Maybe the NCAA had to include an extra week on the 2024 FCS college football schedule to accommodate the overflowing number of terrific teams and games.

OK, it’s due to the calendar, with an extra regular-season game allowed in years when there are 14 Saturdays from the first permissible playing date in August through the last playing date in November. (As a result, FCS teams can have 12 regular-season games instead of the usual 11.)

But it’s the right year for it to happen:

South Dakota State is seeking a three-peat of the national championship.

North Dakota State is trying to reclaim the FCS throne.

Montana is back in a big way.

Storylines abound.

With 129 programs (the second-most all-time) and 13 leagues, the schedule is primed to thrill fans all season long.

Here’s a week-by-week guide to the best FCS games during the regular season (conference games marked in parentheses; unmarked games are nonconference):


Week 0: Norfolk State vs. Florida A&M in Atlanta – Aug. 24

The pageantry of the MEAC-SWAC Challenge is half the story for the FCS’ two HBCU conferences, whose champions face off in the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta. Norfolk State seeks to end the MEAC’s two-game losing streak in the season-opening classic in its first appearance, but the conference holds a 10-5 lead over the SWAC. Reigning SWAC champ FAMU went 1-1 in it as a member of the MEAC.

But Don’t Miss: Montana State at New Mexico

Week 1: North Dakota State at Colorado – Aug. 29

There was great anticipation for a matchup against North Dakota State when Colorado coach Deion Sanders and quarterback Shedeur Sanders were at Jackson State. Now they open their second season in Boulder against the FCS powerhouse Bison, who are 9-4 all-time against FBS opponents. Tim Polasek will make his head coaching debut with the Bison – one of the FCS’ 30 new hires.

But Don’t Miss: Youngstown State at Villanova – Aug. 29; South Dakota State at Oklahoma State – Aug. 31

Week 2: UIW at South Dakota State – Sept. 7

UIW doesn’t have an FBS opponent this season, but a trip to the two-time defending FCS champion may be tougher. Jackrabbits coach Jimmy Rogers has 10 past starters returning, none bigger than quarterback Mark Gronowski as he seeks to become the third repeat winner of the Walter Payton Award.

But Don’t Miss: UT Martin at Southeast Missouri (Big South-OVC); Southern Illinois at Austin Peay

Week 3: UAlbany at Idaho – Sept. 14

One of the regular season’s six rematches from the 2023 FCS playoffs, UAlbany heads back to the Kibbie Dome, where it outscored Idaho 23-6 over the final 37 minutes of a 30-22, quarterfinal-round victory. It gave the Great Danes five wins over ranked opponents last season, while the Vandals had four.

But Don’t Miss: Mercer at Chattanooga (SoCon); Nicholls at Sacramento State; Southern at Jackson State


Week 4: Furman at William & Mary – Sept. 21

The season’s solid nonconference schedule continues with the first meeting between these programs since 2000. William & Mary quarterback Darius Wilson and running backs Bronson Yoder and Malachi Imoh have combined to rush for over 6,000 yards in their careers, but defending Southern Conference champion Furman ranked eighth nationally against the run last season.

But Don’t Miss: Eastern Illinois at Illinois State; Southeast Missouri at Southern Illinois; Western Carolina at Montana

Week 5: Montana at Eastern Washington (Big Sky) – Sept. 28

This year’s meeting is the 50th between the rival programs, with Montana holding a 30-18-1 series lead. The Eagles rolled out their red carpet, er turf, with a 36-27 victory over Montana in 2010, and they’ve since extended the home winning streak against the Grizzlies to six. 

But Don’t Miss: Richmond at Elon (CAA); Idaho at UC Davis (Big Sky); Southern Illinois at South Dakota (MVFC); Grambling State vs. Prairie View A&M in Dallas (SWAC)

Week 6: Lafayette at Fordham (Patriot) – Oct. 5

Even with a 1 p.m. kickoff, there will be fireworks in the air in the Patriot League opener for both programs. Lafayette’s Jamar Curtis is the FCS’ top-returning rusher, while Fordham quarterback CJ Montes reached 3,000 yards (exactly) on his final pass last November.

But Don’t Miss: South Dakota State at Northern Iowa (MVFC); North Dakota at North Dakota State (MVFC); Weber State at Montana (Big Sky); Gardner-Webb at UT Martin (Big South-OVC)

Week 7: Nicholls at UIW (Southland) – Oct. 12

Nicholls is playing at UIW for the second consecutive season. Last year? No problem, Colonels running backs Collin Guggenheim (four touchdowns) and Jaylon Spears combined for 313 yards in a 45-32 win over UIW and quarterback Zach Calzada. The host Cardinals, who were FCS semifinalists in 2022, finished last season as the highest-ranked team (No. 22) not to appear in the postseason.

