Welcome to the HERO Sports FCS Mailbag. In partnership with FCS Football Fans Nation, we'll ask for questions with a post on their Facebook page and our senior staff members Brian McLaughlin and Sam Herder will provide answers. You can also tweet them some questions.
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[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
Collin Sutrick – What does Delaware (or any team for that matter) have to do to have a "good" showing against NDSU?
Brian: Pull a fire alarm at the hotel the night before the game? Cost the Bison a night of sleep? Give the plane pilot the wrong airport to fly to? Nah, I'll defer to what we've said in the past … you have to get NDSU off its train tracks. Because once that locomotive has left the station? Good luck. It's hard to beat them at what they do (smash mouth), but if you punch them in the mouth with a quick strike approach, and they cough it up a few times, you may have a chance. I don't think Delaware has much of a chance, but there may be teams in the FCS that do — namely the MVFC teams that play the Bison year in and year out and have modeled their own approaches after what is done in Fargo. Even then, it likely won't work, but there's a chance. If you think back to NDSU's last three losses (two to SDSU and one in the playoffs to James Madison in 2016), those were programs that were physical.
Sam: Well I certainly do think there are a number of teams on NDSU's schedule that can beat the Bison this year. So expectations for these teams are to beat NDSU, not just compete or have a good showing against them. However, I don't see Delaware as one of those teams. It's just not a good matchup for Delaware. I think if the Blue Hens keep the final score within 10 points, people will look at that as a "good" loss. To beat NDSU, first you need a strong, physical defense for four quarters. Not one quarter or three quarters. Four quarters. I hate math, so I'm not going to add it all up, but the fourth-quarter point differential between NDSU and its opponents over the years is absurd. Offensively, yes you need to be physical. But you can't just line up and try to smash NDSU head-to-head and expect to win. What gives the Bison fits is a physical offensive line with a dynamic running back in an offense that spreads them out with play-making WRs. And the biggie is having a mobile quarterback. Having a statue back there just isn't going to work. Like I said, this is not a good matchup for Delaware.
Jamie Williams – Which team was the most difficult to slot in your Top 25 ballot?
Brian: Well, as it turns out, I was the only one in the country to give The Citadel a vote this week. Why did I do it? Because I think the Bulldogs are a hair off of 2-0, and they had Top 10 Towson and Top 25 Elon on the ropes. But ranking an 0-2 team is tricky and the common observer won't get it. I'm sticking to my guns on this, that The Citadel is rankable, but pretty soon we'll need some results to keep that up.
Sam: For me, it was Montana, who I ranked No. 24 this week. I thought about jumping the Griz way up, but I'm cautious about doing that. While the Grizzlies have looked very good in their first two games, the quality of opponents is average. Not great. Not bad. Just average. And let's not forget that Montana started last year 4-1 with a win against No. 13 UNI and missed the playoffs. The Griz started 5-2 in 2016 and 2017 and missed the playoffs. I have a feeling this Montana team is going to be different and break that trend, but I'm going to wait and see what it does against UC Davis and Eastern Washington in the coming weeks.
Adam Willey – What will it take to get both of you or one of you to Normal, Ill. for the NDSU vs IL State game October 5th
Brian: Well, seeing as though Sam lives up in that neck of the woods, I'll leave that question up to him. I've seen NDSU a few times in recent years — in Frisco.
Sam: We get asked a lot about which games we're traveling to. And while it seems like we would attend a lot of games, the reality is we're way more productive and get a better feel for what's going on nationally when we aren't traveling and sitting in a press box. I'd rather watch five games in my living room than watch one game in person with another streaming on my computer. There are a couple of regular-season games we'll travel to, but that Oct. 5 game isn't one of them.
Brandon Owens – How intense do you think the EWU @ JSU game will be?
Brian: It could be a real shootout, Brandon. EWU gave up a lot of points to a D2 last week, and Jacksonville State has had its own demons to work through early. I think both teams have a ton to prove, and with JSU it may be one of those "last chances to prove they deserve to be in the national discussion" games. But it's in Alabama. I'm just glad the FCS scheduling gods made this one happen. Kudos to them.
