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Each year there are a number of the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) teams who are paid a hefty sum to travel and play a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly D I-A). These games are usually played within the first couple of weeks of the season and in most cases are considered warm-up games for the FBS team.
The FCS teams have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Win or lose they get paid, they get the exposure and they get to test their skills against some of the toughest athletes in the country. FBS teams have a lot more at stake. Sure they probably overlook this game on the schedule, and for that reason, we as fans are fortunate enough to see these ‘David beat Goliath’ stories. Probably the most famous was FCS Champion, Appalachian State, going into the “Big House” and knocking off storied football powerhouse Michigan.
This year UMass Amherst kicks off their season by traveling to Manhattan, Kansas to play Kansas State. The more impressive announcement is that UMass will be playing Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2010. There is a lot of controversy whether or not it is good for either division to compete against each other, but it sure does give college football fans a reason to root for the underdog.
UMass has not beat a FBS team since 1984 when they were victorious against Ball State and all-time they are 8-20 against FBS teams. The recent success of Appalachian State gives FCS teams like the Minutemen the hope, confidence, and belief that the talent gap is not as big as it is made out to be and that there is a legitimate chance of taking down the powerhouses in FBS.
First year as Head Coach at UMass, Kevin Morris, hopes to at least be competitive against K-State. With the return of leading rusher, Tony Nelson, and a handful of starters from last season’s defense, which was top 10 ranked, there’s a light of hope for UMass to add to their FBS victories. The Wildcats are coming off a subpar season where their opponents averaged 5.2 yards per carry and were last in total defense giving up 479.1 yards per game.
These matchups, which might seem like ‘gimme’ games, are far from it. Almost every year over the past decade a FCS team has upset a FBS team. Just last year, UNH beat Army, Maine beat Mississippi State, and Stanford lost to UC Davis, to name but a few.
The playing level is pretty even when teams meet in the beginning of the season. A FBS team might not be mentally ready and it takes a few games for teams to get into mid-season form and that is why FCS teams have a shot of playing spoiler. Of course, they have to play an almost flawless game and catch a couple of breaks, but as history has shown us, this is possible.
In addition to making some extra cash for the university and athletic department, UMass will attempt to improve their win total against FBS teams by at least one and continue to bring recognition to the Football Championship Subdivision.