Should FBS Teams Continue Playing FCS Opponents?

By Amy Daughters -

While the ACC and SEC’s new rule requiring that members play at least one non-conference game against a power-five team seems like progress, it overlooks another major issue with schedule equality—games with FCS foes.

Before dictating which level of the FBS power programs draw a single non-league game from, wouldn’t it make sense to first require that all out-of-conference games be played against FBS teams?

According to an AP report via USA Today, Nick Saban advocates that the entire regular season be played against power fives, indirectly supporting the end of FBS versus FCS games.

If it was totally up to me, I’d say you’ve got to play all 12 games in the Big 5…If we did that, I think we would be less averse to playing more conference games because I think we have such a great conference.

In 2014, only 23 of the 128 FBS teams—or 18 percent—won’t play an opponent from the FCS.

Of the 23, only seven are power-five members. That means that 89 percent of power-five teams draw an FCS team this season. It’s intriguing that there are no ACC or SEC members on this list.

Here’s a look at this year’s non-FCS honor roll, only three have a long-term commitment to an all-FBS schedule.

Oklahoma

Non-Conference Games in 2014: Louisiana Tech, at Tulsa, Tennessee

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Florida A&M in 2012 (69-13 win)

Texas

Non-Conference Games in 2014: North Texas, BYU and UCLA (at Arlington, Texas)

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Sam Houston State in 2006 (56-3 win)

Penn State

Non-Conference Games in 2014: at UCF (Dublin, Ireland), Akron, UMass, Temple

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Indiana State in 2011 (41-7 win)

Arizona 

Non-Conference Games in 2014: UNLV, at UTSA, Nevada

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Northern Arizona in 2013 (35-0 win)

Colorado

Non-Conference Games in 2014: at Colorado State (at Denver, Colo.), at UMass, Hawaii

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Charleston Southern in 2013 (43-10 win)

UCLA

Non-Conference Games in 2014: at Virginia, Memphis, Texas (at Arlington, Texas)

Most Recent FCS Opponent: San Diego Navy in 1954 (67-0 win)

USC

Non-Conference Games in 2014: Fresno State, at Boston College, Notre Dame

Most Recent FCS Opponent: San Diego Navy in 1952 (20-6 win)

Notre Dame 

Non-ACC Games in 2014: Rice, Michigan, Purdue (at Indianapolis, Ind.), Stanford, Navy (at Landover, Md.), at Arizona State, Northwestern, at USC  

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Carnegie Mellon in 1941 (16-0 win)

Cincinnati 

Non-Conference Games in 2014: Toledo, Miami (Ohio), at Ohio State, at Miami (Fla.)

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Northwestern State in 2013 (66-9 win)

SMU

Non-Conference Games in 2014: at Baylor, at North Texas, Texas A&M, TCU

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Montana State in 2013 (31-30 win)

Tulsa  

Non-Conference Games in 2014: Oklahoma, at Florida Atlantic, Texas State, at Colorado State

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Nicholls State in 2012 (66-16 win)

Florida Atlantic

Non-Conference Games in 2014: at Nebraska, at Alabama, Tulsa, at Wyoming

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Wagner in 2012 (7-3 win)

Western Kentucky 

Non-Conference Games in 2014: Bowling Green, at Illinois, at Navy, Army

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Morgan State in 2013 (58-17 win)

Rice 

Non-Conference Games in 2014: at Notre Dame, at Texas A&M, Hawaii, at Army

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Nicholls State in 2007 (16-14 loss)

UTEP 

Non-Conference Games in 2014: at New Mexico, Texas Tech, New Mexico State, at Kansas State

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Stony Brook in 2011 (31-24 win)

UTSA

Non-Conference Games in 2014: at Houston, Arizona, at Oklahoma State, New Mexico

Most Recent FCS Opponent: McNeese State in 2012 (31-24 win)

Kent State 

Non-Conference Games in 2014: South Alabama, at Ohio State, at Virginia, Army

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Liberty in 2013 (17-10 win)

UMass 

Non-Conference Games in 2014: Boston College, Colorado, at Vanderbilt, at Penn State

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Maine in 2013 (24-14 loss)

Boise State

Non-Conference Games in 2014: Ole Miss (at Atlanta, Ga.), at UConn, UL Lafayette, BYU

Most Recent FCS Opponent: UT-Martin in 2013 (63-14 win)

New Mexico

Non-Conference Games in 2014: UTEP, Arizona State, at New Mexico State, at UTSA

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Southern in 2012 (66-21 win)

Idaho

Non-Conference Games in 2014: at Florida, Western Michigan, at Ohio, at San Diego State  

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Old Dominion in 2013 (59-38 loss)

South Alabama

Non-Conference Games in 2014: at Kent State, Mississippi State, at South Carolina, Navy  

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Southern Utah in 2013 (22-21 loss)

ULM

Non-Conference Games in 2014: Wake Forest, at LSU, at Kentucky, at Texas A&M  

Most Recent FCS Opponent: Grambling State in 2013 (48-10 win)

Comments (40)

The 12th game was added to the schedule as a way to get money for the FCS programs. Many fans had the FCS games but they are the reason that schools can have 7 home games. In fact without FCS games many schools in the Group of 5 conferences would only have 5 home games. It is all an issue of money – and FCS games create extra money for everyone involved.

