Ten games that will shape the FCS season

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - So much changes during the course of the FCS season that it's dangerous for people to look too far down any team's schedule and say, "Win here, loss here...," and believe they have everything figured out.

For instance, did anybody have Bethune-Cookman winning 10 straight games to start last season? Did anybody foresee Georgia Southern reaching the FCS semifinals? Did anybody leave Montana out of the playoffs?

Of course, there are staples on the schedule that everybody can feel comfortable in saying will shape the regular season.

Following are 10 such games for the 2011 FCS season:

South Carolina State at Bethune-Cookman (Sept. 10) - Last season, these two teams provided the MEAC with two FCS playoff participants for the first time since 2003. Neither one can afford to give the other the upper hand in its first conference game of the season, but the loser will.

Northern Iowa travels to North Dakota State on Oct. 29 in a big Missouri Valley Football Conference battle.
Montana State at Eastern Washington (Sept. 24) - The defending FCS champion Eagles have not lost since they were routed at Montana State last September. MSU's DeNarius McGhee versus EWU's Bo Levi Mitchell is one of the quarterback duels of the season.

Appalachian State at Wofford (Oct. 1) - Wofford earned a share of the Southern Conference title last season with App State, which has won the crown six years in a row. With a home game, Terriers fullback Eric Breitenstein, defensive back Ameet Pall and a veteran team believe they can topple quarterback DeAndre Presley and the Mountaineers.

Stephen F. Austin at Central Arkansas (Oct. 1) - A lot of Southland Conference teams are claiming title contention now that SFA has to reload without quarterback Jeremy Moses, the 2010 Walter Payton Award (sponsored by Fathead.com) winner. The Lumberjacks hope to make a statement on Central Arkansas' new purple and gray turf.

William & Mary at Delaware (Oct. 8) - Last year's meeting of the eventual CAA Football co-champs was decided by one point (William & Mary won, 17-16). William & Mary has designs on going where the Blue Hens went last season - the FCS championship game.

Georgia Southern at Appalachian State (Oct. 29) - It would be surprising if GSU isn't unbeaten heading into this SoCon showdown. The Mountaineers love their home-field advantage at The Rock and want to avenge last year's overtime loss at GSU.

Northern Iowa at North Dakota State (Oct. 29) - The intensity of this Missouri Valley Football Conference collision might make the Fargodome roof come off. Is Northern Iowa's two rushing threats (Tirrell Rennie and Carlos Anderson) better than the Bison's one (D.J. McNorton)?

Eastern Kentucky at Jacksonville State (Nov. 5) - JSU's poor ending to last season (8-0 start, 1-3 finish) started with EKU's 49-37 upset last November. Don't think head coach Jack Crowe will let the Gamecocks forget about it.

Liberty at Stony Brook (Nov. 19) - It's now or never for Liberty's senior class that desperately wants to make the FCS playoffs. Stony Brook beat the Flames on Long Island two years ago and has the talent to deny them the Big South's automatic bid.

Montana at Montana State (Nov. 19) - That the Brawl in the Wild decides bragging rights in Montana carries as much weight as the Big Sky title and FCS playoff implications. But make no mistake, the visiting Grizzlies don't want to miss the playoffs again.

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