Cinderella left the madness at the end of March, but she’s stayed all dressed up for college football season.
Ten FCS teams knocked off FBS opponents last year, half from Power Five conferences.
This year, there are 98 matchups between the two levels of Division I, with three of last year’s College Football Playoff qualifiers taking on the FCS – Clemson (The Citadel), Alabama (Mercer) and Washington (Montana).
The elite FBS programs seldom lose to the FCS, but many other programs below them should be on upset alert.
Here are seven potential FCS over FBS upsets in 2017:
Tennessee State at Georgia State (Aug. 31)
The buzz at Sun Belt lightweight Georgia State will be about the Panthers playing the inaugural game in their new home, the former Turner Field. They better leave the hoopla to the students, alumni and fans because talented Tennessee State is coming off a 7-4 season. The Ohio Valley Conference program returns 18 starters and added quarterback Treon Harris, the former Florida starter, in the offseason.
Fordham at Army West Point (Sept. 1)
The visiting Rams don’t just think they can beat Army, they know they can, having done so to open the 2015 season. All-America running back Chase Edmonds and quarterback Kevin Anderson helped fuel that 37-35 win and return to lead their Patriot League team’s high-powered offense. Edmonds, a senior and 2018 NFL Draft prospect, is on pace to become the all-time leading rusher in the FCS.
James Madison at East Carolina (Sept. 2)
OK, first things first, 2016 FCS national champion James Madison might be the favorite in this game, so ECU (a mere 2-9 last season) may be the underdog. Dukes head coach Mike Houston has reloaded his lineup, including Georgia Tech running back Marcus Marshall to team with quarterback Bryan Schor, last year’s CAA Football offensive player of the year.
Northern Iowa at Iowa State (Sept. 2)
Few FCS teams will have as much of a comfort level as Northern Iowa, which is opening at Iowa State for the third consecutive season, and that includes a 25-20 win last year. Plus, UNI won in Ames to open the 2013 season, as did another Missouri Valley Football Conference power, North Dakota State, in ‘14.
Cal Poly at San Jose State (Sept. 2)
It’s bad enough for San Jose State that it ranked 122nd out of 128 FBS teams in rushing defense last season and has to face a Cal Poly triple-option offense that averaged more than 343 yards on the ground, led by All-America fullback Joe Protheroe. But the visitors from the Big Sky Conference will have played a game already (Colgate on Aug. 27) while the Spartans will be making their season debut.
UT Martin at Ole Miss (Sept. 9)
This is the long shot of the seven games, but circumstance benefits UT Martin. Ole Miss has an easy season opener against South Alabama, so the tailgating in The Grove may be rocking more than Vaught-Hemingway Stadium when an Ohio Valley Conference team follows up. UTM faced three FBS teams last season and returns standouts in quarterback Troy Cook and safety Kahlid Hagens.
Western Illinois at Coastal Carolina (Sept. 23)
With Coastal moving to the FBS as a provisional Sun Belt member this year, its talent isn’t much greater than Western Illinois’ roster. When the two programs met in 2015, the visiting Leathernecks led in the fourth quarter of an eventual 34-27 loss. Plus, the Missouri Valley squad beat Northern Illinois last season and should have the better quarterback in Sean McGuire. He’s one of the Leathernecks’ 18 returning starters.
— 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 www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
(Top photo by Coastal Carolina University Athletics)