10 predictions for the 2019 FCS season

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - One game into college football's 150th anniversary season last Saturday and Villanova had scored more points against Colgate than last year's FCS defensive leader allowed in its first nine games.

Yup, we know all about this unpredictable, topsy-turvy ride in FCS college football.

It goes upside down.

Against our better judgment, and for playoff-starved Montana Grizzly fans, we still insist on gazing into the crystal ball for predictions.

Here's what we saw for the 2019 FCS season:

- After two disappointing seasons, the FCS will again hit double figures in wins against FBS opponents. Week 1 is particularly ripe for upsets.

- Villanova and Youngstown State already sent messages in Week Zero that they will be much-improved after losing seasons, but also look for rebounding squads at Howard (MEAC), Sacramento State (Big Sky), Saint Francis (Northeast), South Dakota (Missouri Valley) and Tennessee State (Ohio Valley). Yale, which was 5-5 and only 3-4 in the Ivy League, is primed to get back to its 2017 championship level.

- Once again, the Big Sky will fall short of the Missouri Valley Football Conference in their third annual challenge series - seven of the 10 games are at MVFC schools - but the most-western and largest FCS conference is strong enough challenge for the mythical title as best FCS conference. National runner-up Eastern Washington and quarterfinalists UC Davis and Weber State could be joined by Montana State in the Top 10 with Montana and Northern Arizona also key playoff contenders. In the Valley, five of the 10 teams have new quarterbacks, so September could be a time for transition.

- When the streaks end (for entertainment purposes only, we're not Joe Willie Namath): North Dakota (21 straight wins, would be at 24) - UC Davis on Sept. 21; San Diego (29 straight PFL wins, would be at 30) - at Davidson on Oct. 12; Houston Baptist (10 straight losses, would be at 11) - Texas Wesleyan on Sept. 7; and VMI (22 straight SoCon losses, would be at 27) - Western Carolina on Nov. 2.

- The SWAC will claim the fifth Celebration Bowl. Three-time winner North Carolina A&T, which suffered key senior losses, may not escape the MEAC race, although Florida A&M being ineligible for the postseason increases the Aggies' chance. The SWAC features veteran teams, led by defending champ Alcorn State and Southern (the Celebration Bowl pick here).

- Top 10 team that could disappoint: No. 6 Jacksonville State; non-Top 10 team that could go furthest in the FCS playoffs: No. 14 Montana State; and non-ranked team that could earn an at-large playoff bid: ETSU.

- Conference champions: Eastern Washington (Big Sky); Kennesaw State (Big South); James Madison (CAA); Yale (Ivy); North Carolina A&T (MEAC); North Dakota State (Missouri Valley); Duquesne (Northeast); Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley); Colgate (Patriot); San Diego (Pioneer); Wofford (Southern); Nicholls (Southland); and Southern over Alcorn State (SWAC).

- FCS Awards winners: Eastern Washington QB Eric Barriere (Walter Payton Award); North Dakota State LB Jabril Cox (Buck Buchanan Award); South Dakota State's John Stiegelmeier (Eddie Robinson Award); and the best freshman (Jerry Rice Award).

- Preseason Top 25 voting totals suggest four teams stand out and a strong case can be made for each one winning the national title. In familiar matchups, let's go with North Dakota State beating Eastern Washington and James Madison edging South Dakota State in the semifinals and North Dakota State to three-peat against James Madison in Frisco, Texas.

- CFB150 will be thrilling. Nailed it.

Updated August 28, 2019

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