Let’s dive into some FCS questions submitted via Twitter.
Also, just to note, the point of mailbags is for quick-hitting Q&As. Some of these questions probably require 1,000-word standalone articles. Which means they are great questions! But bare with me as I try to answer them in an efficient manner without fully diving into all the ins and outs (Especially when it comes to playoff scenarios and what can all happen).
Is there a scenario where the number of automatic bids would increase? Is there a scenario where they would decrease?
The playoff AQs have fluctuated some recently. It was at 10 AQs for several years. Last fall, it increased to 11 AQs with the ASUN-WAC. This year, it was expected to increase to 12 AQs as the ASUN and WAC were set to have their own auto-bids. But then they decided (rather late) that it would continue to combine for one AQ. So it is 11 AQs this fall. And next fall, it will be back down to 10 AQs when the Big South and OVC merge as one football-playing league.
Some commissioners wanted playoff expansion and for more at-large bids when it looked like the playoffs were going to have 12 AQs. Now that it will have 10 AQs next year, expansion talks have cooled off. If the Big South, OVC, ASUN, or WAC get more members, they could break away from their joint leagues and have their own AQs one day. But I personally don’t see that happening anytime soon.
I know some in the FCS space reacted strongly to this story yesterday about the NCAA Transformation Committee “putting an idea on the table that all Division I sports could allow as much as 25% of a sport’s teams to be able to qualify for said sport’s NCAA bracket.”
- It’s just a concept right now.
- This has more to do with expanding tournaments like baseball and basketball.
- Some FCS commissioners discussed expanding the playoffs way before this concept came out.
- Said commissioners have since cooled off on this idea now that the AQs will be back to 10.
- This does not mean at all that the FCS playoffs will go to 32 teams.
I know many would like to see the AQs go away and just seed a 1-16 bracket. Folks … the FCS playoffs are an NCAA-run tournament. Which means auto-bids and a sense of regionalization. The NCAA isn’t going to give the FCS special treatment and allow the playoffs to not have any auto-bids and just get the best 16 or 24 teams in the field. So the whole “make the bracket smaller and just seed the best 16 teams” Twitter comments are pointless.
What does need to change is the NCAA eating 85% of the ticket revenue. That’s what the commissioners should be pushing for, IMO. Taking 85% is egregious, although I get the FCS postseason is not a big revenue driver for the NCAA. And the NCAA does pay for the travel of teams for all of these games, so it needs to make up for that big bill without a good TV deal. More on this below.
This Bison seems a lot like 2016. Thin at D line and LB. No breakout WR. Will Davis from SDSU have over 200 total yards from scrimmage against NDSU? Can Bison rush for over 200 yards against SDSU? This is worse Rush Defense per game for NDSU since 2010? How many teams would favor over NDSU in a Championship game? 35-17 SDSU over NDSU next week they attack the LB’s with TE’s and RB’s
(Btw, this is an NDSU fan that DMed me this question.)
The NDSU front seven doesn’t have that dude this year, especially with the potentially season-ending injury to preseason All-American DT Eli Mostaert. While it’s certainly not a bad front seven, it is far from the dominant standard the FCS is used to seeing. Its 142.8 rushing YPG allowed is No. 57 in the FCS. And NDSU’s toughest part of its schedule is still to come.
But I don’t know if I would favor any team over NDSU right now in the title game. But I do think SDSU and Montana are best built to beat the Bison. The young DL and inexperienced LBs, plus the lack of a downfield WR threat, have been a reason for some of NDSU’s past losses (JMU 2016, SHSU spring, SDSU spring). So it is something to monitor over this regular season to see if improvements are made. NDSU has a thing for playing its best in the playoffs despite ho-humming its way through the regular season.
Stacked CAA this year with some of the usual suspects ranked near the top as well as some potential surprise teams in the Top 25; after a lot of head-to-head play, who comes out of the regular season with a real shot to make the playoffs?
I think there will be 3, maybe 4 teams out of the CAA in the playoffs. It depends on how much they beat each other up. Delaware and Elon have the best shot right now. UD is 5-0 with an FBS win. Elon is 4-0 vs. the FCS with back-to-back ranked wins against W&M and Richmond, two teams also in the hunt for bids. Richmond is 3-1 vs. the FCS, and William & Mary is 4-1 overall with an FBS win.
