The Abilene Christian Wildcats are not a team to be taken lightly, even though they are from the lower Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Since the 2010 college football season, there have been 48 upsets by FCS teams over school from the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
Last season, the Wildcats upset Troy from the Sun Belt, 38-35, and in recent years, teams from the FCS like Georgia Southern, James Madison and Appalachian State have beaten FBS powers like Florida, Virginia Tech and Michigan. That the Fresno State Bulldogs open their 2015 season at home against an FCS opponent is in stark contrast to last season's opening in the Coliseum against USC but, if history tells us anything, it's that the FCS should not be overlooked. Here's a look at what to expect come September 3rd.
Head Coach: Ken Collums. Abilene Christian is coach Collums's first head coaching position. He has spent his entire career coaching either at his alma mater, Central Arkansas, where he played quarterback from 1991-94, and also served a graduate assistant and later as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. Collums first coached quarterbacks and wide receivers at Abilene Christian between two of his stints at Central Arkansas. He returned to Abilene Christian in 2005 as the QB coach and offensive coordinator and was named head coach in 2012. In three seasons, Collums has amassed a 19-15 record.
Location: Abilene, Texas
Mascot: Willie, the Wildcat
Conference: Southland Conference (FCS)
2014 Record: 6-6 (4-4 conference)
Five Key Players:
DeAndre Brown, RB: After redshirting during the 2013 season, Brown led the Wildcats in rushing yards and touchdowns with 962 yards on 137 carries and nine scores. Brown also caught 12 passes for 91 yards and returnedseven kicks for an average of 26.4 yards per return.
Cedric Gilbert, WR: Like Brown, Gilbert also redshirted during the 2013 season and led the Wildcats in receiving yards and touchdowns last year, with 667 yards and seven touchdowns on just 38 catches.
Herschel Sims, RB: Sims played his freshman year at Oklahoma State in 2011, where he rushed for over 100 yards against both Texas Tech and Baylor. He transferred in his sophomore year and played at Lamar, where he finished second on the team with 388 yards on 96 carries. In 2013, he redshirted and transferred a second time to Abilene Christian, where he finished second on the team with 668 total yards and four touchdowns in 2014.
Jonathan Epps, WR/KR/PR/DB: One player the Bulldogs may be seeing on the field a lot is Jonathan Epps. He did it all for the Wildcats in 2014, finishing second on the team with 933 all-purpose yards that came from rushing, receiving, kick and punt returns. Epps even chipped in with two interceptions, one which went for a touchdown. He is one of those rare players who scored on both offense and defense last season, in addition to leading the team in both punt and kick returns.
Sam Denmark, LB: Denmark is the Wildcats' leading returning tackler, after he finished fourth on the team with 77 tackles, including four tackles for loss and two sacks in addition to two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and five pass break-ups. Look for number 34 to be all over the field on the defensive side of the ball for the Wildcats.
Offensive overview: Parker McKenzie returns on the offensive side of the ball at quarterback where he threw for over 3,000 yards and 22 touchdowns. McKenzie, along with Brown, Gilbert, Sims and Epps bring solid experience to the Wildcat offense. The Bulldogs may have their work cut out for them here.
Defensive overview: The top three tacklers from the 2014 Wildcat team are gone, as well as their leader in sacks and tackles for loss. Where that leaves them is anyone's guess at this point. Let's hope the loss of talent means good things for the Bulldogs.
Early Prediction: Fresno State 30, Abilene Christian 13.