By Joe Scalzo
When Appalachian State upset Michigan in the Big House in 2007, it was a Big Deal. Same with James Madison beating Virginia Tech in 2010.
But when Youngstown State upset Pitt last weekend?
Not so much.
“The [difference in the] level of competition isn’t as great as it once was and I just don’t think it’s that big of a shock when a FCS program beats an FBS program,” said Southern Illinois coach Dale Lennon, whose team plays Mid-American Conference member Miami (Ohio) on Saturday. “You look at the games last weekend, the majority of FCS teams were very competitive.”
While Youngstown State gave the Missouri Valley Football Conference its first win over a Big East team last weekend, the league nearly posted two more upsets of Big Ten teams as Northern Iowa fell to Wisconsin 26-21 and Indiana State lost to Indian 24-17.
Even Missouri State, which was picked to finish last in the league, was tied with Kansas State 9-9 late in the third quarter before the Wildcats pulled away for a 51-9 win.
“Anywhere from I’d say top 40 teams on down, I feel confident that anybody in our league can go toe-to-toe with them,” said YSU coach Eric Wolford, who helped the Penguins become the first FCS team to win 20 FBS games, according to FootballGeography.com. “And if they have some good fortune, they’re gonna win those games.”
Since 2000, Missouri Valley Football Conference teams have won 11 games against FBS teams, with YSU winning two: Pitt this year and Kent State in 2000. North Dakota State has won two straight FBS matchups — Kansas in 2010 and Minnesota last year — and could make it three on Saturday.
“We expect North Dakota State to beat Colorado State this weekend,” Wolford said. “I don’t have any doubt that’s going to happen.”
According to the College Sporting News, FBS teams entered this season with a 1838-396-18 (.820) record against FCS teams dating to 1978 when the NCAA split Division I into two levels. Last season, FBS teams went 89-6 in those games, a .920 winning percentage.
There will be a record 106 FBS-FCS games this season and while there are bound to be blowouts — Oklahoma State beating Savannah State 84-0 last weekend is the most obvious example — the better FCS teams have shown to be more than capable of winning, especially if they’re not playing Alabama or LSU.
“The only difference between the two levels is, over time, if you have to play 12 games like that, it’s tough when you only have 63 scholarships” compared to 85 at the FBS level, said Illinois State coach Brock Spack, whose team plays MAC member Eastern Michigan on Saturday. “But if you play one or two of those games, you can play well.”