How will the OVC be perceived come playoff decision time? SEMO and UT Martin (somehow) don’t play each other, so it’s conceivable that they could share a title.
The OVC has just seven members this season before Murray State joins the MVFC. You may be wondering how SEMO and UT Martin aren’t playing each other in a 7-team league. Due to the low membership number, OVC teams had to schedule a lot of non-conference games. Then Lindenwood joined the OVC in February. Instead of screwing over non-conference opponents and making them have to find another game within a year, the OVC just took one conference game off of each team’s schedule. SEMO and UT Martin happened to be the matchup taken off.
Well, now both teams are looking playoff-worthy. UT Martin returns a bulk of last year’s playoff team that beat Missouri State in the first. It is currently 3-1 vs. the FCS, losing to Mo State in a rematch. SEMO is 4-0 vs. the FCS, including a ranked win against SIU and another quality win against UCA. Both have a good shot to go undefeated in conference play, which means the AQ would go to a tiebreaker.
Will the OVC then get an at-large bid? It kinda depends on how stacked the bubble is, who the OVC’s “No. 2” team is, and how it finishes in the non-conference. SEMO already has a great argument for the playoffs with its win against SIU. It also has an opportunity against EKU, a potential playoff team out of the ASUN-WAC. UT Martin may not finish with a quality, ranked win on its resume unless Kennesaw turns things around and UT Martin beats them on Nov. 5.
Is 596 yards passing thru 5 games for Cam Miller concerning with only 6 games remaining in the regular season?
Yes and no.
No, because he was just OK during last year’s playoffs and the Bison still won the natty. Miller threw for only 88 yards against SIU and 123 yards against ETSU and those two teams still didn’t threaten NDSU at all. Against JMU in the semis, he completed just 53.6% of his passes for 165 yards, most going to Hunter Luepke as the Bison didn’t have a go-to WR with Christian Watson sidelined. The Bison took JMU’s best second-half shot and still won. And Miller completed just nine passes for 126 yards in the title game, yet the Bison rolled Montana State.
Yes, because NDSU might run into a rare FCS team that can stop its rushing attack in the playoffs. Like SDSU and maybe Montana. The Bison can win 99% of its games with Miller playing average. BUT … when NDSU has lost (JMU 2016, SHSU spring, SDSU last fall, Arizona this year), what happened in the fourth quarter? NDSU needed a big play through the air and couldn’t find one. We’ll see if NDSU runs into that scenario in the playoffs.
Do you think it should matter when teams lose in a season for seeding purposes?
It does matter some, although the playoff committee mostly takes the entire season into the picture. There’s the human element of how a team ends and how you saw the team perform to end the season. Losing your first two conference games before winning your final six is going to be perceived better than starting 6-0 in your conference and losing your final two games. For example, if Montana State lost to Montana last year in that fashion in Week 4 and not Week 12, and then won out, would the Bobcats have been dropped that far in the seedings? I don’t know.
I have heard committee chairs say in past interviews that how a team finished (good or bad) was considered.
How do you feel about what Coach Tuke has done at SEMO the past few years? Consistency in great RB’s and WR’s and some great QB play the past 5 years as well.
It’s been very impressive. I remember after SEMO made the playoffs in 2018, we weren’t too high on them in the 2019 preseason after losing a lot. But then they were back in the playoffs that year.
This year’s team is looking very good, and the SIU and UCA wins could look better and better as the season progresses. A return to the postseason seems likely.
Do you see a possibility where both NDSU and SDSU are the top two seeds overall?
It’s possible, but Delaware would have to drop a game and Sac State/Weber State/Montana/Montana State would have to do a circling fire squad on each other as they all *mostly* play each other. More on this below.
The 2nd half of the Big Sky slate is a meat grinder, as No. 3 Montana, No. 4 MSU, No. 5 Sac & No. 7 Weber all play each other. If any one of those teams managed to go through that gauntlet undefeated & win the BSC, would they be No. 1 in the nation? Or is NDSU just there forever? The 2nd half of the Big Sky slate is a meat grinder, as No. 3 Montana, No. 4 MSU, No. 5 Sac & No. 7 Weber all play each other. If any one of those teams managed to go through that gauntlet undefeated & win the BSC, would they be No. 1 in the nation? Or is NDSU just there forever?
Who would get the #1 seed in the playoffs, an undefeated BSC or MVFC team?
