If the Montana-Appalachian State showdown lives up to what so many people think it could be Saturday, the NCAA selection committee should reward the losing team come Selection Sunday on Nov. 18.
This is a dream matchup of intersectional national powers, anticipated for years, the kind not seen often in the FCS, or college football, for that matter.
With Appalachian State ranked No. 11 nationally and Montana at No. 12, it's not quite a No. 1-versus-2 matchup, as it could have been in the past. But it's huge nonetheless.
Appalachian State won three straight national titles from 2005-07 and Montana has an even more storied championship game history, with seven appearances, including national titles in 1995 and 2001.
For these teams to schedule this game at Appalachian State - with a return game at Montana next year - the winning team should not be the only one to gain from it if it's a close game, maybe even a classic.
Of course, each team would have to hold its own in its conference season for it to be a playoff team. Then the selection committee would have a chance to make an example of how higher scheduling should be favored over teams ducking tougher competition, as, say, CAA Football power Delaware is doing this season with a non-conference slate of Division II West Chester, Delaware State from the MEAC and Bucknell of the Patriot League.
"Do you go plan games that are not very challenging (and) you know you're going to win?" Montana coach Mick Delaney said. "I'm not a big fan of that. I think you need to found out where you're at as early as you can and play as good an opponent as is possible.
"When you're playing a team that you very possibly could play again in the playoffs, I'm not so sure about that one. But that's what it is, and it's going to be a great atmosphere and a great FCS football game."
"I think it's a great matchup. I've told our players this year (that) our schedule is very much like a Big Ten, Pac-12, Southeast Conference (team)," said Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore, whose team is coming off a loss to FBS member East Carolina.
"I like competitive football. It's my nature."
There are competitive series on the horizon, especially involving Big Sky and Southland schools. Maybe there's just not enough of them east of the Mississippi River.
North Dakota State, the reigning FCS champion, will play Montana State next year, then face Montana in 2014 and '15.
Montana State hosts Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 15, and there's a return game in Nacogdoches, Texas, next year.
Sam Houston State and Eastern Washington have a series in 2013 and '14.
McNeese State, which has a home-and-home series with Weber State over the next two seasons, will play Appalachian State in 2014 and' 15, and Montana in 2016 and '17.
Matchups like Central Arkansas-Murray State and Chattanooga-Jacksonville State this week are risky games just like Montana-Appalachian State, but on a lesser scale. Yet they're just as necessary.
This past Sunday's Alabama State/Bethune-Cookman game on ESPN was similar as the MEAC-SWAC Challenge continued to be a highlight on the FCS' opening weekend.
Perhaps other conferences, and it's been kicked around by CAA Football, could benefit from matching up a top team against another power conference in the national spotlight (hello, NBC Sports Network).
Schools, of course, try not to "over-schedule," take on too many tough games before conference play. But in 2012 and '13, the NCAA is allowing FCS schools to play 12 games instead of the usual 11, so it's easier to have a riskier game.
The Appalachian State-Montana home-and-home started to take shape during the Mountaineers' three-year run of national title when athletic director Charlie Cobb eyed scheduling his program against championship-level teams. Montana saw fit to it and the contracts were signed in 2009.
"It certainly seems to be doing what you would like to do," Delaney said, "and that is calling a lot of attention to both quality programs."
Hopefully, other schools are taking note of it.
WHAT WE KNOW, WHAT WE THINK WE KNOW
The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at http://tinyurl.com/88q2k7t.
Also, once again this season, In the FCS Huddle is projecting the potential FCS playoff field. The projections are a long-range look at the season - not based off current records or rankings - and can be found at http://www.sportsnetwork.com/fcs/FCS_Bracket.pdf.
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME TICKETS
Tickets for the 2013 NCAA Division I Football Championship Game on Jan. 5 at the 20,086-seat FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas, can be purchased online at www.ncaa.com/fcs for two seating locations: midfield ($35) and sideline ($30).
Groups of 15 or more or those interested in purchasing suites or in other private seating areas can call (469) 365-0000 for more details. Accessible seating must be purchased at the FC Dallas Stadium box office or by calling the same number.
The 20-team playoff bracket will be announced Nov. 18.
