The college football season will officially kick off in twelve days as the first game of the season will be Austin Peay vs Western Kentucky at 12pm/ET on August 27th. Week 0 will feature 10 FCS programs in a limited schedule, but most programs will kick their season off the next week with multiple Thursday night games and a full weekend slate.
Below we talk about some of the biggest FCS matchups across the opening weekends of college football. We only ranked FCS vs FCS matchups and will have more content later this week looking at the biggest FCS vs FBS games throughout the season.
Stephen F. Austin vs Jacksonville State (Week 0; August 27th)
The last season at the FCS level for the Gamecocks will start with a matchup against preseason Top-10 team Stephen F. Austin. The expectations are high for the Lumberjacks as WR Xavier Gipson and QB Trae Self both return to lead one of the most explosive offenses in the country. Rich Rodriguez will look to start his Jacksonville State tenure with a signature win even though the Gamecocks are not eligible for the FCS STATS Top-25 this season. Last season the Gamecocks escaped with a 28-24 win over Stephen F. Austin and another great game is expected in Montgomery, AL.
Alabama State vs Howard (Week 0; August 27th)
The storylines will be endless when Alabama State meets Howard in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Atlanta, GA. This will mark the debut of former 4-star Auburn QB Dematrius Davis for the Hornets and the expectations are high for the former North Shore standout. This game also serves as the debut of RB Eden James (Son of Edgerrin James) for the Bison and a chance to improve upon a 3-8 season in 2021. The MEAC has historically dominated this game and holds an 11-4 record over the SWAC. Conference bragging rights and a much needed season-opening win will be on the line in Atlanta.
Tennessee State vs Eastern Washington (Week 1; September 3rd)
This is a Week 1 matchup with multiple question marks as both teams enter the season looking much different at multiple key positions. Eastern Washington will have to replace QB Eric Barriere, while former Austin Peay QB Draylen Ellis steps into the QB1 role for Tennessee State this season. This should be a great test for an Eastern Washington defense that is projected to take a large step forward and will face a revamped Tennessee State offense. Another implication could be the potential at-large bid these programs may be in competition for in late November and a win in this matchup could be the difference between playing in the 1st round or sitting at home throughout the FCS Playoffs.
Missouri State vs Central Arkansas (Week 1; September 1st)
If history is any indication of what is to come September 1st, then expect fireworks when the these teams step onto the field. Missouri State flexed their muscle under Bobby Petrino with a 43-34 win over Central Arkansas last season, which should have Central Arkansas looking for revenge in front of their home crowd. MVFC Offensive Player of the Year Jason Shelley will look to build on his dominant 2021 season, while Central Arkansas will have to replace multiple top offensive contributors including WR Tyler Hudson and QB Breylin Smith. RB Darius Hale is a name to watch in this one after his explosive true freshman season. The expectations for Missouri State will put to the test in Conway, AR as the Bears look to pull off a huge Top-5 upset in Week 1.
Southern Illinois vs Incarnate Word (Week 1; September 3rd)
Offensive fireworks will be the expectation when these teams meet in San Antonio, TX. The Cardinals will be led by new HC GJ Kinne as they look to repeat as Southland Conference champions. Lindsey Scott Jr. steps into the QB1 role for Incarnate Word, while Southern Illinois returns one of the leading passers in the FCS last season in QB Nic Baker. Both of these teams were ranked Top-15 in the Preseason FCS Top-25 and this will be a major measuring stick for two programs with high expectations.
McNeese State vs Montana State (Week 1; September 3rd)
McNeese State HC Gary Goff will be put to the test early in his tenure for the Cowboys as they travel to face the FCS National Championship runner-ups in Bozeman, MT. FCS All-American RB Isaiah Ifanse might miss this game with an injury, but Tommy Mellott will be the focal point of the offensive attack for the Bobcats. McNeese State will have a new QB this season, but CJ Pierce and Jackson State WR transfer Aalah Brown will be explosive targets that could test the Montana State secondary. This will only be the 2nd matchup between these programs as McNeese State holds the 1-0 advantage over the Bobcats after a 2002 FCS Playoff win.
Jackson State vs Florida A&M (Week 1; September 4th)
A matchup that features the FCS Freshman of the Year (QB Shedeur Sanders) and the FCS Defensive Player of the Year (EDGE Isaiah Land) is a game that nobody should want to miss. Add that to the debut of 5-star Travis Hunter and you have one of the most anticipated games of the year. Jackson State pulled out the 7-6 win over Florida A&M last season, which ultimately determined the SWAC East champion for the 2021 season. The Orange Blossom Classic is expected to live up to the hype for the 2nd straight season and could have the same postseason impact as last season.
North Carolina A&T vs North Carolina Central (Week 1; September 3rd)
The Aggie-Eagle Classic dates back to 1924 and is why this game will be one of the most electric Week 1 games in the country. North Carolina A&T currently holds a 4-game win streak after extending their streak with a 37-14 win over the Eagles last season. North Carolina Central HC Trei Oliver is confident entering the 2022 season and the Aggies will look to use this game to propel them to compete for the MEAC championship. QB Jalen Fowler is back to the lead the Aggies offense, while All-Big South LB Jacob Roberts returns to lead a very talented North Carolina A&T defense. This matchup will be a great measuring stick for both programs who are expected to compete for conference championships in the 2022 season.