FCS vs. FBS Upsets: Full List of FCS Upsets Since 2012

min read
FCS/FBS college football games result in annual upsets, despite a big resource discrepancy.
(AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Apr 02, 2024, 1:19 PM
  • FBS teams have far more resources than their FCS counterparts.
  • The Big Sky conference has sprung the most FCS/FBS upsets since 2012.
  • North Dakota State had scored six straight FCS/FBS upsets until it lost at Arizona in 2022.

One of the most fun corners of the college football odds market is the annual run of FCS vs. FBS matchups. 

FBS teams enjoy unique advantages over their FCS counterparts. The games are nearly always at home, and in most cases, they have far more resources at their disposal.

Nevertheless, there are always a few cases each year where an FCS team jumps up and beats an FBS opponent in spite of the advantages in their favor. 

In 2023, there were four FCS-over-FBS upsets.

What Is FCS and FBS?

FBS and FCS are the modern names for the two subdivisions of Division I college football – the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Football Championship Subdivision, respectively.

FCS, which used to be called D1-AA prior to 2006, plays a 24-team playoff to decide its champion at the end of every season. 

Unlike FBS, which currently plays bowl games and a 4-team playoff invitational, the FCS postseason results are officially recognized by the NCAA.

What is the Difference Between FCS and FBS?

The primary difference between the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) is the number of scholarships – FBS schools play with up to 85 total scholarship players, while FCS programs are capped at 63 scholarships. 

The resource gap is a huge reason why FBS teams are typically huge favorites in the online sports betting market.

How Many FBS Teams Have Lost to FCS Teams This Season?

Four FBS teams lost to FCS schools during the 2023 college football season: Northern Illinois, Buffalo, Nevada, and Stanford.

FCS vs. FBS Upsets: Full List of FCS Upsets Since 2012

DateFCS WinnerFBS LoserFinal Score
9/16/2023Sacramento StateStanford30-23
9/9/2023Southern IllinoisNorthern Illinois14-11
9/24/2022Sacramento StateColorado State41-10
9/17/2022Southern IllinoisNorthwestern31-24
9/10/2022Weber StateUtah State35-7
9/10/2022Holy CrossBuffalo37-31
9/10/2022Eastern KentuckyBowling Green59-57, 7OT
9/2/2022William & MaryCharlotte41-24
11/06/2021Rhode IslandUMass35-22
9/18/2021Northern ArizonaArizona21-19
9/18/2021UIWTexas State42-34
9/11/2021Jacksonville StateFlorida State20-17
9/4/2021East Tennessee StateVanderbilt23-3
9/4/2021MontanaNo. 20 Washington13-7
9/4/2021Holy CrossUConn38-28
9/3/2021South Dakota StateColorado State42-23
9/2/2021Eastern WashingtonUNLV35-33, 2OT
9/2/2021UC DavisTulsa19-17
2/21/2021Tarleton StateNew Mexico State43-17
10/23/2020Jacksonville StateFlorida International19-10
9/14/2019The CitadelGeorgia Tech27-24, OT
9/7/2019Southern IllinoisUMass45-20
8/29/2019Central ArkansasWestern Kentucky35-28
9/22/2018Illinois StateColorado State35-19
9/8/2018MaineWestern Kentucky31-28
9/2/2018North Carolina A&TEast Carolina28-23
9/1/2018Northern ArizonaUTEP30-10
9/1/2018Nicholls StateKansas26-23, OT
8/30/2018UC DavisSan Jose State44-38
9/23/2017Western IllinoisCoastal Carolina52-10
9/16/2017North Carolina A&TCharlotte35-31
9/16/2017Idaho StateNevada30-28
9/9/2017South DakotaBowling Green35-27
9/9/2017New HampshireGeorgia Southern22-12
9/2/2017James MadisonEast Carolina34-14
8/31/2017Tennessee StateGeorgia State17-10
9/24/2016Western IllinoisNorthern Illinois28-23
9/24/2016Central ArkansasArkansas State28-23
9/17/2016North Dakota StateIowa23-21
9/10/2016North Carolina A&TKent State39-36, 4OT
9/10/2016Illinois StateNorthwestern9-7
9/10/2016Eastern IllinoisMiami (OH)21-17
9/3/2016Northern IowaIowa State25-20
9/3/2016Eastern WashingtonWashington State45-42
11/21/2015The CitadelSouth Carolina23-22
10/10/2015Portland StateNorth Texas66-7
10/3/2015LibertyGeorgia State41-33
9/26/2015James MadisonSMU48-45
9/5/2015South Dakota StateKansas41-38
9/5/2015Portland StateWashington State24-17
9/5/2015North DakotaWyoming24-13
10/11/2014LibertyAppalachian State55-48, OT
9/27/2014YaleArmy49-43, OT
9/20/2014Northwestern StateLouisiana Tech30-27
9/13/2014Indiana StateBall State27-20
9/13/2014Abilene ChristianTroy38-35
9/6/2014Eastern KentuckyMiami (OH)17-10
8/30/2014North Dakota StateIowa State34-14
8/30/2014Bethune-CookmanFlorida International14-12
11/23/2013Georgia SouthernFlorida26-20
11/9/2013Old DominionIdaho59-38
9/21/2013Jacksonville StateGeorgia State32-26, OT
9/14/2013Bethune-CookmanFlorida International34-13
9/7/2013Nicholls StateWestern Michigan27-23
9/7/2013ChattanoogaGeorgia State42-14
8/31/2013Northern IowaIowa State28-20
8/31/2013McNeese StateSouth Florida53-21
8/31/2013Eastern WashingtonOregon State49-46
8/31/2013Eastern IllinoisSan Diego State40-19
8/30/2013SamfordGeorgia State31-21
8/30/2013North Dakota StateKansas State24-21
8/29/2013Southern UtahSouth Alabama22-21
9/29/2012Stony BrookArmy23-3
9/15/2012Cal PolyWyoming24-22
9/8/2012Sacramento StateColorado30-28
9/8/2012Northern ArizonaUNLV17-14
9/8/2012North Dakota StateColorado State22-7
9/8/2012Illinois StateEastern Michigan31-14
9/1/2012Youngstown StatePitt31-17
8/30/2012McNeese StateMiddle Tennessee27-21
8/30/2012Eastern WashingtonIdaho20-3