AROUND THE NATION
Big Sky: Talk about an interesting end to his career. Running back Deonte Williams was the 2008 Big Sky newcomer of the year at Northern Arizona, left after one season, played one year at Sierra College, transferred to Cal Poly and now is ending his career in the Big Sky. He rushed for 109 yards and caught a touchdown in the Mustangs' season-opening win over San Diego ... Idaho State's Rodrick Rumble, who had 112 receptions last season, is expected to be unavailable again on Saturday against Black Hill State because of a lingering injury from preseason camp. He could return versus Nebraska (Sept. 22) or Sacramento State (Sept. 29) ... Yeah, Eastern Washington and Washington State were probably due to get together. They will meet Saturday in Pullman for the first time since 1908.
Big South: Inconsistent Coastal Carolina quarterback Aramis Hillary hopes he has settled into a groove in his third season as the Chanticleers' starter. He rushed for two touchdowns, threw for another and operated the offense well in a Week 1 win over North Carolina A&T. Up next is a tough road test at Furman ... Stony Brook senior Miguel Maysonet needs to rush for 68 yards to reach 3,000 in his career. Former Liberty back Rashad Jennings, who is starting for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, is the Big South's all-time leader with 3,633 yards.
CAA Football: New Richmond coach Danny Rocco, the former Liberty mentor, will take on some familiar foes from the Big South in the next two weeks: Gardner- Webb on Saturday and VMI on Sept. 15 ... While Rhode Island heads to Monmouth and 4,600-seat Kessler Field on Saturday, Georgia State visits Tennessee and 102,455-seat Neyland Stadium.
Ivy: One of the league's more dynamic players, Yale wide receiver and kickoff return Chris Smith, will sit out the upcoming season for what first-year coach Tony Reno said is "personal issues." Smith is expected to return to school next fall and rejoin the football program ... One returning player expected to have an impact on this year's league race is Brown quarterback Patrick Donnelly, who will help the Bears' ever-evolving offensive style return more to a running game. He often ran out of the Wildcat in 2010, but was injured last season.
MEAC: The NCAA-imposed sanctions on Howard for improper use of textbook allowances will keep quarterback Greg McGhee sidelined through the next two games, but All-America linebacker Keith Pough will return to the lineup Saturday against Rutgers ... Appalachian State-Montana aside, it's hard to find a more meaningful FCS game this week than Bethune-Cookman at South Carolina State. Both teams are coming off impressive wins in the first week of the season. The winner would join defending champ Norfolk State in the early driver's seat ... Speaking of the Spartans, senior linebacker Jamal Giddens tied with the national high in Week 1 with 4.5 tackles for loss, and teammates Lynden Trail, Deon King and Eric Hitch weren't far behind with three each.
Missouri Valley: North Dakota State visits Colorado State on Saturday. The Bison were 6-0 on the road last season, including a win at FBS Minnesota. In fact, they are 5-3 against the FBS since joining the FCS in 2006 ... The NDSU- Colorado State game is one of six first-ever matchups for Valley teams this week ... As Southern Illinois looks to rebound this season, the Salukis offense showed excellent signs in a loss to Eastern Illinois, with Iowa transfer Mika'il McCall (three touchdowns) a running and receiving threat out of the backfield for quarterback Kory Faulkner.
Northeast: No NEC team is prepping for conference play quite like Central Connecticut State. The Blue Devils are coming off a 49-17 loss to No. 17 Stony Brook and still have to face No. 16 Lehigh on Saturday and visit No. 14 New Hampshire on Sept. 15 ... NEC teams were 1-8 in season-opening action, with Albany the lone winner. The Great Danes' visit to Robert Morris in the NEC opener for both teams matches the conference's first two FCS playoff representatives.
Ohio Valley: The OVC is the place to be for terrific FCS non-conference matchups on Saturday. No. 24 Jacksonville State hosts Chattanooga from the Southern Conference, Murray State entertains No. 25 Central Arkansas from the Southland Conference and Tennessee State plays Jackson State from the SWAC in the 23rd annual Southern Heritage Classic at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn. The OVC trio all lost the last meetings in those series ... It's one thing for nerves to create some undisciplined play in a season opener, but Tennessee State committed 20 penalties for 178 yards in its 17-14 win over Florida A&M. Huh?
Patriot: Georgetown quarterback Isaiah Kempf won't play against Wagner because of the concussion he suffered during the first series against Davidson ... Colgate will try to avoid its first 0-2 start since 2002 when it visits South Dakota. It's the farthest west a Patriot League team has played since Holy Cross went to San Diego in 2003 ... A big game against Central Connecticut State would get Lehigh senior Ryan Spadola, the FCS' active career leader with 2,871 receiving yards, to the 3,000-yard plateau.
