Of the 49 Power 5 vs. FCS matchups which occurred in 2018 only one resulted in a loss for the bigger school. That’s a 98% success rate for the big boys.
Compare that to the 76-17 (82%) record Power 5 teams compiled vs. Group of 5 programs during the 2018 regular season.
It amounts to Power programs being 16% more likely to beat an FCS opponent than a team from a Group of 5 conference.
It’s a big deal when that extra win can equal bowl eligibility.
In 2019, there are only 15 Power 5 teams – or 23% of the field – that won’t play an FCS opponent. That’s down one from the 16 teams who didn’t do so last season.
By conference, it’s ten Big Ten members, four from the Pac-12, and just a single Big 12 school. That leaves the ACC and SEC, where 100% of each conference has an FCS foe scheduled.
It’s yet another very subtle, but potentially meaningful, scheduling caveat.
Non-conference schedule: Colorado State (in Denver, CO), Nebraska, Air Force
This is the first season since 2014 that Colorado hasn’t had an FCS opponent on its slate. The Buffs haven’t fallen to such a foe since 2012 when they were edged 30-28 by Sacramento State on their way to a 1-11 finish.
Non-conference schedule: Akron, at UConn, Eastern Michigan
Illinois went FCS-free as recently as 2017, also it’s first schedule without an opponent from the lower level since 2005. It hasn’t lost to a program that was considered a “non-major” at game time since 1938, when it opened the season with a 0-6 loss to Ohio University, the Bobcats still members of the Buckeye Athletic Association at the time.
Non-conference schedule: Miami (Ohio), at Iowa State, Middle Tennessee
Like Illinois, Iowa also didn’t play an FCS foe in 2017. Unlike the Illini though, the Hawkeyes fell to an FCS team as recently as 2016 when North Dakota State rolled into Iowa City and upset then (13) Iowa 23-21.
Non-conference schedule: Middle Tennessee, Army, Notre Dame
The last time Michigan hooked up with the FCS was in 2010 when it barely survived a visit from UMass 42-37. The Minutemen moved up to the FBS ranks two years later via the MAC. The Wolverines’ most recent loss to an FCS squad came memorably a couple of seasons earlier, in 2007, when Appalachian State came calling and upset (5) Michigan 34-32. The Mountaineers ascended to the FBS level in 2014 with the Sun Belt.
Non-conference schedule: Tulsa, Western Michigan, Arizona State
Michigan State last played an FCS opponent, Furman, in its 2016 season opener. It hasn’t lost to a “non-major” since just after WWII, in 1946, when it fell to Cincinnati, then an independent.
Non-conference schedule: South Alabama, at Colorado, Northern Illinois
One of Nebraska’s four wins last season was a 45-9 victory over FCS Bethune-Cookman. Before that, it hosted an FCS program consecutively from 2010-14. It hasn’t suffered to a team considered a non-major at game time since 1956 when it fell to Hawaii (then an independent) 0-6 after destroying the Warriors 50-0 the previous season.
Non-conference schedule: at Stanford, UNLV, UMass
Northwestern last played an FCS team in 2016. The Wildcats fell to Illinois State in that contest, 9-7. Their last win over an FCS opponent came in the previous season in 2015. The Wildcats defeated Eastern Illinois 41-0.
Non-conference schedule: Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati, Miami (Ohio)
Ohio State has been FCS-free since 2013, when it thumped Florida A&M 76-0 on its way to a 12-2 finish. It’s only other recent action with the FCS came via consecutive season openers vs. Youngstown State in 2007 and 2008. It’s only-ever losses to non-major squads came in 1921 and 1904, both to Oberlin College.
Non-conference schedule: at Nevada, Vanderbilt, TCU
Purdue hasn’t squared off with an FCS opponent since 2016, also its seventh-straight season with an FCS foe on its slate. The most recent loss to a non-major came all the way back in 1925 when the Boilermakers opened with a 13-7 loss to Wabash College.
Non-conference schedule: UMass, Boston College, Liberty.
Last season was the first time since 2003 that Rutgers didn’t have an FCS foe on its schedule. Its most recent loss came the very first year of that 14-year run, in 2004, a 35-24 defeat at the hands of New Hampshire.
Non-conference schedule: Northwestern, at UCF, Notre Dame
Stanford has only played an FCS opponent four times since 2000; in 2005, 2010, 2014, and in 2018. The sole loss came vs. UC Davis in 2005, a 5-6 campaign in the first year of the short-lived Walt Harris era.
Non-conference schedule: Louisiana Tech, LSU, at Rice (at NRG Stadium)
While Texas certainly doesn’t make it a practice of scheduling FCS foes, it did play Sam Houston State as recently as 2006. Before that it was North Texas in 1992, 1988, and 1983. The Longhorns’ most recent loss to a non-major came during WWII, when they hosted Southwestern (Georgetown, Texas) in 1943 and lost 14-7.
Non-conference schedule: at Cincinnati, San Diego State, Oklahoma
UCLA is one of only two schools on our list that simply does not book dates with FCS opponents. The last time the Bruins played a team considered a non-major at game time was in 1954 when they opened with a 67-0 win over San Diego Navy. Prior to that, it was three such contests in 1945; wins over San Diego Navy and Pacific and a 13-6 loss to St. Mary’s (California) Pre-Flight.
Non-conference schedule: Fresno State, at BYU, at Notre Dame
Like UCLA, USC doesn’t schedule FCS foes. Also like the Bruins, the Trojans’ most recent game vs. a non-major came in the 1950’s against San Diego Navy. USC’s clash came two years earlier, in 1952, resulting in a 20-6 win. The most recent loss also came in 1945, a 33-6 upset at the hands of San Diego Navy, which it also fell to in 1943.
Non-conference schedule: at South Florida, Central Michigan, Kent State
Wisconsin hasn’t played an FCS opponent since 2014, also it’s ninth consecutive season with a win over a program from next level down. The Badgers’ most-recent loss vs. a non-major came in 1935 when they opened the season with a 13-6 loss to South Dakota State. That Wisconsin team finished 1-7, the sixth-worst mark in program history.
Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference-College Football.