While the NCAA’s FBS teams get all the attention in college football there’s actually some great football teams from one division lower. The FCS was known as Division 1-AA until 2005 and even though it’s a lower football division, you have to give these FCS teams some credit. Especially since they play in an expanded playoff to determine their national champion each year. Many great players from the FCS has went on to successful NFL careers. Here’s a look at the top 16 FCS teams of all time.
#16 (Tie) 2010 Eastern Washington
The Eagles went on an eleven game winning streak after starting the season 2-2 to win the FCS championship. Taiwan Jones led the way for an offense that averaged 31 points per game while Buchanan award winner J.C. Sherritt netted 150 tackles that season and making big stops on the defense.
#16 (Tie) 1987 Northeastern Louisiana
A dominant offense is what helped the Indians make this list. NELU (now known as Louisiana-Monroe) finished 13-2 that season and went undefeated in Southland Conference play. The Indians also fielded three players drafted by the NFL in QB Stan Humphries, TE Jackie Harris (drafted in 1990), an K Teddy Garcia. All of whom helped the team defeat Marshall 43-42 in the FCS Championship game.
#15 1981 Idaho State
The Bengals finished the season at 12-1 and was ran by second year coach Dave Kragthorpe. Idaho State defeated Eastern Kentucky 34-23 to win the school’s only national championship in football. The Bengals success that season was due to a defense that only gave up 13 points per game.
#14 1978 Florida A&M
The Rattlers went 12-1 and won the inaugural championship game over UMASS 35-28. Albert Chester led the offense and is still known well to this day by Rattler fans. FAMU was coached by Rudy Hubbard who led the team to an undefeated season in 1977 and carried that success over to the 1978 season.
#13 2009 Villanova
The Wildcats trailed 14-3 at the half to come back and defeat undefeated Montana 23-21 in the championship game. The Wildcats success was in due to a tough defense that only allowed 14.1 points per game and that also accumulated 40 sacks and 18 interceptions. Matt Szczur (WR) led a rush happy offense with 2,239 all-purpose yards for the season.
#12 1986 Georgia Southern
The Eagles only lost two games that season and both games were to FBS opponents. This team scored over 600 points for the season and averaged 40.6 points per game due to their phenom quarterback Tracy Ham. Ham threw for 1,772 yards and rushed for another 1,048 yards and totaled 27 touchdowns during their title run.
#11 2011 North Dakota State
This was the first of five straight FCS championships for the Bison. The Bison had a superb balanced offensive attack that featured two running backs with over 1,000 yards rushing in Sam Ojuri (1,105) and D.J. McNorton (1,020). Quarterback Brock Jensen completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,524 yards. His favorite target was receiver Warren Holloway who had 77 receptions for 1,003 yards and 8 touchdowns.
#10 2003 Delaware
The Fightin’ Blue Hens have produced some great quarterbacks, but this by far was their most successful season. Quarterback Andy Hall proved to be a dangerous dual threat as he threw for 2,764 yards and 25 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions. He also added another 710 yards on the ground and 8 touchdowns. Delaware upset Navy 21-17 and dominated in the FCS championship game shutting out #6 Colgate 40-0.
#9 2001 Montana
The Grizzlies were dominant in their national championship campaign losing only to FBS school Hawaii. On offense, they were hard to stop behind RB Yohance Humphery who rushed for 2,101 yards that season. Add in the tandem of QB John Edwards and WR Etu Molden and you have an explosive offense that gave many defensive coordinators headaches.
#8 1982 Eastern Kentucky
The Colonels longtime head coach put together his best team of his career in 1982 when Eastern Kentucky went undefeated at 13-0 and won the FCS national championship. The offensive side, wide receiver Steve Bird was the go to guy. Bird ended up finishing his career at Eastern Kentucky with 2,056 yards and 18 touchdowns. Linebacker Alex Dominguez was the leader on the defense and is currently the sixth all time tackler in EKU history with 378. The Colonels wasn’t a flashy team that displayed impressive stats, but they were a scrappy team that just found a way to win. The true Roy Kidd way.
