When an FCS college football team plays an FBS opponent, it has fans from coast to coast because the entire Division I subdivision tends to back it with support.

Division I college football split into two tiers in 1978, with the FBS programs having more scholarships and bigger budgets, so the FCS teams that pull off upsets draw national attention. Even though the matchups are usually held early in a season, an FCS win often remains among the biggest that year.

Who’s made the most noise among FCS programs? We take a look at some of the history of FCS vs. FBS matchups.  

Note the FBS wins are counted from the beginning of a program’s FCS era (a single asterisk marks an FCS program that has since moved to the FBS; a double asterisk marks an FCS program that has since been disbanded).

Delaware coach Ryan Carty, left, gets doused by defensive back Brandon Dennis (31) and others after the Blue Hens’ 14-7 win at Navy in 2022. (AP photo)

Most All-Time FCS Wins Over FBS

20 – Youngstown State (most recent: 31-17 over Pittsburgh in 2012)

YSU’s FCS era began in 1980, and most of the wins have occurred against current Mid-American Conference programs, led by six versus Akron.

16 – Delaware (14-7 over Navy in 2022)

14 – *Boise State (38-14 over Utah State in 1995)

13 – Northwestern State (30-27 over Louisiana Tech in 2014)

12 – *Nevada (50-8 over UNLV in 1991)

11 – Eastern Washington (35-33 over UNLV in 2 OTs in 2021) and Northern Iowa (25-20 over Iowa State in 2016)

9 – North Dakota State (23-21 over No. 13 Iowa in 2016)

Most Consecutive Wins Over FBS

6 – North Dakota State (2010-2016)

Five of the six opponents in the Bison’s record run were from Power Five conferences.

5 – Youngstown State (1989-90) and New Hampshire (2004-09)

Most FBS Wins in One Season

3 – *Boise State, twice (1978: **Cal State Fullerton, **Long Beach State and San Jose State; 1982: **Cal State Fullerton, **Pacific and Utah State); **Boston University (1979: Harvard, Holy Cross and Connecticut); Delaware twice (1980: Temple, William & Mary and Villanova; 1981: Temple, Princeton and Penn); Southeastern Louisiana (1980: East Tennessee State, Illinois State and *Northeast Louisiana); and Youngstown State (1990: Eastern Michigan, Akron and Ohio U.)

It appears an FCS program beating three FBS opponents in a season will remain only a part of college football’s past. The FCS program to most recently post two FBS wins in one season was Portland State in 2015 (Washington State and North Texas).

FCS Wins Over Ranked FBS Teams

Sept. 10, 1983: *Cincinnati 14, No. 20 Penn State 3

The NCAA reclassified Cincinnati to the FCS for the 1983 season, making this the subdivision’s first win over an FBS team, although it is something of a technicality given the Bearcats played 10 FBS opponents in an 11-game schedule that season.

Sept. 1, 2007: *Appalachian State 34, No. 5 Michigan 32

Sept. 11, 2010: *James Madison 21, No. 13 Virginia Tech 16

Aug. 31, 2013: Eastern Washington 49, No. 25 Oregon State 46

Sept. 17, 2016: North Dakota State 23, No. 13 Iowa 21

Sept. 4, 2021: Montana 13, No. 20 Washington 7

First FCS Wins

Sept. 9, 1978: *Boise State 42, Cal State Fullerton 12; Tennessee Tech 22, Western Carolina 20

There were only 43 FCS programs in the first season after the Division I split, a mere one-third of the single-season record 130 in 2022. Western Carolina shifted into the FCS in 1982.

Largest Margin of Victory

59 – Portland State 66, North Texas 7 on Oct. 10, 2015

The Vikings from the Big Sky, under coach Bruce Barnum, scored on seven consecutive possessions in the first half and held a 66-0 lead until North Texas scored with 1:02 to go.

58 – Lehigh 58, Penn 0 on Sept. 26, 1981

46 – *Nevada 49, **Cal State Fullerton 3 on Aug. 30, 1986

Biggest Point-Spread Upset

Sept. 2, 2017: Howard 43, UNLV 40

As a 45.5-point underdog, Howard pulled off a stunner in coach Mike London’s debut with the MEAC program. True freshman quarterback Caylin Newton accounted for 330 yards and three touchdowns plus scored on a two-point conversion. His four-yard TD run with 7:34 left put Howard ahead for good 43-40.

Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards dives over Michigan defenders to score a touchdown in the Mountaineers’ 34-32 upset win. (AP Photo)

Best FCS Win

Sept. 1, 2007: *Appalachian State 34, No. 5 Michigan 32

This pick is subjective, of course, but App State’s upset is considered the FCS gold standard, with no FBS program being higher-ranked prior to its defeat. Julian Rauch kicked a go-ahead, 24-yard field goal with 26 seconds left and Corey Lynch blocked the Wolverines’ game-ending, 37-yard attempt. The Mountaineers from the Southern Conference went on to capture their third straight FCS championship under coach Jerry Moore.  

Stats Perform editor Jesse Abrahams contributed research to this story. NCAA.com also provided information.