Defending champs look strong again
The rich could be getting richer in FCS college football in 2019.
Many defending champions are expected to be in the favorite’s role in their respective conference.
The results don’t always pan out that way they were forecast in the conference polls, but last season was fairly solid with the preseason pick following through nine of 13 times — six winning outright titles, two sharing titles and SWAC East Division pick Alcorn State capturing the conference championship game.
Heading toward the new season, it would seem only CAA Football and perhaps the Ivy League will have a favorite that wasn’t a conference champion last season.
Here’s what to expect in 2019:
As the national runner-up last year, Eastern Washington should have the top preseason spot over fellow 2018 champs UC Davis and Weber State. In the conference’s unbalanced scheduling, the Eagles won’t play either team.
Kennesaw State should be favored even though it returns only two offensive starters. It helps the Owls that they will host Monmouth, the runner-up each of the past two seasons.
Defending champ Maine returns a lot of talent, but James Madison’s loaded squad figures to be the conference favorite under first-year head coach Curt Cignetti.
Yale endured some key injuries last season and managed a mere 3-4 league record as the favorite. The Bulldogs return enough to warrant the nod again, but Dartmouth, defending champ Princeton, and Harvard are in the mix.
Two-time defending champ North Carolina A&T is the team to beat again, although Florida A&M and Howard expect to have banner seasons.
North Dakota State is known best for its record seven FCS championships in the last eight years, but it’s also won eight straight conference titles. South Dakota State, which will be the second choice, will host the rival Bison this year.
Defending co-champ Duquesne may be a unanimous favorite over Central Connecticut State.
Jacksonville State has one conference loss in the last five seasons. Yup, the Gamecocks will be the pick again.
The picture is unclear after Colgate, but Raiders are a prohibitive favorite at the top.
With San Diego owning an FCS-leading 29-game league winning streak, there’s no other pick.
Wofford expects to be favored over Furman, but it should be another great race. Those two shared the title with ETSU last season.
Nicholls probably wasn’t happy to share the title with Incarnate Word last season. The Colonels will be favored to win an outright title in 2019.
Alcorn State (East) and Southern (West) will be the divisional picks, just as they finished last year.
— 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 Jacksonville State Athletics)