There are 128 FCS fan bases that surely are energized by their favorite team’s schedule this fall.

With all teams back on the playing fields for the first time in nearly two years and experienced lineups abounding, the upcoming season is particularly anticipated.

Still, when you look up and down all the schedules, a small handful draw a double-take.

Here are five:


Sept. 4, Sacramento State

Sept. 11, Weber State

Sept. 18, at UC Davis

Oct. 2, at South Dakota State

Oct. 9, at Montana

Oct. 16, Tarleton

Oct. 23, Stephen F. Austin

Oct. 30, at Delaware

Nov. 6, at Sam Houston

Nov. 13, Fort Lewis

Nov. 20, Missouri State

This is the schedule that makes you gulp. In their second Division I campaign, the Trailblazers face opponents who in their most recent season had a combined .714 winning percentage (60-24) – the highest of any FCS schedule. Seven of the opponents qualified for the playoffs in their most recent full season, including FCS spring national champion Sam Houston, runner-up South Dakota State and semifinalist Delaware. The first five weeks are Big Sky-heavy with 2019 co-champs Weber State and Sacramento State visiting St. George, Utah, and trips to UC Davis and Montana’s mecca Washington-Grizzly Stadium.


Sept. 4, at Iowa State

Sept. 11, at Sacramento State

Sept. 18, St. Thomas

Oct. 2, Youngstown State

Oct. 9, at North Dakota State

Oct. 16, South Dakota

Oct. 23, at South Dakota State

Oct. 30, Southern Illinois

Nov. 6, at Illinois State

Nov. 13, at Missouri State

Nov. 20, Western Illinois

What’s next, a trip into Death Valley at Clemson or LSU? Maybe Alabama? The Panthers surely have the toughest road schedule in the FCS, starting at Iowa State and followed by Sacramento State in the premier matchup of the Big Sky-MVFC Showdown. In conference play, oh it’s as easy as eight-time FCS champ North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Illinois State and surprising spring co-champ and playoff qualifier Missouri State.


Sept. 4, at Dixie State

Sept. 11, Northern Iowa

Sept. 18, at California

Sept. 25, at Idaho State

Oct. 9, Southern Utah

Oct. 16, at Montana

Oct. 23, Northern Arizona

Oct. 30, at Northern Colorado

Nov. 6, Cal Poly

Nov. 13, Portland State

Nov. 20, at UC Davis

Having Sac State follow Northern Iowa on this list may appear puzzling, but it’s the Hornets’ Big Sky schedule, not nonconference, that creates the double-take. Having not played since 2019 due to the pandemic, they catch a break in the unbalanced schedule of the FCS’ largest conference, missing Big Sky powers Eastern Washington, Montana State and Weber State. If you go back to the Hornets’ co-championship season two years ago, seven of their eight conference opponents finished below .500 both overall and in conference (Montana is the exception). Their opponents’ combined .339 winning percentage (19-37) in their most recent season is the lowest in the FCS.


Sept. 2, at FIU

Sept. 11, at West Virginia

Sept. 18, at Miami (Ohio)

Sept. 25 or Oct. 2 – TBA

Oct. 9, at Saint Francis

Oct. 16, Merrimack

Oct. 23, at Central Connecticut State

Oct. 30, Wagner

Nov. 6, Duquesne

Nov. 13, at Bryant

Nov. 20, Sacred Heart

LIU isn’t necessarily acting like a program that’s only 14 games into its Division I era. Before the Sharks settle into the more comfortable Northeast Conference schedule, they’ll take a bite out of three straight FBS games – the most in the FCS. Their opener at FIU marks the program’s first matchup against the upper tier. Add in West Virginia and Miami of Ohio, and the three games combine for just over $1 million in guarantees.


Sept. 2, at Northern Arizona

Sept. 11, Southeast Missouri

Sept. 25, at Central Arkansas

Oct. 2, Stephen F. Austin (in Houston)

Oct. 9, Lamar

Oct. 23, Jacksonville State

Oct. 30, at Tarleton

Nov. 6, Dixie State

Nov. 13, Eastern Kentucky

Nov. 20, at Abilene Christian

The difficulty of the FCS spring national champion’s schedule is middle-of-the-road. What stands it out is the Bearkats being the lone national power (with a few other programs and, of course, the Ivy League) that intended to schedule only 10 regular-season games – one below the fall maximum – due to having two seasons in the same calendar year. Also, like the spring season, a perfect 10-0 is possible, with coach K.C. Keeler’s team having two weeks of preparation for its two most dangerous games – both in the one-year WAC-ASUN Challenge at Central Arkansas and versus Jacksonville State.

2021 schedules research by Jacob Jaffe.