By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Look over the entire 2010 FCS schedule long enough and certain games stand out amid your eyes blurring.
We're not talking about St. Francis (Pa.) at Morehead State, either.
It's games like Richmond at Villanova, a Colonial Athletic Association battle of the last two FCS champions, Elon-Appalachian State in the Southern Conference, and Montana-Montana State in the Big Sky Conference that make you long for a crisp, sunny Saturday afternoon in the fall.
OK, the beach and the pool aren't so bad this time of the year. But it doesn't keep us from looking forward to some of the enticing matchups of the upcoming FCS season:
Best conference matchup(s) - Well, Richmond has a difficult schedule before it even gets to its game at Villanova the day before Halloween, so we'll take the easy way out by splitting this pick between Elon's Oct. 9 visit to mighty Appalachian State; Villanova's Oct. 2 road date at William & Mary, a rematch of the defending champion Wildcats' one-point win in the national semifinals last season; and the Big Sky game of Montana, the national runner-up each of the past two seasons, at Eastern Washington on Sept. 18 - a game which could throw the west for a loop if EWU pulls an upset.
Best non-conference matchup - South Dakota State is making the long trip east to Delaware for a Sept. 11 meeting. The visiting Jackrabbits have plenty of stars - running back Kyle Minett, linebacker Derek Domino and strong safety Conrad Kjerstad - while the Blue Hens have one of their own in quarterback Pat Devlin, who has an experienced group of skill position players this season.
Best FCS vs. FBS matchup - Oh, yes, in week 1, it's Villanova against Temple at Lincoln Financial Field in South Philly. When Villanova won last year's matchup, you could have made the case they would win the national title. Nobody, however, foresaw Temple going on to nine wins and a bowl game. The Owls have to figure out how to contain Matt Szczur and the rest of the Wildcats.
Worst FCS vs. FBS matchup - Idaho State at Georgia on Nov. 6. There may be more lopsided games than the 1-10 Big Sky club's visit to Athens. But do they have to play this one when the games are getting good in November?
Best neutral site matchup - It doesn't get much bigger than the Southwestern Athletic Conference collision between Prairie View A&M and Grambling State Sept. 25 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Last year's State Fair Classic went Prairie View's way, 35-32 - its first win over the Tigers since 1986.
Biggest opening weekend FCS matchup - William & Mary, in perhaps debuting North Carolina transfer Mike Paulus at quarterback, doesn't have it easy with a Sept. 4 visit to Massachusetts, which has an outstanding transfer in 1,000- yard rusher John Griffin from Northeastern.
Oddest switch of sidelines - In another Sept. 4 matchup, Richmond visits Virginia. The new head coach of the host Cavaliers is Mike London, Richmond's head coach the last two seasons, including the national title run in 2008. Latrell Scott was Virginia's wide receivers coach last season and is Richmond's head coach this season.
Biggest difference from the opener to the finale - Georgia State's first-year program under Bill Curry debuts on Sept. 2 against NAIA program Shorter College in what could be a relatively empty Georgia Dome. The Panthers close their season Nov. 18 against defending FBS champion Alabama before a huge crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Best head coaching debut vs. another head coaching debut - Savannah State and Julius Dixon visit Georgia Southern and Jeff Monken on Sept. 4.
Best debut of red turf - Montana at Eastern Washington, Sept. 18. What, would there be any other debut of red turf?
Weirdest one-week difference in scheduling - Charleston Southern goes from hosting Division II Mars Hill on Sept. 18 to visiting Hawaii on Sept. 25. Aloha to those who knew Mars Hill is located in North Carolina.
Best coaching matchup - James Madison's Mickey Matthews heads to Villanova on Oct. 23 with one more Eddie Robinson Award than the Wildcats' Andy Talley, who might have gotten his second one last year if the FCS playoffs counted in the voting.
Best future conference rivalry game - William & Mary visits Old Dominion on Sept. 18. ODU, which went 9-2 as a start-up program last fall, will join CAA Football next year.
Best "Cinderella" matchup - Butler at Davidson, Oct. 9. Oops, this isn't college basketball.
Toughest road stretch - South Dakota's first four road games are at Delaware (Sept. 11), Nebraska (Sept. 25), Northern Iowa (Oct. 2) and Southern Illinois (Oct. 16). Now if you prefer a road stretch to be in succession, then gulp over Cal Poly's five games in a row at Texas State (Sept. 18), McNeese State (Sept. 25), Fresno State (Oct. 2), Old Dominion (Oct. 9) and Southern Utah (Oct. 16). And that run is preceded by a Sept. 11 home game against mighty Montana.
Michael Herrick and Northern Arizona will play Weber State on Nov. 13.
Best "what conference do we play in?" schedule - In succession, Lafayette of the Patriot League will play Penn (Sept. 18), Princeton (Sept 25), Harvard (Oct. 2) and Columbia (Oct. 9) of the Ivy League. The Harvard game is the only one at home.
The best most-played rivalry - OK, Lafayette again. The Leopards will host Lehigh in the 146th meeting on Nov. 20. Lehigh won 27-21 in overtime last season.
Roughest choice for a homecoming opponent - Maine, which should be improved after finishing 5-6 last season, welcomes defending FCS champion Villanova to Orono on Oct. 16.
Biggest difference in home venues - With renovations ongoing at Mississippi Valley State's Rice-Totten Field, the Delta Devils will play their Sept. 18 home game against Alcorn State at Soldier Field in Chicago, then three home games at nearby Greenville (Miss.) Weston High School - Prairie View A&M (Oct. 2), Grambling (Oct. 23) and Alabama A&M (Nov. 13).
Best quarterback matchup - Cameron Higgins and Weber State visit Michael Herrick and Northern Arizona on Nov. 13. First one to 500 yards wins.
Best this isn't the Big House game - Appalachian State at Florida, Nov. 20. Ummm ... Armanti Edwards, do you have any eligibility left?