Last season, we saw Nicholls State beat Kansas. In 2017, Howard went to UNLV and pulled off arguably the biggest upset in HBCU football history. Then of course, there’s that famous Appalachian State vs. Michigan game from 2007.
Every year, there’s a college football game or two where weird things just happen.
There’s a handful of games on the 2019 slate where an FCS team might have the edge over its FBS opponent. Let’s take a look at them.
South Dakota State at Minnesota, Aug. 29
South Dakota State was an FCS playoff semifinalist last season while Minnesota went 3-6 in Big Ten play, but did end the season with a bowl win over Georgia Tech. The Jackrabbits kept things interesting in their last meeting with the Gophers, losing by just three points in 2009. For the Jackrabbits, 15 starters return, but they do have to find a replacement for Taryn Christion, who threw 32 touchdowns last year.
James Madison at West Virginia, Aug. 31
By the Dukes’ standards, last season might’ve been a bit of a disappointment as they fell in the second round of the FCS playoffs. James Madison is hungry to get back in the win column, and could take advantage of a West Virginia team who will be playing its first game with a new quarterback and a new head coach. Additionally, James Madison brings back 12 of its 14 all-conference selections from last season.
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North Carolina A&T at Duke, Sept. 7
The Aggies have a win over an FBS opponent in each of the past three seasons, collecting victories over Kent State, Charlotte and East Carolina. Could a Power 5 opponent in Duke be the next addition to that streak? Perhaps. The Blue Devils are entering this season with a new quarterback after Daniel Jones was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by the New York Giants. The Aggies did lose a trio of All-American selections from the STATS FCS team, but it’s rare to see the three-time Celebration Bowl champs unprepared against any opponent.
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The Citadel at Georgia Tech, Sept. 14
Is this the triple-option revenge game? Georgia Tech ran the offense for more than a decade under former head coach Paul Johnson, but seem to be installing a more modern passing offense this season under Geoff Collins. Meanwhile, the Citadel has found lots of success running the offense, rushing for an average of 283.6 yards per-game last season, which was ninth best in FCS. On the other side, Georgia Tech was 57th best in FBS rush defense. Back in 2015, the Citadel took a win over South Carolina, and ran for 275 yards last year in a loss to Alabama. The Citadel could catch Georgia Tech by surprise as it works out early kinks under Collins.
Maine at Liberty, Oct. 19
The Black Bears were an FCS playoff semifinalist last season while the Flames posted a 6-6 record in their second season of FBS football. Maine had the best rushing defense in all of FCS last year, allowing just 79.2 yards per-game on the ground. On offense, the Black Bears return their starting quarterback, four offensive lineman and gain a solid running back in Buffalo transfer Emmanuel Reed. Liberty will be adjusting to new schemes from first-year head coach Hugh Freeze.
Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.