Football Championship Subdivision

By Craig Haley, FCS Exec. Director - Archive - Email
Wayward predictions aplenty
Maine, behind quarterback Marcus Wasilewski, was one of the FCS' surprise teams in 2013.
Philadelphia, PA ( - The FCS players who are working hard during their offseason - even at this very moment - know something many of us don't know.

That the way we expect their conference's title race to end is meaningless come the first kickoff in late August.

Even their head coaches often don't get it right.

Granted, we all want to make predictions and discuss the polls in the preseason, but they are just that - made for the preseason.

And they are made to stay there.

The preseason polls on the FCS level annually go off line like a field goal into 25 mph wind gusts (like at an outdoor Super Bowl!).

There's nothing wrong with that, either, because players know to work toward a conference title or a successful season even when they are told otherwise.

Even the one constant in the FCS - a prediction of North Dakota State winning the national title - may change next season.

Among the 13 FCS conferences, only two sets of coaches saw their preseason champion go on to win an outright title - North Dakota State in the Missouri Valley and Eastern Illinois in the Ohio Valley.

Conferences often have more than one champion, and Big South favorite Coastal Carolina shared its conference title with Liberty while MEAC favorite Bethune- Cookman was a co-champion with South Carolina State. So the coaches had those picks work out as well.

Also, the Southern Conference coaches put Georgia Southern and Appalachian State at the top of their preseason poll, but because those two FBS-bound teams were ineligible for the conference title, they get a charitable bonus point for having put Chattanooga, which was eligible, third in their poll. The Mocs went on to share the title with Samford (picked fourth) and Furman (seventh).

Furman's surge helped underscore the crazy conference races across the FCS. In fact, in the Northeast Conference, Wagner was picked first and Sacred Heart last by their conference coaches, and the race ended as the complete opposite.

Maine was picked eighth in CAA Football and won the title, while preseason choice Villanova slipped to a 6-5 season.

Ivy League favorite Penn had a losing season, while Princeton, picked fifth by the league coaches, tied for the title with Harvard.

The Patriot League had a similar script. Preseason favorite Colgate finished a mere 4-8 and Lafayette, fourth in the preseason, was first when it counted.

Southeastern Louisiana, picked fifth in the Southland preseason poll, won the title while preseason pick Sam Houston State was somewhat disappointing.

Preseason pick Montana State disappointed in the Big Sky and second choice Eastern Washington took advantage of it to win the title.

In the Pioneer League, Butler, picked second, watched as preseason pick San Diego declared itself ineligible for the league title, and the Bulldogs claimed a share of the crown with surprising Marist, which had been picked sixth.

In addition, the SWAC coaches didn't pick either division champion correctly with choices of Alabama State in the East and Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the West. The division races finished with Jackson State and Southern on top, respectively.

The Sports Network conference predictions were only slightly better than the conference polls. Like the coaches, TSN went with North Dakota State (Missouri Valley), Bethune-Cookman (MEAC) and Eastern Illinois (OVC), and picked Chattanooga (SoCon) as well. In addition, Liberty was the pick over Coastal Carolina in the Big South, and those two teams shared the title. The difference maker against the coaches, ever so small, was Jackson State winning the East title in the SWAC.

Nevertheless, come the summer, all of us will be touting who we think will win 2014 conference titles.

It's too fun not to be Nostradamus. Just go prove us all wrong, FCS nation.

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