8 FCS Teams You Should Be Watching
North Dakota State
Why You Should Watch: For starters, because it's North Dakota State, a program that rose to national prominence by consistently delivering when they get an audience. But also because Chris Klieman's bunch will feature arguably the strongest defense in the country.
Who You Should Watch: Linebacker Nick DeLuca. DeLuca's 2016 campaign was derailed by a shoulder injury, but he's back to lead the Bison defense in 2017 -- a season that will begin with DeLuca on the Butkus Award Watch List.
When You Should Watch: September 9 at Eastern Washington. The Bison defense will be tested by STATS Preseason All-American Gage Gubrud and a potent Eastern Washington offense. Plus, Roos Field is something you have to see (with eye protection) to believe.
Why You Should Watch: The defending national champs are loaded with talent and ready to make another run to Frisco.
Who You Should Watch: Marcus Marshall and Trai Sharp. How does a program like James Madison replace a running back like Khalid Abdullah? Simple. Sign a Georgia Tech transfer who twice led the Yellow Jackets in rushing. The JMU backfield is the best in the FCS.
When You Should Watch: January 6 in the NCAA Championship game. Don't worry. They'll be there.
Gamecocks head coach John Grass reasons with a referee during last year's game against LSU.
Why You Should Watch: The Gamecocks will be hunting their fourth-consecutive Ohio Valley Conference title with one of the fiercest, fastest defenses in the FCS -- headlined by arguably the best defender.
Who You Should Watch: Defensive end Darius Jackson. Just a junior, the returning OVC Defensive Player of the Year is already the proud owner of program career records for sacks and tackles for loss. He leads a defense that features nine returning starters.
When You Should Watch: September 9 at Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech is more talented, to be sure. But Jacksonville State is experienced on defense and should remain disciplined against the option.
Sam Houston State
Why You Should Watch: The Bearkats are loaded on offense with four preseason All-Americans, including superstar quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe.
Who You Should Watch: Quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe and linebacker Deoundrei Davis. Briscoe, the returning Walter Payton Award winner and Southland Conference Player of the Year, tossed an FCS-record 57 touchdowns last season and is a must-see QB. Across the ball, former Longhorn Deoundrei Davis will be an interesting watch, as he tries to recover the promise that he arrived at Texas with in 2013, when he was considered one of the top linebacker recruits in the country.
When You Should Watch: August 27 vs. Richmond. On the opening weekend of the college football season, Sam Houston State and Richmond will have viewers all to themselves during a Sunday night game that you'll have no excuse not to watch.
Why You Should Watch: Calling Central Arkansas the Purple People Eaters may be a bit of a reach, but we'll do it anyway because they're purple and they're going to be strong on defense with seven All-Southland preseason selections.
Who You Should Watch: The Bears' secondary. More specifically, Tremon Smith, George Odum and Jaylon Lofton -- each of whom was named to the Southland's first team preseason defense. As an added bonus, Smith may also be the league's premier return man.
When You Should Watch: September 30 vs. SHSU. The Southland's top offense travels to Conway, Arkansas, to meet its top defense in a matchup that may determine the conference championship.
Why You Should Watch: Do yourself a favor and watch this one in person. Charleston, South Carolina, is lovely in the fall and the Buccaneers are as talented as usual, with three STATS Preseason All-Americans in the fold.
Who You Should Watch: Defensive end Anthony Ellis. Ellis was named a first-team preseason All-American shortly before also being named the Big South's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season last month. A dominant force off the edge, Ellis is just the second player in Big South history with multiple seven-sack seasons.
When You Should Watch: November 18 vs. Liberty. The Big South title will likely hang in the balance.
Why You Should Watch: Tennessee State welcomes two of the most potentially impactful FBS transfers you'll find anywhere in the country. The Tigers will definitely be good -- and they may be really good.
Who You Should Watch: Quarterback Treon Harris and offensive lineman Chidi Okeke. The once-electric Harris started 15 games over the course of two seasons at Florida before falling out of favor after three separate suspensions. Along the way Harris often showed a unique combination of speed and passing ability, and could be an elite playmaker at the FCS level if he has since matured. Former LSU Tiger Chidi Okeke is a former four-star recruit who was ranked as high as the No. 2 offensive tackle prospect in the country. The 6-foot-6 Nigerian-born tackle figures to have a massive impact -- pun intended.
When You Should Watch: November 16 at Jacksonville State. If things go as expected for both programs, this regular season finale will likely decide the OVC title.
Why You Should Watch: The Colonels will look to rebound from their first losing season since 2009 with the help of a trio of FBS transfers, including former UCF quarterback Garrett Kruczek.
Who You Should Watch: Running backs L.J. Scott and Jason Lewis. Eastern Kentucky's struggles of a season ago were due, at least in part, to an erratic offense that struggled to find consistent production from the backfield. Enter former Louisville running back L.J. Smith and one-time Sun Devil Jason Lewis. Nothing has been sorted out for the Colonels' running backs to this point, but the pair could form an impressive tandem.
When You Should Watch: September 2 at Western Kentucky. Cross-state rivals will collide in the inaugural college football game to be aired live on FloSports.