2011 FCS/FBS Challenge: Recent Trends and Records in the Quest for the Automatic “W”

Ah yeah!  College football — at least at the Division 1 level — kicks off tonight!  And nothing gets the heart racing like games against FCS opponents!

Exactly.  While we all love it when college football kicks off, we are mostly disappointed with the quality of the match-ups.  Certainly we get games such as LSU v. Oregon, Boise State v. Georgia, and Miami v. Maryland.  But for each one of those games, we are left with several Kent State v. Alabama games, or worse Austin Peay v. Cincinnati [Let’s Go Peay!!!!].  Yes, we love the automatic “W,” but the vanilla offenses and blowouts just leave you feeling empty.

Of the 77 games this opening weekend, 38 (or 49.35 percent) involve FCS schools.  For the year, FBS tier schools will play an FCS opponent 97 times, or 12.5 percent of the 771 games on the season.  The number is up from 90 (11.64 percent) last year, and up from 87 in 2008.  So there will be plenty of opportunities for FBS schools to get the waterboy into the game.

And do not think that it is only one conference that schedules FCS schools.  Over the last three seasons, FBS schools have scheduled FCS opponents 270 times (11.66 percent).  Of those, the ACC by far leads the way (41 times, or 15.19 percent of all FCS scheduling).

  • ACC: 41 (15.19%)
  • Big 12: 27 (10%)
  • Big East: 26 (9.63%)
  • Big Ten: 28 (10.37%)
  • Conference USA: 22 (8.15%)
  • Independents: 6 (2.22%)
  • MAC: 26 (9.63%)
  • Mountain West: 17 (6.3%)
  • Pac-10: 13 (4.81%)
  • SEC: 31 (11.48%)
  • Sun Belt: 11 (4.07%)
  • WAC: 22 (8.15%)

Among conferences, the Sun Belt has the lowest percentage of FCS games, although that could be explained by “power” conferences using the Sun Belt as another sure “W.”  Among so-called “power conferences,” the Pac-10 (now the Pac-12) is the lowest among total FCS opponents faced over the last three seasons.  However, an interesting pattern has emerged…

  • 2008: 2 FCS teams scheduled by Pac-10 schools
  • 2009: 4 FCS teams scheduled by Pac-10 schools
  • 2010: 7 FCS teams scheduled by Pac-10 schools

Notice, the Pac-10 is turning more towards FCS opponents.  That number ticked up one as the Pac-12 has eight FCS games scheduled [to their credit, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA and Southern California all avoid the sure “W”].  For this season, the ACC again leads the way with 13 games against FCS schools (NC State plays two FCS schools), followed by the SEC and MAC with 12.  The Sun Belt has the fewest with only four.

So, this trend is not going away.  Thus, if we are stuck with it, we might as well pray for some upsets!

To be sure, the likelihood of an FCS team upsetting an FBS school is small.  Over the last three years, FCS schools are a measly 14-256 (0.052 winning percentage).  Although, last year FCS schools won seven times (still a pathetic 0.078 winning percentage), highlighted by James Madison’s upset of Virginia Tech.  As Appalachian State proved not too long ago, the talent is there to go in and pull of the upset.  But it is more like a 15-seed upsetting a 2-seed in the NCAA Basketball Tournament; it can happen, but it is rare.

In the next installment of the FCS/FBS Challenge (tomorrow), I want to highlight a few games between an FCS school and an FBS school where the potential for an upset exist.  However, because two of those games kickoff tonight, I will go ahead and highlight those games below.

Keep in mind that it is only the potential for that upset to occur; I am not claiming it will occur.  But if you had to take a shot in the dark, these are the most likely.  And while certainly the games are situations where a strong FCS team is taking on a weak FBS team, these obviously present the best opportunity.


One thing that helps Villanova here is that while the game is “at” Temple, both universities are in the Philadelphia area.  Thus, there is no travel involved for the Wildcats.

Villanova has been fairly consistent over the last few years, winning the National Championship in 2009 and padding the stats with their high-octane offense.  In fact, Andy Talley’s squad is probably the best in Philly.  Temple, which saw a resurgence under Al Golden, is breaking in a new coach and that can be tricky.

The Owls, however, do return key players, including junior running backs Matt Brown and Bernard Pierce (the latter, if you recall, had an excellent Freshman season).  Villanova is missing a lot of starters from last season and that may hinder their chances of taking the Mayor’s Cup.

This game will be carried on ESPN3.


New Hampshire has made a habit of knocking of FBS schools, going 3-1 since 2007 [the one loss was last year against Pittsburgh].  Granted, their wins are against schools like Marshall, Army, and Ball State, but those are wins nonetheless.  This season, they get Toledo from the MAC; yes it is another Colonial versus MAC game…involving a team nicknamed the Wildcats.

The Wildcats, led by coach Sean McDonnell, are another consistently strong FCS school from arguably the toughest conference in that tier.  They are breaking a new full-time starter at QB (Kevin Decker), but he has playing experience including starting against Bethune-Cookman in the playoffs.  The questions are likely on the defensive side of the ball, where the lost five defensive backs with significant playing time.  However, the linebacking corps and defensive line are solid.

For Toledo’s part, they are no slouch.  They return 1000-yard rusher Adonis Thomas and top receiver Eric Page, who will be looking to exploit the Wildcats’ secondary.  Toledo decided on Austin Dantin at QB, but do not be surprised to see Terrence Owens get into the game.  The problem with the passing game is that Page IS the passing game with regards to the receivers.  On defense, the Rockets return second leading tackler Isaiah Ballard, as well as cornerback Desmond Marrow.

This game will be carried on ESPN3.


One thought on “2011 FCS/FBS Challenge: Recent Trends and Records in the Quest for the Automatic “W”

  1. USC and UCLA (plus Notre Dame) have never schedules FCS schools since D1 divided into D-1A and D-1AA, so consider that as well. Washington and Michigan State were also in that club until recently.

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