I’ll answer both of these questions in one.
There aren’t any undefeated teams in the MVFC, but there are two teams undefeated against FCS opponents — NDSU and SDSU.
While you could easily make an argument for an undefeated Big Sky team over a 10-1 and 10-0 vs. FCS NDSU or SDSU team, my guess is the Bison are going to hold onto that No. 1 seed if they win out. They are the defending champs with a bulk of last year’s team back, and sometimes you have to take that into consideration besides just paper resume. NDSU would be 10-0 vs. FCS with three ranked wins, and a better win against No. 2 SDSU than any of the Big Sky schools own.
But, if NDSU loses to SDSU…
The Bison may not have the resume and ranked wins to warrant a Top 2 seed, whereas in the past NDSU lost to SDSU and still got a Top 2 seed. NDSU didn’t have great FCS non-conference opponents this and does avoid UNI and Missouri State in league play. The Bison had like 4-5 ranked wins on its resume in past years to hang their hat on for a Top 2 seed despite dropping a game to SDSU. That wouldn’t be the case this year if they do lose to SDSU.
If SDSU goes 10-0 vs. the FCS, it would have three ranked wins, all on the road, and two against Top 10 teams, including the No. 1 team NDSU. That’s probably good enough for the No. 1 seed, but could be bumped to the No. 2 seed if Montana goes 11-0 with three wins against Top 10 teams on the road, or Weber goes 11-0 with an FBS win and three Top 10 wins, or Sac State goes 11-0 with an FBS win and two Top 10 wins, or Montana State goes 10-0 vs. the FCS with two Top 10 wins.
But really, the No. 1 and 2 seeds get you home-field advantage throughout regardless. The No. 2 seed vs. No. 3 seed is an argument with bigger implications. NDSU will be a Top 2 seed if it goes undefeated against the FCS. The same as SDSU if it goes 10-0. And if a Big Sky team does go undefeated, they will also be the other Top 2 seed with NDSU or SDSU. Delaware may also figure in if it goes 11-0 with an FBS win, but it will lack the Top 10 ranked wins to overtake two of these unbeaten MVFC/Big Sky teams for a top two seed.
For those that want to see a new FCS champion, you should cheer for this: SDSU to beat NDSU and then not suffer a letdown loss. Plus one of the Big Sky schools to finish undefeated. That would likely force NDSU to go on the road in the semis.
Some of these MVFC/Big Sky teams listed above are going to for sure lose once, if not twice. They all *mostly* play each other within their conference slates, so we’ll see what the records are in November to break this down more and compare resumes, SOS, ranked wins, etc.
Who has your favorite mascot in FCS?
Probably the Great Danes of UAlbany or the Fighting Camels of Campbell.
What’s your beef with SIU?
Not sure why I’d have beef with SIU. Me asking why it was ranked behind SEMO, who is 4-0 vs. the FCS with a head-to-head win against SIU, isn’t beef. I have the Salukis ranked No. 17. Where are they ranked in the media poll? No. 17. Where are they ranked in the coaches poll? No. 24.
I don’t think SIU moves the needle enough for voters spread across the country to have “beef” with the team. Keep winning and it’ll work itself out.
Who is a legitimate threat to the Bison?
South Dakota State and Montana.
I actually broke down the national title tiers in this week’s podcast, so here’s a further explanation.
How many conferences are getting multiple playoff bids this year?
Big Sky, CAA, MVFC, SoCon, and the Southland I feel very confident will get multiple bids. ASUN-WAC is a maybe, OVC is a maybe, and the Patriot is a maybe.
Best chance east coast team to beat SDSU BUNNIES in championship?
Delaware looks to be the best built to do so. But honestly, I’d be surprised if an eastern team wins the natty. While the regular season is fun and new teams emerge and teams look strong and we dive into hypotheticals, I think we all get a sober reality check come playoff time of how big the gap still is at the very top.
Best FCS stadium?
The nicest stadium is Alabama State’s. The best stadium (considering everything from the stadium itself, the setting, the atmosphere, etc.) is Montana’s.
Is ACU good enough to give the WACSUN 2 or even 3 teams into the playoffs?
