FCS story lines: Buy or sell?
By CRAIG HALEY
(Stats Perform) - Your next-door neighbors - the Jacksonvilles - have moved out.
But good news, the Dixies are moving in.
Or did they say they're the Tarletons?
The FCS market is overflowing with intriguing topics this offseason. Is it time to buy or sell on them as we head toward what hopefully will be a full 2020 season.
Let's took a look:
Will there be a season?
Buy: COVID-19 looms over the 2020 season even though opening day is about five months away. What's going on in the world is far more sobering than not having sports, but they're important to all of us, and we look forward to their return. This is still a time to remain optimistic about a normal lifestyle come late summer.
North Dakota State repeats as the FCS champ
Buy: Well, of course. The Bison bring an FCS-record 37-game winning streak into the season and have won three straight national titles during that time. They return 14 starters, including nine on offense.
FCS teams has stopped sneaking up on the FBS
Sell: Last year's FCS-versus-FBS results - a 3-111 record - were awful, but expect improvement. There's been only two seasons with fewer wins since the Division I split in 1978. Plus, in the first nine seasons of the 2010s, the average number of FCS wins was a tick above nine.
An FCS school hosts ESPN's "College Gameday"
Buy: If North Dakota State upsets Oregon to open the season, the momentum will be there with the Bison for "GameDay" opportunities against North Carolina A&T (home, Sept. 19) and Northern Iowa (road, Sept. 26). But let's face it, a visit to Montana and the "Brawl of the Wild" with Montana State is overdue (Nov. 21).
The sneaky good conference is the Southland
Buy: The Southland is the only conference other than the big three FCS conferences - the Missouri Valley, Big Sky and CAA - to have at least three playoff qualifiers in each of the past three seasons. In 2020, the Southland will challenge for four for the first time, perhaps with Sam Houston State joining last year's qualifiers Nicholls, Central Arkansas and Southeastern Louisiana.
The Ivy League continues its roll
Sell: The Ivy League had two teams finish in the Top 25 in each of the last two seasons - the first time in back-to-back years since 2006 and '07. But the only three teams with winning records last year - co-champs Dartmouth and Yale and Princeton - all suffered significant senior losses.
James Madison repeats as CAA champ
Buy: By the slightest margin, though. Last year's national runner-up will be the CAA favorite again after going 8-0 in conference for the third time in the last four seasons, but the Dukes return only nine starters and the depth of quality CAA teams lends to upsets.
Montana wins an outright Big Sky title
Sell: No doubt Montana is in the mix after posting its first 10-win season since 2013 in the second season of coach Bobby Hauck's return. But the Big Sky title race is rich with contenders and a four-game losing streak to an equally strong Montana State squad hangs over the Griz.
San Diego sweeps through the Pioneer Football League againSell: With a 37-game winning streak against league opponents, the Toreros are two shy of the FCS record, and the early PFL schedule is kind. But with yet another new starting quarterback stepping in this season and a difficult three-game stretch of Dayton, Drake and Davidson, they have to get tripped up at some point. Right?
Sean McDonnell leads New Hampshire back to the postseason
Buy: After a season on medical leave, the two-time recipient of the Stats Perform Eddie Robinson Award is back to lead the Wildcats, who made 14 straight playoff appearances before missing the last two years. They return 15 starters and don't have James Madison and Villanova on their schedule.
North Carolina A&T wins another Celebration Bowl
Sell: The MEAC power has dominated the Celebration Bowl - winning in four of the first five years, but South Carolina State and Florida A&M stand in the Aggies' way back to Atlanta.
NDSU quarterback Trey Lance repeats as the Walter Payton Award recipient
Buy: The super sophomore is a heavy favorite after becoming the first freshman to earn national offensive player of the year. The "field" has many outstanding candidates, but if Lance plays well against the Bison's stiff competition in September, he could run away with the award.
Two Missouri Valley teams square off in Frisco, Texas
Buy: The pick here is North Dakota State versus Northern Iowa in the national championship game on Jan. 9.
Updated April 1, 2020