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The lower division conundrum

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It was funny yesterday watching Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen tap-dance around questions about getting to face a member of the former Division I-AA and how the Terrapins absolutely should roll.

He handled them gracefully and politely, so credit to Ralph. But he could be forgiven if he was thinking “Really, just how dumb are you?”

That’s because Delaware is perennially a really good program. And here’s another bit of news: The Blue Hens are not the weakest opponent on Maryland’s schedule.

There were two reasons why all the questions about Appalachian State last year were so asinine. One, because it was talked about so much that boring a hole in your head seemed to be as much fun as listening to how the Mountaineers changed everything in college football by winning at Michigan.

Two, App State was good. Really, freaking good. As in, probably better than somewhere between 40 to 65 of the 120 major-college programs, depending on the day. The Mountaineers squeeze a lot out of their scholarship limit, and plenty of larger schools waste their roughly 20-scholarship edge on bad decisions. Hence, that difference is mitigated.

Anyway, 32 ex-Division I-AAers are making their way to bigger schools for nice paydays this week. And a few of them might even win. Here’s one guy’s thoughts on who has the best chance (and worst chance) to be upset by a lower-division visitor.

1. Iowa State (vs. South Dakota State) - Could be a very nasty setup to start the season for Cyclones

2. San Diego State (vs. Cal Poly) - Nothing about the Aztecs suggest they’re good, and the Mustangs are ranked in Football Championship Subdivision

3. Duke (vs. James Madison) - Yes, David Cutcliffe was a great hire. But the Blue Devils better be ready for the perennially playoff-bound Dukes

4. Nevada (vs. Grambling State) - Until the Wolf Pack proves otherwise, its suspect defense makes it vulnerable to anyone

5. Eastern Michigan (vs. Indiana State) - Sycamores were winless last year, but Eastern Michigan isn’t exactly a juggernaut

6. San Jose State (vs. UC Davis) - This isn’t impossible, but Spartans’ Tomey is a heck of a coach

7. Maryland (vs. Delaware) - Proximity + Talent + Slow-starting Terps = Dangerous game

8. North Carolina (vs. McNeese State) - The Southland favorites will hang around for a while

9. Louisiana State (vs. Appalachian State) - Much, much respect to the three-time national champion Mountaineers

10. Central Florida (vs. South Carolina State) - Hard to see the Golden Knights dropping this one

11. Central Michigan (vs. Eastern Illinois) - This could get dangerous if Chippewas’ defense is still leaky

12. Marshall (vs. Illinois State) - Movie for 2008: “We are starting 1-0”

13. Brigham Young (vs. Northern Iowa) - Panthers start the season at No. 3 in FCS and should be a pain in the neck in Provo

14. Connecticut (vs. Hofstra) - While not entirely sold on the Huskies, they should eventually put away the Pride

15. Navy (vs. Towson) - The Midshipmen tend to start slow. But not this slow, even without their starting quarterback

16. Arkansas (vs. Western Illinois) - The Petrino era will start off just fine in Fayetteville

17. Georgia Tech (vs. Jacksonville State) - Paul Johnson lost to a lower-division team last year - but that was last year

18. Houston (vs. Southern) - The Jaguars won’t spoil Kevin Sumlin’s head coaching debut

19. Iowa (vs. Maine) - The Hawkeyes haven’t fallen THAT far under Kirk Ferentz

20. Ball State (vs. Northeastern) - Things should go smoothly in Middletown. Should.

21. West Virginia (vs. Villanova) - The Wildcats will spend a lot of time chasing Noel Devine

22. Penn State (vs. Coastal Carolina) - Think these guys want to earn some headlines for their on-field work?

23. Arizona State (vs. Northern Arizona) - Crafty Dennis Erickson won’t lose to that in-state foe

24. Texas Tech (vs. Eastern Washington) - The Eagles are good, just not good enough to keep up with Graham Harrell and friends.

25. Cincinnati (vs. Eastern Kentucky) - Brian Kelly will not let Bearcats lose this game

26. Georgia (vs. Georgia Southern) - The Dawgs will lose games this year, just not this week

27. Miami (vs. Charleston Southern) - Even without Robert Marve, the Hurricanes should be fine

28. Ohio State (vs. Youngstown State) - Jim Tressel will cut his old school a ginormous check. He will not lose to them.

29. Air Force (vs. Southern Utah) - Not a vote of confidence for Falcons; just pointing out the <strike>Firebirds</strike>Thunderbirds were 0-11 last year

30. South Florida (vs. UT-Martin) - Bulls shouldn’t have trouble with second-division Ohio Valley team

31. Boise State (vs. Idaho State) - No chance the Broncos lose one of their Potato Bowls

32. Oklahoma (vs. Chattanooga) - Sooners are a mortal lock against a 2-9 team from a year ago

Patrick Stevens

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