Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - March Madness may have whet the appetite with dreams of upsets, but the small-school triumphs are much easier to be had on the hardwood than the gridiron.
Last year, six FCS programs did more than take a guaranteed payday from an FBS school, they went out and beat the big boys on their home fields.
It doesn't happen often, so the wins stand out.
That made it easy to see in September what was coming in January. North Dakota State and Sam Houston State beat Minnesota and New Mexico, respectively, on the same day. The momentum helped guide them to the FCS national championship game, where North Dakota State beat Sam Houston.
This season, there will be 105 FCS-versus-FBS matchups, including four games involving South Alabama, Texas State and UTSA, programs which are transitioning out of the FCS to the FBS.
Following is a conference-by-conference breakdown of the matchups (the non- scholarship Ivy and Pioneer leagues don't play FBS schools):
The matchups (17) - Aug. 30: Eastern Washington at Idaho; Northern Colorado at Utah; Southern Utah at Utah State. Sept. 1: Idaho State at Air Force; Northern Arizona at Arizona State; Sacramento State at New Mexico State; Weber State at Fresno State. Sept. 8: Eastern Washington at Washington State; Northern Arizona at UNLV; Sacramento State at Colorado; Weber State at BYU; Southern Utah at California; UC Davis at San Jose State. Sept. 15: Portland State at Washington; Cal Poly at Wyoming; North Dakota at San Diego State. Sept. 22: Idaho State at Nebraska.
Dateline, Upset City? - Eastern Washington's offensive weapons will be enhanced by the carpet inside the Kibbie Dome. And the host Vandals won't be mistaken for Boise State.
Don't overlook - Big Sky newcomer UC Davis was victorious in its last trip to San Jose State in 2010.
The matchups (9) - Sept. 1: Liberty at Wake Forest. Sept. 8: Presbyterian at Georgia Tech. Sept. 15: Charleston Southern at Illinois; Presbyterian at Vanderbilt; Stony Brook at Syracuse. Sept. 22: Coastal Carolina at Toledo; Gardner-Webb at Pittsburgh; VMI at Navy. Sept. 29: Stony Brook at Army.
Dateline, Upset City? - Army's option offense might not outgain Stony Brook backs Miguel Maysonet and Marcus Coker.
Don't overlook - Liberty's visit to Wake Forest will be the debut of new head coach Turner Gill, who knows a thing or two about the FBS level.
The matchups (11) - Sept. 1: Richmond at Virginia; Towson at Kent State; Villanova at Temple; William & Mary at Maryland. Sept. 8: Maine at Boston College; New Hampshire at Minnesota; Georgia State at Tennessee. Sept. 15: James Madison at West Virginia; Georgia State at UTSA. Sept. 29: Rhode Island at Bowling Green; Towson at LSU.
Dateline, Upset City? - New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell led the Wildcats to that nifty five-game winning streak against FBS programs from 2004-09. Minnesota is never a lock against FCS competition.
Don't overlook - Towson could open September with a win over Kent State, but the Tigers will close the month trying to escape LSU in one piece.
The matchups (12) - Sept. 1: Savannah State at Oklahoma State. Sept. 8: Florida A&M at Oklahoma; Howard at Rutgers; Morgan State at Buffalo; Savannah State at Florida State. Sept. 15: Bethune-Cookman at Miami (Fla.); Delaware State at Cincinnati; Morgan State at Akron; North Carolina Central at Duke; South Carolina State at Arizona. Sept. 22: Norfolk State at Ohio; South Carolina State at Texas A&M.
Dateline, Upset City? - A swing and a miss is likely in all 12 games, but quarterback Seth Higgins and Morgan State could sneak up on Akron, which was 1-11 last season.
Don't overlook - Gulp, Savannah State is playing back-to-back games at Oklahoma State and Florida State. The smart money says the combined losses will total over 100 points.
The matchups (12) - Sept. 1: Indiana State at Indiana; Missouri State at Kansas State; Northern Iowa at Wisconsin; South Dakota State at Kansas; Youngstown State at Pittsburgh. Sept. 8: Illinois State at Eastern Michigan; Missouri State at Louisville; North Dakota State at Colorado State; Southern Illinois at Miami (Ohio). Sept. 15: Northern Iowa at Iowa; Western Illinois at Iowa State. Sept. 22: South Dakota at Northwestern.
