EWU-NDSU most attractive for FCS Kickoff

(STATS) – When the FCS Kickoff was proposed as a way to gain season-opening exposure for the subdivision, there was talk of a doubleheader being the best way.

The first two FCS Kickoffs have been successful, but there's been only one matchup per season. The home teams have won each time with Eastern Washington beating Sam Houston State 56-35 in 2014 and Montana topping North Dakota State 38-35 in August.

Ironically, it's seemingly becoming increasingly difficult to even fill a doubleheader with two high-profile intersectional matchups. They are at a premium for the 2016 season.

While the 2016 FCS Kickoff hasn't been announced, the matchup eyed by ESPN for Aug. 27 appears to be Eastern Washington at North Dakota State. They are the most recent FCS national champions, with EWU winning in 2010 and NDSU capturing the last five titles.

The game is scheduled for Sept. 10 in Fargo and would have to be moved up by two weeks, but it is one that likely has the best chance to capture ratings.

Consider:

– North Dakota State has built an FCS dynasty, setting an NCAA all-division record for consecutive national titles.

– The Bison's most recent playoff loss was against Eastern Washington in the 2010 quarterfinals.

– EWU is a national power with a high-powered passing game that will again feature senior wide receiver Cooper Kupp, the 2015 STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year.

Among other high-profile FCS intersectional matchups if the Kickoff is not EWU-NDSU, Northern Iowa is involved in two of the better ones, hosting Montana on Sept. 10 and visiting Eastern Washington on Sept. 17. Moving up the Eastern Washington game, though, would leave a three-week hole in the Panthers' schedule because they have a bye Sept. 24.

There was talk of FCS runner-up Jacksonville State – second to Montana in average attendance last season – scheduling a game with Liberty (seventh in attendance), but it's probably not enough of a ratings draw.

Also, Sam Houston State and Richmond, the other semifinalists this past season, and James Madison, No. 4 in average attendance, have finalized their schedules and aren't facing an FCS nonconference opponent that is attractive enough for the Kickoff.

ESPN has an FBS game scheduled for Aug. 27, with California and Hawaii squaring off in Melbourne, Australia, so this year's opening to the college football season will have a doubleheader of sorts.

While the growth of the FCS Kickoff likely means involving different schools in many seasons, the Eastern Washington-North Dakota State matchup appears too good to pass on.