(STATS) – With anticipation high and possibilities endless, so many parts of an FCS season can be a fan’s favorite.
Early on, FCS teams will beat the big boys of the FBS. Conference play will get underway and the rivalry matchups take center stage. Later, the postseason will bring the action to an even higher level.
Yes, there’s so much to look forward to this year as these five compelling storylines help shape the 2017 season:
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1. Year of the quarterbacks
The depth of terrific signal callers has never been better in the FCS. Most of the teams ranked in last year’s final STATS FCS Top 25 have their offensive leader returning. That includes all of the All-Americans: Walter Payton Award winner and first-teamer Jeremiah Briscoe of Sam Houston State, second-teamer Gage Gubrud of Eastern Washington, and third-teamers Taryn Christion of South Dakota State and Devlin Hodges of Samford. There’s also senior Bryan Schor from defending national champion James Madison, Northern Arizona’s Case Cookus returning from injury and a seemingly endless list of talents.
2. Keeping the FBS upsets going
Last year’s 10 FCS wins over FBS programs tied for the fourth-most in a season, and the subdivision is only four years removed from its record 16 triumphs in 2013. But it might be harder to match such success as the number of matchups are slightly down to 98, and four of last year’s quarterfinalists – FBS killer North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, South Dakota State and Richmond – are among those on the sideline, only playing FCS opponents.
3. New coaches at top programs
Head coaching hires aren’t just for struggling programs seeking a turnaround. Five Top 25 teams replaced their mentors in the offseason: Charleston Southern (Mark Tucker), Eastern Washington (Aaron Best) and Villanova (Mark Ferrante) promoted assistants from within, while Chattanooga hired Tom Arth from the Division III level after Russ Huesman departed for Richmond. The opening at Richmond was caused by Danny Rocco stepping across CAA Football to become Delaware’s new coach. Also, Howard hired an FCS championship-winning coach in Mike London, who led Richmond to the 2008 title.
4. Edmonds seeks career rushing record
Fordham’s Chase Edmonds is chasing yet another record – perhaps the biggest of his standout career. The three-time All-America running back enters his senior season with 5,285 rushing yards, and with an average of 142.8 yards over 37 games, he’s on pace to surpass former Georgia Southern running back Adrian Peterson’s FCS all-time rushing record of 6,559.
5. Possible James Madison-North Dakota State rematch
No game would be more anticipated than a rematch between defending champion James Madison and North Dakota State, whose record run of five straight national titles ended with the Dukes’ 27-17 semifinal win. Both teams have similar playing styles – they win games on the line of scrimmage by establishing the run and shutting down the opposition’s ground game. There are plenty of good teams that could spoil a rematch, but the two national powers may be a collision course for the national championship game Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas.