The first week of November offers such possibility for many teams competing for a conference championship or a spot in the postseason, but others are limping to the finish line of the regular season, basically out of the limelight.
The first two months of the FCS season have been especially puzzling for some programs that were accustomed to winning prior to this decade, can’t escape a lingering decline or are underachieving and simply desperate to reverse their fortune.
“November football is a true testament to the work you put in before August,” said Morgan State coach Tyrone Wheatley, whose team is 0-8. “It’s all the things you see that’s coming into reality. The whole point of this thing – it’s a race and you want to finish. No matter where you are, you want to finish.”
A strong finish would be a springboard into the offseason for the following seven teams that have been smacked in the face in recent seasons. Some may be considered for a coaching change this offseason.
2021 Season: 1-6, 0-4 Ivy
Coach: David Archer (20-57, eighth season)
What’s Gone Wrong: Archer is the fourth-longest-tenured Cornell coach, but he’s yet to have a winning season. In fact, the Big Red will finish with a losing Ivy League record for the 16th straight time and haven’t won a league title since 1990.
Potential “Season-Making” Win: Nov. 13 at Dartmouth (Big Red upset an 8-0 Big Green team in 2019)
2021 Season: 2-6, 1-4 Big Sky
Coach: Paul Petrino (32-65, ninth season)
What’s Gone Wrong: The mostly losing records during 22 seasons on the FBS level were one thing, but the Vandals are an ugly 13-24 overall and 9-18 in the Big Sky since dropping back to the FCS in 2018. In their first Big Sky era from 1963-95, they won eight conference titles and made 11 appearances in the national playoffs.
Potential “Season-Making” Win: Nov. 20 at Idaho State (Vandals are 1-2 against their instate rival since the FCS return)
2021 Season: 0-8, 0-3 Patriot
Coach: Tom Gilmore (4-18, third season)
What’s Gone Wrong: The spring and fall seasons have been disastrous – a combined 0-11 record with only seven touchdowns and a six-game streak without any. It’s stunning for a program with the most all-time Patriot League championships (12).
Potential “Season-Making” Win: Nov. 20 vs. Lafayette (Mountain Hawks have lost the last two meetings of the most-played FCS rivalry)
2021 Season: 2-5, 1-4 CAA
Coach: Russ Huesman (21-25, fifth season)
What’s Gone Wrong: Huesman was the defensive coordinator on Richmond’s 2008 FCS championship squad and had a banner run guiding Chattanooga in the Southern Conference, but the Spiders will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season after making them in seven of the previous 12 years while averaging 8.5 wins.
Potential “Season-Making” Win: Nov. 20 at William & Mary (Richmond has won the Capital Cup in three of the last four seasons with each rivalry game decided by seven or fewer points)
2021 Season: 1-8, 0-6 Big Sky
Coach: Demario Warren (21-40, sixth season)
What’s Gone Wrong: Warren guided the Thunderbirds to a share of their second Big Sky title in 2017, but they’re 6-32 overall and 4-24 in conference since then, with a move to the Western Athletic Conference coming next summer. Not a consistent winner on the FCS level, the T-birds also had a taste of the playoffs in 2013 and ’15 when Warren was an assistant coach.
Potential “Season-Making” Win: Nov. 13 vs. Weber State (SUU’s final game comes early with the Beehive Bowl)
2021 Season: 2-7, 2-4 Missouri Valley
Coach: Jared Elliott (9-29, fourth season)
What’s Gone Wrong: In a program with a rich tradition of 500 wins, 13 conference titles and 13 postseason appearances, the Fighting Leathernecks are struggling to keep up in the MVFC, the strongest FCS conference. A 1-11 record in 2019 was their worst since 1944.
Potential “Season-Making” Win: Nov. 20 at Northern Iowa (Leathernecks could ruin UNI’s playoff chance)
2021 Season: 1-7, 0-6 Southern
Coach: Josh Conklin (19-19, fourth season)
What’s Gone Wrong: While 2020 was not fun for anybody, 2021 has been terrible for a program that claimed five SoCon titles during the 2010s. Conklin’s tenure has had a split personality – 17-8 with two conference titles in his first two seasons and 2-11 (1-10 SoCon with 10 straight losses) in the last two seasons – both played in this calendar year.
Potential “Season-Making” Win: Saturday vs. Chattanooga (A win over a one-loss SoCon rival on Senior Day at Gibbs Stadium is possible)