Preseason FCS Forecast: Potential FBS Upsets

Preseason FCS Forecast: Potential FBS Upsets
Last fall and spring was not like other years, to say the least. For the FCS, upsets of their bigger brothers in the FBS seem to come to the tune of a minimum of seven or eight annually. The 2020 Fall - 2021 Spring season only produced three. With an anticipated full slate coming this season, the FCS will look to flex their muscles and not only take the big money for playing these games, but also win extra bonus points in the eyes of the FCS Playoff Selection Committee come November. Here we will look at a handful of potential upset candidates. Of course, there’s always a game or two that’s not on the radar that falls into this category. That’s what makes football so much fun.
September 4...
Central Arkansas @ Arkansas State: At first glance, this doesn’t look like a likely place to start. The Red Wolves drubbed the Bears last fall, 50-27. Still, UCA appears to be a top 15-ish FCS squad and Arkansas State finished last year at 4-7. It’s not a long trip, so the Bears should have some fans cheering them on.
Eastern Washington @ Nevada-Las Vegas: If this one turns into a shootout, the chances the Eagles pull off the upset increases dramatically. The Rebels gave up 38 points per game in an 0-6 season last year. EWU looks to have one of the two or three best offenses in the FCS. Upsets in these cases are usually crazy games with more than 60 points scored. The Eagles would be happy to play in this kind of game.
Montana State @ Wyoming: This is going to be a tough game for the Bobcats, even though the Cowboys were just 2-4 last year (8-5 in 2019). The fact that Montana State hasn’t played since 2019 may be the biggest factor. Wyoming is a decent defensive team, which should translate better towards an FCS opponent.
Monmouth @ Middle Tennessee: Monmouth has quietly built a strong FCS program. In the spring, they were within a touchdown of upsetting the eventual FCS National Champion, Sam Houston State. Middle Tennessee was 3-6 last year and the only teams they beat were a combined 7-14, while giving up 33 ppg. The Hawks will put up points when given the opportunity and if they can handle the physicality of the FBS Blue Raiders, who knows what happens?
South Dakota @ Kansas: This is less of a medal towards the Coyotes as it is a demerit against the Jayhawks. Kansas is notorious for losing games to just about anyone - maybe they’re just charitable, knowing their basketball program gives away very few freebies. South Dakota always seems to pull a win out of nowhere, when you least expect it. Maybe this is that one.
South Dakota State @ Colorado State: Would certainly see this as a prime candidate if SDSU had quarterback Gronowski healthy. But the year before, the Jackrabbits were just fine with Heide at the controls. Maybe the offense loses a little of its versatility, but there’s still a lot there from the national runners-up. The Rams only played four games last year, winning one. They gave up 29 or more points in all those games lost and still allowed 24 in the game they won. SDSU should be able to keep it close.
Holy Cross @ Connecticut: Okay, okay, okay. A Patriot League team on this list? I understand. But Holy Cross did win the abbreviated season’s automatic bid. To top that off, Connecticut hasn’t played a game since 2019, as they didn’t go last year. Furthermore, when the Huskies did play in 2019, they were 2-10 and only beat FCS Wagner 24-21. Their other victory was over Massachusetts. The Crusaders have as good of a shot as anyone. Don’t laugh, if it happens.
September 11...
Kennesaw State @ Georgia Tech: Kennesaw State will likely be at a physical disadvantage against the Power Five Yellowjackets, but both of these teams are very used to seeing the triple option. Sure, Georgia Tech doesn’t run it themselves any more, but they haven’t forgotten it all. This game will all come down to the Owls keeping it close or leading late in the game and getting most of the breaks. Controlling the ball will be of utmost importance.
North Carolina A&T @ Duke: No six-hour bus trip needed here; the Aggies are right in the Blue Devils’ backyard. Duke is a Power Five team, yes, but they were 2-9 last season. The travelers here are very adept at upsetting FBS opponents, having a three-game win streak that was just broken recently. NC A&T will come in with loads of confidence and will refuse to roll over. If Duke let’s down their guard at all, look out.