Exactly. Money money money. FCS teams get $500K for playing ACC/SEC, and then the ACC/SEC schools rake in $1-3 million in tickets, concessions, merchandise, TV, etc.

Shouldn’t you at some point note how the Big 10 is banning any members from playing FCS schools after this season? Don’t all 14 members now have a long term commitment to not playing FCS schools? Not even that, but why isn’t Ohio State on this list? They don’t play any FCS schools this year?

Barry Alvarez said the Big Ten would stop scheduling FCS teams, but since the Illinois scheduled Western Illinois for 2018.

The Big Ten backed down from that statement. They never banned anything, only said teams should stop scheduling FCS teams. But as Kasey mentioned, they are still adding FCS teams if they desire.

the lower level teams is the ACC, AAC, and B10 are just as bad as many FCS, SunBelt or MAC teams

i think that if you play in a tough conference then you have the right to play 1 FCS opponent as long as you also play a tough non-conference game!

Old Dominion was an FBS team last season. Officially an FBS Independent. So Idaho’s last FCS game was vs Eastern Washington in 2012

ODU, Appalachian State, and Georgia Southern were in the first year of their FCS-FBS transition, which means they were officially FCS last year and will be FBS this year.

I live in idaho and get the “privilege” of reading,watching, or hearing about Idaho, Boise St, and Idaho St. All of Idaho’s sports programs dropped back to the big sky with Idaho St. Except the football team. They are a joke and probably half of the fcs schools could beat them. They need to take a lesson from the other sports and quite trying to play with the big boys.

Frankly, there will be no notabke improvement in attendance if Generic Power Five team hosts Generic MAC/Sun Belt/C-USA team instead of some in-state or regional FCS team. The problem happens when there is an FCS team AND a lower-level MAC school AND a cellar-dwelling AAC school. Then, it just gets ridiculous.

Honestly, it is completely disingenuous to.suggest that the appearance of an FCS team on a school’s home schedule automatically makes that schedule weaker than a school that doesn’t have one. Penn State’s toughest non-conference game is in Dublin against UCF, which was otherwise supposed to be a true road game in Orlando. Its other games are Akron of the MAC, AAC bottome-feeder Temple, and a terrible UMass team. But hey, none of those are FCS, so the Nittany Lions should be commended, right? Meanwhile FSU has one FCS team at home, but also plays Oklahoma State in Arlington and Notre Dame and Florida in Tallahassee.

FYI- Temple might not be as bad as you think. Yes they have been poor and have had a terrible past…caveat they have a qb who will cause team problems in PJ Walker. He was a freshman last year. You will see on opening night against Vandy. He will cause them trouble.

You should be allowed to play FCS teams as long as it doesn’t count towards a team’s record. For example, if a team plays beats an FCS team and finishes 6-6, they shouldn’t go to a bowl game. (example: Pitt beat ODU and finished 6-6; 5-6 vs FBS teams)

However, if a team loses to an FCS team (like Oregon St did to EWU) and finishes 6-6, they should be able to go to a bowl game since they were 6-5 in games vs FBS teams. EWU also finished #3 in FCS last year.

What about the fact that many of the FCS teams are BETTER than many teams from the non power 5 conferences? Teams like North Dakota State, Eastern Washington, South Dakota State (to name the best of FCS) are more difficult teams to bean than New Mexico State, Hawaii, and the directional Michigan schools.

I think that the level of difficulty when it comes to FCS teams should be considered as well. Just ask Kansas State, Oregon State, Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas, UConn, and Pitt to name a few of the FBS teams that got beat by FCS teams recently.

They are not better than CMU, who finished 6-6 last season – but including SDSU? C’mon, there are plenty of better FCS schools.

Let the big schools play a scrimmage in August against a FCS school and pay them well for it. Then require all 12 games for FBS teams to be against FBS opponents. Hell it might also make the FCS schools schedules better overall. Remember FCS schools are penalized for playing down in that the game does not count towards making the playoffs. Lets penalize FBS schools the same way. I would like to see better regional FCS games between FCS conferences. I laugh every year when people are trying to get rid of the FCS game tickets against Clemson and South Carolina and no one wants them. Lets get rid of the gimme game on the schedule.

A resume for a team from a power conference with playoff aspirations should look something like this, 10 games against other power conference teams, 1 game against a reasonable non-power conference team (like Boise, BYU, N. Illinois, Cincinnati, etc), and 1 glorified exhibition game against a lower-level regional school (Oregon-Portland St, Ohio St-Youngstown, etc).

