MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - What the Football Championship Subdivision has done for college football is significant and in a week like this, when one of the best Football Championship Subdivision schools plays one of the best from the Football Bowl Subdivision, it deserves some extrapolation.
We're unlikely to see one Saturday at FedEx Field, when FCS No. 5 and 2004 national champion James Madison takes on FBS No. 9 West Virginia at 4:30 p.m. (ROOT telecast), but there are the annual underdog stories and inspirational upsets against the so-called superior opponents.
Already this season, eight FCS teams have beaten a FBS team. The Dukes and Appalachian State have the only two FCS wins against a ranked FBS team.
There have been no similar shockers this season, though the No. 1 team in the FCS, North Dakota State, beat Colorado State 22-7. It's the second straight year NDSU has beaten a FBS team - and last year the Bison won inside a power conference with a stunner at the Big Ten's Minnesota.
Sacramento State beat Colorado last week a year after beating another BCS conference team, Oregon State. Those Beavers just beat then-No. 13 Wisconsin. Pitt had been 10-0 all-time against FCS teams before dropping its season-opener to Youngstown State. It happens, though it's never happened for the Mountaineers, who are 12-0 against the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) and only once had what one might call a scare when Liberty managed a 33-20 loss in 2009.
And as much as the FCS has added some enjoyment to the sport with the occasional upset and the regular rooting interests, it's also allowed you to enjoy the season a little longer. If not for the rise of FCS programs and their quality of play, the FBS may not have gone to a 12-game schedule. That all but forced FBS teams to schedule FCS teams to fill out a schedule, but also forces FCS teams to take their finances even more seriously.
You can't disregard the payoff, though, because FCS teams use those games, and typically those one-sided defeats, to fund not just the football program, but the athletic department. In back-to-back weeks, Savannah State has been the biggest underdog in college football history and outscored 139-0 by Oklahoma State and Florida State, which had to add the game after WVU begged out of what would have been a top-10 showdown last week. The Tigers banked $855,000.
The FCS also has a playoff, which FBS fans have long wanted to use to crown its national champion and will welcome beginning in 2014. That adds two rounds and three games to the season.
Not all of these FCS teams and stars are names you know for just one Saturday in the fall. There were more than a dozen FCS players drafted into the NFL in April and dozens more make up NFL rosters. They've merely left their mark on the game. The coaches are still in the process and throughout all the BCS conferences you'll find head coaches, coordinators and assistants who learned to do their things, often times on their own, at the FCS level.