Which FCS Conference Wins the Most FBS Games?

Since the start of the 2012 season, the Big Sky has scored 21 FCS-over-FBS upsets – more than any other FCS conference.


North Dakota State gets its own special category in the FCS upsets conversation.

The Bison, who have won nine of the last 11 FCS national championships, have made a habit of regularly taking checks from FBS teams and beating them.

In fact, until NDSU’s loss to Arizona on Sept. 18, 2022, the Bison had a six-game winning streak against FBS teams that dated back to 2010. 

North Dakota State was so successful against P5 schools that athletic directors simply refused to schedule games with them. 

That’s why Arizona’s win over the Bison was technically considered an upset – NDSU’s reputation for beating FBS schools is so engrained in the college football betting market that the Bison were actually short road favorites.

All that sort of begs an obvious question… if North Dakota State is that dominant, why don’t they just move up to FBS?

Why Isn’t NDSU in the FBS?

The simple answer is that 99 percent of schools need an invite from an FBS conference to move up to FBS football, and North Dakota State hasn’t received one.

The more complicated answer involves geography. Fargo is in a remote corner of the country with no real FBS geographic footprint nearby. North Dakota State’s best options would be either the MAC or the Mountain West.

The MAC is a crappy conference that’s moderately far away; the Mountain West is a good conference and good fit, but some schools are thousands of miles away from Fargo.

Compare NDSU’s poor geographic luck to its chief national rival, James Madison. The Dukes were a perfect fit for a newly regionalized Sun Belt, with its entire eastern division falling in Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia and the Carolinas.

NDSU plays football like FBS school, but crafting an actual path to an FBS landing spot is extremely tricky for the Bison – a cause for escalating concern in Fargo.

FCS Football Betting

If you’re looking for more insight into how to bet FCS football games – and, more specifically, FCS/FBS upsets – make sure to check out this podcast episode with FCS expert Sam Herder and myself.

Listen to “Chase Kiddy Chats FCS Betting + Week 2 Recap, Week 3 Top Games” on Spreaker.

Herder is the host of FCS Football Talk, and he invited me on in 2022 for a lengthy discussion on why FCS games can be so lucrative – if hard to find – in the larger college football odds market.

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.