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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Matt Petznick – With all these losses from 'top' teams.. Which teams/conferences benefits most?
Brian: I think with the craziness we've seen in the SoCon, Southland and OVC at the top, the conference winners will undoubtedly be the Big Sky, CAA and MVFC. I'll bet that they pick up more at-large berths — collectively — this year than in the past few years because of other conferences' struggles.
Chase: It feels like the power structure benefits the most. I'm finding it harder and harder to project numerous bids for leagues like the Southland, which leaves more bids for the middle of the better conferences like the Valley and CAA. I think Independents like North Dakota and North Carolina A&T also stand to benefit tremendously from the carnage elsewhere.
Matthew Fraase – UC Davis, Weber, JMU or Towson. Who do you feel the most confident in for a 1 or 2 seed?
Chase: We talked a little bit about this on the podcast this week. If we're talking specifically about resumes and seeding, I think Weber State has the chance to line up the best resume of any team not based out of Fargo. But I do think the respect level (and the eye test, and the metrics) for JMU probably puts them back in a top-2 seed for the playoffs when it's all said and done.
Sam: Out of that group, I'd say JMU. UC Davis and Weber both have tough games ahead and I think JMU is going to fully understand the implications of the regular-season finale at Towson. When it's all said and done, I think we're looking at NDSU the No. 1 seed and JMU at No. 2.
Paul Alexander Dobson – Who will win the SDSU/ISU game? Injuries definitely played a factor in the UNI loss. I think it's going to be hard for SDSU to win.
Chase: I'm inclined to agree. South Dakota State's run defense hasn't impressed me this season, and Illinois State is obviously an effective run team, so I think the Redbirds hand SDSU another loss.
Sam: Illinois State's SID, Mike Williams, told me before last week's game at the Fargodome that Illinois State is as healthy as it's been all season. Meanwhile, SDSU is going in the opposite direction with its starting RB out along with some key offensive linemen. That showed last week in their offensive performance at UNI while the defense seems to be a step slower than at the start of the season. With all that said, I have a gut feeling the Jacks are going to pull out a win. Two losses in a row here has this season going in a tailspin compared to where the Jacks were a couple weeks ago as the No. 2 team in the FCS.
Darrin Fontana – Can SB get into the Playoffs with 7 wins?
Chase: The projection here is most likely that Stony Brook loses to JMU this weekend and loses on 11/10 to Delaware before closing out the season with a win at Albany. I think the strength of the CAA gives Stony Brook a boost, and that win over Rhode Island looks awfully powerful, so I don't think it's crazy to see the Seawolves in the field at 7-4. They certainly look like a playoff team, with the way they control a game with their defense and run game. The non-con schedule is a little soft, though, so I've gotta think Chuck Priore wants to leave no doubt with a win over JMU or UD. I think he gets one of those, too.
John McCormack – Posted this in another thread… if Colgate wins out including a win over Army do they get a seed?
Brian: Absolutely they get a seed, especially in this topsy-turvy year we have. A win over Army — which will be a challenge — would be the icing on the cake of an undefeated 10-0 season (remember Furman was cancelled). They would deserve to be in the 5 to 8 range, depending on the other teams involved.
Chase: If Colgate beats Army, then yes, I think the Raiders are seeded. It's not just the idea of an FBS win — it's the idea of an FBS win punctuating your season, right before the playoff committee sets the bracket. It'd be a huge get for Colgate. I just don't think a win there will happen.
Peter Mooney – Let me try again, will JSU or SHSU make the playoff field?
Brian: Jacksonville State has a better chance. The Gamecocks likely will win no less than 8 games (depends on the Kennesaw game) and could end up winning the OVC if it runs the table, which is possible (and SEMO slips up, as it already has one OVC loss). Sam Houston State's route is a bit slippier and depends more on the rest of the Southland, I'd think. No matter what, I can't see either one being seeded.
Chase: Frankly, I still think JSU wins the OVC. We talked about that in the pod a little bit. I've been pretty consistent on Sam Houston not being a playoff team throughout the year, so I'll stick with my call there.
Sam: I think JSU has a better chance than SHSU. I agree with Chase, the OVC is going to shake out where the Gamecocks win the auto-bid. I still believe SHSU has a decent chance to make the playoffs. But it's so hard to figure out how many teams the Southland get in and who exactly gets in. Because right now, it seems like no one deserves to get into the playoffs outside of the auto-bid.
Adam Willey – What will it take for the CAA, Big Sky, and MVFC to all get 4 teams in the playoffs?
Chase: At this point, I'd be more shocked if all three leagues don't get four teams in the playoffs.
Sam: I actually think this is very likely to happen. We might even have five teams from one conference and four from the other two. I've said for a long time that the more teams from the Big Sky, CAA and the MVFC, the more competitive the playoff field is. Conferences like the SoCon, Big South and Southland may have one less team compared to a year ago, opening the door for a fourth team from the Big Sky or fifth team from the CAA.
