2019’s Missing FCS Conference Games

Hot Beef Take

I did an article on this subject last season, in fact it was almost the exact same day when I went back and looked. But now that summer has officially arrived, those football supernerds(I am one of them) have really started digging into the schedules for the upcoming 2019 season. There is one major difference this year as compared to last. There is an extra weekend between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, so the schools within the Football Championship Subdivision are allowed to schedule a twelfth game. For many, that means an extra game against one of the “FBS big boys” and another hefty payday that comes with that usual loss. Others will add an extra home game against a sub-Division I opponent. It also guarantees money through tickets and concessions, but the victory means nothing when it comes to their November playoff resume.

But this article isn’t about such things. With many of the FCS’ conferences being larger than ten teams and playing less than a true round-robin schedule, there are games that are simply missed by schedule rotation. And many times, these are games that would have been important match-ups that could be used to determine tiebreakers in November. However, with this caveat, the FCS Playoff Committee also is able to pair such conference opponents together in the First Round, since they would not fall under the conference rematch rule. And The Committee loves putting together games that fall within the 400 miles “bus trip” guidelines. It saves them money from reimbursing traveling teams and it makes for better home gates with games between teams with a closer proximity.

Now we’re going to take a look at which important games are NOT happening this season, in each FCS conference.

Big Sky

  • Eastern Washington vs. Montana State
  • Eastern Washington vs. UC-Davis
  • Eastern Washington vs. Weber State
  • Idaho State vs. Montana State
  • Idaho State vs. Northern Arizona
  • Idaho State vs. UC-Davis
  • Montana vs. North Dakota
  • Montana vs. Northern Arizona
  • Montana State vs. Weber State
  • North Dakota vs. Northern Arizona
  • Northern Arizona vs. UC-Davis

Just like last season, there’s eleven games missed amongst the preseason contenders. Just looking at these teams, we have Eastern Washington(3), Idaho State(3), Montana(2), Montana State(3), North Dakota(2), Northern Arizona(4), UC-Davis(3) and Weber State(2). One could make the assumption that Montana and Weber State are at a disadvantage schedule-wise within the Big Sky. Someone like Northern Arizona could be handicapped into a nice advantage missing four of these opponents, especially if they can keep their team healthy. This will be North Dakota’s last “lame duck” season playing a Big Sky schedule. Their games count for all other teams in the conference standings, but do not count for them. They will move to the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2020.

Big South

The Big South plays a complete round-robin, so no match-ups are missed. New additions, Hampton and North Alabama, are now officially integrated into the conference. This will also be the final season that Presbyterian competes in the Big South. Next year, 2020, they will become an Independent. In 2021, they will begin play as a non-scholarship member of the Pioneer League.

Colonial

  • Delaware vs. James Madison
  • Delaware vs. Maine
  • James Madison vs. Maine
  • New Hampshire vs. Towson

Once again, the Colonial did a good job getting most of their best teams together. The conference doesn’t use a two-division system for scheduling, which helps the flexibility of getting the most potential out of its schedule.

Ivy

The Ivy League plays a true round-robin, so no match-ups are missed.

Mid-Eastern

With the departure of Savannah State back to Division II and with Hampton’s exodus to the Big South in 2018, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference has become a nine-team league, down from eleven. And with that, as predicted last year, the conference has adapted a full round-robin schedule of eight games per team.

Missouri Valley

  • Illinois State vs. South Dakota
  • Indiana State vs. North Dakota State
  • Missouri State vs. Youngstown State
  • Northern Iowa vs. Southern Illinois
  • South Dakota State vs. Western Illinois

2019 will mark the final season the MVFC doesn’t play a “89% round robin”. What I mean by that is that with nine  conference foes, each team only misses one – eight divided by nine, 89%. Next season, North Dakota will join and everybody will miss two opponents. For 2019, and only five missing games, I just went ahead and listed them all. If you look though, the first, second and last games probably are the more glaring misses. But with a near round-robin, this isn’t as striking as in other conferences.

For a little tidbit of useless knowledge, the MVFC does use a rotational schedule for those teams you miss playing. What the conference does is group its teams in fives. There’s a centralized group and a perimeter group. The centralized group is Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Southern Illinois and Western Illinois. The perimeter group is everyone else. Each team is matched-up with one from the opposing group and those teams don’t play for a two year period. Rarely does the conference veer off this kind of alignment. It will be interesting to see how the new schedule will function with an eleventh team.

Northeast

The NEC is in a state of change. The conference used to be a seven-team configuration. All of a sudden, that membership has grown to nine. Now, for 2019, it will really be just eight teams, as Long Island University will join as a full member from the beginning. Four of those eight will play the other newcomer, Merrimack College. Merrimack will be considered a transitional program for four seasons, as they jump from Division II to FCS. Long Island is making a similar jump, but their basketball program was already Division I, so they get around the transition. Otherwise, a complete round-robin schedule.

Ohio Valley

Normally, there is one team paired with Tennessee State that only plays seven conference games, because Tennessee State has a clause where they get four non-conference games each season. With a twelve game schedule, that is taken care of and TSU gets a full slate along with everyone else. So 2019, there are no missed games here.

Patriot

The Patriot League plays a true round-robin, so no match-ups are missed.

Pioneer

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.

Southern

The SoCon plays a true round-robin, so no match-ups are missed.

Southland

  • Incarnate Word vs. McNeese
  • Lamar vs. Nicholls

Time for my annual Southland scheduling gripe. Eleven teams and all but one plays a nine-game conference schedule. The odd team out in 2019 is Houston Baptist. Never in a thousand years would anybody have thought that Incarnate Word being the odd team out in 2018 would have been a problem, but it was. The Cardinals surprised everyone in a topsy turvy season in the Southland, going 6-2 in league play. That was good enough to grab a share of the conference title with Nicholls, who went 7-2. Nobody is projecting HBU to do what UIW did last year, but things are no longer unprecedented. That being said, the miss list this year seems pretty docile, but you never know after Southland 2018.

Southwestern

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.