FCS Non-Conference Schedule Analysis

Hot Beef Take
The non-conference analysis is simply a look at who each FCS team is playing as of late May / early June.  Occasionally schedules change, FBS schools buyout contracts and swap opponents, causing a domino effect.  So these are tentative opponents, subject to change.

Big Sky 

Cal Poly: vs. Colgate, @ San Jose State, @ Northern Iowa
Eastern Washington: @ Texas Tech, vs. North Dakota State, @ Fordham
Idaho State: vs. Western Oregon, @ Utah State, @ Nevada
Montana: vs. Valparaiso, @ Washington, vs. Savannah State
Montana State: @ Washington State, vs. South Dakota State, vs. Kennesaw State
North Dakota: @ Utah, vs. Missouri State, @ South Dakota
Northern Arizona: @ Arizona, vs. Western Illinois, vs. Illinois State
Northern Colorado: vs. College of Idaho, @ Florida, @ Colorado
Portland State: @ Brigham Young, @ Oregon State, vs. UC-Davis*
Sacramento State: @ Idaho, vs. Incarnate Word, vs. Weber State*
Southern Utah: @ Oregon, @ Stephen F. Austin, vs. Northern Iowa
UC Davis: @ San Diego State, vs. San Diego, @ Portland State*
Weber State: vs. Montana Western, @ California, @ Sacramento State*
  • * Conference opponent, but will be played as a non-conference game and not count in Big Sky standings
  • Overall, the Big Sky is pretty aggressive with their scheduling as everybody plays at least one FBS opponent.  Idaho State, Northern Colorado and Portland State each play two.  Of those three, Idaho State and Northern Colorado also play a school below the Division I level, Weber State is the only other Big Sky team who plays such an opponent.  A total of eight of the conference’s twenty non-conference games are against the Missouri Valley Football Conference.  Combine that with the fact everybody is playing an FBS opponent, those teams are really scheduling up also.  North Dakota and Northern Arizona are double-dipping against the MVFC.  Cal Poly and Montana State host games against teams from the Eastern Time Zone, who come from automatic-bid leagues.  Eastern Washington also has one of these games, but travels instead.  Montana plays three Division I opponents, but two are from the Pioneer and Mid-Eastern.  Those games should guarantee wins but will not impress the Selection Committee if splitting hairs for one of the final playoff spots.

Big South
Charleston Southern: @ Mississippi State, @ South Carolina State, @ Elon, vs. Point University, vs. Mississippi Valley State, vs. Savannah State
Gardner-Webb: vs. North Carolina A&T, @ Wyoming, vs. Western Carolina, @ Wofford, vs. Shorter, @ North Carolina Central
Kennesaw State: @ Samford, vs. Tennessee Tech, @ Alabama State, vs. North Greenville, vs. Texas Southern, @ Montana State
Liberty: @ Baylor, vs. Morehead State, vs. Indiana State, @ Jacksonville State, vs. St. Francis, vs. Duquesne
Monmouth: vs. Lafayette, vs. Lehigh, @ Albany, @ Hampton, @ Bucknell, @ Holy Cross
Presbyterian: @ Wake Forest, @ The Citadel, vs. Campbell, vs. Cumberland(TN), vs. Wofford, vs. St. Francis
  • The Big South has as much versatility as a conference can have as far as non-conference scheduling goes, since they only play five conference games.  With the extra open spots to fill comes the difficulty of finding opponents, which is why four of the six had to fill out their schedules with non-Division I opponents.  Only Liberty and Monmouth are playing Division I exclusive schedules.  And Liberty is transitioning to FBS, so their games will count, of course, but they’re not eligible for the FCS playoffs.  The Big South, as a whole, is going out and playing just about everyone, as they have an opponent from every conference except the Ivy and Southland.  Conference favorite, Charleston Southern, plays a sub-Division I opponent and three teams from the Mid-Eastern and Southwestern, so any slip-up in conference play will be scrutinized by the Selection Committee.

