Welcome to the HERO Sports FCS Mailbag. In partnership with FCS Football Fans Nation, we will ask for questions with a post on their Facebook page every Sunday and our FCS crew of Brian McLaughlin, Chase Kiddy and Sam Herder will give in-depth answers with these Thursday articles. They will also choose the best question and discuss it on the FCS Podcast that comes out Wednesday mornings.
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Erik Walker: Is the FCS committee ranking teams now that they want to see in Frisco to set up the 'money maker' game instead of actually ranking teams based on merit? JMU was NOT a #2 team going into this week and showed why in another terrible loss to a team they should have beaten.
Chase: I seriously doubt anyone affiliated with the NCAA is actively prioritizing money over the integrity of a bracket. I wouldn't have had JMU at No. 2 last week either, but I don't think it was unreasonable to put the Dukes there. I would challenge you on "a terrible loss to a team they should have beaten," too. New Hampshire won't be going to the playoffs this year, but with everyone healthy and clicking again, it plainly wasn't your average 2-6 CAA team, either. I think UNH underscored JMU's erratic play at quarterback, and as a follow-up, demonstrated how JMU may not be as capable as playing from behind as it might have been in recent years. Past that, I think I'd prefer to withhold further judgment until after this weekend's game with Rhode Island.
Jake Thompson: How many teams do you think the MVFC will actually make the playoff field?
Chase: My gut for most of the year has been four, but I'm not ruling out five. Illinois State is an interesting case study because of its FBS win.
Sam: I'm actually writing a more complete article on this coming out tomorrow because it is a little bit messy. NDSU and basically SDSU are locks to get in. After that, four teams have four losses. There's a real possibility only three Valley teams get in, depending on how these last two weeks shake out. But my guess is four teams will get in.
Adam Willey: What are your thoughts on Indiana State winning out and getting into the playoffs at 7-4?
Chase: Not gonna happen. The Sycs are a great bounceback story this season, but the non-con included no marquee wins and a Division II game. Even if they beat Illinois State and Western Illinois, that's not enough, in my opinion.
Sam: I'd give them a 40 percent chance of winning these next two games. This team has made amazing improvements and are definitely good enough to beat Illinois State at home and WIU on the road. But these are two teams also playing for their playoff lives with four losses. It's going to be a battle.
Greg Gardner: Do you think Delaware should be placed higher than Elon in the playoff rankings if they both win out?
Brian: Absolutely Delaware should be ahead — Hens won by 12 when they played. They'd both have 1 CAA loss apiece and one non-CAA loss (NDSU for Delaware and FBS South Florida for Elon — both were blowout losses). To me, it would be a no-brainer who should be ahead.
Chase: I do. Head-to-head should count for something in close cases. Past that, I think really highly of Davis Cheek, and I believe his absence will be a factor in the playoffs.
Bruce Edmiston: Does Kennesaw State deserve a top 5 ranking?
Brian: I think if Kennesaw State beats Monmouth convincingly and Jacksonville State in the finale convincingly — how could you not make an argument for a team that was what, a few points away from 11-0 (against an FBS team) and tried to schedule strong non-conference opponents (a surging Samford and traditional OVC champ JSU) and not lock them into the Top 5. Now, Top 2? No … but Top 5? Absolutely.
Chase: It all comes down to how you evaluate teams and what criteria you value most. If you're an Al Davis type who appreciates Kennesaw keeping its sheet clean while scores of other FCS programs lose, you're probably arguing that KSU deserves a top-3 spot in the polls. I do think there is some value in a nice record because winning is a habit, but for me, I've done this job long enough that I want teams to show me something. Teams like UC Davis and Kennesaw are winning, but in both cases, neither has a real headliner kind of win. Obviously, that's not the fault of the players, who are working their butts off every week and deserve tons of praise. Still, the fact remains that there's not yet reason to think either team could go out and compete with another top-5 team. The beauty of UC Davis is that we're going to get an idea of where the Aggies are here in about 48 hours. As for Kennesaw, we're going to have to wait a bit longer.
Sam: I think so. I've said all season that I do believe KSU is better than some fans are giving them credit for. This is a team that returns most of its starters from last year, a season that saw the Owls almost make the semifinals. They play good defense and have great speed on offense in an option attack that is tough to prep for in a week in the playoffs. The problem, as we've talked about all season, is the quality wins just aren't there. That ultimately is what's going make teams like UC Davis or SDSU or a CAA team get a higher seed.