But Don’t Miss: Chattanooga at Furman (SoCon); Idaho at Montana State (Big Sky); Duquesne at Saint Francis (NEC)

Week 8: South Dakota State at North Dakota State (MVFC) – Oct. 19

At least one of these FCS powers has finished atop the MVFC standings since 2011. The Dakota Marker is at stake, with the regular-season series tied 10-10 since the trophy was introduced in 2004 as part of a rivalry that dates to 1903. Dating to the final regular-season weekend of the spring 2021 season, NDSU is 0-5 against SDSU and 38-5 against all other opponents.

But Don’t Miss: Florida A&M at Jackson State (SWAC); Western Carolina at Furman (SoCon); The Citadel at VMI (SoCon); Weber State at Sacramento State (Big Sky); UC Davis at Eastern Washington (Big Sky)

Week 9: South Dakota at South Dakota State (MVFC) – Oct. 26

No rest for the weary, should the Jackrabbits even be that as they face a second consecutive rivalry game (this one dates to 1889). The Jacks lost back-to-back meetings to South Dakota in 2019 and ‘21 by three points each, so they solved that by limiting the Coyotes to just three points in each of the past two matchups.

But Don’t Miss: Eastern Illinois at UT Martin (Big South-OVC); Holy Cross at Lafayette (Patriot); Elon at William & Mary (CAA); Alabama A&M vs. Alabama State in Birmingham, Alabama (SWAC)

Week 10: Chattanooga at Western Carolina (SoCon) – Nov. 2

This could have been considered to be last year’s best FCS regular-season game, with the Catamounts winning 52-50 on a walk-off field goal after Chattanooga scored a touchdown, then a go-ahead two-point conversion in the game’s final minute. Quarterbacks Chase Artopoeus (UTC) and Cole Gonzales (WCU) will keep the points coming.

But Don’t Miss: Lamar at UIW (Southland); Montana State at Eastern Washington (Big Sky); Davidson at San Diego (Pioneer); Northern Iowa at North Dakota State (MVFC)

Week 11: Central Arkansas at Tarleton State (United Athletic) – Nov. 9

Both rosters are loaded up offensively for a run at the UAC title and the FCS playoffs (Tarleton State, in its fifth Division I season, is eligible for the first time). The Texans denied UCA of a two-point attempt with 14 seconds left to hold on 25-23 in last year’s matchup.

But Don’t Miss: Sacramento State at Montana State (Big Sky); UC Davis at Montana (Big Sky); Drake at St. Thomas (Pioneer)

Week 12: Howard at North Carolina Central (MEAC) – Nov. 15

To say it’s a bit heated between the last two MEAC champions is an understatement. Howard scored on a two-point conversion with 2:38 left to get to 50 points in its win last November, matching the 50 NCCU racked up in the 2022 matchup. The Bison are 0-4 in trips to Durham.

But Don’t Miss: Montana State at UC Davis (Big Sky) – Nov. 16; Harvard at Penn (Ivy) – Nov. 16

Week 13: Montana at Montana State (Big Sky) – Nov. 23

This is rivalry week across FCS football, and the fiercest series has seen lopsided wins traded across the last four meetings (a 2-2 split with the average margin of win at 29.3 points). Last year’s meeting was the first when both teams entered with a top-five ranking, and UM extended its overall lead to 74-42-5 since the first meeting in 1897.

But Don’t Miss: William & Mary at Richmond (CAA); Delaware at Villanova (CAA); Yale at Harvard (Ivy); UC Davis at Sacramento State (Big Sky); Lafayette at Lehigh (Patriot); North Dakota State at South Dakota (MVFC); Howard at Morgan State (MEAC)

Week 14: Grambling State vs. Southern in New Orleans (SWAC) – Nov. 24

The SWAC’s final regular-season game commands a spotlight, and nearly 65,000 fans, like last November. Terrance Graves, as Southern’s interim coach, became the first coach to guide both programs to wins, with the Jaguars’ 27-22 triumph tying the Bayou Classic portion of the all-time series 25-25. Graves is now Southern’s full-time coach, while Mickey Joseph has taken over with the G-Men.

But Don’t Miss (unlikely): FCS playoffs

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