This year's must-see FCS matchups

May 23, 2016 - 2:27 PM (STATS) - It's time to put every FCS conference into the "playoffs."

Sort of.

Only 10 of the 13 FCS conferences send their champion to the actual FCS playoffs, but all of them are represented in the following countdown of the must-see games of the 2016 regular season:



24. Northern Arizona at North Dakota (Nov. 12) - A playoff berth - yeah, a real one - could be at stake for these Big Sky squads, which feature the 1-2 finishers in last year's national freshman of the year voting (NAU quarterback Case Cookus and UND running back John Santiago).

23. Alcorn State at Bethune-Cookman (Sept. 4) - The MEAC-SWAC Challenge begins its move to campus sites with an Alcorn squad coming off two straight SWAC titles and a Bethune team which has won at least a share of five of the last six MEAC championships.

22. Duquesne at Saint Francis (Oct. 22) - The Northeast Conference title came down to these two teams on the final day of last year's regular season. Small crowd, but a big game.

21. Youngstown State at Illinois State (Oct. 8) - Under coach Bo Pelini, Youngstown State is trying to get to a championship level in the Missouri Valley. Without quarterback Tre Roberson and running back Marshaun Coprich, Illinois State is trying to stay there.

20. Dayton at San Diego (Sept. 24) - Matching together last year's Pioneer Football League co-champs is an exciting cap to the first Saturday of league play. Dayton squeaked out a 13-12 win last year.

19. James Madison at New Hampshire (Oct. 15) - JMU has some pretty special digs of its own, but the Dukes will like the new ones at UNH's Wildcat Stadium, especially if they leave with a CAA Football win.

18. North Carolina A&T at North Carolina Central (Nov. 19) - A&T keeps settling for a share of the MEAC title because it keeps losing to rival N.C. Central.

17. James Madison at Richmond (Nov. 5) - The 2015 season started to unravel for JMU when it lost an undefeated record and quarterback Vad Lee while facing the Spiders last October. This year, the Spiders are the team to beat in the CAA.



16. Harvard at Penn (Nov. 12) - The Crimson's only loss in the last two seasons was against Penn 35-25 last season.

15. Jacksonville State at Eastern Kentucky (Oct. 22) - The visiting Gamecocks have swept through the Ohio Valley Conference each of the last two seasons. This is their toughest road assignment in conference play.

14. Montana State at Montana (Nov. 19) - The Brawl of the Wild is still one of the best rivalries in the FCS. Strangely, the road team has won six of the last seven meetings in a series that Montana leads 72-37-5.

13. Grambling State vs. Southern (Nov. 26) - The Bayou Classic occurs on the first day of the actual FCS playoffs, but the SWAC rivalry commands plenty of attention that afternoon. Usually plenty of points, too.

12. South Dakota State at North Dakota State (Oct. 15) - The Jackrabbits have struggled to keep up with NDSU's dynasty, but the offense is strong enough to make the Bison defense work hard.

11. Northern Iowa at Eastern Washington (Sept. 17) - It's only appropriate the programs that play two of the nation's most ridiculous nonconference schedules are facing off again. UNI pulled out a 38-35 victory last season.

10. Colgate at Fordham (Nov. 5) - The two most-recent Patriot League champions feature veteran teams. Expect a dandy.

9. Montana at Northern Iowa (Sept. 10) - This eye-catching intersectional battle matches perennial powers which had the misfortune of running into North Dakota State on the Road to Frisco in December.



8. Charleston Southern at North Dakota State (Aug. 27) - Speaking of NDSU, the five-time reigning FCS champion opens the season again in the FCS Kickoff. Like the Bison, the defending Big South champion Buccaneers have a terrific running game.

7. Montana at Eastern Washington (Oct. 29) - Both teams will score in bunches, adding to the fun of this heated Big Sky rivalry.

6. McNeese State at Sam Houston State (Nov. 5) - McNeese is the defending Southland champion and won last year's regular season matchup. Sam Houston handed the Cowboys their only loss in the second round of the playoffs and have all the recent playoff pedigree.

5. Coastal Carolina at Jacksonville State (Sept. 17) - This is an outstanding intersectional battle. With Coastal transitioning toward the FBS this year, most of the FCS will likely back the FCS national runner-up Gamecocks.



4. Richmond at William & Mary (Nov. 19) - Although the two shared the CAA title with James Madison last year, the visiting Spiders have had rival William & Mary's number in recent years, including two wins last season.

3. Chattanooga at The Citadel (Oct. 15) - The Southern Conference race has gotten fun again and the three-time defending champion Mocs have to go on the road against last year's co-champ.



2. Eastern Washington at North Dakota State (Sept. 10) - This matchup of the two most recent FCS national champions is the first since EWU won in overtime in the 2010 quarterfinals, which is the Bison's last playoff loss. The Bison defense has never faced EWU All-American Cooper Kupp.



1. North Dakota State at Northern Iowa (Oct. 29) - Former UNI All-American Deiondre' Hall, now with the Chicago Bears, calls this rivalry "the national championship, no matter what." UNI won the last meeting in Cedar Falls handily, but the Bison won a last-minute thriller in the regular season and a playoff quarterfinal last year.


Hey, the playoff selection committee announces its final omissions from its field. Ours are Villanova at Delaware (Nov. 19), Portland State at Southern Utah (Sept. 24), Charleston Southern at Liberty (Nov. 12) and Sam Houston State vs. Stephen F. Austin (Oct. 1).

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