Strength of FCS teams down overall
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By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - Nearly one month into the FCS college football season - yes, believe it or not - there's an inescapable feeling about the national picture:
The FCS isn't as strong this season as it was last season, and perhaps in a number of recent years.
It's surely not the right ending to what's been a fabulous decade for the subdivision, led by the dynasty that is North Dakota State.
Here are four reasons why the FCS appears down overall:
1. National champion North Dakota State isn't as strong after having one of the better teams in program history last season. That's not a slight on the top-ranked Bison, who have been impressive while starting 3-0 and pushing their winning streak to 24. Quite simply, it was always inevitable the 2019 team, which returned only seven starters, wouldn't be the 15-0 team of 2018.
2. That last sentence would figure to feed into the FCS being parity-laden and boosting a deeper national title race. James Madison's veteran squad has rebounded from a disappointing 2018 season to be back with North Dakota State on the top level, but the teams behind them haven't stepped up as much. This may be the key point: Most of last year's national quarterfinalists aren't as strong, from national runner-up Eastern Washington to Kennesaw State to Maine to South Dakota State to likely UC Davis to certainly Colgate. Weber State may fall into that category as well, but it's hard to downplay the Wildcats' two close losses to FBS opponents.
3. Speaking of the FBS, the FCS is 3-85 against the upper tier of Division I. That's not getting it done. The single-season record of 16 wins in 2013 may be out of reach for a long time, but with 114 matchups against the FBS, this was a year for the FCS to reach double figures for the first time since 2016 (and, no, it won't be getting seven more wins in the remaining 26 games). No ranked team has beaten an FBS opponent, all three winners were unranked at the time of their upset.
4. Preseason polls formulate opinions about the strength of teams, and a handful of the conference favorites - all defending champs, by the way - are off to sluggish starts. Colgate (Patriot), San Diego (Pioneer) and Wofford (Southern) are a combined 0-7. Eastern Washington (Big Sky), Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley) and Nicholls (Southland) have shown vulnerability. Duquesne (Northeast) isn't a Top 25 team, as its fans and alumni hoped.
It's still early enough for top teams to change the perception that the FCS is down. But it's going to get late soon if they don't start to make a case otherwise.
Updated September 19, 2019