Sam: I expect it to rival the JSU-Kennesaw State game last year as far as the scoring and back-and-forth action. Plus, the playoff implications in this one are huge as well even if it is early in the season. We'll have this game in our predictions article later this week where we break it down more.
Steve Anderson – How many of the next 4 games does NDSU lose and to who?
Brian: Well, in the preseason I would have said UC Davis first, but now I'm leaning more towards Illinois State and Northern Iowa because these are teams that have played toe-to-toe with the Bison in recent years, and I still feel like we have yet to see NDSU play against high-end FCS competition. But the Bison will be tested over the next four weeks. However, I'm not sure this weekend will be that much of a test. I don't think Delaware is truly a rankable team.
Sam: I'll say one, and that's to Illinois State. I originally thought the UC Davis game was 50/50, but I'm just not sure I love that matchup and how the Aggies stack up against the Bison. Delaware is a team that wants to be physical, but the Blue Hens aren't going to out-physical NDSU. And UNI always plays its best against NDSU, but the Bison have the edge with the Fargodome crowd. A road trip to Illinois State a week before the UNI game, however, is going to be very challenging and I'm high on the Redbirds this year.
Matt Petznick – What's with the D2 losses, & the lack of FBS wins?
Brian: You know Matt, that's a very good question. Usually, we see about eight to 10 FBS victories and maybe one of these D2/NAIA losses, but it seems to be in reverse this year eh? We saw six D2/NAIA losses this past weekend and another one go to overtime, plus a couple of other close ones. As for FBS, there are still some opportunities, but they're dwindling. Could this be the lowest year since 2008 when there were only two of them? We shall see. But hey … keep an eye on Furman-Virginia Tech this weekend. Just sayin'.
Ben Schleiger – Who is the best 0-2 team and the worst 2-0 team?
Brian: The best 0-2 team in the FCS is clearly The Citadel, and this weekend they're at Georgia Tech. The worst 2-0 team? I hate using the word "worst", but Lamar in the Southland hammered a lower division team in week one and then went to overtime with Mississippi Valley State, which traditionally has struggled in the SWAC and hasn't won outside its conference in nearly a decade. Lamar goes to Texas A&M this weekend and plays a tough SE Louisiana team the week after, so we'll learn more about this team in the next two weeks.
Sam: The Citadel is definitely the best 0-2 team with two seven-point losses to ranked teams. And while I do think CCSU has a shot at the NEC title, they probably have the weakest 2-0 mark so far, narrowly beating Fordham (2-9 last year) and Merrimack (transitioning to D2). Lamar is right there too, but I see Brian pointed that one out.
Paul Parr – Duquesne at Youngstown State. What does a win do for either team's ranking????
Brian: Very simple Paul … if Duquesne wins, they certainly will be on my ballot this week. This is a stout program with pedigree and some athletes that not many NEC teams possess. This is the Dukes' big opportunity and they tend to do well in those situations. For Youngstown State, this would be counted as a big-time "quality win" in my book and would set up the Penguins nicely in MVFC play for a potential playoff bid at 3-0. As Sam has said repeatedly, if YSU takes care of business in the out of conference, it needs only to go 4-4 in league play to make the playoffs. Next week's YSU game is against Robert Morris, who just lost to a D2, so basically if YSU beats Duquesne, it'll be 4-0 in non-conference play.
Sam: I have Duquesne No. 23 in my poll this week and YSU just outside my Top 25. So for me, a Duquesne win would just be a statement that it belongs in the Top 25, which I know a lot of voters don't have the Dukes in their poll. If YSU wins, it bumps them into my Top 25 and Duquesne out of it unless it's an incredibly close game, then I'd consider keeping the Dukes in it. I don't think either team winning necessarily tells me they're a Top 20 team just yet, though.
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