2019 FCS/FBS Upset Watch List

Hot Beef Take

I did a post like this here, on On Press Row and College Sports Madness(www.collegesportsmadness.com), highlighting the games I see as having the highest potential for one of the Football Championship Subdivision(FCS) teams to pull an upset of their Football Bowl Subdivision(FBS) big brothers. I did pretty well last year. I keyed in on sixteen such games and hit four of them. It doesn’t sound like much, but there were only seven upsets all together. And many, many times, those upsets come from completely off the radar. So we’ll take a crack again in 2019, as the season is now less than two weeks from going into full action. We’ll look at sixteen games again this year.

August 31…

UC-Davis @ California

  • This is a ballsy pick, going against a team from a Power Five Conference that had a winning record last year. And California should know enough about their neighbors from UC-Davis to not be caught completely off guard. But UC-D is completely loaded and might have the single best quarterback in FCS in Jake Maier. The Aggies return almost the entire offense. Like many of these upsets, the FCS team will have to be able to put up crazy points and not turn over the ball. This team fits that bill to a perfect ‘T’.

Weber State @ San Diego State

  • The Aztecs are similar to California in the fact that they had a winning record last year. But teams from Group of Five Conferences don’t necessarily hold over from season to season like they can from those P5’s. Typically, it’s the FCS team’s better interest to play these games early, to be as close to full strength as possible and to maybe catch these deeper teams by surprise. Weber State is replacing seven guys on defense and that’s where they are usually strongest. But the offense should be really good, so a shootout win could be in play.

James Madison @ West Virginia

  • James Madison is going to start the season ranked in the top 3, depending on your flavor of preseason ranking. West Virginia is graduating a pretty successful class, including a quarterback that was drafted into the NFL. The fact the Dukes are going through a coaching change will make this even tougher. But Cignetti is familiar with what he has, coming from fellow CAA member, Elon. Not only that, JMU is returning 19 starters and they’re one of the FCS’ elite programs. They will not be intimidated. Longer shot than many? Sure. But wouldn’t be surprised.

Indiana State @ Kansas

  • Probably the best time for the Sycamores to play this game. They’re an experienced bunch, who definitely feel slighted by not making the playoffs last season. Having won their last five games, emotionally, they have momentum. The Jayhawks have a new coach, Les Miles. You figure if anyone can turn around the doldrums Kansas has been in, this is one of the few coaches that can. That alone makes this a “get’em while we can” situation. 

South Dakota State @ Minnesota

  • Minnesota had a winning record last year and they’re probably banking on a win in this one. But lookout. South Dakota State is not your average FCS program. They’ve been knocking on the door of national prominence for the last half decade or so and would probably be closer if not for their neighbors up I-29. The Jackrabbits have to replace the best quarterback they’ve ever had, but if they can settle the heir apparent in, he will have weapons galore. An upset here screams shootout. But don’t be surprised if linebacker Christian Rozeboom makes a big play to boost their defense.

Colgate @ Air Force

  • The Colgate Raiders were a beastly defensive team last season. Unfortunately, all but three of those defensive starters are gone. Keep an eye on defensive end Nick Wheeler, who enjoys nothing more than sacking quarterbacks and blowing up running backs. Normally, this would be a long shot at the upset and it probably still will be. But one advantage the Raiders will have over Air Force – they get to play a game against Villanova be the Falcons will ever see the field. Coming out healthy will be important, but having played as opposed to not is a slight advantage. 

Incarnate Word @ Texas-San Antonio

  • Incarnate Word will follow up their first playoff appearance by trying to knock off two FBS opponents. The first, the Roadrunners, were a paltry 3-9 last year. And this paltry poultry outfit averaged less than 15 points per game. UIW’s bird of choice, they’re the Cardinals, were much more proficient scoring and moving the ball, with freshman turned sophomore quarterback, Jon Copeland. Some travel in Texas is crazy, as it’s an immense state, but Houston to San Antonio is very manageable. Expect some fans to make the trip a little more welcoming. 