South Carolina State @ Clemson: Just kidding.
North Dakota @ Utah State: Obviously, if this one was in North Dakota, you might say the Fightin’ Hawks would be favored, they play that well at home. But FCS teams rarely get that luxury with FBS teams. The Aggies were 1-5 last year, giving up more than five touchdowns per game. If UND can control the game early, the upset is definitely in play.
Southern Illinois @ Kansas State: This could be one the Salukis would rather have had Week 1, when it’s easier to sneak up on FBS teams. The Wildcats were 4-6 last year giving up over 32 ppg. Of course, that’s in the Big XII, where just about everyone averages 30 ppg. Everyone knows SIU isn’t above getting into high scoring affairs. It would also be an opportunity to stick it to KSU head coach Klieman, for those losses taken while he was at NDSU.
Mercer @ Alabama: Okay, last time, I promise.
Southeastern Louisiana @ Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs were 5-5 last year and gave up just short of 35 ppg. The Lions and their unreal potent offense will be licking their chops. Of course, the Lions defense will probably assist in boosting LaTech’s 26 ppg offensive average. This game has a “first one to 45 wins” feel to it. Of course, you could likely slap that label on all of SLU’s games this season.
September 18…
Sacramento State @ California: This one may be a little more on the unlikely side, but the Hornets have seemed to turn around their program. In 2019, they were a #4 seed in the playoffs. The Golden Bears last year were just 1-3. It’s no long drive for the Sac State faithful either. Would probably be a higher chance if it was a week earlier, but those are the breaks.
Delaware @ Rutgers: Yes, the Scarlet Knights reside in the Big Ten now, but let’s not pretend Rutgers is a typical powerhouse. Will they be favored? Most likely. But the Blue Hens look to be a Top Five-Ten team to start the regular season. And they have a bye after this game, so laying it all on the line will not be as taxing as far as resting back up is concerned.
Murray State @ Bowling Green: The Racers looked decent in the spring, the Falcons did not, going 0-5, and that’s in the Mid-American Conference. MAC schools have been sniped numerous times the last five years or so by FCS programs. Murray State will still be an underdog, but stranger things have happened.
Jackson State @ Louisiana-Monroe: The Tigers have a new coach, who’s shined in the “Prime Time” for a Hall of Fame career in the NFL. Maybe you’ve heard? But Jackson State is chomping at the bit to make an immediate impact and started off okay in the spring. The Warhawks are a pretty good FBS opponent to try and get that statement win against, as they were 0-10 last year. They have a bye week before, but a conference opener afterwards. Maybe Jackson State is in the perfect spot.
October 16...
Yale @ Connecticut: Although it may appear that I’m picking on Connecticut for putting them on this list again, I’m really not. But the Huskies are a struggling program these days. And the fact they have two FCS opponents on their schedule could tell you they’re trying to cherry pick some wins. Yale is an Ivy Leaguer, but don’t let that fool you. The Ivies aren’t playoff participants, but they put plenty of talent in the NFL. This will be tough. The Bulldogs will be ready.
November 6…
Rhode Island @ Massachusetts: Rhode Island looks to be turning the corner to relevancy. A win over the Minutemen would help that cause. You don’t know where the Rams will be sitting this late in the season, so a win may or may not matter. But Massachusetts is a very lower-tiered FBS program. Still, Little Rhodie will need to bring their A-game to pull the upset.
November 13…
Maine @ Massachusetts: Much like Connecticut, I’m not trying to pick on Massachusetts here. But I didn’t tell them to put two FCS opponents on their schedule. Maine has been a tough program to figure out over the years. They seem to swing from strong to struggle in back-to-back seasons with no rhyme or reason. This will probably be a tougher game if Rhode Island would pull an upset the week before, but it could still be winnable, regardless.