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With most teams only playing an 11-game schedule, there are only 13 chances for the OVC this year to notch a win over FBS opposition. But, statistically, that means one team should get a win, as FBS teams all-time only win 82% of games against FCS opponents. Who has the best chance? We’ve ranked the odds of all 13.

Sagarin rankings and records are from the 2015 season. Sagarin ranks all Division I teams, including FCS teams.

 

#13: Tennessee Tech at Tennessee (Nov. 5th)

TTU: 4-7 in 2015, 203rd Sagarin
UT: 9-4, 10th
Sagarin

The Volunteers are a trendy pick to win a national title. Tennessee Tech…is not. It’s late in the season — meaning the Volunteers are likely going to be playing at their peak, unlike some of the early September games. This has 67-3 written all over it.

#12: Austin Peay at Kentucky (Nov. 19th)

AP: 0-11, 238th Sagarin
UK: 6-7, 81st Sagarin

Kentucky isn’t exactly expected to be world beaters this year, but they’re a competitive SEC school many are expecting to head to a bowl game this year. Last year, EKU gave the Wildcats a scare, but the year before the ‘Cats pounded on UT Martin. For a team with a new coach and a new system, this is a tough way to start the year.

Last year, EKU gave the Wildcats a scare…

#11: UT Martin at Cincinnati (Sept. 1st)

UTM: 7-4, 137th Sagarin
UC: 7-6, 75th Sagarin

The Bearcats have struggled with Miami (OH) in September each of the past two years (which is essentially a FCS team in an FBS conference) but UC has won nine or more games four of the last five years — they might have extended the streak another year if not for a -18 turnover margin. Athlon has the Bearcats as the fourth best team in the American this year. They could be a lot for a young UT Martin team to handle in Week 1.

 

#10: Tennessee State at Vanderbilt (Oct. 22nd)

TSU: 4-6, 205th Sagarin
Vandy: 4-8, 82nd Sagarin

We’re already to the point in the rankings where I can make a case that a game might be close. Vanderbilt, somehow, was picked to finish fifth in the SEC West at SEC Media Days, which kind of seems hard to believe given their lack of success under Derek Mason. (Two intrepid reporters even gave them first place votes.)  I hope TSU fans show up across town en masse, which could also provide a boost, but there are too many questions surrounding the Tigers to boost their odds of an upset higher in our list.

 

For a small school, Troy has never lost (14-0) against FCS schools since their move to FBS. Even more impressive: The Trojans went 4-3 against the FBS while in the FCS.

For a small school, Troy has never lost (14-0) against FCS schools since their move to FBS. Even more impressive: The Trojans went 4-3 against the FBS while in the FCS.

#9: Austin Peay at Troy (Sept. 3rd)

AP: 0-11, 238th Sagarin
Troy: 4-8, 110th Sagarin

Putting this game at ninth is mostly reliant on one prediction: Austin Peay will be ‘competitive’ this year. I’m not talking about competing to win the conference, but just generally competitive against FCS-level opposition. Troy was picked 5th in the Sun Belt preseason poll, so they’re expected to be a team on the rise.

 

#8: Southeast Missouri at Memphis (Sept. 3rd)

SEMO: 4-7, 167th Sagarin
MEM: 9-4, 41st Sagarin

After two of the best years in recent memory, some are expecting a return to mid-pack for the Tigers. They have a new coach this year Mike Norvell, and Athlon has Memphis ranked 83rd overall (of 128 FBS teams) in their preseason rankings — yikes. (College Insider was only slightly nicer, ranking them 76th) SEMO is expected to be better this year, and they get Memphis in Week 1, while they’re still working out the bugs.

#7: Jacksonville State at LSU (Sept. 10th)

JSU: 13-2, 79th Sagarin
LSU: 9-3, 13th Sagarin

If JSU was playing almost anyone else, they probably would have topped this list. They’re the best team in the OVC and could easily compete with two dozen FBS schools. But LSU? College Insider has them as their pick to win the National Title. Athlon has them at No. 9. They’re going to be a top-10 team this year. Are they impossible to beat? No. But even with JSU’s talent, they’re going to be big underdogs in the Bayou.

If JSU was playing almost anyone else, they probably would have topped this list.