Chad Knicely – Which team is set up to be the most dangerous spoiler in their conference?
Brian: I'll go with Samford in the Southern Conference. There are scenarios where the Bulldogs could storm back and win their last three games and win the SoCon at 7-4, therefore fulfilling a prediction I know I made — the SoCon would be won by a team with a 6-2 league record. If this scenario happened, Wofford and ETSU would both have two losses and Samford would beat them in the tiebreaker BUT … and this is a big BUT … this also hinges on Mercer and Chattanooga slipping up a few times too.
Chase: I'll give you two: New Hampshire and Samford. The Bulldogs could have a tough time snagging an at-large bid as a 7-win team with a Division II game on the resume, but November games with ETSU and Wofford could really tighten things up for the SoCon if those go Samford's way. As for UNH, it still has games with Villanova, JMU and Rhode Island, and it's got Trevor Knight back on the field. The preseason top-10 Wildcats have the chance to potentially eliminate two teams from playoff contention and knock a third out of seeding territory, even if they themselves can't make the field. That's pretty darn spoilery to me.
Matt Contento – What are the chances SDSU loses the next two and misses the playoffs?
Chase: Pretty low. I don't see them losing to Mo. State at home, and even if they did, a 7-3 SDSU team wouldn't necessarily be eliminated from playoff consideration. Potential wins over Montana State and South Dakota aren't exactly cream of the crop, but that's still enough to buoy a Valley team that will have spent most of its season ranked in the top 10.
Sam: Above I picked SDSU to beat Illinois State, although I think it's a 50/50 game. However, and while I think Missouri State has shown impressive improvements this season, I don't think the Bears beat SDSU at home.
David D. Herr – How many teams legitimately have ANY chance of winning the championship game in Frisco this year?
Chase: Right now? I think it's three.
Sam: If anyone outside of NDSU wins the national title, it would surprise me. But there's a handful of teams where if they won, it wouldn't shock me. JMU certainly wouldn't shock me. EWU and SDSU wouldn't shock me. And I think Kennesaw is better than some people think, so the Owls winning it all wouldn't shock me either. So other than NDSU … JMU, EWU, SDSU and KSU all have a chance to win the championship in my eyes. It'd be a surprise if they did, but not, "holy hell, how did that just happen!?"
Karen Green Ehrhard – How are independents considered for the playoffs? Specifically, what will it take for the U of North Dakota Hawks to make the playoffs?
Sam: For an independent like North Alabama, its kind of in no man's land as far as having no affiliation. The Lions are ineligible for the playoffs anyway. But my point is with UND, the Fighting Hawks have been a Big Sky team for the last several years and still play a Big Sky schedule, although don't factor into the conference standings. While UNA doesn't really have an affiliation when people nationally see its name pop up, I think many still consider UND an unofficial Big Sky team. And that's a good thing because the Big Sky is gaining a lot of national respect. How I think it'll go down is this: If UND has a good overall record and a good record against Big Sky opponents that would put them in the Top 4 of the standings, the Hawks are in and take a spot away from a team in the actual standings.
Bruce Edmiston – With a three-way tie in the Southland, who has the best chance of getting the automatic qualifier/conference championship?
Brian: You know what? I'm going to go with Central Arkansas here. McNeese has really not played well for most of October, whereas UCA hasn't played poorly at all and has been here before (winning the Southland last year and being seeded). The Bears played FBS Tulsa tough, they beat the currently undefeated front-runner in the OVC (Murray State) and its only loss in the conference was in overtime at Sam Houston State. This weekend's game at McNeese will tell us everything, and Incarnate Word on Nov. 10 is a key one at home to prove whether I'm right or not.
Chase: I still think it's McNeese at this point. The Cowboys are going to come out fired up against Central Arkansas this week, and Incarnate Word still has a lot of tough games ahead of it.
Isaiah Barco – Is it possible we can see A&T in the playoffs this year?, and if so will they have a home playoff game?
Brian: Absolutely it is possible, as long as Florida A&M continues to lead (and eventually win) the MEAC. That would possibly leave NC A&T with a 9-2 overall record and I'd guess the playoff committee would ask the Aggies to be an at-large qualifier to the playoffs, as it will have a win over a potential OVC playoff team (Jacksonville State) and an FBS (East Carolina) on its resume. And as for a home game? That's based on how high a program bids in the first round. NC A&T certainly can draw a first-round worthy crowd, but it's up to them to bid on it.
Chase: It's definitely possible, but A&T can't afford to lose another MEAC game. Those blemishes don't look good in the context of the playoffs. As for hosting, that all depends on how much money the administration wants to wager in the bidding process. My guess is that the Aggies would be on the road against a CAA team.