The Best of FCS Football


Football Championship Series (FCS) college football, previously known as Division 1-AA, receives only a small portion of the attention dispensed each week by most sports programs. And that usually occurs when a big time team schedules the Appalachians States, James Madisons and Grambling States who are willing to take their programs up a level once annually to get creamed by a national powerhouse.

Avid football fans know that not every game with a supposed “cream puff” goes as planned with Michigan finding that out in 2007 against Appalachian State and with Virginia Tech losing to James Madison in 2010. To this day, Wolverine fans are smarting over that loss which likely led to Michigan coach Lloyd Carr deciding to retire at the end of that season.

Games played on the FCS level can be enjoyable to watch. The last time I saw one was in the early 1990s when Samford visited Western Carolina. Not a huge stadium, but with its share of rabid fans present nonetheless, it was a well played game even though the number of players with full scholarships is lower on that level. Check any NFL game and many of the pros are from FCS teams. Their representation isn’t as great, but they are visible on the professional level.

I’ll probably anger someone by leaving out their team, but the following is my list of some of the best FCS programs today:

Appalachian State Mountaineers — Winners of three straight national championships from 2005-2007, the first school to do that since Division was split in 1978. They’re still a very good team, currently ranked #2 and put more fans in the stands at home games than quite a few FBS schools.

Villanova Wildcats — Currently the top-ranked team in the country, Villanova plays in one of toughest FCS conferences in the country: the Colonial Athletic Association. The CAA includes the Delaware Fightin Blue Hens, James Madison Dukes and William & Mary Tribe, three other Top 10 teams.

Cal Poly Mustangs — One of seven FCS independents, #15 Cal Poly probably doesn’t get the attention it would receive it were officially part of a conference. That’s because on the west coast there are very few FCS programs as most large colleges play on the top level. The Mustangs utilize a triple option offense which confuses defenses. This weekend they’ll be going to the next level when they visit FBS Fresno State.

South Carolina State Bulldogs — Plenty of NFL players hail from historically black colleges including this Orangeburg, SC university. The #9 Bulldogs have won more MEAC championships than any other team and have won four black college national championships including in 2009.

Alcorn State Braves — Steve McNair (a/k/a Air McNair) put Alcorn State on the map in the early 1990s thanks to his throwing and running more than 6,000 yards in his senior year. This year, the unranked Braves are averaging about 40 points per game and will have their mettle tested this Saturday when they take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Upset the Bulldogs and the Braves will soar into the FCS rankings.

I left out any mention of Ivy League teams simply because they don’t participate in post season action. Classic games include Harvard-Yale, with as many as 70,000 fans in attendance in some years.

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