FCS teams defeated FBS opponents 12 times in 2021, the most since the 16 wins in 2013. The average number of these wins is nine in the last 10 normal fall seasons (excluding 2020).
The FCS, which has 22 fewer scholarships, takes on the FBS 117 times in 2022. There are several opportunities for FCS over FBS wins, some of which wouldn’t even be considered “upsets.”
RELATED: 2022 FCS vs. FBS Payouts
Here are the most likely FCS over FBS victories for this upcoming season. We’ll rank nine to match the average number of wins per season.
FBS preseason rankings via College Football News
Chattanooga at Illinois, Nicholls at South Alabama, CCSU at UConn, William & Mary at Charlotte, Eastern Kentucky at Eastern Michigan, Southern Illinois at Northwestern, SLU at FAU
9. South Dakota State at Iowa
Iowa returns 84 percent of its offensive production and 67 percent of its defensive production from last year’s 10-3 team. The Hawkeyes will likely be ranked in the Top 25 for this game, and SDSU will likely be the No. 2-ranked FCS team.
Iowa doesn’t have fond memories of playing a highly-ranked Dakota State team. And the 2022 SDSU squad will be just as strong as the 2016 NDSU Bison. The Jacks dominated Colorado State 42-23 last year in a game that saw them hold 35-10 and 42-16 leads. Iowa will certainly be a different animal than CSU, but the Jacks have the offensive experience and the stout front seven defensively to make this a one-possession game with a shot to win in the fourth quarter.
8. Eastern Kentucky at Bowling Green
EKU has two solid opportunities for FBS wins against Bowling Green (preseason ranked No. 126) and Eastern Michigan (preseason ranked No. 111). Bowling Green finished 4-8 last season but does bring back a majority of its offensive and defensive production.
EKU is an FCS program looking to return to national prominence. The Colonels are just outside of HERO Sports’ preseason Top 25. They are also motivated to make the FBS jump, and an FBS win is a sign they are moving in a positive direction after falling short of the playoffs last year.
7. Holy Cross at Buffalo
Holy Cross beat UConn 38-28 last season. Buffalo will be a step up from UConn but still is viewed as one of the worst FBS teams entering 2022, preseason ranked No. 120 after going 4-8 last season. They return just 51 percent of their offensive production and 63 percent of their defensive production.
Holy Cross returns a veteran squad from last year’s 10-3 team. Whether it’s QB Matthew Sluka, WRs Jalen Coker and Ayir Asante, or LBs Liam Anderson and Jacob Dobbs, the Crusaders are stacked with talent and will be confident that they can win this game.
6. Maine at New Mexico
Maine grabbed one of the 12 FCS over FBS wins last season, dominating UMass 35-10. The Black Bears finished 2021 with a 6-5 record. They appear to be a middle-of-the-pack CAA team again in 2022. But getting a healthy Joe Fagnano back at QB will make them an above-average FCS squad. And let’s face it, New Mexico isn’t an above-average FCS squad.
New Mexico has had its struggles lately. Its last winning season was 2016. The Lobos have had two or three-win seasons from 2017-2021. New Mexico is ranked the 121st FBS team entering 2022, a prime opportunity for Maine to get FBS wins in consecutive seasons.
5. Stony Brook at UMass
UMass lost to two FCS teams last year. It was the first time that happened in one season since Georgia State lost to Chattanooga and Samford in 2013 during its first season as an FBS program. UMass lost 35-22 to Rhode Island and 35-10 to Maine in back-to-back weeks. Rhody and Maine were non-playoff teams.
Stony Brook was right on par with Rhody and Maine last year, finishing 5-6 overall and 4-4 in the CAA. The Seawolves are always competitive, and if you’re at least an average FCS team, then you should beat UMass.
4. Delaware at Navy
Delaware is a storied FCS program looking for rejuvenation with the hiring of alum Ryan Carty as its new head coach. Nothing would kick off his debut quite like getting an FBS victory. Navy has been down the last two seasons, going 3-7 in 2020 and 4-8 last year. The Midshipmen return just 52 percent of their overall team production and are preseason ranked No. 91.
Delaware has a lot of experience and talent across its starting lineup. The defense will be solid, and the offense looks to have some firepower with several WR weapons around QB Nolan Henderson. The Blue Hens are viewed as an FCS program needing to step up in the 2020s. This could be a splashy start to the season and a sign of what’s to come at UD.
3. Stephen F. Austin at Louisiana Tech
SFA is getting a lot of preseason love as a breakout FCS team. This will be a good measuring stick game against a below-average FBS opponent. Louisiana Tech went 3-9 last season and is preseason ranked No. 109. The Bulldogs got into a track meet with FCS member SLU last season, winning 45-42.
SFA brings a stronger defense than that SLU team and isn’t far behind offensively with the duo of QB Trae Self and WR Xavier Gipson. The Lumberjacks have the talent and team balance to take down the Bulldogs. Its depth will be tested in the fourth quarter, but SFA can get a win if it’s as strong as some of us believe it is.
2. Sacramento State at Colorado State
Sac State hasn’t earned the strongest of reputations in the FCS community. While the program has turned around in an impressive fashion, the Hornets have lost right away in the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in 2019 and last season. But there’s no denying they have strong talent with some dudes on their roster, and they still should be recognized as one of the better FCS teams. They have beaten highly-ranked FCS opponents in both of those seasons and competed against FBS opponents — losing 42-30 to Cal last year and 19-7 to Arizona State and 34-20 to Fresno State in 2019.
The Hornets now want to not just keep it competitive against an FBS opponent, but to get a win. Colorado State is preseason ranked No. 83 after a 3-9 season. It got dominated 42-23 by South Dakota State, the team Sac State mounted a comeback against in the second half before falling 24-19 in the playoffs. This matchup is a week after Sac State travels to a physical Northern Iowa team. So that’s a tough two weeks of back-to-back road games. But if the Hornets are truly a Top 10 FCS team, they can get a win on Sept. 24.
1. North Dakota State at Arizona
NDSU hasn’t lost to an FBS opponent since 2009. That’s telling for two reasons. The first, obviously, is the Bison own a six-game winning streak against FBS opponents: Kansas in 2010, Minnesota in 2011, Colorado State in 2012, Kansas State in 2013, Iowa State in 2014, and No. 13 Iowa in 2016. And second, the Bison are so good as an FCS program (nine national titles since 2011) that it’s becoming nearly impossible to schedule FBS games. Which makes you wonder why Arizona agreed to this game back in 2017 and pay NDSU $425,000.
NDSU is miles better than Arizona’s 2021 FCS opponent Northern Arizona, who finished 5-6. NAU beat Arizona 21-19 a week after NAU lost 34-7 to South Dakota, a team NDSU beat 52-24.
The Bison are loaded again this year. The Wildcats are coming off of a 1-11 season, although they have loaded up on the transfer portal, so who knows what kind of team they’ll have. FCS teams have been favored to beat FBS opponents before. But it doesn’t happen often. The college football betting odds will likely favor the FCS team in this one.