FBS teams typically beat FCS teams, but most college football fans know there are some FCS teams that are excellent, and should put the fear of God into your fanbase if they end up on your schedule.
North Dakota State is the most famous example. We even wrote this last year. If you’re an FBS team, playing North Dakota State is probably a bad idea. They’re good enough to beat you.
It’s time to add James Madison to that list
The Dukes just picked up another FBS win, clobbering East Carolina, 34-14. They dropped over 600 yards of offense on the Pirates, ran for over 400 yards, and if not for a whopping 14 penalties for 172 yards, the whoopin’ probably would have been worse. Dukes running back Cardon Johnson ran for 265 yards all by his dang self.
That ECU was upset wasn’t especially surprising, as most project the Pirates to finish near the bottom of The American, while James Madison is the defending FCS champion. The Dukes also entered this season as the preseason #1 team in FCS, according to this poll from the NCAA.
But this isn’t the first time James Madison has done this
James Madison doesn’t quite have the number of FBS big wins in recent memory that North Dakota State has, but they’re still there. The Dukes knocked off SMU in 2015, and own perhaps the biggest FCS/FBS upset outside of Appalachian State over Michigan, a 21-16 win over a 13th ranked Virginia Tech team in 2010. Even in recent losses, like to UNC in 2015, James Madison at least moved the ball and scored points.
And thanks to their budget, it probably won’t be the last
According to USA TODAY, James Madison has the largest athletic budget of any non FBS program, over $47 million, a budget slightly larger than that of South Florida, UNLV or Boise State. They play in a 24,000 seat stadium, and have kicked the tires on potentially joining FBS. At least one local columnist thinks James Madison would be a good fit for Conference USA. They could probably beat most of those programs.
So if you’re going to play an FCS team, why play one with a budget comparable to larger G5 programs, and one that competes for FCS titles, especially if you won’t get credit for beating a good team, even if you win.
NC State and West Virginia, you don’t have to do this
The Dukes are currently scheduled to play NC State in 2018, a year when the Wolfpack will need to replace many contributors from this year’s team, and West Virginia in 2019. There’s still time to send a nice check to James Madison, and claim that you have other pressing engagements.
Otherwise, well, don’t say we didn’t warn you.