Dateline, Upset City? - Fort Collins, Colo., earned a "Best Place to Live" designation from Money magazine in 2006, but defending FCS champion North Dakota State will strictly be on a business trip to Colorado State. The Bison have a 5-3 record against FBS teams since 2006.
Don't overlook - Youngstown State junior quarterback Kurt Hess' first collegiate game in 2010 was a 21-for-25, two-touchdown performance at Penn State. Pitt better be on guard.
The matchup (1) - Aug. 31: Wagner at Florida Atlantic.
Dateline, Upset City? - This is Wagner's first-ever game against an FBS opponent. A win over a 1-11 Sun Belt team counts as an upset, right?
Don't overlook - Robert Morris opens its season at North Dakota State. That might feel like an FBS opponent to the Colonials.
The matchups (11) - Aug. 30: Southeast Missouri State at Central Michigan. Sept. 1: Austin Peay at Western Kentucky; Eastern Kentucky at Purdue; Jacksonville State at Arkansas; Murray State at Florida State; UT Martin at Memphis. Sept. 8: Austin Peay at Virginia Tech; Eastern Illinois at Western Michigan; UT Martin at Northern Illinois. Sept. 15: Tennessee Tech at Oregon. Nov. 17: Jacksonville State at Florida.
Dateline, Upset City? - UT Martin lost a bunch of close games last season. Its high-scoring offense should produce against Memphis, which is coming off a 2-10 season.
Don't overlook - Jacksonville State's Jack Crowe was fired as the Arkansas head coach the day after a 1992 loss to The Citadel's FCS program. He's returning to Fayetteville, and his best player is former Georgia running back Washaun Ealey.
The matchup (1) - Oct. 13: Fordham at Cincinnati.
Dateline, Upset City? - Um, yeah, pass.
Don't overlook - New Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead went 1-2 against Cincinnati over the last three seasons as a Connecticut assistant coach, including a 38-17 win as the Huskies' offensive coordinator in 2010.
The matchups (9) - Sept. 1 - Appalachian State at East Carolina; Chattanooga at South Florida; Elon at North Carolina. Sept. 8 - Western Carolina at Marshall. Sept. 15 - Furman at Clemson. Nov. 17 - Georgia Southern at Georgia; Samford at Kentucky; Western Carolina at Alabama; Wofford at South Carolina.
Dateline, Upset City? - Chattanooga hopes to win some of the close games that it lost last season. If the Mocs can keep it tight behind run-first quarterback Terrell Robinson and their emerging defense, maybe the East Carolina players will tighten up in crunch time.
Don't overlook - Appalachian State holds a 19-11 series lead over East Carolina. In the most recent meeting to open the 2009 season, ECU held off a late rally from ASU for a 29-24 victory while Mountaineers two-time Walter Payton Award recipient Armanti Edwards sat out with an injury.
The matchups (16) - Sept. 1 - Central Arkansas at Mississippi; Lamar at Louisiana; McNeese State at Middle Tennessee; Nicholls State at Oregon State; Northwestern State at Texas Tech; Southeastern Louisiana at Missouri. Sept. 8 - Nicholls State at South Alabama; Stephen F. Austin at SMU. Sept. 15 - Lamar at Hawaii; Nicholls State at Tulsa; Northwestern State at Nevada; Sam Houston State at Baylor. Sept. 22 - Stephen F. Austin at Texas State. Oct. 6 - Southeastern Louisiana at UAB. Nov. 10 - McNeese State at UTSA. Nov. 17 - Sam Houston State at Texas A&M.
Dateline, Upset City? - Sun Belt teams don't exactly put a scare into FCS teams. McNeese State has played some tougher FCS opponents in recent seasons than Middle Tennessee.
Don't overlook - Sam Houston State, which is hoping to get back to the FCS national championship game, is taking a double dip into FBS competition (Baylor and Texas A&M) while playing only three games on campus. The Bearkats better hope their playoff seed is not affected negatively by the scheduling.
The matchups (6) - Sept. 1 - Jackson State at Mississippi State; Southern at New Mexico. Sept. 8 - Grambling State at TCU; Texas Southern at North Texas. Sept. 22 - Alcorn State at Arkansas State. Nov. 17 - Alabama A&M at Auburn.
Dateline, Upset City? - Southern coach Stump Mitchell must be eyeing the fact New Mexico is coming off three straight one-win seasons.
Don't overlook - Auburn's dress rehearsal for Alabama is against ... Alabama A&M? With a $500,000 guarantee, the Bulldogs from A&M will gladly play a Southeastern Conference opponent for the first time.