There have been at least six FCS over FBS upsets in every season this decade. Seven FCS teams beat FBS opponents in 2018, with five of those victories coming in Week 1 of the season. Of the FBS teams that were stunned in their opener, only Temple rallied to make it to a bowl game, so every program is looking to avoid a costly misstep this week. Below are the upsets I think are most likely to happen.
Albany at Central Michigan
The Great Danes went just 3-8 last season, but injuries have wreaked havoc on this team the last two years. Albany is healthy coming into this year, and the team returns a lot of experienced players from 2018. Four of five starters along the offensive line return, as well as six of the top seven tacklers on defense.
Meanwhile, Central Michigan is a mess. The decision to hire Jim McElwain made sense, but his subsequent decision to hire former Cleveland Browns quarterback Charlie Frye as his offensive coordinator did not. Frye had just one year of real coaching experience at the collegiate level before becoming the Chippewas’ offensive coordinator, coaching wide receivers at Division II Ashland University last season.
Only four starters return on each side of the ball, and there isn’t a lot of talent on the roster. Albany is a 15.5-point underdog in this game at Sportsbetting.ag, but the Great Danes can win the game outright.
Central Arkansas at Western Kentucky
The Hilltoppers are only single-digit favorites against Central Arkansas in their opener, so the oddsmakers believe that the Bears have a great shot at pulling off the upset. Tyson Helton is in his first season as head coach of Western Kentucky, and he is trying to avoid the sins of predecessor Mike Sanford.
Western Kentucky jumped out to a 21-0 lead against Maine last season, but then everything went wrong for the Hilltoppers. The Black Bears scored 31 unanswered points and held on for a 31-28 victory that was the beginning of the end for Sanford.
WKU may have caught a break though. Central Arkansas’ All-American defensive tackle Chris Terrell was kicked off the team earlier this month, and he figured to be one of the primary players in a potential upset.
Indiana State at Kansas
This one is too easy. The Jayhawks have been a laughingstock for a while, and they are only favored by 5.5 points at home against Indiana State on Saturday.
New Kansas head coach Les Miles will have his team up for the game, but it may take Miles some time to turn it around in Lawrence. There is no proven quarterback on the roster, and the Jayhawks best skill position player (Pooka Williams Jr.) has been suspended for this game.
The Sycamores went 0-11 in 2017, but Curt Mallory turned things around in a big way last year. Indiana State finished the season 7-4 and just missed out on a spot in the postseason. Sophomore QB Ryan Boyle might be the best player on the field, and I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see the Sycamores get the win.
James Madison at West Virginia
The Dukes are the best team in the FCS. I’ve said as much elsewhere in recent weeks, and it’s no surprise to see them as only a six-point underdog on the road against West Virginia this weekend.
Mike Houston moved on, but James Madison replaced him with former Elon head coach Curt Cignetti. Cignetti had a lot of success turning around Division II IUP and an Elon program that had been a doormat in the CAA, and the Dukes shouldn’t miss a beat.
West Virginia is undergoing massive changes under new coach Neal Brown, and the program is in full rebuilding mode.
Other games with major upset potential
Sam Houston State at New Mexico
Incarnate Word at UTSA
UC Davis at California
Illinois State at Northern Illinois
Weber State at San Diego State
Biggest upset with a real chance of happening
Nicholls at Kansas State