Pioneer: Defending co-champion Drake puts an 11-game home winning streak in front of No. 4 Montana State and sixth-year coach Rob Ash, who spent 18 seasons roaming the sidelines at Drake from 1989-2006 as the Bulldogs' head coach. The winningest coach in Drake history went 125-63-2 and won four PFL titles. Since 2008, Drake is 21-3 at home under coach Chris Creighton ... Drake joins Morehead State (No. 21 Eastern Kentucky) and Valparaiso (No. 6 Youngstown State) as non-scholarship PFL teams taking on nationally ranked opponents in Week 2.
SoCon: Would the conference race ever open up if The Citadel upsets No. 3 Georgia Southern at home Saturday. The Bulldogs almost beat GSU last season, falling, 14-12, in Statesboro, Ga. ... It would reason that Elon senior receiver Aaron Mellette will get back on track against North Carolina Central after the least productive outing (two catches for nine yards against North Carolina) since his freshman season. Last year, Elon quarterback Thomas Wilson threw for 416 yards against N.C. Central.
Southland: After Nicholls' opener was postponed by aborted travel following Hurricane Isaac, the Colonels head to South Alabama for their first game. They have shaken up the offense, with three-year starting quarterback LaQuinton Caston moving to wide receiver, Landry Klann and Beaux Hebert expecting to share time under center, and running backs Jesse Turner and Marcus Washington sharing carries ... McNeese State hosts Division I McMurry on Saturday. The Cowboys have a 19-0 all-time record against non-Division I competition.
SWAC: Double trouble: Not only does Grambling State feature running back Dawrence Roberts, the conference's preseason offensive player of the year, but aptly named freshman Jeremy Runner had a 166-yard debut, including a 75-yard touchdown run ... Alabama State hopes to get back on track after a loss to Bethune-Cookman in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge, hosting Mississippi Valley State in the conference opener for both teams. The Hornets will need more out of Georgia transfer Isaiah Crowell, who rushed for 18 yards and a touchdown and had 17 receiving yards against Bethune-Cookman.
JUST THE PICKS
Last Week's Record: 72-9 (.889)
Season Record: 72-9 (.889)
All Times ET
Thursday, Sept. 6
North Greenville (0-1) at X-Tennessee Tech (1-0), 8 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8
X-Albany (1-0, 0-0 NEC) at Robert Morris (0-1, 0-0), noon
X-Bryant (0-1, 0-0 NEC) at St. Francis, Pa. (0-1, 0-0), noon
Dayton (0-1) at X-Duquesne (0-1), noon
New Hampshire (1-0) at X-Minnesota (1-0), noon
X-Lehigh (1-0) at Central Connecticut State (0-1), noon
X-Rhode Island (0-0) at Monmouth (0-1), 1 p.m.
X-Illinois State (1-0) at Eastern Michigan (0-1), 1 p.m.
Southern Illinois (0-1) at X-Miami-Ohio (0-1), 1 p.m.
Maine (0-0) at X-Boston College (0-1), 1 p.m.
Wagner (0-1) at X-Georgetown (1-0), 1 p.m.
Austin Peay (0-1) at X-Virginia Tech (0-0), 1:30 p.m.
Jacksonville (0-1) at X-Charleston Southern (0-1), 1:30 p.m.
Chowan (1-0) at X-VMI (0-1), 1:30 p.m.
Quincy (0-1) at X-Indiana State (0-1), 2:05 p.m.
Southern Utah (0-1) at X-California (0-1), 3 p.m.
Sacramento State (0-1) at X-Colorado (0-1), 3 p.m.
Weber State (0-1) at X-Brigham Young (1-0), 3 p.m.
Colgate (0-1) at X-South Dakota (0-1), 3 p.m.
Eastern Washington (1-0) at X-Washington State (0-1), 3 p.m.
Delaware State (1-0) at X-Delaware (1-0), 3:30 p.m.
Howard (1-0) at X-Rutgers (1-0), 3:30 p.m.
Missouri State at X-Louisville (1-0), 3:30 p.m.
Colorado Mesa (0-1) at X-Northern Colorado (0-1), 3:35 p.m.
Georgia State (0-1) at X-Tennessee (1-0), 4 p.m.
