Key FCS conference games not on schedule
You've no doubt been reading about all the big FCS games in 2016 - conference matchups, intersectional matchups, the potential upsets of FBS opponents.
Unfortunately, there also are games you won't see in the FCS - conference matchups, no less.
There's little avoiding it, however, in the larger FCS conferences.
It wasn't that long ago the 2014 national championship game between North Dakota State and Illinois State was the first final between two teams in the same conference. Ironically, it took until the season's final game for the Missouri Valley Conference co-champs to square off because they didn't face each other in the regular season. The 10-team Valley plays an eight-game conference schedule, with each team missing out on one other squad.
Out of the seven FCS conferences with at least 10 teams, only the Southwestern Athletic Conference plays a full conference schedule. But that 10-team league plans to drop from nine to seven conference games after this season.
There's always going to be missed games In the 13-team Big Sky Conference - the largest in the FCS. This year, reigning champ Southern Utah won't face perennial power Eastern Washington, which won at least a share of the 2012, '13 and '14 titles.
But this year's missed games in the Big Sky are basically concentrated to 2015 runner-up Portland State, which won't face either Montana school (Montana and Montana State), North Dakota and Northern Arizona, and upstart North Dakota, which won't face Montana and Eastern Washington as well as Portland State.
In CAA Football, Villanova hopes to send out retiring coach Andy Talley with an FCS playoff berth. That possibility is made easier with the Wildcats not facing 2014 champ New Hampshire and 2015 tri-champ William & Mary in the 12-team conference's unbalanced schedule.
Also in the CAA, New Hampshire gets to skip Richmond, one of the tri-champs last year and a national semifinalist. Playoff hopeful Towson will miss the other reigning tri-champ, James Madison.
Most of the top returning teams in the 11-team Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference will face off, with the biggest omission being perennial power South Carolina State not facing North Carolina Central, which is coming off a share of its second straight title.
In the Missouri Valley, Illinois State and North Dakota State will meet in the regular season for the first time since 2013, but Illinois State gets to sub in national power Northern Iowa as the one missed on its schedule.
San Diego will go for a fifth Pioneer Football League title in six seasons and won't face title contenders Jacksonville and Morehead State in the 11-team, coast-to-coast league.
The Southland has done well for an 11-team conference. National power Sam Houston State won't face Southeastern Louisiana, but that's not too bad considering the latter is coming off a 3-8 record after winning conference titles in 2013 and '14.
At least, there are many, many big games throughout the 2016 FCS season.