Matchups between FCS conferences will heat up

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(STATS) - Conference play is usually the most brutal part of a team's schedule, but some rival leagues bring a little extra dose of intensity to their early season matchups.

Highly anticipated games between the Big Sky and Missouri Valley conferences have popped up with frequency on the FCS calendar, but those two power leagues aren't involved in the most-played interconference series.

With many of their matchups involving just a short drive, the Ivy and Patriot leagues continue to set the standard with heated matchups. Their teams met 14 times last season, with Patriot League teams claiming eight wins, and they'll meet another 12 times in 2017. Over the last six seasons, the two academically elite conferences have squared off 90 times with results deadlocked.

All of the teams are involved this year except Ivy League member Brown, while all three Yale non-league games are against Patriot opponents. In a spotlight game, Penn, which has won a share of the last two Ivy titles, will visit defending Patriot champ Lehigh on Sept. 23.

The Big Sky and Missouri Valley will square off eight times in the regular season and each matchup involves at least one team that was nationally ranked last year. While a Missouri Valley team has played in the FCS national championship game for six consecutive years, the Big Sky had the better regular-season record - 4-3 - in their interconference matchups.

This year's highlights include Cal Poly-Northern Iowa, South Dakota State-Montana State, North Dakota-South Dakota, Western Illinois-Northern Arizona and the return matchup between two of last year's national semifinalists, North Dakota State at Eastern Washington. NDSU won 50-44 in overtime when they met in Fargo in September.

CAA Football and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southland and Southwestern Athletic conferences have six matchups this season, tying for the third-most between conferences.

Among the 13 FCS conferences, the Big South is making the rounds the most. It has interconference matchups against 10 other leagues - all but the Ivy League and SWAC.

The Pioneer Football League and Northeast and Ohio Valley conferences are all facing eight other conferences. The CAA and Patriot League are at seven each.