Every year, like throwing inadequately armed prisoners into the Roman Colosseum only to be mauled by hungry lions, FCS football programs are fed to D1 powerhouses all across the country.
Although these matchups are still very common, for some conferences these guarantee games are being phased out. Unless you are in the SEC of course, a conference known for scheduling FCS schools late in the season in order to protect records. However, that is neither here nor there.
In regards to Nebraska and the rest of the Big Ten Conference, they have been uniformly moving away from scheduling FCS opponents. This is due in large part to Big Ten Commissioner, Jim Delaney strongly urging that teams schedule more suitable opponents to enhance the product for television. There are exceptions to this unofficial mandate, but for the most part, FCS games have been eliminated.
What does this mean for Nebraska? Well for starters, instead of seeing the Huskers square off against a hypothetical Western Illinois team on September 2nd, we will see a much more suitable FBS opponent in Arkansas State. A squad coming off an 8-5 season, Sun Belt Conference Championship and a bowl win against UCF. Are they world beaters? Absolutely not, but don’t sleep on them either. Remember, Nebraska favored by nearly 25 points, lost to Purdue in 2014. That said, I am by no means suggesting that Arkansas State will escape with a win against the Huskers. Just don’t be surprised if ASU hangs around for a little while before Nebraska’s talent separates itself from the Red Wolves.
Currently, Nebraska is a 16.5 point favorite over ASU. While that spread is encouraging and very likely. Nebraska will have a new quarterback at the helm, a defensive concept that is very different from years past and the obvious first game kinks to workout.
The combination of all these factors will lead to a very informative season opener. Many questions will be answered in the first game of the season as opposed to the second or third. The following week Nebraska will march into Autzen stadium to take on the Oregon Ducks.
Before the Ducks play host to the Huskers, Oregon will open their season with Southern Utah. An FCS school that managed to win only six games last year. Needless to say Nebraska will be the more seasoned team going into their first big test of the year.