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.
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[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
Pat Wulfekuhle – Is Montana State overrated in the polls?
Brian: Maybe so as a Top 10, at least based on results so far. Pat, the Bobcats are good, but I want to see those final two games with UC Davis and the "Brawl" before I proclaim MSU a seedable team. But … as we all know … the poll Gods will probably let MSU float really high because honestly, it should take care of biz against the remainder of its schedule. The good news is, the Cats will be challenged in November and that will determine their fate, not the polls.
Sam: The Bobcats are higher than where I rank them. They're No. 8 in the STATS poll and No. 19 in my poll I submitted. I still need to see more in the passing attack from this team. To me, a poll is a projection, even though most voters don't view things that way and they look at things week-to-week instead of the big picture. To say Montana State is a Top 8 team, to me, means you think it's a quarterfinal team. I don't see the Bobcats making the quarterfinals until the passing game improves.
Greg Gardner – What is your opinion of Sacramento State who has won big against lesser opponents and played tough against an Arizona State team who is now ranked in the FBS Top 25?
Brian: I had Sacramento State at No. 25 on my official STATS INC poll ballot this week and I'm ready to continue moving the Hornets up as things move along if they earn it. What really woke me up was that incredible 50-point win over Northern Colorado and how much the Hornets gave Arizona State fits the week before. Yeah, Greg, you're on to something here. It was a team we weren't talking about in the preseason because of the coaching change and struggles last year, but let's not forget this was a 7-4 team two years ago that had some nice wins. This isn't a moribund program. And as a recruiting nerd, I'll always add this … adding Coach Kee (Cherokee Valeria) to your staff after what he helped do at Eastern Washington? Yeah, that tells me where things are going under Coach Taylor. I honestly think we may have a new budding contender in the Big Sky here. Great topic, Greg.
Sam: I've had my eye on Sac State ever since it hired Troy Taylor as the head coach and he brought on some impressive assistant coaches with Big Sky experience. This team has talent, especially offensively. And if they can land recruits in that rich of an area, the potential is there. I'm being a little more patient with the 2019 team, though. The two wins weren't against that great of opponents. And just because an FCS team battles an FBS team close, it doesn't always mean that FCS squad is going to go on to have a great season. We see examples of this every year. These next four games will tell us a lot more.
Scotti Simpson – Buy or Sell: The OVC will have at least 2 teams in the playoffs.
Brian: Man this is a tough question right now. The Eastern Kentucky loss to Indiana State was a biggie to me. I thought EKU would win that one and it was shut down, and that could be a tide turner in November. The Colonels do have some serious talent, and SEMO is a team to keep an eye on thanks to its defensive potential and a solid QB returner. But man, I don't know what to say at this juncture. It's been a struggle through nonconference play, to say the least. I think Jacksonville State is rebuilding its resume and should enter OVC play 3-1, so the Gamecocks are rebounding. I'll do a "push" on this question for another week or two. I just don't know. Good question Scotti. I will say this … keep a close eye on Austin Peay this year. There is a chance the Govs are better than they were two years ago. A lot of the same talent is there. Maybe this is the second OVC team? Time will tell.
Sam: I'll sell this for right now, but things can obviously change depending on how the bubble looks in November. I can see two teams get into the bracket if JSU somehow slips up and doesn't win the auto-bid. But if the Gamecocks roll through the OVC, I see them potentially getting a seed and the conference getting zero at-large bids. The OVC didn't do itself any favors when its preseason No. 2 and No. 3 teams have had disappointing nonconference games against key opponents: SEMO losing to Montana State and EKU losing to Indiana State.
Jamie Williams – What should we make of Central Arkansas? 3-0 with 3 quality wins. But each win required 4th quarter comebacks. Strong team or paper tiger?
Brian: Strong team, Jamie. Legit. First of all, UCA has some serious ballers. And the close road win at Austin Peay (see nugget above)? Hell, APSU may turn out to be a big story once again coming out of the OVC, and don't forget that Abilene Christian (who gave UCA fits this past week) has a coach (Adam Dorrel) who had led D2 teams to national titles and has changed the culture at ACU in less than 24 months. And here we sit, three weeks in with 126 FCS teams and fewer than 10 are 3-0. The Bears are one of them with an FBS win. Nah, I feel strongly about the Bears as of three weeks in, and I felt strongly about them when we ranked them No. 16 in the nation after a 6-5 rebuilding year. Still really like this team and its silky smooth QB and leader, Breylin Smith. Yeah, don't look away folks.
