6 potential FCS over FBS upsets to watch out for in 2017
Ten FCS programs upended FBS foes last season, highlighted by North Dakota State's statement win at Iowa last September. Four of those 10 fallen FBS teams were from the Power 5 and five went on to play in postseason bowl games.
The FCS had 10 wins over FBS programs in 2016, one year after tallying nine. The single-season record, set in 2013, stands at 16.
Plenty of FBS teams will be on upset watch again in the early portion of the 2017 season. Below are some of the most dangerous FCS programs looking to make some noise this year against FBS foes that will be on high alert:
Eastern Washington at Texas Tech | Sept. 2 at 4 p.m. ET
Eastern Washington is always a threat in these early season matchups at FBS sites. The sqaud knocked off Washington State last year and Oregon State in 2013. Two other times since 2012, the Eagles have come within a touchdown of an upset. A year removed from a trip to the FCS semifinals, EWU should be competitive once again in its 2017 bout with Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders finished 5-7 last year despite boasting the most prolific passing offense in the nation (463 yards per game). That's because Texas Tech struggled migthily on defense, allowing a nation-worst 554.3 yards per game. That should leave EWU quarterback Gage Gubrud salvating after he recorded a 5,000-yard season last year.
There will be points aplenty from both sides in this Week 1 matchup — triple digits is a very real possibility.
James Madison at East Carolina | Sept. 2 at 6 p.m. ET
East Carolina will have to play the FCS champs in Week 1 when James Madison visits Greenville, North Carolina for the first time in program history.
The Dukes cruised through the 2017 season, finishing 14-1, which included a playoff victory over five-time defending FCS champ North Dakota State and a 28-14 championship game victory over Youngstown State. JMU's only loss of the year came to the FBS's North Carolina.
The Dukes lose top running back and championship game MOP Khalid Abdullah but return quarterback Bryan Schor and a litany of key pieces on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, ECU comes off a 3-9 year and lost the FBS' all-time leading receiver Zay Jones.
A JMU win wouldn't constitute much of an upset in this case, no matter the Dukes' status as an FCS program.
Northern Iowa at Iowa State | Sept. 2 at 8 p.m. ET
FCS matchups have not been kind to Iowa State, who has dropped three of its last four contests against MVFC foes. In-state rival UNI has been the culprit in two of those games, including a 25-20 finish in last year's opener.
The Cyclones have won six games in the past two years combined and haven't finished .500 since 2009. UNI took a step back last year with a 5-6 record but had made the FCS playoffs four times in the previous six years. More importantly, the Panthers have proven they're comfortable playing the higher division, especially their neighbors down in Ames.
Cal Poly at San Jose State | Sept. 2 at TBD
Cal Poly looks to turn the page after a promising 2016 season abruptly ended with a shocking first round loss in the FCS playoffs to San Diego. One way to do so would be to knock off Mountain West conference foe San Jose State.
San Jose State finished seventh to last in rushing defense last season, allowing nearly 250 yards per game on the ground. Cal Poly thrives in the rushing game, using a triple-option attack spearheaded by returning starter Joe Protheroe (1,334 yards, 13 touchdowns).
The Spartans will have to find a way to stop Cal Poly's ground game. Cal Poly opens up against Colgate on Aug. 26 and San Jose State faces South Florida on Aug. 26 as well.
Villanova at Temple | Sept. 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET
These two Philadelphia schools have a lot of history together, but Week 2 of 2017 will mark the first time Villanova and Temple meet in five years. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 16-15-2 but went 1-3 against the Owls in their most recent four-game series from 2009-12.
This will be Mark Ferrante's first turn as a head coach in this rivalry, as he replaced Andy Talley at the helm of Villanova. He inherits a defense that allowed a nation-low 15 points per game last year and a promising quarterback in rising junior Zach Bednarczyk.
As for Temple, the Owls face the challenge of replacing its starting quarterback and top rusher from last year. Temple finished with 10 wins last season but is expected to take a step back this year, voted third in the division in the preseason AAC poll. Villanova will have a prime opportunity to give Ferrante his first statement win.
South Dakota at Bowling Green | Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. ET
Bowling Green had to survive double overtime last year against North Dakota to avoid a 2016 loss to an FCS opponent. The Fighting Hawks' rivals to the south look to finish the job this year.
South Dakota finished 4-7 last year, but five of those losses were within a single score. The Coyotes were a competitive team that is expected to show continued growth this year. Topping the Falcons, out of the MAC, would be one huge step forward.
Bowling Green is always a potent force on offense, but its defense struggled to contain opponents in 2016 (38.3 points allowed per game). The Coyotes reached at least 30 points of offense four times in 2016 and topped 40 twice. If it comes down to the wire, it'll be interesting to see if South Dakota can leave last season's steady diet of heartbreak behind.