The Gold Mine That is the FCS
There’s a simple rule in sports betting that the less attention a team or conference gets, the bigger the opportunity for the bettor. The same holds true in the stock market when researching underfollowed small cap stocks versus the popular large caps. It’s just much easier to succeed when there are fewer competitors in the space. The Football Championship Subdivision, or the FCS, fits this mold well. Relatively few people closely follow the FCS on a regular basis. Most of the games aren’t televised and the media coverage is sparse. From a betting standpoint, the FCS is mostly ignored as well. Most of the time, you can’t find a betting line on an FCS game. But there are exceptions, and that’s where the big opportunities can present themselves.
There are two primary cases in which the FCS becomes an option for bettors. The first is when an FCS school goes up against a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school. These matchups usually take place earlier on in the season. The other situation in which you can find action is during the FCS playoffs. In both cases, the betting limits aren’t very big. But that should be a clue – big edges can be found. And if you have enough solid outs, you can still get down a decent-sized wager.
FCS schools have been bridging the talent gap to the FBS over the last couple of decades. Every year they seemingly take a step forward. Take a look at some of these efforts from FCS schools in recent years:
- Appalachian St. 34, Michigan 32 (2007)
- James Madison 21, Virginia Tech 16 (2010)
- The Citadel 23, South Carolina 22 (2015)
- North Dakota St. 23, Iowa 21 (2016)
- Howard 43, UNLV 40 (2017)
These were all huge upsets for FCS teams but none topped Howard’s win over UNLV as a 45-point underdog. Could this have been predicted? Certainly not. But a little research on Howard could have uncovered that they were better than the linesmakers projected and could give a mediocre UNLV team some problems.
I think we’ll continue to see FCS schools giving FBS schools scares into the future. It’s simply the way the world works. The talent and skill gaps are constantly narrowing. As bettors, finding those teams that can hang with their FBS counterparts is not as hard as it may appear. Sportsbooks notoriously do a horrible job in setting the opening lines for games featuring FCS teams. They don’t do very much homework on the FCS and it clearly shows. If you watch the screen, you will routinely witness point spreads moving by six or seven points in games featuring FCS teams. They essentially just set the limits very low and let the wiseguys sharpen the line (they’re called sharps for a reason!). What should you be looking for as a bettor? Just a little bit of home work on FCS schools goes a long way in finding these edges. Start with the FCS preseason top 25 and read what you can find online for teams that will face an FBS opponent. You’re not going to find a ton but it’s a start. Phil Steele puts out an online FCS magazine that has some key data as well. You can find scores from recent seasons, returning starters data, head coaching histories and a lot more. They key is to identify teams that have a chance to hang with an FBS opponent. They will typically be stocked with upperclassmen and have a quarterback that is capable of putting up some decent numbers.
Let’s take a look at some early season August matchups featuring FCS teams.
|Saturday, August 26th||Duquesne||UMass|
|Thursday, August 30th||UC Davis||San Jose St.|
|Central Connecticut||Ball St.|
|Kennesaw St.||Georgia St.|
|Missouri St.||Oklahoma St.|
|Southeastern Louisiana||UL Monroe|
|Northwestern St.||Texas A&M|
|Friday, August 31st||Monmouth||Eastern Michigan|
Note that every FCS team is on the road, which is overwhelmingly the case when facing an FBS opponent. FCS schools are usually paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to play in these games. They are meant to be a tune-up of sorts for FBS schools early in the season. They also get teams one win closer to bowl eligibility. As we’ve seen in past seasons, not every FBS team takes these games seriously and it can lead to some profitable opportunities for bettors. On the flip side, there are some FCS schools that are ill-equipped to square off against teams in another league. Younger teams with few returning starters often struggle against FBS opponents, especially if they take place in Week 1.
Any work you do on the FCS will be more than 99.9% of bettors do. The competition will be sparse. There are also typically around a hundred matchups featuring FCS vs. FBS schools each season. Roughly 30 of those matchups will feature betting lines that move by more than three full points. You might not enjoy reading about teams and players you aren’t familiar with, but it will likely pay off in the end. And the money you make betting FCS games spends the exact same as money made everywhere else.