AP Photo
August 30, 2016
AP Photo

(STATS) - The new FCS season already suggests it will have its share of twists and turns.

All it took was one game - top-ranked North Dakota State being pushed to overtime by Charleston Southern in the FCS Kickoff last Saturday - to remind FCS nation how the season will be a roller coaster ride.

NDSU quarterback Easton Stick may have improved to 9-0 as a starter, but the tight opener served as a reminder that, yes, the five-time reigning FCS champion Bison are replacing some key players, none bigger than the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Carson Wentz.

The FCS keeps hosting an NDSU coronation in early January in Frisco, Texas, but the dynasty has to end at some point. All 125 FCS teams are ready to make the 2016 season memorable, and the first full weekend of action kicks off Thursday night.

Nothing trumps the conference schedule during the regular season, and the interesting factor in many of the FCS races is the team picked to win the conference in its preseason poll will be going on the road against the team picked second, including North Dakota State in the Missouri Valley (Northern Iowa) and Charleston Southern in the Big South (Liberty).

It's never an easy assignment. In the MEAC, preseason choice North Carolina A&T has to play at the two teams with whom it shared last year's conference title, Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina Central. It's the same in the Ivy League, with Harvard heading to Penn and Dartmouth.

Also, Richmond is visiting William & Mary in CAA Football, Jacksonville State goes to Eastern Kentucky in the Ohio Valley Conference, Colgate is at Fordham in the Patriot League and Chattanooga visits The Citadel in the Southern Conference.

Add in that teams emerge in the conference races that few foresee coming, such as champion Southern Utah and Portland State in the Big Sky and co-champion The Citadel in the Southern Conference last year, and the title races usually get crowded.

While a wealth of talent returns this season, nearly two-thirds of the players who were selected as their conference's 2015 offensive and defensive players of the year aren't. Many new standouts must emerge.

Injuries could play as big a factor as any other this season. Last year, they hit hardest to title contenders in CAA Football, where quarterbacks John Robertson of Villanova (the 2014 FCS offensive player of the year) and Vad Lee of James Madison were lost to season-ending injuries.

The unforeseen has already hit North Dakota State as All-America linebacker Nick DeLuca suffered a separated shoulder in the FCS Kickoff. The Bison hope it won't have a long-term effect.

It's FCS season again - fun, crazy and superb.

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