It’s down to Colgate, Dartmouth, North Dakota State and Princeton
Last week’s FCS schedule basically blew up the list of unbeaten FCS teams, dropping them from 14 to a mere four.
Defending national champion North Dakota State from the Missouri Valley Football Conference, Patriot League power Colgate and Ivy League members Dartmouth and Princeton should be focused on one game at a time over the rest of the regular season, but everybody else can dream about the big picture.
What are the four teams’ chances for perfection in the regular season? Let’s take a look.
North Dakota State Bison (4-0)
Unofficial Chance of Perfection: 79 percent
Toughest Assignment: Oct. 6 at Northern Iowa. The Bison’s FCS-record 33-game winning streak was stopped at the UNI-Dome in 2014. They’re coming off an emotional high in beating South Dakota State last week. UNI hasn’t allowed a point in nine straight quarters.
But Beware: Oct. 13 at Western Illinois. If the seven-time defending Missouri Valley champ survives UNI, that will be two straight wins over rivals. There could be a letdown in the Bison’s first game outdoors this season. WIU’s veterans are used to posting big wins, too.
Projection: It’s a lot of pressure, but if healthy, this year’s Bison team has always had the look of an undefeated national champion.
Colgate Raiders (4-0)
Unofficial Chance of Perfection: 70 percent
Toughest Assignment: Nov. 17 at Army West Point. The Black Knights have shown great focus during the Jeff Monken era, but a week before Colgate’s final game of the regular season, they’ll beat up on another Patriot League team, Lafayette. Advantage Raiders, if the Knights come in overconfident.
But Beware: Nov. 10 at Lehigh. The host Mountain Hawks have won four of the last five meetings with Colgate. They’re excellent at turning games into end-to-end affairs.
Projection: Colgate’s game at Furman was canceled by Hurricane Florence last month, so the Raiders are playing only 10 regular-season games. It would be wild if their chance for perfection comes down to a game against an FBS opponent.
Dartmouth Big Green (3-0)
Unofficial Chance of Perfection: 31 percent
Toughest Assignment: Nov. 3 at Princeton. The Big Green and Princeton had long met in their season-ending game, but the Ivy League flipped some of the schedule this year, so the matchup occurs two weeks earlier. Princeton has the league’s best offense and Dartmouth appears to have the best defense.
But Beware: Oct. 5 at Yale. The defending Ivy League champion Bulldogs are motivated because Dartmouth handed them their only defeat last season. The Big Green have been forcing turnovers and need to continue it.
Projection: Only one Ivy team can finish without a loss, and Princeton should be favored over Dartmouth when they meet next month. The Big Green’s schedule is rugged with Yale, Columbia, Princeton and Cornell (coming off the Princeton game) on the road plus rival Harvard at home.
Princeton Tigers (3-0)
Unofficial Chance of Perfection: 69 percent
Toughest Assignment: Nov. 10 at Yale. Heading into meeting No. 142, this is the second most-played series in college football to Lafayette-Lehigh. If the Tigers’ perfect record is intact come their second to last game, the Yale Bowl will fill nicely with the defending champs planning to put up a roadblock.
But Beware: Oct. 20 at Harvard. The adjustment in the Ivy schedule is sending Princeton back to Harvard for the second consecutive season. The Crimson will seek revenge for last year’s 52-17 loss — their largest in a home league game in 40 years.
Projection: The Tigers have been the most impressive Ivy team this season and five of their final seven games at home. They may make 50-point games a staple, so they’re capable of outgunning opponents week after week.
— 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 Tim Sanger/NDSU Athletics)