The real danger is Saban’s desire to destroy college football at any university that is not in his Big 5.

I suspect evenutally the number of B1G vs FCS OOC games will approach zero. B1G vs FCS currently scheduled:

2014 – 11 games
2015 – 7 games
2016 – 8 games
2017 – 3 games (Towson at MD, W Ill at NW, Morgan St at Rutgers)
2018 – 2 games (No Iowa at IA, W Ill at IL)
2019 – 1 game (So Dak St at MN)
2020 – 1 game (Towson at MD)

An issue is with B1G programs in the state of Illinois, Indiana and Iowa no longer being able to play in-state FCS brethren.

With the added inventory of Group of Five programs (App St, Geo Southern, Old Dom, and recently Texas St, UTSA, and So Ala, and soon Charlotte), there are additional OOC opponents Power Five conferences programs can play.

BTW NW has FOUR OOC games scheduled for 2016. Which game will be cancelled? The West Mich game?

As long as FCS schools keep beating FBS schools these games should continue. I think over a half dozen FCS schools won last season. I suggest that these games get played the weekend before Labor Day and act as a preseason. They get to count for the FCS standings but not for FBS. Then 12 games for real against FBS teams only.

Indeed SOS will be a significant factor by the Playoff Committee. But it should also apply to bowl game selections. For example none of the following programs should NOT play in a bowl unless they have won at least 8 games (of course that is not going to happen):

2014 OOC schedules-

Texas A&M: SMU, Rice, ULM, Lamar
Vandy: Temple, Mass, Old Dom, Charleston So
Miss St: So Miss, UAB, So Alabama, UT Martin
Missi: Boise St, Memphis, ULL, Presbyterian
Arizona: Nevada, UNLV, UTSA
Oregon St: San Diego St, Hawaii, Portland
Colorado: Colo St, Hawaii. Mass
Penn St: UCF, Akron, Temple, Mass
Wake Forest: Utah St, Army, Lou-Mon, Gard-Webb
NC St: USF, Old Dom, Geo Southern, Presby
Baylor: SMU, Buffalo, NW St

Air Force: Navy, Army, Geo St, Nicholls
Houston: BYU, UTSA, Tenn Tech, Grambling
Marshall: Ohio, Miami-OH, Akron, Rhode Is

That is exactly how the Pac-12 is attempting to schedule. An issue is not enough P5 conference programs willing to travel west for a OOC home-and-home (unless it is game in LA, Bay Area, Seattle, or Phoenix). So Oregon State and Colorado have had to schedule single games AT Michigan, and Wash St is playing Rutgers in Seattle.

However good to see some home-and-home series scheduled between B1G and P12, with the Wolverines visiting Utah in 2015, Minnesota at Oregon St in 2016, Nebraska at Colorado in 2019 and 2023, and Wisconsin is scheduled to visit Wash State in 2023.

Additional B1G-P12 home-and-home match-ups should be scheduled. But is there much fan interest hoping to see match ups of WashSt/Colo/Ariz/OreSt vs IL/IND/Purdue? On the other hand such match-ups are much better than many alternatives. And would assist in overall conference SOS as well as individual program SOS.

It’s time for the bottom dwelling P5 conference programs to up the ante with their OOC scheduling.

The state of South Carolina has a law that states Clemson and South Carolina must schedule an instate FCS opponent each year. This generates revenue for the universities and the state. I mean what Coastal/Wofford/Furman/SCST/Citadel/CSU/PC fan wouldn’t want to make a trip to Death valley or Williams Brice to watch their team play. The players love it too. It’s a win-win for both sides.

I think that Texas A&M should play two FCS teams for the next eight years and play the three Service Academies Air Force, Army, and Navy in home to home games.

I think the FBS should have a SOS rating for 150 schools totaled, with the bottom OPEN slots for the top FCS schools. All other FCS schools would be considered as ranked 200 in the SOS ratings if hosting the FCS school; and ranked 175 if FCS school is hosting (doubt any FCS schools are hosting any FBS schools) or on neutral site.

When talking about scheduling, why not start by playing more teams in your own conference. The big conferences are playing 4 out of conference games and not playing half the teams in their own conference. This makes no sense to me. You could simplify scheduling, increase fan interest, generate more money, and reduce travel cost by playing more conference games. I say if you must play non-conference games, then play one or two but not 4.

The University of Houston has TWO FCS games this year. They do not subscribe to Saban’s viewpoint.

Solid article. You only left off that Ohio State did not play an FCS this year and Michigan did not either! Great work!

I would like to see the NCAA make a rule that prohibits FBS schools from playing FCS schools in football. Simple enough.
But if that seems too revolutionary, let’s try this: You can play an FCS school every other season, but never two seasons in a row. No exceptions.

I don’t much care what kind of rule is made concerning playing FCS teams. But whatever the rule is, it should apply across the board for all FBS schools.