The threat of the 2020 college football season not starting on time due to the COVID-19 pandemic should have fans valuing every game more than ever.
The season is supposed to kick off with Week Zero games on Aug. 29 followed by a full schedule over Labor Day weekend, beginning the night of Sept. 3.
Non-conference games appear to be particularly in jeopardy, so season-opening conference gems such as Delaware at James Madison (CAA Football) and Wofford at Furman (Southern Conference) would more likely be rescheduled if the season is pushed back.
While we don’t want to lose any games, these 10 non-conference games to open the season stand out:
FCS vs. FCS
Austin Peay vs. Central Arkansas (Aug. 29 in Montgomery, Ala.)
The annual FCS Kickoff needs to get back to a college campus — oh, The Stripes at Central Arkansas would be nice — but this opener still matches teams that finished in the top 12 last season.
Southern Illinois at UT Martin (Sept. 3)
Both teams improved to 7-5 last season after going 2-9 in 2018. UTM head coach Jason Simpson's only playoff game was a loss to SIU in 2006, and the Salukis seek a resume-builder as they chase their first postseason appearance since 2009.
Tennessee State vs. Southern (Sept. 5 in Detroit)
The pageantry of HBCU games is needed now more than ever. The Detroit Classic at Ford Field is the first meeting between these two programs since 2011.
Elon at The Citadel (Sept. 5)
In last year's matchup, Elon outrushed The Citadel’s triple-option offense by 99 yards and won 35-28 for head coach Tony Trisciani’s first career victory. A week later, The Citadel regrouped to beat Georgia Tech for the season’s only FCS win over a Power 5 opponent.
Grambling State vs. South Carolina State (Sept. 6 in Atlanta)
Two excellent HBCU programs figure to travel well for the 16th MEAC-SWAC Challenge at Georgia State Stadium (their last meeting was South Carolina State's 34-31 win in the 2009 Challenge). Could they meet again in Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium) in the Celebration Bowl?
FCS vs. FBS
Weber State at Wyoming (Sept. 4)
There’s always added interest when Wyoming coach Craig Bohl, who built the FCS dynasty at North Dakota State before leaving after the 2013 season, takes on a subdivision program. He lost to North Dakota in 2014 and had some other close calls, and gets a visit from a talented Weber State squad that is coming off three straight seasons of double-figure wins.
Eastern Washington at Florida (Sept. 5)
The Eagles specialize in attention-grabbing games out of conference, and the trip to The Swamp is their first-ever matchup against an SEC opponent. Quarterback Eric Barriere has a 4:1 career touchdown pass-to-interception ratio (56:14).
New Hampshire at Kansas (Sept. 5)
UNH head coach Sean McDonnell — the two-time Eddie Robinson Award recipient — returns for the start of his 21st season after missing last year's campaign due to bladder cancer. He presided over a team workout on March 1 after being given medical clearance earlier that day.
Northern Iowa at Iowa (Sept. 5)
There's still time for the Hawkeyes to try to claim the Big Ten isn't allowing its members to schedule FCS opponents. Panthers head coach Mark Farley, beginning his 20th season, has one of the best defenses in the FCS and his squad just might be the preseason No. 2 team behind rival North Dakota State.
North Dakota State at Oregon (Sept. 5)
The Ducks will be favored, right? The three-time defending FCS champion Bison have won their last six FBS games since 2010. Oh yes, they've also won 37 straight games — the FCS record. When we last saw Trey Lance in January, he was sweeping the Walter Payton and championship game outstanding player awards on back-to-back days.
— 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 Central Arkansas Athletics)