I was fascinated with Abilene Christian this season to see how bringing in the second-most FBS transfers (just under 20 transfers, behind Alabama A&M’s 25+) would shake out. So far, the record is looking good at 4-1. But the jury is still out. Beating Lamar by two TDs, beating Prairie View A&M by eight, losing to FBS Missouri by 17, beating non-D1 Western New Mexico 34-7, and beating transitioning Utah Tech by 16 doesn’t tell me this team is playoff-worthy just yet.
I’d be shocked if the ASUN-WAC gets three teams into the playoffs. Two is still possible but isn’t looking as likely as it was in the preseason when SFA and Kennesaw were Top 10 teams and have gotten off to slow starts.
Kennesaw is already 1-3 and SFA is already 2-3. Austin Peay was looking good, but just lost to UCA, who is 2-4. ACU is 4-1 and SUU are 3-2, but I’m not sold on them yet as playoff-worthy teams. I like EKU, who is 3-2.
So as of right now, I think Austin Peay and EKU will be in position to make the playoffs. One as the AQ and the other as a bubble at-large team. We’ll see if the ASUN-WAC will be deemed good enough for an at-large bid with a packed bubble and a meh non-conference showing.
Sam can you discuss why the playoff system at the FCS level is fraud for one reason… It does not generate much revenue for the schools. While the bowl model does 10x
It’s because the FCS is a small-market/niche level of football. There aren’t the crowds, the tv deals, or the corporate sponsors to rack up revenue.
The reality is not many NCAA-run tournaments actually make money for the schools. The FCS is no different. A majority of FCS-level schools don’t rely on football to drive revenue for their athletic department. Most of the FCS relies on money from the state/school/student fees to operate. They don’t rely on ticket revenue or TV dollars. That’s kinda the original point of the D1-A and D1-AA split. Smaller athletic departments wanted to keep playing D1 sports and D1 football without pouring money into it and getting caught up in how much revenue they’re bringing in.
But with that said, operating college athletics has never been more expensive. So more ways to drive revenue is important, even at the FCS.
Should FCS leadership negotiate hard for a better TV deal when this current one expires in a few years and try and sell it outside of the lump NCAA tournaments package? Just like the men’s basketball tournament is sold separately, and the women’s basketball tournament will be too? Absolutely.
But the NCAA still needs a well-watched tournament as part of that package for there to be a healthy bid. The FCS playoffs get more than 1 million viewers for most of its games on national TV, and the title game routinely goes over 1.5 million, which is more than a small handful of bowl games. Could it be sold separately as its own package to ESPN, Fox, or whoever wants it and the FCS conferences get a share of whatever that is, even if it’s not massive? Maybe. But the NCAA could also want to keep the FCS and its viewership as part of its lump package of NCAA-run tournaments to ensure it gets a healthy bid from ESPN or whoever to go along with airing the wrestling tournament, T&F tournament, softball tournament, etc. that don’t do as good of ratings.
Should they push for the ticket revenue share to go way down? Absolutely.
But while the ticket revenue cut of 85% is ridiculous, it helps the NCAA pay for all of the travel in the 24-team bracket. The NCAA does reimburse travel expenses to schools, whether it’s a bus trip or one charter flight. That’s why the bracket is regionalized, so the NCAA isn’t flying teams all over the country. Maybe FCS leadership can push for that revenue cut to go down. But again, when there aren’t TV dollars or corporate sponsors or huge crowds driving big dollars, the NCAA is going to take that ticket revenue as a way to make sure it isn’t losing a ton of money operating this tournament.
I asked an FCS commissioner one time if there is any way to make more revenue in the playoffs. That person said they could try to push for certain things, but it’d be hard to ask the NCAA to give the FCS special treatment and not have it operate like a majority of the other NCAA-run tournaments. If the FCS was a big enough market to drive revenue, then it’d be a different discussion. That commissioner also point-blank said the point of the FCS playoffs is not to make money for the schools. Just like the point of the volleyball tournament, baseball tournament, softball tournament isn’t to make money.
The reality is most sports programs lose money. FBS, mostly the Power Five, is the exception of bringing in money. College athletics isn’t a profit-driven venture. The FCS just isn’t the FBS, and we should stop trying to make comparisons.
It’s the beauty and frustration of the FCS. So many get caught up in the fact that the FCS playoffs don’t make teams money. But the whole point of the FCS, for 90% of it besides the FCS teams that operate like FBS programs, is to play D1 football without chasing dollars and relying on external revenue.