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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Weekly inquiry for two great FCS minds … is it inevitable that NDSU & James Madison end up in Frisco in a heavyweight bout for the ages?
— Joshua A. Swanson (@Swany8) October 22, 2017
Brian: I don't think it’s inevitable, but it sure looks like a strong possibility. If they both keep this up, they'll both be 11-0 and will take the 1 and 2 seeds (doesn't really matter which is which because they'd both host all the way to Frisco. They both sure look the part, wouldn't you say?
Sam: This is the first season I can remember for awhile where, being more than halfway through the season, there appears to be two teams overwhelmingly favored to make it to the national championship game. Especially after this week, it’s hard to decide who the third best team is. South Dakota and Wofford suffered their first losses. Jacksonville State should continue to roll. Whoever that third team is, I still believe there’s a dropoff after NDSU and JMU.
With how they’re playing now, I don’t see either of these two teams having more than one loss in the regular season. So I think you’re looking at JMU as the No. 1 seed and NDSU at No. 2. That should lead to a showdown in Frisco.
What happens with the CAA come playoffs? JMU, Stony Brook, UNH, Delaware have in. Villanova I think needs to win out and what about Elon?
— Richard Dean (@RichardDeanJMU) October 22, 2017
Brian: I don't think we can sketch anybody in except JMU at this point. Lots can happen these next four weekends. But the strongest cases I've seen? I think Villanova and Delaware are both very strong, but you're right, need a couple more results. I think losing Malcolm Summers hurts Elon a good bit, though freshman QB Davis Cheek sure responded at Rhode Island this weekend, eh?
Sam: Just because the CAA is such a competitive league, it's tough to predict how many teams make the playoffs. Right now you have five teams who are positioned well to make the playoffs because of their overall record: JMU, Elon, Stony Brook, Delaware and New Hampshire. But then you have Richmond and Villanova right there as solid programs as well.
A lot of these teams have yet to face each other. So the number should begin to shrink this weekend even. I say four get in the playoffs; JMU, Elon, Delaware and Stony Brook.
— Jonathan McNamara (@JMUJONMAC) October 22, 2017
Brian: The record in Frisco is a shade under 22,000. I don't know how you'd accommodate much more seating. And if demand was that high (like NDSU-JMU), you have to think a matchup like that could easily sell 30K tickets. Going to be interesting to watch.
Sam: I’m not really sure where in that stadium additional seats can be added. Especially with the National Soccer Hall of Fame being built. And any discussion of moving the game just isn’t a worthwhile conversation because it won’t happen. Frisco and their stadium has that contract and won’t let the game move.
As it appears JMU and NDSU have a strong chance to meet up in Frisco, that’s going to be a hot ticket. The tailgating lots will be full with thousands of fans still going despite not having a ticket. So how about this? How about Toyota Stadium, Frisco and the FCS have a tailgate watch party where the game is projected onto a big screen outside the stadium and tailgaters gather there to watch?
What does Lance Dunn’s injury mean for the bison?
— Jack Dura (@JackFromNoDak) October 22, 2017
Brian: Well, I'm just going with Coach Klieman's word here that it shouldn't keep him out of this weekend's game. So it must not be that massive. And there's Bruce Anderson, and the fact that NDSU is so well rounded. I have to think the Bison could manage, though losing a guy playing that well would hurt psychologically at least a little bit.
Sam: NDSU head coach Chris Klieman said the running back, who’s having an all-American season, has a hip injury and is doubtful this week. He is week to week. That’s a big, big deal. Especially with a tough stretch of games to finish the season. But the good news is Bruce Anderson is just as talented as Dunn and can be a feature back at any other school in the Valley.
The bad news is backup running back Ty Brooks is just returning from injury. The other two backups Adam Cofield and Demaris Purifoy are out injured. I’m not overly concerned with NDSU’s running production going down with Anderson carrying the load. The concern is keeping him healthy.
With everyone talking about the chaos outside of the Top 3 teams how do you stack JSU against JMU & NDSU?
