Seven debuts to watch in FCS spring season
By CRAIG HALEY
(Stats Perform) - FCS college football hopes to command the Division I spotlight throughout an upcoming spring season, which was necessitated after conferences postponed their fall schedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not all schools are participating in the first spring season, but some "firsts" are set to draw added attention.
Following are seven debuts to watch during the upcoming FCS campaign:
Deion Sanders' first game
Few FCS coaching hires have drawn as much attention as Deion Sanders at Jackson State. A banner crowd might fill Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in a normal season, but a 25 percent restriction on capacity still won't limit the excitement on Feb. 21 when the Tigers kick off their spring season against Edward Waters in the W.C. Gorden Classic.
Division I newbies
Tarleton and Dixie State will play their inaugural Division I season as FCS independents. Tarleton, located in Stephenville, Texas, is set to host McNeese on Feb. 13 in the first game of the spring season. Dixie State, located in St. George, Utah, will began play at Tarleton on Feb. 27.
Zeb Noland takes over
The 2019 Iowa State transfer will make his first start for three-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State on Feb. 21 against Youngstown State. No pressure, right? Noland appeared in eight Bison games in 2019 behind Stats Perform Walter Payton and Jerry Rice award recipient Trey Lance, a first-round prospect for this year's NFL Draft.
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!
The Jackson State and North Dakota State season openers are scheduled for a Sunday. While those schools don't have other Sunday games scheduled after that date, the Ohio Valley and Northeast conferences will regularly play on Sundays - the OVC beginning on Feb. 21 and the NEC on March 7 - and the FCS championship game is scheduled for May 16 in Frisco, Texas (OK, so maybe NDSU will have another Sunday game).
Beau Baldwin is back
The 2010 national championship-winning coach at Eastern Washington is back on the FCS level and in the Big Sky Conference at Cal Poly. He's ready to change the offensive dynamic with the Mustangs, who are tentatively scheduled to open the season on Feb. 27 by hosting Southern Utah.
On the move
Presbyterian is joining the Pioneer Football League schedule and Robert Morris the Big South schedule sooner than expected (it was originally planned for this fall). Presbyterian has quite the debut on March 13, welcoming in a San Diego program that has won 37 straight PFL games. That same day, RMU will host defending Big South champ Monmouth.
The unique spring season has led to the MEAC celebrating its 50th anniversary season and the Northeast Conference its 25th anniversary season with championship games. The Patriot League also will have a championship game. All three games will be held over the April 17 weekend, with the winners advancing to the FCS playoffs.
Updated January 19, 2021