Albany: @ Old Dominion, @ Morgan State, vs. Monmouth
Delaware: vs. Delaware State, @ Virginia Tech, vs. Cornell
Elon: @ Toledo, @ Furman, vs. Charleston Southern
James Madison: @ East Carolina, vs. East Tennessee State, vs. Norfolk State
Maine: vs. Bryant, @ Central Florida, vs. Massachusetts
New Hampshire: @ Georgia Southern, @ Holy Cross, vs. Bryant
Rhode Island: @ Central Michigan, vs. Harvard, @ Brown
Richmond: @ Sam Houston State, @ Colgate, vs. Howard
Stony Brook: @ South Florida, vs. Sacred Heart, vs. Wagner
Towson: vs. Morgan State, @ Maryland, @ St. Francis
Villanova: @ Lehigh, @ Temple, vs. Lafayette
William & Mary: @ Virginia, @ Norfolk State, vs. Bucknell
  • Ten of the twelve Colonial teams play one FBS opponent. The exceptions are Maine, who plays two and Richmond, who plays none. Richmond does play a road game at Sam Houston State, which is arguably the biggest non-conference FCS match-up in 2017. As is customary in non-conference action, it’s a common practice to play teams from within your own state. The Colonial is going above and beyond with eight of their teams, if you count Richmond’s game with Howard(Washington, DC). The Colonial is one of only two FCS conferences that will play at least five games against three other conferences; six vs. Mid-Eastern, five vs. Northeast, five vs. Patriot.

Ivy League
Brown: vs. Bryant, vs. Rhode Island, @ Stetson
Columbia: vs. Wagner, vs. Georgetown, @ Marist
Cornell: @ Delaware, vs. Colgate, vs. Bucknell
Dartmouth: @ Stetson, vs. Holy Cross, @ Sacred Heart
Harvard: @ Rhode Island, @ Georgetown, vs. Lafayette
Penn: vs. Ohio Dominican, @ Lehigh, @ Central Connecticut State
Princeton: vs. San Diego, @ Lafayette, vs. Georgetown
Yale: @ Lehigh, @ Fordham, vs. Holy Cross
  • There’s not a lot to say about the Ivy League’s non-conference scheduling, they pretty much stick to the same group of opponents they always do. That means a great percentage from the Patriot League, with a smattering of regional opponents from the Colonial, Northeast and Pioneer. Of the 23 FCS non-conference opponents, twelve hail from the Patriot. Penn is the one school playing a sub-Division I opponent.

Bethune-Cookman: @ Miami(FL), @ Southeastern Louisiana, @ Florida Atlantic
Delaware State: @ Delaware, @ West Virginia, @ Florida State
Florida A&M: vs. Texas Southern, @ Arkansas, vs. Tennessee State
Hampton: @ Ohio, vs. Livingstone, vs. Monmouth
Howard: @ UNLV, @ Kent State, @ Richmond
Morgan State: @ Towson, vs. Albany, @ Rutgers
Norfolk State: vs. Virginia State, vs. William & Mary, @ James Madison
North Carolina A&T: @ Gardner-Webb, vs. Mars Hill, @ Charlotte
North Carolina Central: @ Duke, vs. Shaw, vs. Gardner-Webb
Savannah State: @ Appalachian State, @ Montana, @ Charleston Southern
South Carolina State: @ Southern, vs. Charleston Southern, vs. Johnson C. Smith
  • As is typical from the Mid-Eastern, the eleven teams are playing a total of twelve games against the FBS. Bethune-Cookman, Delaware State and Howard are all playing two FBS opponents. In fact, all three of those and Savannah State, are playing all three non-conference games on the road. That seems very disadvantageous, and it is, but the guaranteed money for playing these road games can fund an athletic department for most of the year for many of these schools. Twenty-one of the twenty-eight games against Division I opponents are on the road for the MEAC.

