division_II_football Article posted on October 15, 2012
By: Jordan Sperber, Villanova University

With two of the winningest programs in NCAA college football history—Pittsburg State and Tuskegee—Division II college football offers an exciting accompaniment to the fervor of Division I each year. While FBS schools are no longer allowed to count victories against colleges below FCS for bowl eligibility, annually a few DII football schools quixotically take to the road against FCS teams. DII teams schedule these games for a variety of reasons, some look for a tough opponent to challenge them early in the season, while for others the games help finance much of the costs associated with running a football program. Using the Win AD databases, we identified 17 of these games since 2009, the following is a table of all 17 games:

The sole DII school to pull off a win over an FCS school in the 17 games was Tusculum College over Western Carolina in 2010. In DII football, there are 16 conferences (counting Independents), and nine out of the 16 conferences had at least one team play an FCS school. The following table breaks down games by conference:

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and Great Lakes Valley Conference led all conferences with three games against FCS opponents. Probably the more important variable to examine for each team is win percentage, and on average these teams had a conference win percentage of .495 the year they played a FCS school. However, the median win percentage shows a slightly better win percentage of .556. The following table illustrates in conference win percentage:

As might be expected, many of these contests were one sided affairs in favor of the FCS school. On average, FCS schools outscored their challengers by 27 points. Here is the breakdown of results by conference win percentage:

It’s nice to see that the teams with the best conference win percentage kept their games against FCS schools the closest (by 13 points on average). However, due to the small sample size teams with win percentages between 25-49% actually fared better than teams with win percentages between 50-74%, in large part to Tusculum College’s 24-point win outlier. Tusculum’s conference win percentage stands at .286.

There is by no means only one type of DII team that schedules tough FCS opponents, but DII powerhouses tend to keep games closest. And while there were some blowouts in the 17 game sample, of the 16 losses three were decided by a touchdown or less. For DII programs scheduling games versus FCS opponents provides a compelling challenge and likely will for the foreseeable future.

Jordan Sperber is also interested in college basketball and more of  his statistical work can be found at: http://hoopvision.blogspot.com/
Follow him on Twitter: @hoopvision68

Key Insights

Division II college football is home to two of the winningest programs in NCAA college football history—Pittsburg State and Tuskegee. As a whole, FCS schools outscored their DII challengers by an average of 27 points and the teams with the best conference win percentage kept their games the closest (by 13 points on average). While there were some blowouts in the 17 game sample, of the 16 losses three were decided by a touchdown or less.