Central Arkansas @ Western Kentucky

  • Central Arkansas plays two FBS games this year, but the game in Hawai’i is usually more than FCS teams can handle. It’s probably the pig roasts and hula girls. This season opener at Western Kentucky looks like it has potential. The Bears figure to build on their 6-5 season from a year ago and the Hilltoppers were only 3-9(1-4 at home). If the Bears can find enough offense, anything is possible.

Sam Houston State @ New Mexico

  • Sam Houston State had a “down” year, going 6-5. Was that a product of personnel changing or the Southland catching up? Probably a little of both. But head coach K.C. Keeler is a winner. His teams are usually amped to full throttle offensively. 2019 should be no different. The big difference, is the expectation the defense might pull more of the weight. If that really does happen, not only is New Mexico a potential victim, so might be everyone else.

September 7…

Kennesaw State @ Kent State

  • Chances are Kent State will spend their first weekend getting beaten up in the desert against Arizona State. Kennesaw State will be playing a sub-Division I opponent, cruising to an easy victory. The Golden Flashes have become an upset target in recent years, so this was a natural place to look. On top of that, Kennesaw State employs the triple option. That means Kent State will have one week to prepare for it. The Owls have a lot to replace of their playoff run from last year, but that option offense can make up for some physical shortcomings.

North Carolina A&T @ Duke

  • The Aggies have won against a FBS program three straight years. This one, would be the biggest in school history. Not only because Duke is a Power Five school, but these programs are a stone’s throw from each other in central North Carolina. A&T has to replace about 14 starters from last year, but this program has been good enough in recent years that many of those stepping up already have game experience. Playing Elon the week before might be troubling for A&T, but nothing like the Blue Devils will see that week. Ever heard of Alabama?

Southern Illinois @ Massachusetts

  • Massachusetts is not an elite FBS program. If they were, they would probably be in a conference. A move back to the FBS would probably serve them well. For Southern Illinois, they’ve been a breakout pick for a season or two. If the Salukis are ever going to make a statement towards realizing that distinction, this is the kind of game they need to win. Again, there’s been a lot of talk about the shootout upset theory. There may not be a better candidate than SIU, who can score with just about anyone and gave up 40+ per game last year.

Eastern Kentucky @ Louisville

  • Louisville was down right bad last year, going 2-10 and 0-8 in the ACC. There’s a big difference between the ACC and OVC, let’s be clear, but winning is winning. Eastern Kentucky won their final four games in 2018 and thought they had a chance to make the playoffs, but were denied. It’ll be a lot better road trip from Louisville to Richmond, if the Colonels can muster the upset. Offensively, they were one of the better ball hogs last season. While EKU is beating up on Valparaiso, Louisville will have their hands full with Notre Dame.

Furman @ Georgia State

  • The Paladins were a tri-champion of the tough Southern Conference last year and were still denied a playoff bid. You figure they will be more motivated than normal. The running game should be superb as everyone is back, except their quarterback. So they’ll need stability there. OLB Adrian Hope is a sack master(15 last season, as a FRESHMAN!). This is a prime upset candidate. Georgia State was only 2-10 last year and could have been 1-11 if not for a blessed final couple minutes against a Kennesaw State upset bid.

September 28…

Nicholls @ Texas State

  • This is another one of those games where the upset is based more on the ineffectiveness of the FBS team as the stoutness of the FCS team. Nicholls has a lot to replace, but quarterback Chase Fourcade is not one of them. Despite losing his favorite weapon, he figures to still be the best the Southland has to offer. Texas State was only 3-9 last year. If the Bobcats make any improvements that would be a hindrance for Nicholls with this being played in Week 4, as opposed to Week 1.

November 16…

Incarnate Word @ New Mexico State

  • If the Cardinals whiff in September, they get a second FBS chance during the second to last weekend of the regular season. New Mexico State has almost no football history to speak of. This could be a grand opportunity to put a higher level victory on the resume. The biggest issue is that NMSU will still have those 22 extra scholarships and you wonder if a game like this, in the middle of conference play, will be a distraction.