#7 2016 James Madison
Head coach Mike Houston left a very good impression in his first year at James Madison since their only loss came to the hands of North Carolina. Saying that the Dukes were dominant this past season is an understatement. If you like seeing touchdowns, this was the team to watch as they out scored their opponents 700-318 averaging 46 points per game. They also scored 80 or more points twice and crushed #1 Sam Houston State 65-7 in the FCS quarterfinals in route to their championship run.
#6 1994 Youngstown State
The Penguins started off the season tying Stephen F.Austin, but when you have legendary coach Jim Tressel at the helm, bouncing back is no problem. And boy did the Penguins do just that winning 14 straight games to become national champions. Opponents were held to just 10.1ppg while the offense averaged 27.9ppg. This was the Penguins third national championship in four years. The Penguins finished the 1994 season 14-0-1 which is the best finish in school history.
#5 2014 North Dakota State
The 2014 Bison team won their fourth straight national championship. This team was dominant from top to bottom and featured the emergence of NFL quarterback Carson Wentz. The current Philadelphia Eagle threw for 3,111 yards and 25 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. He was also the team’s second leading rusher with 642 yards and 6 rushing touchdowns. Buchanan award winner Kyle Emanuel anchored a defense that only allowed 13.8 points per game.
#4 2007 Appalachian State
The Mountaineers pulled of one of the biggest (if not the biggest) upset in college football history when they traveled to #5 Michigan and won 34-32. This was a team that averaged 42.7ppg and 488 yards per game. Quarterback Armanti Edwards led the way for the Mountaineers with 3,536 all purpose yards and 38 total touchdowns. This team was the talk of college football all season long and won their second straight national championship. Two losses to Southern Conference rivals Wofford and Georgia Southern kept this team from going down as the best FCS history.
#3 1989 Georgia Southern
This Eagles team was the first in FCS history to go undefeated and was the first team in all of college football to go 15-0 in a season. The national championship game was legendary coach Erk Russell’s last game as he retired after that season. Georgia Southern’s offense averaged 36 points per game, but the defense was what made this team successful as the only allowed 14 points per game and shut out two opponents in that season. Out of the six national championships in their history the 1989 win was the most special.
#2 1996 Marshall
The Thundering Herd team in 1996 is a team to remember. Their success was in part due to a couple of key members from the Florida Gators in first year head coach Bob Pruett and transfer quarterback Eric Kresser. The team also fielded future pro football hall of fame receiver Randy Moss. The Rand, WV native had 78 receptions for 1,709 yards and caught 28 of Kresser’s 31 touchdowns thrown. Two 1,000 yard rushers in Erik Thomas and Doug Chapman balanced out the Herd’s passing attack that also aided an offense that scored 658 points for the season. The defense shut down everything in it’s path only allowing 14 points per game.
#1 2013 North Dakota State
The Bison started the season ranked #1 and didn’t disappoint in the first week by winning a 24-21 upset over Kansas State. From there, it was total domination for the rest of the season. NDSU won the FCS championship 35-7 against Towson. The Bison defense was one of the best ever in FCS play as they only allowed only 11.8 points per game. The defense also netted 17 interceptions, 44 sacks, and 5 defensive touchdowns. Quarterback Brock Jensen showed off his pinpoint accuracy completing 66 percent of his passes and throwing 34 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions. Zachary Vraa led all receivers with 67 catches for 1,191 yards and 15 touchdowns. Sam Ojuri and John Crockett combined for 2,734 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. The Bison won five straight titles from 2011 to 2015, but this 2013 squad is without a doubt the best of those teams.
The margin between Marshall and North Dakota State is real thin in determining the best FCS team of all time, but the domination and schedule strength for the Bison gives them the very slight edge. This list consists of the best teams so far, but there will be many other FCS schools looking to make history for years to come.