Starting from the top with some Power 5 conferences, many schedules will be conference-only if there's a college football season this fall.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, schools are trying to limit excess travel while sticking to playing regional opponents.
Among the seven FCS conferences (out of 13) that are still trying to have a fall season, the Pioneer Football League has announced it will only play games within the league. The other conferences – the Big Sky, Big South, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, Southern and Southland – plus the independents are spread out enough geographically that competitive FCS non-conference games are hard to come by.
But if schools want close, viable competition – who needs a 49-0 blowout, right? – here are 10 possible FCS vs. FCS matchups for schedules that have shrunk already or may lose non-conference games:
Chattanooga (SoCon) vs. Tennessee State (OVC)
Approximate Distance: 136 miles
Last Meeting: 1997
Quick Comment: Um, guys, you're both located in the same state. Isn't it time to renew the series anyway?
James Madison (CAA) vs. Youngstown State (MVFC)
Approximate Distance: 319 miles
Last Meeting: Jan. 7, 2017 (2016 season)
Quick Comment: The distance may be pushing regional limits, but let's do it after these two tradition-rich programs met most recently in the 2016 national championship game.
Furman (SoCon) vs. Jacksonville State (OVC)
Approximate Distance: 245 miles
Last Meeting: 2006
Quick Comment: Both teams are ranked in Athlon Sports' Preseason Top 25. Furman won all three series meetings between 2004-06.
Missouri State (MVFC) vs. Southeast Missouri (OVC)
Approximate Distance: 268 miles
Last Meeting: 2008
Quick Comment: The two FCS programs in Missouri have gotten away from what used to be a regular rivalry. Bobby Petrino is in his first season as Missouri State's head coach.
Montana State (Big Sky) vs. South Dakota State (MVFC)
Neutral Site: Division II Black Hill State
Last Meeting: 2018
Quick Comment: The Big Sky isn't suited geographically for regional FCS non-conference matchups, so the 2019 national semifinalist (MSU) could try to meet the 2017 and '18 national semifinalist (SDSU) midway, traveling under 435 miles each. Thanks, Black Hill State.
Eastern Kentucky (OVC) vs. Indiana State (MVFC)
Approximate Distance: 284 miles
Last Meeting: 2019
Quick Comment: Last year's matchup wasn't in doubt until the final minutes. How about an encore?
Charleston Southern (Big South) vs. Wofford (SoCon)
Approximate Distance: 187 miles
Last Meeting: 2016
Quick Comment: Wofford has a 14-0 series lead, but escaped with a 15-14 playoff win in the most recent meeting. It would be fun to see the Terriers’ triple option offense matched against Charleston Southern’s stout defensive line.
Eastern Illinois (OVC) vs. Western Illinois (MVFC)
Approximate Distance: 193 miles
Last Meeting: 2016
Quick Comment: These two Illinois programs have played 67 times, but only once in the regular season (2016) since 1997.
Abilene Christian (Southland) vs. Tarleton (Independent)
Approximate Distance: 95 miles
Last Meeting: 2013
Quick Comment: Conference-only scheduling would squeeze out FCS independents such as Tarleton, which just became a Division I program on July 1. The Texans' campus is located within the Southland footprint.
Dixie State (Independent) vs. Northern Arizona (Big Sky)
Approximate Distance: 269 miles
Last Meeting: 2006
Quick Comment: Dixie State joins Tarleton as the other new FCS program in 2020. The Trailblazers and NAU have scheduled a six-game series beginning in 2023, but they need each other now if there's a season.
— 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 Dave Eggen/Inertia)