It’s no secret that in the Football Bowl Subdivision, where just one postseason game has bearing on determining a national champion, teams from the South, specifically the Deep South (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina) along with Texas and Florida, have been in command of college football.
From that part of the country, teams such as LSU, Alabama, Texas and Florida have played in recent national championship games and have won five, and soon-to-be six consecutive BCS championships.
Though talent is being picked from the same areas for filling out teams, the reverse is true in the Football Championship Subdivision.
In the FCS, the national powers – teams that win in the playoffs and routinely come within a game or two of playing for the national championship – come from the East Coast, Northeast and from pockets in the northwest corner of the country.
Why the disparity?
“I think one of the biggest reasons for that is because those (non-Southern) teams have played a more physical style of defense in the past. They get after you and wear you down,” former Bearkats coach Ron Randleman said Tuesday morning following Sam Houston’s practice session at Bowers Stadium.
“Also, if you look at championships and I know coach (Willie) Fritz looked at this and I know as I looked at it, it’s hard to win the national championship throwing the football. You can get there and you can beat people, but I think you’ve got to be able to run the football. That’s what (Sam Houston’s) ballclub can do.”
Instead of the southernmost teams dominating the FCS like its FBS counterparts over the past 10 years, it’s teams such as Delaware (three national championship appearances and one title in 2003), Appalachian State (Boone, N.C.), which won three straight titles from 2005-07, and Montana (four national title appearances and a national title in 2001) that are controlling college football at this level.
Sam Houston sophomore receivers Trey Diller and Keith Blanton have unique perspectives on the topic as both spent the first part of their college careers playing in different parts of the country.
Diller played one season at Wofford (Spartansburg, S.C.), which competes in the Southern Conference, before transferring to Sam Houston. Of all the FCS conferences, the SoCon is traditionally one of the strongest leagues, home to six-time national champion Georgia Southern and Appalachian State.
“I’d say the biggest thing about the East Coast is the size,” Diller said. “When I was at Wofford, we’d have offensive and defensive linemen who were bigger, linebackers were bigger-sized and (defensive backs) were bigger-sized. I think the difference coming from the East back home is the size of interior linemen and people up front.”
Like Sam Houston, the Southland Conference and other Southern squads, Blanton, who transferred from Iowa State (Ames, Iowa), played in a region at the FBS level where the level of competition is not highly regarded on the national landscape.
“I really don’t see it,” Blanton said of the difference in talent from Northern FBS schools to Southern FBS schools, which also compares in the FCS between Northern and Southern teams. “There’s players everywhere. It’s all about the players’ mentalities as well as the coaches.
“I think we’ve got a lot to prove. We want to end this season on a good note and set some standards for next year.”
Sam Houston is the first Southern team since McNeese State in 2002 that even has a shot at a national title, but the Bearkats plan on bucking the recent trend of championship-holders over the past 10 years.
With a victory over North Dakota State on Saturday afternoon, the Bearkats would become the first Southern team to win a title since Georgia Southern in 2000.
“The thing is that every team that we faced – from the East, from the North, from the West – what they haven’t seen yet is the speed and we’ve got so much speed at every position,” Diller added.