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25 Best Week 1 Games in FCS College Football

25 Best Week 1 Games in FCS College Football - Illinois State RB James Robinson

25 Best Week 1 Games in FCS College Football - Illinois State RB James Robinson

With 80-plus games to choose from, FCS college football fans coast to coast will be thrilled with the season-opening schedule.

Matchups against FBS opponents draw the most attention, but there are plenty of terrific FCS vs. FCS games as well.

Considering there are a pair of Week Zero games, let’s add them in with Week 1 as we select the best 25 matchups to get the season rolling along:


South Dakota State at Minnesota (Aug. 29)

In the last meeting in 2009, there were no offensive touchdowns as Minnesota escaped with a 16-13 win.

ETSU at Appalachian State (Aug. 31)

Separated by only 55 miles, the former conference mates meet for the first time since 2003. App State holds a 31-14-1 series lead.

UC Davis at California (Aug. 31)

Coming off its best Division I season, UC Davis makes the quick trip down Interstate 80. One thing’s for sure, the Aggies’ offense can’t drive 55.

Nicholls at Kansas State (Aug. 31)

Southland co-champ Nicholls seeks back-to-back wins in the Sunflower State after topping Kansas last year.

Indiana State at Kansas (Aug. 31)

Sycamores quarterback Ryan Boyle will be a handful as Kansas seeks to avoid another FCS loss.

Eastern Washington at Washington (Aug. 31)

Eastern Washington was the FCS runner-up last season. Its losses at Washington in 2011 and '14 were by a combined 10 points.

Sam Houston State at New Mexico (Aug. 31)

When the Bearkats made the first of two straight trips to the FCS championship games in 2011, it won a 48-45 overtime thriller at New Mexico.

James Madison at West Virginia (Aug. 31)

New head coach Curt Cignetti makes his James Madison debut. Is it national championship game or bust this season?

Illinois State at Northern Illinois (Aug. 31)

The Redbirds have beaten their last two FBS opponents – Northwestern in 2016 and Colorado State last season.

Alcorn State at Southern Miss (Aug. 31)

The defending champ seeks to give the SWAC its first FBS win since 1985.

Incarnate Word at UTSA (Aug. 31)

San Antonio pride is on the line in this first-ever meeting. Incarnate Word is coming off its first playoff appearance.

Northern Iowa at Iowa State (Aug. 31)

UNI, which has one of the more challenging schedules in the FCS, posted wins at Iowa State in 2013 and '16.

Montana State at Texas Tech (Aug. 31)

You have to go back to 1938 for the only other meeting. The Bobcats seek to spoil new Texas Tech coach Matt Wells' debut.

Weber State at San Diego State (Aug. 31)

In a crowded Big Sky race, the Wildcats want to remind everybody they are two-time defending champs.


Youngstown State vs. Samford (Aug. 24 in Montgomery, Ala.)

The first five editions of the FCS Kickoff have featured two nationally ranked teams. Neither of this year’s entrants figures to have a preseason ranking.

Villanova at Colgate (Aug. 24)

Facing Colgate's FCS' leading defense is a tough way for Villanova to try to get back on track.

Southern Illinois at Southeast Missouri (Aug. 29)

The offenses have been ahead of the defenses in recent early season matchups of the "War for the Wheel."

Jacksonville State at Southeastern Louisiana (Aug. 29)

Quarterback Zerrick Cooper leads an explosive Jacksonville State offense into the first meeting between these two schools since 1978.

Eastern Illinois at Chattanooga (Aug. 29)

This first-time meeting marks the debut of head coaches Adam Cushing (Eastern Illinois) and Rusty Wright (Chattanooga).

Elon at North Carolina A&T (Aug. 31)

The reigning black-college national champion Aggies return only eight starters, but they're home against an Elon squad anxious to have a healthier Davis Cheek back at quarterback.

Montana at South Dakota (Aug. 31)

The third-year Big Sky-Missouri Valley Challenge should be copied by other conferences.

Towson at The Citadel (Aug. 31)

In last year's win, quarterback Tom Flacco and Towson had only seven fewer rushing yards than The Citadel’s triple-option offense – on 30 fewer carries.

Wofford at South Carolina State (Aug. 31)

These two South Carolina schools are meeting for the first time since 2006.

Southern at McNeese (Aug. 31)

A veteran Southern squad seeks to spoil the McNeese head coaching debut of Charlie Strong disciple Sterlin Gilbert.

Jackson State vs. Bethune-Cookman (Sept. 1)

The MEAC-SWAC Challenge always has a Sunday spotlight during Labor Day Weekend. MEAC teams have a 9-4 lead, with Bethune-Cookman (MEAC) 2-0 and Jackson State (SWAC) 0-1 in the Challenge.

— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.

(Photo courtesy of Illinois State Athletics)