Missouri Valley
Illinois State: vs. Butler, @ Eastern Illinois, @ Northern Arizona
Indiana State: vs. Eastern Illinois, @ Tennessee, @ Liberty
Missouri State: @ Missouri, @ North Dakota, vs. Murray State
North Dakota State: vs. Mississippi Valley State, @ Eastern Washington, vs. Robert Morris
Northern Iowa: @ Iowa State, vs. Cal Poly, @ Southern Utah
South Dakota: @ Drake, @ Bowling Green, vs. North Dakota
South Dakota State: vs. Duquesne, @ Montana State, vs. Drake
Southern Illinois: vs. Mississippi Valley State, @ Southeast Missouri State, @ Memphis
Western Illinois: @ Tennessee Tech, @ Northern Arizona, @ Coastal Carolina
Youngstown State: @ Pittsburgh, vs. Robert Morris, vs. Central Connecticut State
  • It seems like the Missouri Valley is slowly taking a turn towards easier non-conference scheduling, as only seven of the ten play FBS foes this season. There’s also a combined nine games against the Northeast, Pioneer and Southwestern Conferences. But when you consider the overall strength of eight conference games and the meat grinder that entails, perhaps it’s wise to ease off the throttle some. Still, there’s eight games against the Big Sky, six of which are on the road. One of those two home games belongs to Northern Iowa, but they also travel to a Big Sky opponent. There’s a lot of identical opponents amongst the non-conference group; Eastern Illinois, North Dakota, Mississippi Valley State, Robert Morris, Drake and Northern Arizona.

Bryant: vs. Merrimack, @ Maine, @ Brown, vs. Fordham, @ New Hampshire
Central Connecticut State: @ Syracuse, vs. Fordham, @ Youngstown State, vs. Walsh, vs. Penn
Duquesne: @ South Dakota State, @ Valparaiso, @ Dayton, vs. West Virginia Wesleyan, @ Liberty
Robert Morris: vs. Dayton, @ Youngstown State, vs. Virginia Military, @ North Dakota State, @ East Tennessee State
Sacred Heart: vs. Stetson, @ Lafayette, @ Stony Brook, @ Bucknell, vs. Dartmouth
St. Francis: vs. Lock Haven, vs. Towson, @ Liberty, @ Presbyterian, @ Eastern Kentucky
Wagner: vs. St. Anslem, @ Columbia, @ Western Michigan, vs. Lehigh, @ Stony Brook
  • With thirty-five non-conference games to be played, the Northeast spreads the love around and takes on just about someone from every conference in their vicinity. Somehow they missed a match-up with someone from the Mid-Eastern, but they get everybody else who’s predominantly east of the Mississippi River. As a whole, only two games will be played against the FBS. One is CCSU, the other is Wagner, who always seems to have one of these games. There’s also only five games against sub-Division I teams, so overall, the conference is doing a better job of integrating with their FCS brothers. Surely, it will come with growing pains, but scheduling this way can only make the conference stronger in the future.

Ohio Valley
Austin Peay: @ Cincinnati, @ Miami(OH), vs. Morehead State
Eastern Illinois: @ Indiana State, @ Northern Illinois, vs. Illinois State
Eastern Kentucky: @ Western Kentucky, @ Kentucky, vs. St. Francis
Jacksonville State: vs. Chattanooga, @ Georgia Tech, vs. Liberty
Murray State: vs. Kentucky Wesleyan, vs. Central Arkansas, @ Missouri State, @ Louisville
Southeast Missouri State: @ Kansas, @ Dayton, vs. Southern Illinois
Tennessee-Martin: vs. Clarion, @ Mississippi, @ Chattanooga
Tennessee State: @ Georgia State, vs. Jackson State, vs. Florida A&M, vs. Lynchburg
Tennessee Tech: vs. Western Illinois, @ Kennesaw State, @ Ball State
  • The Ohio Valley spreads themselves out, playing a team from almost everywhere, though most of their games will come from the other Valley(Missouri). As seen above, Murray State and Tennessee State play four non-conference games while everyone else plays three. This is because of TSU’s provision with the OVC to only have to play seven conference games. Murray State is the odd team out this season, so they get the extra non-conference game, replacing what would have been Tennessee State. Eastern Illinois plays their normal schedule of teams within driving distance – smart. All nine teams play at least one FBS, with Austin Peay and Eastern Kentucky double-dipping. Three-time champion, Jacksonville State, has three juicy opponents, one being Liberty, the team transitioning to FBS.

