5. Geographical rivals lock horns
The FCS may not completely pair teams by geography alone as it did before, but the first and second-round actions do well in pairing regional rivals against each other. This reverses a trend in the FBS that we’re seeing among many college football powers, as centuries-old rivalries are being cast aside as teams move to far-flung conferences across the country in search of increased media revenue and that elusive stability.
The first round featured more purposefully created matchups, not unlike what the selection committee’s effort in setting up the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Richmond faced North Carolina Central, Duquesne faced Youngstown State, and Chattanooga faced Austin Peay, to name a few examples that help cut down on travel costs and fan accessibility.
4. See future FBS teams
The University of Delaware just announced this week that it will make the jump to the FBS level beginning next year, officially joining Conference USA in 2025.
The Blue Hens will give the FBS a much-needed additional presence on the East Coast, being just a 45-minute drive from Philadelphia and holding rivalries with nearby programs like Lafayette and Villanova. The Northeast hasn’t provided many quality college football teams recently, with programs like Army, Boston College, UConn, UMass, and Temple mostly struggling at the FBS level from year to year.
Delaware obviously hopes to copy the examples of programs like Jacksonville State, who went 8-4 (6-2 C-USA) in its first regular season of FBS play, and James Madison, who went 11-1 in only its second year of FBS play and reached as high as No. 18 in the AP poll during its undefeated start to the year.
Not every team, of course, has transitioned so well from the FCS to the FBS level — but the Blue Hens seem to have good fan support and a winning tradition that will help the program as it moves up a level to Conference USA.
The Blue Hens face overall No. 2 seed Montana in the second round on Saturday.