Could an FCS Team Like NDSU Become A Ranked Team in the FBS? (Explained!)

Last Updated on October 3, 2023 by Alex PT

Yes, an FCS team like NDSU could become a ranked team in the FBS. In 2016, NDSU received 74 votes in the AP Poll, the most ever for an FCS team. However, an FCS team would need to schedule and defeat multiple ranked FBS opponents to have a realistic chance of cracking the top 25.

Could an FCS Team Like NDSU Really Become A Ranked Team in the FBS?

In 2007, Appalachian State University played against the Michigan Wolverines in one of the greatest upsets in college football history. The Mountaineers were an FCS team at the time and were not expected to put up much fight against a highly-ranked FBS opponent like Michigan. Instead, they managed to win 34-32! This upset gained Appalachian State nationwide attention, including from voters for the AP (Amateur Press) Poll. It appears that some AP voters wanted to express just how impressive they thought this win was by voting for Appalachian State – despite their being ineligible for doing so given the infrequency of awarding points in the poll. For example, Sports Illustrated writer Stewart Mandel said on air he would have voted them #1 had he been able to do so! This sentiment was echoed by others as well and soon enough, AP changed its policy regarding awarding points to teams playing at lower levels (FBS<->FCS).

Do FCS teams ever get promoted to the FBS in college football?

You shouldn’t expect the NFL to promote you to a higher level of competition. American sports teams that compete on what’s called the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level don’t have a relegation system. The same applies to competitions in any other country across the globe! Over time, some FBS teams may apply to move down and compete on the FCS level of play. Georgia State was one such team back in 2012 after it posted an abysmal 1-10 record that season. The school originally started its program in 2010 at the FBS level, but moved down after just two years because they couldn’t secure enough fans and student-athletes to stay competitive with other, more diverse schools!

Though Georgia State University is just that, a state school, it still has an extremely large enrollment. Along with other necessary facilities, students are able to play both home football and basketball games in the Georgia Dome and the Centennial Olympic Stadium. The school itself is obviously used to higher levels of competition in the NCAA as it’s played college football at the Division 1-AA level since 1990 before moving up to join the Sun Belt Conference on July 1st, 2013. Although they became charter members of their current conference, they also had a poor record of 0 wins and 12 losses (0–12) with no post-season appearances during their first season of FBS competition in 2013.

As we mentioned earlier, many of the teams that get to compete in bowl games are not necessarily the best teams in their conferences and divisions. However, what really adds credibility to a team is how well they perform on the field year after year regardless of whether they go up or down in competitive level. One example is Appalachian State which was a historical powerhouse in the FCS where they won three straight national titles between 2005–07. They moved up to become a core team of the FBS in 2014. The Big 10 conference has had a number of transitions over time with some powerhouses having come from even lower leagues, but one of their old rivals, Georgia Southern, decided to move from FCS all the way up to being an officially recognized member by 2011.

North Dakota State Bison football

North Dakota State Bison football

The North Dakota State Bison football represents North Dakota State University in football at the Division I Football Championship Subdivision level of the NCAA and competes in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Bison play in the 19,000 seat capacity stadium in Fargodome located in Fargo. The Bison have won 17 and 37 national championships and conference championships. They have won nine Division I FCS National Championships at NCAA between 2011 and 2021. North Dakota holds the record for most overall NCAA national championships and the record for the most consecutive championships with five titles between 2011 and 2015.

How Good Are The NDSU? 

Since 2011, the North Dakota State Bison have a record of over 149–12 (.925) which included a record 22-game playoff win streak, making them the most successful college football program in Division I FCS for this year. The Bison are 202–39 since they moved to Division I in 2004. Since 1964, the Bison have had only three losing seasons and an overall record of 551–136–4 (.800) through that 58-year span, one of the best in college football. Among FCS programs, North Dakota State has more all-time match wins than any non-Ivy League program, over 750. Of all teams established after 1894, only Oklahoma has won a higher percentage of its games than the NDSU. The team also holds the record for the longest winning streak in the Football Championship Subdivision, which stands at 39 consecutive wins spanning from 2017 to 2021. Collectively, the Bison have won 37 and 17 conference championships and national championships. They were selected as NCAA College Division II champions by polls three times (1965, 1968, 1969), won the NCAA Division II National Football Championships five times and they have won the NCAA Division I Football Championship nine times in a row for eleven seasons.

The NCAA Division I Football Championship is an annual post-season college football game played since 2006, used to determine the national champion of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). The game serves as the final match of an annual post-season tournament between top teams in FCS. Since 2013, 24 teams have participated in the tournament, with some teams receiving automatic bids upon winning their conference championship match, and other teams determined by a set of the selection committee. The reigning national champions are the North Dakota State Bison, who won the championship for the 2021 season (their 9th overall). The FCS is the highest division in college football to hold a playoff tournament sanctioned by NCAA to determine its championship, as the four-team College Football Playoff currently used by the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Frequently Asked Questions

Has an FCS football team ever beat an FBS team?

It was then the first time an FCS team beat a ranked FBS team since North Dakota State beat No. 13 Iowa 23-21 in 2016. — Holy Cross, which does not offer football scholarships, never trailed in the second half and beat Connecticut 38-28, but its first victory against an FBS team since it topped Army in 2002.

Can the NDSU move to FBS?

To be clear, while the Bison are obviously more than ready to play at the FBS’ level from a competitive view, there’s no indication a move is imminent, as NDSU faces different challenges in making the move due to geography. Namely, there isn’t a conference that’s a particularly good condition.

Is the FCS football good?

Yes. Don’t get carried out with FCS football being a level lower than Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson. FCS is still Division I, and the coaches and players are among the best at what they do. In some ways, FCS is more enjoyable to watch than the FBS and the top teams in FCS are better than many of the teams in the higher division level.

Do players from FCS  go to the NFL?

Where you are drafted in the NFL, the Draft isn’t the end-all-be-all for players’ NFL careers. The 13 FCS players have made it to the Super Bowl level. The 2021 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year was not even in first-round draft pick, nor did he compete for the mandatory Division I Power 5 college program.

What’s the difference between FBS and FCS football teams?

FBS, also known as Division I-A, conducts a sort of ‘bowl’ for their post-season games. Its games are not well organized in nature. Conversely, for FCS (Football Championship Subdivision), this division concentrates more on a sort of playoffs that will eventually end with a grand championship game finale


No team at the FCS level has been as dominant as North Dakota State over the last year or so. Their resume of FCS national titles and dominance under three different head coaches recently doesn’t need to be reviewed, but remember back in 2016 when a darn good NDSU squat beat #13 Iowa and the Bison nearly cracked the FBS top 25 list the next week with 74 votes in the AP Poll? Perhaps it’s time for NDSU to test their limit at the FBS level.


Leave a Comment