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By Tim McDonnell, FCS Assistant - Archive - Email
Preseason numbers worth more than words
North Dakota State, behind CB Marcus Williams, fueled its 2011 FCS title run with defense.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The 2012 FCS football season is right around the corner. For many teams, the path to Frisco, Texas - site of the national championship game - starts in about three weeks, when the dog days of summer turn into dreaded two-a-days of fall camp.

For fans all across the FCS nation, the offseason is a time to rest and re- evaluate their team's chances. Whatever happened last year was the past, and whatever happens moving forward is exciting and opportunistic. However, for all the promise we have in our teams, some things can never be ignored.

Whether it be schedules, statistics or players to watch, the numbers never lie.

Here are some important figures leading into the FCS season that should not be overlooked:

Out of the 20 teams which qualified for last season's 2011 playoff field, 10 finished the season ranked in the top 25 nationally for team rushing offense. They were No. 1 Wofford, No. 2 Georgia Southern, No. 4 Stony Brook, No. 6 Sam Houston State, No. 11 Towson, No. 12 James Madison, No. 16 Montana State, No. 17 Montana, No. 22 Eastern Kentucky and No. 23 Tennessee Tech.

There are 17 matchups for the Big Sky Conference versus FBS opponents in 2012, but kingpins Montana and Montana State are only teams without an FBS game. This season alone, there are 105 FCS-versus-FBS contests.

Highlight games of Week 1 action (Aug. 30-Sept. 2) in the FCS:
Towson at Kent State - Thursday, Aug. 30:
Last year's Cinderella team, Towson, will be looking to continue its success. In order for the Tigers to have a chance against the Golden Flashes, running back Terrance West must have a big game. Kent State finished 110th nationally in passing and 107th in rushing at the FBS level last year. A win in Week 1 would be a huge momentum-boost for the Tigers' remaining out-of-conference games versus St. Francis (Pa.) and at LSU.
Eastern Washington at Idaho - Thursday, Aug. 30:
Idaho had two wins in 2011, but only one came from an FBS opponent. The Eagles have the FCS' most dangerous wide receiver trio in Nicholas Edwards, Brandon Kaufman and Greg Herd with yet another SMU transfer quarterback, Kyle Padron, to play catch with.
Indiana State at Indiana - Saturday, Sept. 1:
Last season's FCS rushing leader Shakir Bell averaged 151.8 yards a game. The Sycamores' stud running back will test his abilities versus a Big Ten opponent which finished with a 1-11 record last year.
San Diego at Cal Poly - Saturday, Sept. 1:
Big Sky newcomer Cal Poly hosts a very underrated San Diego team which returns two key stars on offense in running back Kenny James and quarterback Mason Mills. Cal Poly hopes to start 2012 better than last season's brutal early schedule, where three of their first four contests were road games at two FBS schools and perennial contender Montana.
Bethune-Cookman vs. Alabama State - Sunday, Sept. 2:
The annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge is one of the most exciting HBCU matchups every year. This season is no different. Both the Wildcats and the Hornets are coming off of 8-3 seasons, and both know the risks and rewards of playing such an important season opener.

Three teams - Eastern Washington, William & Mary and Delaware - failed to qualify for the 2011 FCS playoffs after starting the season ranked in the top 5. The other two, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, both from the Southern Conference, finished No. 4 and 12, respectively.

Only four teams which qualified for the playoffs finished the season ranked in the top 25 nationally for team passing offense: No. 5 Lehigh, No. 15 Central Arkansas, No. 16 New Hampshire and No. 18 Old Dominion.

Reigning national champion North Dakota State held opponents to 12.7 points per game, which was No. 1 in the FCS in 2011. The Bison averaged 31.3 points per game and were very balanced, rushing for 173.3 yards per game and passing for 172.7 per contest.

Towson running back Terrence West scored 29 touchdowns last season. The inaugural Jerry Rice Award winner accomplished this in 194 carries, while the Tigers as a team had 521 total rushing attempts.

Drake and Bucknell combined to allow only nine total rushing touchdowns. Drake allowed five touchdowns at 77.2 rushing yards a game, while Bucknell allowed only four on the ground and 78.3 rushing yards per contest.

Six teams from last season's playoff field finished ranked in the top 25 nationally for team defense: No. 2 Norfolk State, No. 3 Sam Houston State, No. 11 James Madison, No. 17 Wofford, No. 19 Lehigh and No. 20 North Dakota State.

Lehigh wide receiver Ryan Spadola averaged 134.5 receiving yards per game, which was good for second nationally. Spadola enters his senior season with 175 career receptions and the Mountain Hawks haven't lost a Patriot League game since Nov. 7, 2009.

Over 12,000 miles. That's how many the San Diego Toreros will travel for six away games in 2012. The Toreros, who earned a share of the Pioneer Football League title last season, play five of their six away games against Harvard, Jacksonville, Marist, Drake and Davidson. The closest distance they have to travel will be at Cal Poly to open the season.