Born just a little bit more than a month apart in 1999, and endowed with the same forename — it almost seems like Bailey Zappe (the older one by 1 month, 6 days) and Bailey Fisher were meant to cross paths at some point. Both were accomplished 3,000+ yard senior year passers and scary rushing threats in high school. Both played in football "hotbed" states, with Zappe coming from Texas and Fisher hailing from Georgia. Both came to FCS programs needing a big-time spark, and both started as true freshmen — Zappe in 2017 at Houston Baptist and Fisher in 2018 at Tennessee Tech. Both played for FCS teams that finished 1-10 in their first season starting … but more importantly, both are 4-1 as of today with only FBS losses in 2019.
[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
- COACHES CORNER: HBU Coach Vic Shealy
COACHES CORNER: TTU Coach Dewayne Alexander
The Baileys told HERO Sports this week that they'd never even heard of each other until we tweeted out the comparison in the past few weeks. But both are definitely connected now. When your program goes 2-20 the previous two seasons — as Houston Baptist and Tennessee Tech both did in 2017-18 — it is eye-opening when they open the first month of play undefeated against the FCS, both with a road win over a Missouri Valley Football Conference team — and a combined 8-2 record.
Where did that fit into the 2019 preseason script, right?
Truly, the story of the two QB Baileys is only part of the picture. There are 21 other starters on both teams and there are other stars here. We don't want to get neck-deep into the "QB is the entire reason for success" or on the flip-side, the "QB is the entire problem." Both statements are incorrect. But, at the same time it is hard to ignore the obvious here … in the NFL, the teams that have good quarterbacks? They win. Year after year, they win. And the teams that don't have good QBs? They draft early. Year after year. After year after year after year. And they are stuck in the proverbial mud.
So, having a good signal-caller is step No. 1 in the Maslow's Imaginary "Gridiron Hierarchy of Need," and these two programs — Houston Baptist and Tennessee Tech, listed alphabetically — have figured that out and have recruited well. And neither one is going anywhere anytime soon. Both Baileys return to the roster in 2020 (and beyond for Fisher).
They've combined for more than 3,000 yards passing through five games, along with 31 TDs … but more importantly? They've combined to be 8-2 through five weeks, with the two losses being to FBS teams (UTEP and Miami-Ohio). They both enter October as major factors in their conferences and they are one week away from being rankable. This week, Tenn Tech heads to 2018 playoff team SEMO, and 2018 playoff team Incarnate Word visits Houston Baptist. If these two teams knock off those two 2018 playoff teams?
They may both end up in the national Top 25 a week from today.
BMAC-HERD PODCAST GAME BALL: HBU and TTU Talk (at abt 5 min mark)
Nobody would have predicted that a month ago.
"To be quite honest with you, I looked more into (Tennessee Tech) and saw what (Fisher) is doing right now as a sophomore, and it speaks volumes about how that program is in good hands with him playing QB," Zappe told HERO Sports this week.
And from the flip side?
"I really had never paid attention to their (Houston Baptist's) program, not until the comparisons," Fisher told HERO Sports. "I've never met Bailey (Zappe) but obviously he's having a huge season and it's a great deal. Obviously us having the same name Bailey … it's kind of weird."
Wouldn't it be more "weird" if both got at-large FCS playoffs berths? So far so good. In 2017, we saw Austin Peay go from 29 straight losses to pushing FBS teams to the brink and winning eight games and on the verge (ahem) of an FCS playoff berth. Yours truly thought they should have been the last team in (didn't happen). This year, it's almost like we have two Austin Peays. Let's get beyond talking about these two teams being wonderful stories and let's move on to talking about both being conference factors, which they both want.
"Cookeville is loving our success," Fisher told HERO Sports. "Coach A (Alexander) has been telling us that ever since we beat Samford … They're rallying behind us, and it's lots of fun seeing that in the community."
Zappe was almost completely in line with what Fisher said.
"Everybody is playing their part and doing their assignment and I'm just a product of what is going on," Zappe said, which is really just a mirror-image statement from the guy he shares a name with in rural Tennessee. "It's cool to get the recognition. Two years ago we didn't get that and now we are and there are nice things being said about it. We can enjoy that but we can't let it get to our heads. I think these past couple of weeks we have improved, but I can tell you that I have things to improve on."
Two humble quarterbacks with eligibility beyond today. Two humble quarterbacks who have some serious talent around them.
How far does this go? Could these be surprise playoff teams in six-plus weeks? We shall see. UIW, Lamar and SEMO certainly did that last year. We shall see how this goes.
NEXT: FCS Playoff Predictions After Week 5
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