Sam: I do think UCA is a strong team and a playoff team. But I'm not convinced the Bears are a national title threat. They could potentially earn a seed with that FBS win and avoid more than one loss in conference play. I can see this team making it to the quarterfinals, but I need to see more before I say it can make a deeper run. UCA isn't exactly lighting the FCS world on fire by beating Austin Peay and Abilene Christian by one score. Like Brian said, those are two quality opponents. But those close wins don't tell me UCA can make a run to Frisco just yet.
Ben Schleiger – Who has had the most surprising good start to the season and most surprising bad start to the season?
Brian: Let's go with the poz, Ben. This is something I've talked about this week on the podcast and radio. VMI, Tennessee Tech and Houston Baptist were a combined 3-30 last year. They're standing at a combined 6-3 right now with all three of those losses to FBS teams, and I think two of those three teams should win this weekend, maybe all three. How's that for a storyline? All three have incredible quarterbacks who will be around beyond this year. All three have coaches who are building something special. Now, for the surprising bad start? My Fantasy League football team … I have nine-year old twins and I'm 0-2 so far — against my twins, who are 1st and 3rd in a 14-team league. I guess I need to "up" their allowances. Nah, too early to trash anybody in the FCS, at least in my book. Consult Twitter for the Neg.
Sam: Brian is too nice. Saying someone has a bad start to the season isn't trashing them. It's reality. Wofford is 0-2 against teams we assumed it would beat (SC State and Samford). That's a surprisingly bad start. And I didn't see Houston Baptist's start to the season coming at all and that's really impressed me, highlighted by the win against South Dakota.
Andrew Upton – Eastern Washington… Contenders or Pretenders?
Brian: Neither. Ask Sam Herder if I was sold on EWU back in June when we had them No. 7 in our June 4th preseason poll. I covered EWU's pre-and-post game locker room back in Frisco in January and there were soooo …. many …. talented …. seniors. EWU was a monster last year. We knew it as a staff in the preseason of 2018. We knew this team shouldn't have been left out of the 2017 playoffs at 7-4. Well, now we know they're bringing in some new faces. Hey, it's college football, it happens … and nobody at this level is Alabama. EWU will never be a "pretender" under Aaron Best. EVER. I can assure you of that. But I'm not sure this year's EWU team is a national contender. Yet. An at-large playoff team? Likely.
Sam: Right now I don't see EWU as a national contender. The defense is just too soft right now and when you add the number of injuries the Eagles have suffered recently on that side of the ball, it's not looking good. Now, is this still a playoff team? Definitely. The schedule from here on out gets quite easy and this is a team with loads of talent and youth that should get better as the season progresses. Even if EWU doesn't get a seed, no one is going to want to match up against the Eagles in the playoffs. They'll be a tough out. But again, the defense needs to get better to make some serious noise.
Charlie Osborn – Whichever team loses (NDSU or UCD) how far do you anticipate them dropping in the polls?
Brian: Charlie, I can't anticipate anything these voters do because it doesn't really follow logical lines and I don't know any other thought pattern to attempt to follow. I mean, Delaware was STILL in the poll this week. I give up. I can tell you how far one of these two would drop in MY poll ballot though. If NDSU loses at home in Fargo to UC Davis, the first thing that will and should happen? I know this is shocking … Is UC Davis will be AHEAD of NDSU on my ballot. I don't play politics. If it's close? They'll be close in my poll ballot. If it's a blowout UC Davis win? We'll drop NDSU even more. If NDSU blows out UC Davis, I'll have to couple that with the San Diego nail-biter and bury the hatchet that my preseason feelings that UC Davis is a Top 5 might be a tad off, at least for now until the Aggies prove otherwise. And if UC Davis goes up to Fargo and gives the Bison fits and falls by 3 or 7 or whatever? I will NOT be dropping UC Davis by much because it takes cajones to head up there and go toe-to-toe with that team. I dare any program to go up there to the northern reaches and give that team "fits". Kudos to you if you do. Hashtag … my take. Except I refuse to put a hashtag there because I'm 44 and not a millennial.
Sam: It really depends on what the final score is and what else happens in the Top 5 of the rankings. The only result in this game that would surprise me is a UC Davis blowout win. I think if the Aggies win close, that obviously elevates them and shouldn't drop NDSU too far. If NDSU wins close, both teams probably stay where they're at. If NDSU completely annihilates UC Davis, I will likely move the Bison up to No. 1 from No. 2 and move UC Davis out of the Top 5.
NEXT: Top 15 Favorites To Win The National Title After Week 3
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