The 2022 FCS season was full of surprises, some a lot more welcome than others. Several teams had runs to remember but several others had campaigns they’d just as soon forget. Nothing stings more, though, than laying an egg after the expectations were set high and these ten programs are probably feeling that sting right now.
10. Villanova Wildcats
Final Record: 6-5 (4-4 CAA)
The 2021 season was one of the best in recent memory for the Wildcats as they secured a seed and made it to the quarterfinals and it was expected to be very similar this year for ‘Nova, especially with conference powerhouse JMU now gone. Instead, Villanova went .500 in league play and failed to reach the postseason altogether. Losses to conference mates Monmouth, Richmond, Towson and William & Mary derailed the season and, despite winning a big one over Delaware to wrap things up, the Wildcats were left on the outside looking in. They still had a winning record overall but there’s certainly room for improvement moving forward.
9. Dartmouth Big Green
Final Record: 3-7 (2-5 Ivy League)
Last year Dartmouth romped through the Ivy League to lay claim to a share of the title with a 9-1 overall record. This year? Nothing even remotely close. The Big Green struggled through a 3-7 campaign that only saw them win two games in league action. The team struggled in several areas including third downs of which they didn’t even convert 50% of the time. When all was said and done, Dartmouth finished with the Ivy League’s lowest scoring offense culminating in the worst season for head coach Buddy Teevens dating all the way back to 2009. There’s lots to build on in Hanover.
8. VMI Keydets
Final Record: 1-10 (0-8 SoCon)
There might not have been a ton of people who had VMI making the playoffs this season but no one expected the Keydets to drop the ball as hard as they did this year, especially after a winning record in 2021. The lone win in Lexington came against Bucknell in Week 2 but outside of that, there wasn’t anything to write home about. VMI ranked last in the SoCon in several major categories including scoring offense, scoring defense and sacks allowed. All of that resulted in a dismal 1-10 run that ended with guys like stud linebacker Stone Snyder hitting the transfer portal and head coach Scott Wachenheim stepping down from his position. There’s nowhere to go but up for the Keydets and 2023 can’t come soon enough.
7. Kennesaw State Owls
Final Record: 5-6 (1-4 ASUN)
The Owls made the announcement earlier this year that they intend to leave the FCS for C-USA as soon as 2024 but, on paper, they didn’t look like a team ready to make that leap this season. After reaching the playoffs four times since 2017, it came to no surprise that KSU was pegged to reach the postseason yet again this year. Not even the dynamic Xavier Shepherd could save them, however, as the team lost four of six in the opening half of the year. Shepherd himself struggled more than anticipated and was even benched at one point. Head coach Brain Bohannon has confirmed that Shepherd will not return to the team due to academic reasons. It was the first losing season in program history for the Owls and it could be a tough one to shake off.
6. Sacred Heart Pioneers
Final Record: 5-6 (3-4 Northeast)
In 2021 Sacred Heart claimed the NEC title and really showed no reason to believe they couldn’t again this year. With running back Malik Grant back for his senior season, it should have been another conference crown for the Pioneers. Things looked promising at the start with 4-2 record by mid-October but after that the wheels fell off. Merrimack, St. Francis, Duquesne and even LIU all got the better of Sacred Heart down the stretch and when the dust settled they were firmly in the middle of the pack. Grant is now one 11 SHU players in the transfer portal and it’s going to be an uphill battle to turn it around.
5. East Tennessee State Buccaneers
Final Record: 3-8 (1-7 SoCon)
Randy Sanders retired a year ago and the Bucs fell hard. We aren’t that far removed from this team playing in the quarterfinals against North Dakota State but a year later they look like a shell of their former selves. ETSU only picked up one win in SoCon play this fall and endured a brutal streak of five straight losses to end their 2022 campaign. Even with running back Jacob Saylors putting up well over 1,000 yards, the Buccaneers suffered six losses by at least a score this year. Now head coach George Quarrels is faced with the tough task of regrouping in year two.
4. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
Final Record: 6-5 (3-1 WAC)
With guys like quarterback Trae Self and receiver Xavier Gipson on the roster, Stephen F. Austin should have made some serious waves in the WAC this year and grabbed the AQ7’s auto bid to the postseason. That’s not what happened, though. The Lumberjacks were never able to fully recover from a rough season-opening loss to Jacksonville State. The defense gave up over 30 points and 400 yards per contest, making it hard for SFA’s own offense to keep up. A late stunner of a loss to Utah Tech sunk the ship on 2022 and now it’s time for some serious soul searching.
3. Sam Houston Bearkats
Final Record: 5-4 (3-2 WAC)
In their final season as an FCS program Sam Houston went out with a whimper instead of a bang. K.C. Keeler’s bunch certainly didn’t look like a team on their way to the FBS nor a team that is just a year removed from being the #1 overall seed in the playoffs and two years out from being a national champion. The Bearkats lost a couple of head-scratchers this year including a puzzling 10-3 defeat at the hands of Northern Arizona and a season-ending 17-7 loss at home against WAC newcomer Southern Utah. This year’s run didn’t instill a lot of hope that Sam Houston will see the same immediate success that JMU did in their move up and you have to wonder if the Huntsville faithful are feeling the same.
2. Eastern Washington Eagles
Final Record: 3-8 (2-6 Big Sky)
The Eagles had an underwhelming 2022 run to say the least. A playoff team a year ago, EWU said farewell to Walter Payton Award winning quarterback Eric Barriere last fall and it was a loss that hurt them a lot more than many thought it would. Gunner Talkington came in and did his darndest this year but those shoes proved to be a little too big to fill as the team only won a pair games in conference play. The schedule makers didn’t do them any favors either but even with one of the toughest slates in the country, the Eagles didn’t make hardly any noise this year. It was a season that fans in Cheney certainly aren’t used to seeing.
1. Missouri State Bears
Final Record: 5-6 (3-5 Missouri Valley)
No team in the country flubbed this season more than Missouri State. Picked by many to be a seeded team in this year’s playoffs, the Bears came out of the gates fast with two big wins over playoff hopefuls Central Arkansas and UT Martin. After that, though, the group dropped five in a row and, despite winning three of their final four, missed out on the postseason. Head coach Bobby Petrino is on his way to UNLV and phenom quarterback Jason Shelley is now graduated; two big pieces to the puzzle that will need replacing. MSU has named Ryan Beard the new man in charge and it’ll be interesting to see how he can rally the troops for a rebound season in 2023.