Conference champs, postseason picks, award winners... we've got you covered
It's the time of the year when every FCS college football program should be dreaming big.
The Division I subdivision tends to be wild and wacky on a weekly basis, and this year, North Dakota State (only seven returning starters) isn't even a sure thing, so the dreamers are aplenty.
The crystal ball is firing out our 2019 predictions from conference, national and individual perspectives, but let's all keep dreaming big:
FCS Conference Champions
Big Sky – Eastern Washington: The conference schedule is advantageous
Big South – Kennesaw State: Owls are vulnerable, but get Monmouth at home
CAA Football – James Madison: Dukes have 19 returning starters
Ivy League – Yale: Even better, Bulldogs have 21 returning starters
MEAC – North Carolina A&T: The rest of the conference senses an opportunity here.
Missouri Valley – North Dakota State: Winning big is new head coach Matt Entz's only option
Northeast – Duquesne: There's a lot more than All-America running back A.J. Hines
Ohio Valley – Jacksonville State: Gamecocks have one conference loss in five years
Patriot – Colgate: Six league opponents managed only three TDs versus Raiders
Pioneer – San Diego: Toreros own Division I-high 29-game conference winning streak
Southern – Wofford: SoCon title race is deep
Southland – Nicholls: Southland race is even deeper
SWAC – Southern: Alcorn State is the favorite, but...
FCS Playoff Field (24 teams): Colgate (Patriot champ); Duquesne (Northeast champ); Eastern Washington (Big Sky champ); Elon (at-large qualifier); Furman (at-large qualifier); Illinois State (at-large qualifier); Indiana State (at-large qualifier); Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley champ); James Madison (CAA champ); Kennesaw State (Big South champ); Maine (at-large qualifier); *Montana (at-large qualifier); Montana State (at-large qualifier); Nicholls (Southland champ); North Dakota State (Missouri Valley champ); Northern Iowa (at-large qualifier); Sam Houston State (at-large qualifier); San Diego (Pioneer champ); South Dakota State (at-large qualifier); Southeast Missouri (at-large qualifier); Towson (at-large qualifier); UC Davis (at-large qualifier); Weber State (at-large qualifier); Wofford (Southern champ)
*replaces McNeese from spring prediction
Semifinals: North Dakota State over Eastern Washington and James Madison over South Dakota State.
National Championship: North Dakota State over James Madison: A rematch of the 2017 FCS title game would be a toss-up.
Celebration Bowl: SWAC champ Southern over MEAC champ North Carolina A&T: Jaguars head coach Dawson Odums has added FBS transfers to an experienced lineup.
FCS Award Winners
Walter Payton Award (offensive player)
Eric Barriere, QB, Eastern Washington: Working behind a highly experienced offensive line will allow Barriere to dominate opposing defenses.
Eddie Robinson Award (coach)
John Stiegelmeier, South Dakota State: His talented Jackrabbits have a chance to end NDSU's run of eight straight Missouri Valley titles.
— 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.
(Photo courtesy of NDSU Athletics)