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College football betting: Best game bets on FCS Week 1 action

Aug 29, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; South Dakota State Jackrabbits running back Pierre Strong Jr. (20) rushes with the ball for a first down in the second half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a brief offseason for those who like to wager on football, as the inaugural spring season of the FCS ushers in more betting options to sift through. The lack of widespread information or knowledge should make this one of the softer betting opportunities as we move through the spring season. 

PFF will be here every step of the way, as we plan to grade every single player on every single play of every FCS game. Although we don’t have much information to work with at this time, our dataset and ability to train models to beat the spread and total will only strengthen as the season progresses. 

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Since we don’t have much information at this time, this article will focus on getting you up to speed for the FCS setup, along with conference details and some takeaways for this weekend’s games. 

CURRENT FCS SETUP

The FCS consists of 10 different conferences, where the winner gets an auto-bid into the 16 team playoff bracket. This has dropped from a previous 24-team bracket, with only six at-large bids available this year. 

Each conference will play an abbreviated schedule, with a four-game minimum requirement to receive a bid into the playoff bracket. 

Some FCS teams continued with a fall schedule, so there are some opt-outs of particular teams, along with one entire conference (Ivy) sitting out the spring season. 

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CONFERENCE DETAILS

Big Sky

The conference will play six conference games, along with a subset playing smaller, non-conference schedules. Weber State and Eastern Washington are contenders for the FCS Championship. Sacramento State will not play this spring season. 

Big South

The conference has five of eight teams participating in the spring schedule. This results in a blend of four conference games and up to four non-conference games for the five teams. The five teams participating are Charleston Southern, Gardner-Webb, Kennesaw State, Monmouth and Robert Morris. Only Kennesaw State has championship odds available at +800, as they look like the clear class of this conference. 

Colonial Athletic Association

Eleven of the conference’s 12 teams will play a six-game conference schedule with up to two non-conference games. This has a two-division structure, and the south division has the majority of non-conference games scheduled due to fewer teams in that division. James Madison and Villanova are the only two schools with listed odds, as the Dukes are the clear favorite to earn the at-large bid from this conference. The rest of the CAA is made up of some of the worst teams in the FCS. Towson will not play this spring season. 

MEAC

The conference made a sudden switch to cancel the spring season. Only three teams are going to attempt to play non-conference games this spring: Delaware State, Howard and South Carolina State. It will not be one of the 10 conferences to have the winner receive an automatic bid. 

Missouri Valley

The Missouri Valley is stacked again, with all 10 teams participating in the spring schedule. This is one of the few that will stick to only a conference schedule until the playoff bracket. North Dakota State is the odds-on favorite to once again win the FCS championship, but South Dakota State and Northern Iowa also have some of the shortest championship odds available. This is the conference to watch for at-large bids, along with some of the best FCS conference action this spring. 

Northeast

The Northeast will play one of the shortest schedules, as only six teams are participating in a four-game conference schedule. It will wrap up with a conference championship game, which will provide the winner a berth to the FCS playoff bracket. Central Connecticut State and St. Francis (PA) will not participate in the spring schedule. 

Ohio Valley

The Ohio Valley has one of the best spring conference setups in the FCS. Eight of the nine teams will play every other team in the conference. No team has championship odds listed, which makes this one of the most wide-open conferences this spring. Eastern Kentucky played a full schedule this fall and will not play in the spring.

Patriot League

Six teams will participate in the Patriot League, which is divided into two three-team divisions. Teams will play each divisional opponent once and have two crossover games for a total of four games apiece. Georgetown made a last minute decision to opt out of the spring schedule. 

Pioneer

The Pioneer had two teams drop and one team added to the conference schedule. Dayton and Marist will not participate, but Presbyterian joins the conference for the 2021 season. They will participate in a six-game conference schedule, with some teams opting for non-conference matchups before it begins. 

SoCon

All nine teams are participating in the eight-game conference schedule. Furman is the only team with listed championship odds and looks like the favorite to secure the conference's automatic bid. Four of the nine teams participated in at least one game this fall, with Mercer, Western Carolina and Citadel all playing at least three. Mercer could be a sneaky betting opportunity given how they performed this fall. 

Southland

Seven of the 11 Southland teams will play a six-game conference schedule. Sam Houston and Nicholls State are the clear favorites to take the conference crown. Abilene Christian, Central Arkansas and Stephen F. Austin all played a full schedule this fall and will not be participating this spring. 

SWAC

Things are in flux for the SWAC after Alcorn State decided to opt out of the season last week. This conference is not going to receive one of the 10 automatic conference winner bids, which makes for some uncertainty if they are going to continue forward with their scheduled spring season.  

Week 1 Matchup Notes

South Dakota State @ Northern Iowa

The game of the week features two teams in the running for the FCS championship. This spread has moved through +3 after a 3.5-point open saw significant backing for Northern Iowa. As one of only three games being played in a dome this weekend, it’s surprising to see this total as the lowest number on the weekend. 

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