FCS's Missing Conference Match-Ups

As the college football season nears, the anticipation slowly winds to a fever pitch, usually about the first week of August. It doesn’t matter the level either, the same holds true from high school to the National Football League. In the meantime, there is still Indoor Football and the Canadian Football Leagues.
Since every FCS schedule became official a few weeks or maybe a month ago, pundits, like myself, have been pouring over each team’s individual schedules and weighing the great games coming up in 2018. What nobody else has done though is looked into each of these schedules and seen, actually NOT seen, which match-ups are NOT there. I mean, you can’t see what’s NOT there…you just notice its absence.
Now we’re going to take a gander at which important games are NOT happening this season, in each FCS conference.
Big Sky
  • Eastern Washington vs. Montana
  • Eastern Washington vs. Sacramento State
  • Idaho vs. Northern Arizona
  • Idaho vs. Sacramento State
  • Idaho vs. Weber State
  • Montana vs. Sacramento State
  • Montana vs. Weber State
  • Montana State vs. Northern Arizona
  • Montana State vs. Sacramento State
  • Montana State vs. UC Davis
  • UC Davis vs. Weber State
Wow! Right off the bat, there’s eleven games that many of the Big Sky’s contenders will not be playing. In fact, there’s a twelfth between Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona, but they will actually compete in a “non-conference” match-up. With the Big Sky being the FCS’ largest conference, both in geographic size and by number of teams, these things happen. On top of each playing eight conference opponents, a fourteenth team, North Dakota, is a lame duck conference member that cannot win the league’s automatic, but who’s games will still count in the standings for everyone else.  Idaho is dropping down from FBS football back into the Big Sky after 22 years, but will miss three of the other main contenders in 2018. Upstarts Sacramento State and UC Davis are looking to make the leap into the big boy conversation, but each misses multiple opportunities to make statements. The Eastern Washington/Montana/Northern Arizona triangle of top contenders all miss each other, at least in official conference action. And each of them could be favored to win every conference game they play, opening the potential for tri-champions all going 8-0. That would be interesting!
Big South
The Big South plays a complete round-robin, so no match-ups are missed. New additions for 2019, Hampton and North Alabama, play multiple games against the current alignment, but are officially FCS Independents in 2018.
  • Delaware vs. James Madison
  • Elon vs. Stony Brook
  • Elon vs. Villanova
  • New Hampshire vs. Richmond
For being a twelve team conference, the Colonial did a pretty good job getting most of the appropriate game together for 2018. The two games involving Elon will probably be the most glaring missed as they figure to be towards the head of the league’s class under James Madison’s perch.
The Ivy League plays a true round-robin, so no match-ups are missed.
  • Howard vs. North Carolina A&T
There’s more missing than just one game, of course, but Howard and North Carolina A&T figure to be, at worst, two of the three best teams in the conference. Having only ten teams now with Hampton’s early departure, the conference dropped from eight conference games back to seven. It could be the final year any games are missed though, as Savannah State falls back to Division II next season. This will leave the conference with nine teams and a likely eight game round-robin schedule, starting in 2019.
Missouri Valley
  • Illinois State vs. South Dakota
  • South Dakota State vs. Western Illinois
For a conference that only misses five total match-ups, having two with some meaning tells you how strong the conference is overall. The two games could be missed match-ups of potentially ranked opponents. Luckily for the Missouri Valley, they’re probably still looking in the neighborhood of twelve to fifteen such games.
Ohio Valley
  • Eastern Kentucky vs. Tennessee State
Because of this quirky rule that the Ohio Valley allows Tennessee State to only play seven conference games, when everybody else is going round-robin, is strange. This year, Eastern Kentucky is the odd team out. Each team has the potential to be in the final at-large bid consideration, but they won’t have this game to prove their worth.
The Patriot League plays a true round-robin, so no match-ups are missed.
There are five games that are missed between Pioneer League teams, but none of them figure to be of major importance. That can change as the season progresses, but still shouldn’t matter on the national level.
The SoCon plays a true round-robin, so no match-ups are missed.
  • Central Arkansas vs. Nicholls
  • McNeese vs. Sam Houston State
Eleven conference teams play a near isolationist schedule of nine conference opponents, which means that everybody misses only one opponent. The odd team out is Incarnate Word, they miss two, as an odd number of teams can’t completely play an odd number opponents. So there’s a grand total of six missed games and somehow, the Southland has managed to miss two games between their four best teams. This is very unfortunate, especially in a conference where the difference between the top and bottom is so vast.
There’s a number of missing match-ups in the Southwestern, but none of them have bearing on the playoffs and none should a game that would help separate the top for a Celebrations Bowl bid.