— Matthew Fraase (@MatthewFraase) October 22, 2017
Brian: JSU looks more and more like a team that will finish 10-1 with an OVC title and will host 2 games in the FCS Playoffs — but not three. The only way JSU leapfrogs either one of these two frontrunners is if the slip up at least 2 times before the end of the year and I just don't see that happening. And even if NDSU slipped up twice, lets just say to SDSU and USD by a couple points, you could still make the argument that NDSU or maybe one of the Dakota teams that beat them should be ahead of JSU. I think it would come down to strength of schedule. And if NDSU or JMU have only one loss? I still think it places them ahead of JSU, again on S.O.S.
Sam: As I believe Brian mentioned last week, JSU is clearly the best team not playing in the MVFC and the CAA. The Gamecocks always have talent, but I don’t believe the team as a whole is on the same level of the Dukes and Bison. Two years ago was supposed to be JSU’s year and NDSU’s toughest opponent in Frisco because of all these SEC transfers. But it was a bloodbath in the trenches.
YSU took it to the Gamecocks in the second round last season when JSU was seeded No. 3. They have star players with NFL talent. But I don’t see them stacking up with JMU and NDSU for four quarters this season.
Regardless of how many quality/deserving teams there are, is there any realistic chance the committee sends 6 Valley teams to the playoffs?
— Sons of Bridgeforth (@BridgeforthSons) October 22, 2017
Brian: I think if you continue to see teams chop each other up and all 6 had 7 wins? I think its possible. As of today? North Dakota State, South Dakota, Illinois State and Western Illinois are locks I'd say, with South Dakota State right on the cusp. Northern Iowa and Youngstown State need a bit more evidence and Southern Illinois needs to win at least 3 out of the next 4, and they probably would only be favored in one. Bottom line? They Valley will get a bunch in, and it's a mess.
Sam: I don’t think it will happen. The committee has representatives from each FCS conference. I just don’t see how they will allow the Valley to take up a quarter of the bracket. Unless of course they put every single Valley team on one side of the bracket in 2015 out of spite.
It’d be interesting to be a fly on the wall during their selection process. They do have a process they follow as far as seeding and getting as many bus trips as possible in the second round. But I’d like to hear the reaction in that room when someone mentions six teams in the MVFC should make the playoffs.
Predictions for who will be big sky champ?
— Wyatt Cook (@_Yalright_) October 22, 2017
Brian: With Eastern Washington going down the way it did, I'm starting to wonder about the hottest team in the Big Sky right now — Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds play host to Northern Arizona in the season finale and that may settle everything. Could the T-birds do what they did in 2015? Possibly.
Sam: Boy, this turned into a loaded question in recent weeks, huh? For a bit it looked like Weber State and Eastern Washington would be the two teams battling for the title. But then Southern Utah hands them both losses these last two weeks. And then you have Northern Arizona undefeated in conference play and on a five-game winning streak after opening the season with two losses.
The Lumberjacks avoid EWU this season. And guess who they play in the final week? Southern Utah? That game is in Utah, where the Thunderbirds are currently 3-0. So right now, SUU is looking good to be crowned Big Sky champs.
Brian, would you seed any 1 or even 2 loss valley team, with loss or losses coming in conf, ahead of JSU if they are undefeated vs FCS?
— KorFrer (@KorFrer) October 23, 2017
Brian: Yes, I could see that happening IF we're talking about a 10-1 type Valley team that maybe lost to one of the other powers by a field goal on the road or something. I don't even think that'd be a question. The question comes down to if a Valley team has 2 losses in the league. What if both losses come to top Valley teams on the road by a field goal? Does that look better? That's the scenario where we may need to break it down to the fifth tiebreaker and be able to explain the choice.
Sam: I don't think the playoff committee should look at the number of losses compared to the overall resume. If JSU goes 10-1 with an FBS loss and two ranked FCS wins, that's a good resume obviously. But is it better than a MVFC team who goes 9-2 with five wins against ranked opponents? Strength of schedule is a major factor in the committee's determining of seeds, as it should be. We've seen several team that have gone undefeated against FCS teams not even be ranked Top 4 in the past.
So yes, I think if a couple Valley teams go 10-1, they'd be seeded over the Gamecocks.