#6: Murray State at Illinois (Sept. 3rd)

MURR: 3-8, 202nd Sagarin
Ill: 5-7, 71st Sagarin

Illinois isn’t exactly a school known for it’s football program. (Whether it’s still known for it’s basketball program is highly debatable) But last year, the Illini fell just one win short of a bowl game in their first year under new head coach Bill Cubit, led a defense ranked in the top-25 in points allowed. Given Murray is likely, still, a bit of a one-trick pony, that doesn’t bode especially well for the Racers.

 

#5: UT Martin at Georgia State (Oct. 22nd)

UTM: 7-4, 137th Sagarin
G.ST: 6-7, 117th Sagarin

For most teams in the FBS, 6-7 isn’t a great season. For a team just in their third year as and FBS member, and that started the season 2-7, it’s something worth celebrating. The Panthers are expected to compete possibly for a Sun Belt title this year, thanks in large part to 16 returning starters from a year ago. This is a good time to remind you: UTM doesn’t have a lot of experienced guys returning, including looking for a starter in the all-important position of quarterback.

 

Under an NCAA Bylaw (17.28.2) teams that play at Hawaii are allowed to play an extra game that season

Under an NCAA Bylaw (17.28.2) teams that play at Hawaii are allowed to play an extra game that season

#4: UT Martin at Hawaii (Sept. 10th)

UTM: 7-4, 137th Sagarin
Hawaii: 3-10, 166th Sagarin

This is an interesting case — the numbers are in UT Martin’s favor here, but there’s a reason the NCAA grants a 12th game to FCS teams that make the trip out there: No one wants to. For the Skyhawks, it will be the second straight game against an FBS program, and the sharp time change has been known to be a bit of a factor on the mainland. (See seemingly every west coast team sent to play a Noon game on the East coast.) It’s an 11 p.m. kickoff in central time. It also isn’t helpful that the Rainbow Warriors return almost every starter on offense, and will likely be better than a three-win team.

 

#3: Eastern Kentucky at Purdue (Sept. 3rd)

EKU: 6-5, 142nd Sagarin
Purdue 2-10, 104th Sagarin

It’s almost shocking that Purdue has never lost to an FCS opponent: despite just one winning season in the last eight years, the Boilermakers are 9-0 all-time against teams from the lower half of Division I. Maybe that means they’re due? Athlon doesn’t have a lot of great things to say about the Boilermakers, and pegs them as a four-win team, and possibly in the market for a new coach this winter. EKU could speed up that process with an early upset.

 

#2: Eastern Illinois at Miami (Ohio) (Sept. 10th)

EIU: 7-5, 135th Sagarin
M(OH): 3-9, 162nd Sagarin

Speaking of FBS teams with a recent history of struggling…when you’ve gone to exactly one bowl game since 2005, you’re somewhat of a marked team. The Redhawks lost to EKU back in 2014…and are hoping to avoid a similar fate to the Panthers. The offense is sophomore heavy (although last year it was freshman heavy, so that’s in improvement) but the Redhawks are still expected to finish in the bottom half of the MAC. A good game by the Panthers could have Miami University on their heels.

 

EKU coach Mark Elder hopes to change the school's fortunes against FBS opponents. The Colonels are 6-22 all time, but haven't won since 1985 (vs Louisville)

EKU coach Mark Elder hopes to lead the Colonels back to the top of the conference.

#1: Eastern Kentucky at Ball State (Sept. 17th)

EKU: 6-5, 142nd Sagarin
B. ST: 3-9, 130th Sagarin

Ball State is one of the worst teams, historically, against FCS opponents. In fact, only 10 teams have more losses against FCS opponents. (Ball State is 18-9 all-time) That being said, their last loss came against Liberty in 2010, so they’ve reversed their fortunes as of late. Last year, the Cardinals never settled on a QB — and that probably contributed to their having a new head coach this season. EKU is expected to have a lot of firepower on offense this year, it’s a (relatively) short trip for fans, and could be the conference’s best chance of walking away with an FCS win.


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OVC Ball
Predicting the OVC race…in mid-December

2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVCOverall

EAST

Belmont8-014-4
Morehead State6-310-12
Tennessee Tech5-39-14
Jacksonville State5-413-11
Tennessee State4-413-8
Eastern Kentucky2-69-14

WEST

UT Martin5-315-8
Murray State5-311-11
SEMO5-310-13
Austin Peay3-57-15
Eastern Illinois1-79-12
SIUE0-85-17
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