Patriot League
Bucknell: vs. Marist, @ William & Mary, vs. Sacred Heart, vs. Monmouth, @ Cornell
Colgate: @ Cal Poly, vs. Richmond, @ Buffalo, vs. Furman, @ Cornell
Fordham: @ Army, @ Central Connecticut State, vs. Eastern Washington, @ Bryant, vs. Yale
Georgetown: @ Campbell, vs. Marist, @ Columbia, vs. Harvard, @ Princeton
Holy Cross: @ Connecticut, vs. New Hampshire, @ Dartmouth, vs. Monmouth, @ Yale
Lafayette: @ Monmouth, vs. Sacred Heart, @ Villanova, vs. Princeton, @ Harvard
Lehigh: vs. Villanova, @ Monmouth, vs. Yale, vs. Penn, @ Wagner
  • As mentioned previously, the Patriot League is one of two conferences that play at least five teams from three different conferences; Colonial – 5, Ivy -12, Northeast – 5. They also have four games with the Big South, so the Selection Committee will be able to compare the relative strength of many teams just from non-conference Patriot match-ups. This will be especially true with only three FBS games and none against sub-Division I teams. Two interesting games will be Colgate’s trek to sunny California to open the season with Cal Poly and Fordham hosting Eastern Washington. Lehigh will also have a chance to be the FCS “Power of the Keystone”, having games against both Villanova and Penn.

Pioneer League
Butler: @ Illinois State, @ Franklin, vs. Taylor
Campbell: vs. Methodist, vs. Georgetown, @ Presbyterian
Davidson: vs. Brevard, @ Western Carolina, vs. Guillford
Dayton: @ Robert Morris, vs. Southeast Missouri State, vs. Duquesne
Drake: vs. South Dakota, vs. Southwestern Kansas, @ South Dakota State
Jacksonville: @ Mercer, vs. Walsh, vs. Guillford
Marist: @ Bucknell, @ Georgetown, vs. Columbia
Morehead State: vs. Kentucky Christian, @ Liberty, @ Austin Peay
San Diego: vs. Western New Mexico, @ UC-Davis, @ Princeton
Stetson: @ Sacred Heart, vs. Dartmouth, vs. Brown
Valparaiso: @ Montana, vs. Duquesne, @ Trinity International
  • Thirty-three non-conference games for the entire league, only twenty-two are against FCS opponents. It wouldn’t sound as bad if some of those other eleven were against the FBS, but they aren’t. San Diego finally broke the glass ceiling and won a playoff game for the conference last year, but they’re one of only a few teams in the Pioneer who actually tries to test themselves outside the league. Back to back road games at Cal Poly and Princeton prove that. There’s only 3000 miles or so between those venues. It’s difficult to get stronger FCS programs to come to your place when you’re a smaller, private school and your conference is the new kid on the block, but 2-for-1 deals can be struck. Butler and Valparaiso are actually playing games away against sub-Division I opponents. That kind of stuff needs to be cleaned up before the Pioneer ever has a chance to be considered a major player on the FCS landscape.

