With the talent of today's athletes, the line between FCS and FBS schools is becoming thinner and thinner. The main difference is the number of scholarships schools receive, with FBS schools having 20 more to hand out, which builds depth that can bring in fresh players in the second half of close games. Still, sometimes determination and pure 'want' can overcome a lack of depth and lead FCS schools over FBS ones.
This was the case two seasons ago when Jax State took down Ole Miss of the SEC in the opener. It was also the case just this past week when four FBS schools lost in their opener against an FCS team. Last Thursday night, McNeese State stunned Middle Tennessee State going into the fourth quarter with a 24-6 lead. MTSU would make a comeback, but it was too little too late, and McNeese State won 27-21. Just a few hours later Eastern Washington, the 2010 FCS Champions, left no doubt in a 20-3 win over Idaho.
On Saturday #13 Youngstown State schocked Big East Pittsburgh, winning 31-17, which boosted the Penguins to #6 in this week's rankings. The night was topped off when UT-Martin beat Memphis 20-17 on a last-second field goal. Several other FCS-FBS matchups were close, including the Gamecocks, who were within nine points of the Razorbacks in the third quarter.
Now FCS schools either come back down to earth to start their real season, or bounce back and try their luck at a more reasonable opponent. Week two in the FCS is still a little slow, with many schools still going through soft early schedules.
Two key matchups stand out that will be huge for the winners. The first game is #12 Montana visiting #11 App State in Boone, NC. The two FCS powerhouses have never met in the regular season but have twice in the playoffs. Their last meeting came in 2009 in the thrilling snow storm game in Montana.
The second key game is Jacksonville State hosting rival Chattanooga, a true rivalry between two schools just over a hundred miles apart. The first meeting of these schools was in 1904, with the Mocs leading the series 25-11. Chattanooga and JSU both are 0-1 after opening against FBS schools and have a tough conference schedule ahead of them. The winner will be in good position to make a potential playoff run while the loser will leave little room for error over the next 10 weeks.