose to a FCS school.
In another stunning upset, North Dakota State, who was ranked first in the FCS preseason poll, stunned the Kansas State Wildcats, a team that played in a BCS Bowl Game last season.
While Eastern Washington and North Dakota State are two of the best teams the FCS subdivision has to offer, Oregon State and Kansas State are two stable and established programs that should not be losing games to teams with less talent and fewer scholarships.
Another power conference school with no excuse is Iowa State, who lost to in-state foe Northern Iowa. Two years ago, the Cyclones beat Northern Iowa by one point in their season opener, so they should have been better prepared for the game and cognizant that the Panthers posed a threat to them.
Northern Iowa, like most FCS teams, schedule games against their more formidable in-state rivals in order to collect a check to help fund their program, despite knowing it’s a probable loss. But when a team like Iowa State drops the ball and loses, it adds insult to injury.
The most egregious losses of the weekend were by South Florida and San Diego State. Most FBS teams are expect to win by at least three or four touchdowns against FCS opponents, but South Florida suffered a 32-point loss at home to McNeese State while San Diego State lost by 21 points to Eastern Illinois.
It’s one thing to lose to a FCS team, but it’s a completely other thing to be humiliated at home and lose so convincingly.
Even some of the teams that managed to win should be embarrassed and ashamed. The West Virginia Mountaineers had to erase a 10-point halftime deficit in order to squeak out a seven-point win over William & Mary, a team that went 2-9 last season. West Virginia’s performance was nearly as bad as if they had actually lost the game and shows just how far the program has fallen.
The FCS teams that pulled off these upsets deserve a ton of credit; they truly are talented teams and they believe they can win games against FBS-level teams.
The talent disparity between the two divisions of football is not as great as it used to be, and the use of the spread offense helps close that gap even more, but too many FBS teams just don’t take games against the lower division seriously, and that’s something that needs to change.
Even with better talent and better functioning offenses, this many FCS teams should not be beating FBS-level teams. FBS schools need to get their act together realize that the FCS schools are no longer pushovers and start treating it like any other game.
Until that happens, FCS schools will continue to seize opportunities and pull off upsets.
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