Welcome to the HERO Sports FCS Mailbag. FCS writers Brian McLaughlin and Sam Herder will take questions each week on Twitter and give in-depth answers. Tweet them both at @BrianMacWriter and @TheHerd215 to get your questions answered!
Just how good is USD? Are they a legitimate MVFC champion canidate?
— THEsocalledfan (@GulsethMichael) September 18, 2017
Brian: Honestly, yes, I think South Dakota is a legitimate MVFC champion candidate. Keep in mind, this is the same USD program that two years ago was good enough to go into the Fargodome and beat the Bison with Carson Wentz in the game. And this team is way better than the 2015 squad. The ‘Yotes have an FBS win and have creamed the two FCS schools they’ve faced. This team is legit, and is Top Ten if not Top Five – period.
Sam: You can look the Coyotes two different ways. One is that they’re 3-0 with an FBS win and a win against a Top 10 ranked opponent, North Dakota. The other is they’re 3-0 with wins against a non-scholarship program, a bad FBS team and a UND team devastated by injuries. It all really depends on how you feel about the Coyotes.
In my opinion, I think USD is a very, very good team. But we’ll see just how good the Coyotes are these next two weeks when they play Western Illinois and Youngstown State. Two wins shows they are ready to compete with NDSU and SDSU for a conference title.
@PeterMooney09: Which is it? JMU struggled or is Maine underrated? Maybe both?
Brian: Maine is underrated. If you look at what Maine does, it’s the nitty grittys. It runs the ball well, it stops opponents on third downs, it grinds you down. Maine is well coached and has been for a long time. And it produces talent, just look at Pat Ricard who made an NFL roster as a free agent last month. This is a great program and the fact it went toe to toe with JMU for a good chunk of that game says more about Maine than it does about JMU.
Sam: The CAA is tough to gauge isn’t it? I was going to call Maine’s one-point loss to New Hampshire a decent loss after UNH defeated FBS Georgia Southern. But then UNH gets smoked by Holy Cross. Are the Wildcats good? Is Maine good? It’s tough to tell.
I will say this, I think it just took JMU a little bit to settle into the game. It was a tough week of practice for the players and coaches. Not every game is going to be pretty. But the Dukes toughing it out and pulling away late in the game may reveal more about the team than a 35-0 win would have.
Who wins next sat? Youngstown or @GoJacksFB? jQuery17208987397322940494_1506382186547??????????
— Pat Tiefenthaler (@tief_24) September 24, 2017
Brian: If this is in Brookings, it’s a no brainer to me. South Dakota State is clearly a top three team in the FCS in my opinion. They’ve been hammering people this year, they have a prolific offense with two of the top NFL prospects in the FCS this year in Dallas Goedert and Jake Wieneke. That defense is sick, and sophomore Christian Rozeboom is the best sophomore in the FCS, hands down.
But … Youngstown State is at home. And Valley games on the road are brutal. It’s early in the week and I’m not ready to go with predictions quite yet … so I’ll go with a tie.
Sam: It would not surprise me at all if Youngstown State gets the win. But I see South Dakota State having too good of an offense and pulling away to improve to 4-0. The Jacks will get their points, even against a salty Bo Pelini defense. And I don’t think YSU’s offense can keep them in this game.
— Ken Woodburn (@woodylead) September 24, 2017
Brian: No. Next question … Kidding. We here at HERO Sports love it wacky. Makes for better stories and more fan bases engaged. The Big Sky is a total mystery to me, the Ohio Valley Conference – through four weeks – looks way, way, way better than in 2016. Then you throw in teams like Western Carolina in the SoCon and Albany in the CAA and the utter and complete depth in the Valley with all the undefeateds … the great thing is, we get another weekend of it this weekend. I’ll definitely have some popcorn and cream soda ready.
Sam: I think the Top 5-8 teams in the nation is pretty clear. After that is a guessing game. The 11th-ranked team is probably interchangeable right now with the No. 20 team because we just don’t know how good these teams are compared to each other.
If Eastern Washington is still a Top 10 team, does that mean Montana is better than a Samford or Tennessee State? Wofford is ranked in the Top 10, but hasn’t won by more than three points against three mediocre teams. But then you have a team like Montana State roll UND and hang tough with SDSU, a top three team. The Bobcats aren’t ranked because they’re 1-2 with the other loss against an FBS opponent. But maybe Montana State is just as good as Wofford.
The clarity is this: JMU and NDSU remain on a collision course for Frisco. We still are trying to figure out who deserves to be in that Tier 2 and who should fall to Tier 3.
What is going on the CAA? Referring to Albany and Elon’s wins yesterday
— Wyatt Cook (@_Yalright_) September 24, 2017
Brian: I think the CAA may have a changing of the guard of sorts. New Hampshire can certainly write off the Holy Cross loss as a one-game wonder, but that one stunned me. Villanova going to Albany and losing honestly was not as big a shock to me. I think the Great Danes are a playoff team this year after being shunned last year. They’re loaded.
Keep an eye on Delaware too, regardless of how this weekend’s James Madison game goes. And Elon? It is playing a true freshman quarterback in Davis Cheek and he’s been pretty solid hasn’t he? I don’t feel like the CAA is down, necessarily, I just think that behind James Madison there’s a reshuffling of the deck of who is tough. It’s been a blast to watch..
Sam: It certainly seems that this season's nonconference games have left us with more questions than answers. The CAA is a top two conference in the FCS and it wouldn't surprise me to see 4-5 teams make the playoffs. But there's not a lot of room.
Albany got bumped last season and is determined not to have that happen again. Obviously you have JMU at the top. Richmond and Villanova are always solid and look to be staying that way. New Hampshire is such a consistent playoff team. Delaware is on the rise. And then there's Elon with an impressive win. Where they all fall is going to be fun to watch. Honestly by the time the last CAA game is complete in November, we still may be asking what's going on.