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!
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@PeterMooney09: Coach Houston has commented that the team will be focused on the game and nothing else. What’re the dukes chances against a top 2 run D?
Brian: I think this is clearly the toughest game left on the schedule for JMU, and yes I see New Hampshire, Richmond and Elon on the upcoming sked. This one will not be a blowout, that’s prediction No. 1. And yes, it’ll be low scoring because both teams play great defense, especially against the run as you pointed out.
Villanova’s uber-efficient QB Zach Bednarczyk is out for a few weeks with a knee injury, so it’ll be freshman Jack Schetelich under center in a hyped up ESPN Gameday atmosphere. That'll be a factor too. I think JMU wins this, but it’ll be a lot like the road game against Delaware a few weeks back – two playoff bound programs knocking each other around.
Sam: I’m very confident that if JMU loses this game (I don’t think they will), distractions won’t be the reason for it. Villanova is a good football team that certainly has a chance to win. But Houston is going to get his guys ready to play. The Dukes visiting the “College GameDay” set in 2015 hours before their game was one of the most boneheaded coaching decisions I can recall. It’s amazing what a new head coach and change of culture can do for a program.
This will be a great test to see how good this JMU offense is. Yes, Bryan Schor might have to do a bit more against this run defense. But let’s see if that big offensive line can set the tone against the Wildcats. Now that would be an exclamation point to the FCS.
@BradyV99: South Dakota has to be the talk of the FCS; do you think they can run the table, be a 1,2 seed? They look GOOD!
Brian: It’ll come down to three games – at Illinois State, at North Dakota State and home against South Dakota State. Heck, who am I kidding? Even the road game at Northern Iowa better not be an afterthought. Can they run the table? I’m betting no. And I’d also bet three pieces of Halloween candy that no team in the Valley runs the table. So no, they won’t run the table because of the parity in this league, but yes … they could still easily be a 1 or 2 seed at 10-1 if other factors fall into place.
Sam: To be honest, no I don’t think they run the table. The only team to go undefeated in MVFC play in the last handful of years was the 2013 NDSU team that many say was the greatest team in FCS history. Is USD good enough to defeat all its remaining opponents? Certainly. So is NDSU, who is also 2-0 in Valley play. But the league is so tough that it just won’t happen for either.
Now let’s say the Coyotes finish 10-1, then they have a chance to be a 1 or 2 seed depending on who the loss is to. If they lose to either NDSU or SDSU and then that team finished 10-1, a top 2 seed won’t happen.
Could South Dakota potentially win the MVFC?
— Wyatt Cook (@_Yalright_) October 8, 2017
Brian: Absolutely the Coyotes could win the MVFC, as we alluded to in the answer to the question above. They can score on anyone, as evidenced by their perch atop the FCS in total offense (537.4 yards per game), that much is clear. Chris Streveler continues to prove why a Big Ten team (Minnesota) felt he was good enough to be offered a scholarship to play QB in the Big Ten.
Like I said above, I do not think any Valley team goes undefeated in league play this year – the group is just way, way, way too good and every road trip is like tip toeing backwards through a minefield blindfolded. But could a 10-1 South Dakota team ultimately end up holding the trophy in the end? Yes. But could USD drop 2 or maybe 3 games? With this schedule? Yes, it could happen. Remember, Youngstown and Western Illinois were close ones.
Sam: Like I mentioned above, this USD team is good enough to beat every team in the Valley. And it’s going to be a race for that Valley title in November with a handful of teams in contention. But let’s take a look at the Coyotes’ last three games: at UNI and NDSU before hosting SDSU. Going 2-1 would be very impressive. And one of those games against NDSU or SDSU will probably have the title up for grabs.
So where’s Houston’s name coming up on impending SEC openings?
— Ricky Sanders (@BIGGUN9572) October 9, 2017
Brian: Let’s approach this question as ‘who might come after him after this year’ not, ‘when is he leaving’ because obviously we can’t read his mind. Obviously, he’s going to be a commodity after this year. That doesn’t mean he’s leaving, just that the question is going to come up. The facts are there though, he’s won at JMU, he won at The Citadel, he took a D-II team to the national title game. Everywhere he goes he wins.
I’d be more inclined to believe that if the P5s begin coming after him soon, it’ll be a mid-range program in the ACC. Maybe a team like North Carolina? He’s originally from North Carolina so if things go downhill even more than they are right now, who knows right? And he knows that recruiting base well. I would think a program like Tennessee would want to see what a former FCS coach did at a midrange P5 program before they threw $4.4 million a year out there like with Butch Jones.
Sam: Coach has certainly shot up the ranks quickly, hasn’t he? He’s shown he’s not afraid to jump start a program and then move on to bigger things. But maybe JMU is different. He has a great athletic budget to work with, awesome facilities and obviously is in an excellent location to recruit where the Dukes are beating out some FBS teams. And then there’s the potential of JMU moving up to the FBS.
If Houston wants to coach in the FBS, maybe the best option is to stay put. But then again, money talks. And we’ve seen coaches leave great FCS teams to poor FBS programs with the thought of their salary doubling too tempting to turn down.
related question: will the Bison play a road playoff game like the rest of us this century? rest of the MVFC’s fault, of course #notclutch
— Jason Smith (@HumanPerson1) October 9, 2017
Brian: What, Frisco doesn’t count as a road game? LOL. It is crazy, isn’t it? The Bison haven’t played on the road in the playoffs in 18 games – dating back to Dec. 11, 2010 at Eastern Washington. That was the year my twins were born, and it seems like 27 years ago. It’s been an incredible run and there’s no reason to believe it’ll stop this year. NDSU is clearly good enough to be a Top 2 seed and have home-field advantage for four rounds once again.
What will determine whether that happens? This 6-game gauntlet coming up. The softer underbelly of the Bison schedule is over. I don’t foresee any 45-0 blowouts coming up the next six weeks, and I will predict they’ll drop at least one of these games – but we all know a 10-1 MVFC champion will get a Top 2 seeding and host throughout. So … good question you asked. Quick answer?: Maybe. Sorry.
Sam: I see NDSU going 10-1 this season, which is good enough to get them a No. 1 or 2 seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs. Honestly, even a 9-2 NDSU team might have a good enough resume to argue for a No. 2 seed, depending on how the other Valley teams finish record-wise.
Even though the Fargodome is such a huge advantage, here’s a stat for you: the Bison are 36-2 on the road since 2011. Even if they had to travel for a semifinal game, they still would have a strong chance to win that game (unless it’s at JMU).