Indianapolis (0-1) at X-Western Illinois (1-0), 4 p.m.
Valparaiso (0-1) at X-Youngstown State (1-0), 4 p.m.
Coastal Carolina (1-0) at X-Furman (0-1), 5 p.m.
Nicholls (0-0) at X-South Alabama (0-1), 5 p.m.
Black Hills State (0-0) at X-Idaho State (0-1), 6 p.m.
Bucknell (0-0) at X-Marist (1-0), 6 p.m.
West Virginia State (1-0) at X-North Carolina A&T (0-1), 6 p.m.
Morehead State (1-0) at X-Eastern Kentucky (0-1), 6 p.m.
Fordham (1-0) at X-Villanova (0-1), 6 p.m.
Savannah State (0-1) at X-Florida State (1-0), 6 p.m.
Franklin (0-1) at X-Butler (0-1), 6 p.m.
Virginia-Wise (0-1) at X-Campbell (0-1), 6 p.m.
Bethune-Cookman (1-0, 0-0 MEAC) at X-South Carolina State (1-0, 0-0), 6 p.m.
Gardner-Webb (0-1) at X-Richmond (0-1), 6 p.m.
X-Old Dominion (1-0) at Hampton (0-1), 6 p.m.
Alcorn State (1-0) at X-James Madison (1-0), 6 p.m.
X-Georgia Southern (1-0, 0-0 SoCon) at The Citadel (1-0, 0-0), 6 p.m.
Morgan State (1-0) at X-Buffalo (0-1), 6 p.m.
Pace (0-1) at X-Stony Brook (1-0), 6 p.m.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Montana (1-0) at X-Appalachian State (0-1), 6:30 p.m. - The visiting Griz have the size and muscle, and the Mountaineers the speed and home-field advantage.
UT Martin (1-0) at X-Northern Illinois (0-1), 7 p.m.
X-West Alabama (1-0) at Samford (1-0), 7 p.m.
Incarnate Word (1-0) at X-Sam Houston State (0-0), 7 p.m.
Mississippi Valley State (0-1, 0-0 SWAC) at X-Alabama State (0-1, 0-0), 7 p.m.
Texas Southern (1-0) at X-North Texas (0-1), 7 p.m.
Chattanooga (0-1) at X-Jacksonville State (0-1), 7 p.m.
Lafayette (0-0) at X-William & Mary (0-1), 7 p.m.
X-Davidson (0-1) at Lenoir-Rhyne (0-1), 7 p.m.
Presbyterian (1-0) at X-Georgia Tech (0-0), 7 p.m.
Norfolk State (1-0) at X-Liberty (0-1), 7 p.m.
Jackson State (0-1) vs. X-Tennessee State (1-0) in Memphis, Tenn., 7 p.m.
Portland State (1-0) at X-North Dakota (1-0), 7 p.m.
Alabama A&M (1-0, 0-0 SWAC) at X-Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-0, 0-0), 7 p.m.
North Dakota State (1-0) at X-Colorado State (1-0), 7 p.m.
Central State (0-1) at X-Northern Iowa (0-1), 7 p.m.
Central Arkansas (0-1) at X-Murray State (0-1), 7 p.m.
Arkansas-Monticello (1-0) at X-Northwestern State (0-1), 7 p.m.
Lincoln, Pa. (0-1) at X-Wofford (1-0), 7 p.m.
Eastern Illinois (1-0) at X-Western Michigan (0-1), 7 p.m.
Mars Hill (0-1) at X-Southeast Missouri State (0-1), 7 p.m.
North Carolina Central (1-0) at X-Elon (0-1), 7 p.m.
Western Carolina (1-0) at X-Marshall (0-1), 7 p.m.
Florida A&M (0-1) at X-Oklahoma (1-0), 7 p.m.
X-Montana State (1-0) at Drake (1-0), 7:05 p.m.
X-South Dakota State (0-1) at Southeastern Louisiana (0-1), 8 p.m.
Prairie View A&M (0-1) at X-Lamar (0-1), 8 p.m.
Stephen F. Austin (1-0) at X-SMU (0-1), 8 p.m.
UC Davis (1-0) at X-San Jose State (0-1), 8 p.m.
McMurry (0-1) at X-McNeese State (1-0), 8 p.m.
Western New Mexico (1-0) at X-San Diego (0-1), 9 p.m.
Northern Arizona (0-1) at X-UNLV (0-1), 10 p.m.