Jacob Martinez: I was really disappointed with how Campbell has been doing in conference play after their strong season start, but looking back their first season in the big south so far isn't much worse than KSUs first season. I know there are some big differences between the two but could you see Campbell following in KSUs footsteps?
Brian: Absolutely I could, Jacob, and that's a great question. Campbell and North Alabama are going to rise up in the coming years. I love what QB Daniel Smith can do at Campbell, and he's only a sophomore. Remember … just a few years ago KSU had those glimpses of greatness and just needed a couple more years to put it all together. I'd predict Campbell and UNA will be the same.
Jacob Martinez: Also if I'm allowed a second question, Monmouth is doing really well and will likely, with the exception of KSU, win out. If they put up a solid fight against the owls, would you see them getting an at-large bid again?
Brian: Honestly I think Monmouth got in by a hair last year at 9-2 and then promptly was blown out by Northern Iowa. Granted, it has most of its team back and has won 5 in a row coming into this weekend, but I really think it needs a win at home this weekend against KSU to ensure it gets in (via the automatic berth, honestly).
Chase: I have a hard time seeing Monmouth get another at-large bid. Last year's team got absolutely smashed in the playoffs, and its resume last season compares similarly to what the team has done this year. Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I would like to think that the committee looks at the whole picture and thinks, "You know what? We need more than wins over Lafayette and Wagner if the Big South is going to be a multi-bid league."
Matthew Fraase: JMU at best can nab an 8 seed for the playoffs. Putting them right in NDSUs corner. Think the committee pulls that power move if given the chance?
Brian: With two weeks left, I'm not sure No. 8 is the only potential spot, but JMU for damned sure doesn't control its own destiny with this. It has to win its last two games and then hope a few teams falter ahead of it.
Chase: I'll say this — I think the committee is aware of the financial benefits of keeping JMU and North Dakota State on the opposite side of the bracket. Like I said earlier, I don't think anyone is actively building a bracket based on financial decisions, but I don't think the committee is full of idiots, either.
Sam: Normally the playoff committee will only adjust seeds so two conference teams don't get matched up. For example, switching SDSU from a No. 8 seed to the No. 7 seed if NDSU were No. 1. But I can see a scenario where if JMU sneaks back into the seeding discussion and so does Colgate, the committee would put JMU at 7 and Colgate at 8. But my gut tells me Delaware is going to get the eighth seed and the unseeded Dukes get matched up with them in the second round.
Richard Dean: Does Colgate get a fair shot at a seed. Impressive record, monster defense, potential FBS win (if they win they def a seed in my eyes), but patriot league strength of schedule and one less game with Furman canceled.
Brian: I just talked to Colgate head coach Dan Hunt this week and frankly? Yes, I think there's a chance. And if the Raiders somehow went up to West Point and knocked off FBS Army, not only should Colgate be a seed — it better not be just a No. 8 seed, lined up face-to-face with NDSU. Keep in mind … if Colgate falls at Army (and wins this weekend at Lehigh, which has struggled this year) the Raiders will still be viewed as undefeated in the committee's eyes. Then Colgate has to hope a few teams that currently look like seeds falter between now and Nov. 18.
Chase: Personally, I think the seeded Colgate hype needs to pump the brakes. We often point out the realities of Kennesaw State's schedule, and we're right to do that, but Colgate plays in a Patriot League that is historically bad this year. I'm not here to take anything away from Colgate, because that defense is awesome and the offense is tough to prep for. To post that many shutouts, regardless of competition, is incredible. But scale matters, and when we start talking about the eight most deserving teams in the country, I don't think Colgate is in that conversation. If they somehow beat Army, I'm cool with a seed for the Raiders, but shutting down Bucknell is not quite the same as shutting down one of the five best run games in Division I college football.
Chris Hammond: What is happening in Portland? They look good all of a sudden? what changed?
Brian: I had a chance to catch up with Coach Barny (Bruce Barnum) a few weeks ago and I can tell you that this has been a process of bounce-back that was part of a plan to build the program from the ground up with high school recruits and not just plug holes with JUCO transfers. The Viks took their lumps last year because of this method, but now you're seeing the fruits of the labor. Don't be surprised if this is a program we're talking about as a possible playoff team next year, just like it was under Barny back in 2015.
Sam: Brian pretty much summed it up with his answer. Coach Barnum really dove into the improvements with his podcast appearance that Brian just mentioned. You can listen here.