Chattanooga: vs. Jacksonville State, @ Louisiana State, vs. Tennessee-Martin
The Citadel: vs. Newberry, vs. Presbyterian, @ Clemson
East Tennessee State: vs. Limestone, @ James Madison, vs. Robert Morris
Furman: vs. Elon, @ North Carolina State, @ Colgate
Mercer: vs. Jacksonville, @ Auburn, @ Alabama
Samford: vs. Kennesaw State, vs. West Alabama, @ Georgia
Virginia Military: @ Air Force, vs. Catawba, @ Robert Morris
Western Carolina: @ Hawai’i, vs. Davidson, @ Gardner-Webb, @ North Carolina
Wofford: vs. Gardner-Webb, @ Presbyterian, @ South Carolina
  • Ten FBS and four sub-Division I opponents for the SoCon. Mercer and Western Carolina are playing two FBS teams. One early and one late. Western Carolina actually plays a twelve game schedule this year, as one of their games is at Hawai’i. The NCAA allows teams an extra game when playing on the island, so the Catamounts are taking advantage of it. The Citadel, Mercer, Western Carolina and Wofford are all ending their seasons against teams from the Southeastern or Atlantic Coast conferences of FBS. Teams from the SoCon are more guilty of allowing this practice to happen than anyone else and it needs to be stopped. These big boys are taking advantage of playing these FCS teams after a full season and their numbers are worn down by injury, instead of playing them early on when near full strength. There’s already a 22 scholarships advantage, why do they need more?

Abilene Christian: @ New Mexico, @ Colorado State
Central Arkansas: @ Kansas State, @ Murray State
Houston Baptist: @ Texas State, @ Texas Southern
Incarnate Word: @ Fresno State, @ Sacramento State, vs. Prairie View A&M
Lamar: @ North Texas, vs. Texas-Permian Basin
McNeese: vs. Florida Tech, @ Alcorn State
Nicholls: @ Texas A&M, vs. Prairie View A&M
Northwestern State: @ Louisiana Tech, @ Grambling
Sam Houston State: vs. Richmond, @ Prairie View A&M
Southeastern Louisiana: @ Louisiana-Lafayette, vs. Bethune-Cookman
Stephen F. Austin: @ Southern Methodist, vs. Southern Utah
  • The Southland is always going to feel like its own country since the FCS allows an eleven game schedule and they play nine conference games(Incarnate Word only plays eight). Add to that, that most play a FBS opponent for that road game guaranteed money grab, it leaves one game to play someone else. Only Lamar and McNeese drop below the Division I level for a non-conference game. The aforementioned McNeese and Sam Houston State are the only two not playing the FBS. SHSU hosts Richmond in a major inter-conference match-up. Abilene Christian is going to feel like one of the teams in the Mountain West Conference, playing New Mexico and Colorado State their first two games. Of the eleven FCS games on the non-conference slate, six are against the Southwestern, three of which are Prairie View A&M.

Alabama A&M: @ Alabama-Birmingham, @ Vanderbilt, @ South Alabama, vs. Kentucky State
Alabama State: vs. Tuskegee, @ Troy, vs. Kennesaw State, vs. Cheyney
Alcorn State: vs. Miles, @ Florida International, vs. McNeese
Arkansas-Pine Bluff: vs. Morehouse, @ Akron, @ Arkansas State, vs. Central State
Grambling: @ Tulane, vs. Northwestern State, vs. Clark of Atlanta
Jackson State: @ Texas Christian, vs. Tennessee State, vs. Tuskegee
Mississippi Valley State: @ North Dakota State, @ Southern Illinois, @ Charleston Southern, vs. Lynchburg
Prairie View A&M: vs. Sam Houston State, @ Nicholls, vs. Bacone College, @ Incarnate Word
Southern: vs. South Carolina State, @ Southern Mississippi, @ Texas-San Antonio, vs. Fort Valley State
Texas Southern: @ Florida A&M, vs. Houston Baptist, @ Kennesaw State
  • The SWAC plays thirty-six non-conference games. Eleven of those are against the FBS, of which Alabama A&M plays three! Talk about challenging yourself! There’s also eleven sub-Division I games, but since the champion of the Southwestern goes to the Celebrations Bowl against the Mid-Eastern champion, they have no Selection Committee to impress. Of the fourteen FCS games, six are against the Southland, with three played by Prairie View A&M. Mississippi Valley State has a back to back travel itinerary to start the season in the Missouri Valley, yikes!