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Stan Becton | | August 16, 2021

6 potential FCS-over-FBS upsets early in the 2021 college football season

North Dakota State's football dynasty

College football's return kicks off with some exciting FBS vs. FCS crossover games. In these early season contests, there are always a handful of upsets brewing.

You may remember FCS powerhouse North Dakota State knocking off No. 16 Iowa in 2016. James Madison defeated No. 13 Virginia Tech in 2010, sending a message to a program they share a state with. No upset caught more attention than when Appalachian State upset No. 5 Michigan in 2007. The game went down as one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

MORE: A complete history of every FCS win vs. FBS teams

So, what FCS team will be next to land an upset? Here are six potential FCS over FBS upsets to watch for in Week 1 the 2021 college football season.

Six potential FCS over FBS upsets in Week 1

Jacksonville State at UAB | Wednesday, Sept. 1 | 7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN

UAB is the three-time defending Conference USA West Division champion, the defending C-USA champion, and the Blazers return 17 starters. However, an average of only 7.5 points decided UAB's last two games against FCS opponents. 

These close calls will have Jacksonville State and elite QB Zerrick Cooper excited for their Week 1 matchup. They defeated FIU last year by nine points as the only FCS vs. FBS upset. The FCS No. 10 Gamecocks will head to Montgomery, Alabama, confident in their chances to secure another.

Eastern Washington at UNLV | Thursday, Sept. 2 | 10 p.m. ET | Stadium

Eastern Washington will visit Sin City for a Thursday night battle with UNLV. Making the trip will be Walter Payton Award runner-up QB Eric Barriere and a trio of talented receivers. Barriere and his 10,102 total career yards and 93 total touchdowns will look to get a season-opening win against a Rebels team that went winless in 2020. 

UNLV will look to rebound this year, but first, the Rebels must figure out their quarterback situation as a trio of candidates looks to improve an offense that averaged only 17 points per game. They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but No. 11 Eastern Washington has a great chance to leave with an upset victory.

RANKINGS: Find out where your team landed in the latest FCS poll

South Dakota at Kansas | Friday, Sept. 3 | 8 p.m. | ESPN+

Football in Lawrence, Kansas is going through a rough stretch, but the Jayhawks have a new head coach in Lance Leipold (previously at Buffalo). When South Dakota makes the trip in Week 1, it will look to take advantage of a Kansas team that finished 0-9 last season.

The Coyotes bring a solid defense led by LB Jack Cochrane that has been battle tested in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. They expect to cause trouble for whichever Jayhawk quarterback emerges from the summer’s competition for the starting job.

If Kansas starts slow, this game may turn into an upset quickly.

South Dakota State at Colorado State | Friday, Sept. 3 | 9 p.m. ET | FS1

When we last saw South Dakota State play, it suffered a close loss in the FCS championship game. Ranked as the No. 3 team in the preseason poll, the Jackrabbits remain one of the best teams at the FCS level. 

South Dakota State will return to play a Colorado State team that finished 1-3 last fall. However, Colorado State brings back a talented defensive line that led the country in tackles for loss per game in 2020. They’ll need similar production to open the season if they want to contain talented South Dakota State RB Pierre Strong Jr. and avoid an early upset.

WINNING: Here's which schools have the most FCS championships

Holy Cross at UConn | Saturday, Sept. 4 | 12 p.m. ET | CBSSN

Fresh off of a spring FCS playoff appearance, Holy Cross visits UConn to open its season. It will be the second game for the Huskies, who opted out of 2020 after finishing the 2019 season 2-10.

While UConn hasn't had a winning season came in 2010, Holy Cross has been one of the more solid FCS teams, as the Crusaders are the two-time defending Patriot League champions. 

Despite the difference in divisions, Holy Cross and UConn are closer than they appear. This game is prime for an upset.

Montana State at Wyoming | Saturday, Sept. 4 | 4 p.m. | TBA

Montana State last played in 2019 but finished that season in the FCS semifinals. Since then, the Bobcats have hired a new head coach, Brent Vigen, from none other than Wyoming. Vigen will be aided in his coaching beginnings by the return of preseason All-American linebacker Troy Andersen, a former running back who now flies around on the defensive side of the ball. Wyoming will have their hands full to open the season as they look to bounce back from a 2-4 season.

Are are some additional upset games to watch for as the season progresses: 

Week 2 — North Carolina A&T at Duke, North Dakota at Utah State, Kennesaw State at Georgia Tech

Week 3 — Albany at Syracuse, Chattanooga at Kentucky, Delaware at Rutgers, Florida A&M at South Florida, South Carolina State at New Mexico State

Week 11 — Maine at UMass

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