Two-time defending FCS champion and preseason No. 1 North Dakota State is the first team in league history to win a game against an FBS foe in three consecutive years (Kansas in 2010, Minnesota in 2011 and Colorado State last season). The Bison will try to make it four in a row as they open the season at Kansas State on Friday night.

This is the second meeting between North Dakota State and Kansas State. NDSU lost 19-6 at Kansas State under coach C.C. Finnegan to end a 5-5 season in 1931.  NDSU is 1-1 against Big 12 competition since beginning Division I play in 2004.  The Bison lost 34-17 at Iowa State in the 2009 opener and won 6-3 at Kansas in the 2010 opener.

Valley football teams have gone a combined 32-1 at home against non-conference opponents the past two seasons, 17-1 in 2012 and a perfect 15-0 in 2011.

Big happenings in the Big Sky

One of the best opening games this weekend pits Montana against former FCS power Appalachian State on Saturday.  The game marks the debut for Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield. Satterfield was named Appalachian’s 20th head coach Dec. 14, 2012. Satterfield replaces legendary head coach Jerry Moore, whose 24-year run at the helm of the Mountaineers came to an end following the 2012 campaign.

Saturday’s game also marks the beginning of the end of Appalachian State's time in FCS. On March 27, the Mountaineers accepted an invitation to join the FBS' Sun Belt Conference on July 1, 2014.

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Montana is 22-5 in home openers at Washington-Grizzly Stadium since 1986, and has won 11 of its past 12. UM's last loss in a home opener was 25-24 to North Dakota State in 2003. UM has 11 All-Big Sky picks back this season. Danny, Tripp, and defensive end Zack Wagenmann were named to the first team a year ago. Honorable mention selections from last season who return are defensive tackles Alex Bienemann and Tonga Takai; linebacker J.P. Kanongata'a; Coyle; safety Matt Hermanson; center Kjelby Oiland; kicker Chris Lider and punter Stephen Shaw. The game may also be a very early postseason preview. Montana and ASU have 10 FCS championship-game appearances and 41 FCS playoff berths between them.

Also in the Big Sky, preseason No. 2 Montana State will open the season at home Thursday night against Monmouth. The game marks the first time the two schools have met on the football field. While Monmouth features a first-year quarterback in UMass transfer Brandon Hill, the Hawks' top rusher (Julian Hayes) and two of its top three pass-catchers (Neal Sterling and Lamar Davenport) return from last season, along with an offensive line that averages more than 300 lbs.

Wildcats hope for more success

Ninth-ranked Villanova takes on Boston College on Saturday. Six Wildcats were named to the preseason all-conference team, including sophomore QB and 2012 Jerry Rice Award winner John Robertson, who completed 152 of 253 passes for 1,965 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, and also rushed for 1,021 yards and 14 TDs.

The Wildcats are gunning for their fifth postseason appearance in six seasons.

On Saturday, they'll face an Eagles team with 16 returning starters. Senior receiver Alex Amidon set school single-season records with 78 catches and 1,210 receiving yards in 2012 while fellow senior Chase Rettig completed 253 of 467 passes for 3,065 yards and 17 TDs last year.

Status quo in the MEAC

Bethune-Cookman is expected to defend its MEAC title again in 2013. The Wildcats, who went 8-0 last year in conference play, will be led by running back Isidore Jackson, who led the conference last season with 1,069 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns. The Wildcats will open the season at Tennessee State.

Big party in the OVC

The 2013 season will be the 66th of football in the Ohio Valley. In-state foes Austin Peay and Tennessee will meet on the gridiron for the first time on Saturday. If the game is played in front of a capacity or near-capacity crowd at 102,455-seat Neyland Stadium, it would be the second-biggest crowd to see an OVC team play (the largest is 104,488 in 2009 when Eastern Illinois played at Penn State).

This season, Tennessee Tech head coach Watson Brown and his brother Mack Brown (the head coach at Texas) could become the winningest set of brothers in Division I history. The duo enters the 2013 season with 352 victories (230 by Mack, 122 by Watson) which trails only Bill and Vince Dooley (362 total wins) on the all-time list.

Pioneers of football

The 2013 season marks the 21st year for the Pioneer Football League –- the nation’s only non-scholarship, football-only FCS conference. The league expands to 12 members for the upcoming campaign with Mercer and Stetson restarting their football programs and joining the league.

The PFL will receive an automatic bid to the 2013 championship for the first time this year. San Diego ended 2012 with six consecutive victories, using the streak to clinch a share of the PFL title. That six-game win streak will be the third longest in FCS entering 2013, behind only defending national champion North Dakota State (nine wins) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (seven wins).

Southland reaches the half-century mark

The Southland Conference is playing its 50th season in 2013 and will be celebrating its golden anniversary throughout the season with the release of the league’s all-decade teams.

The Southland began playing football with five schools in 1964. Lamar was 3-0-1 that season to finish ahead of Arkansas State, Trinity (Texas), Abilene Christian and Texas-Arlington. Of those teams, only Lamar is currently playing football in the Southland and it only resumed playing football in 2010 after dropping its program in 1989. Abilene Christian returned to the conference in July and will play a full Southland schedule next season, which will be its first since 1972. The Wildcats played nine seasons in the conference previously.

Lions still golden in the SWAC

A year after a school-record 10 wins, the Golden Lions of Arkansas-Pine Bluff are again the favorite to win the SWAC West Division in 2013. With 20 starters back from last year’s 10-2 team, Arkansas-Pine Bluff will open the season Saturday at Arkansas State. The east division preseason favorite, Alabama State, will play host to Jacksonville State on Saturday.

More playoff berths

The 2013 FCS playoffs will expand to a 24-team event, with 11 automatic berths and 13 at-large participants. The top eight teams will be seeded, receive first-round byes and host second-round games. The 16 other teams will bid to host first-round games.