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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Alex Bonser: Does UC Davis get seeded if they pick up a second loss, or do they have to run the table?
Brian: I think that depends on who they lose to, by how much, and what the other top teams are doing. Vague enough? Let me give you a scenario … let's say UC Davis wins two and falls at Eastern Washington by 3 points in overtime … I think UC Davis is likely still a 6 to 8 seed because frankly, it still doesn't have an FCS loss.
On the flip side, if UC Davis loses at home by 20 to Sacramento State in the season finale, that will be looked at differently than an overtime loss to EWU on the road. So those are the dynamics, I think.
Chase: This is an interesting question. On the one hand, UC Davis could definitely take a loss in Cheney and still have the resume of a playoff seed — wins over Idaho State and Montana look nice, and the FBS win is better on paper than it is in reality. On the other hand, it does seem pretty unlikely that the Big Sky gets three playoff seeds.
If I'm an Aggies fan, I'm framing the Eastern Washington game as a seeding elimination game in my head, with the knowledge that Davis could probably still slip into a seeded position when it's all said and done.
Sam: It depends who the loss is to, really. If it happens against EWU and the Eagles don't suffer any losses from here on out, you'd think EWU would get a seed in front of UC Davis. And a lot would have to go wrong for Weber to drop out of the seeds. While it is possible, I don't see three Big Sky teams getting a seed.
Even with a loss to EWU, UC Davis could arguably still have a better overall resume than the Eagles. But it appears the committee really values head to head wins.
Matthew Fraase: If JSU finishes 8-3 with a close loss to Kennesaw, do they make the playoffs?
Brian: I don't think 8-3 is a guarantee for JSU, but probably a near guarantee. See … I think this is one of those situations where either you control your own destiny or you have to hope for help. At 8-3? JSU is going to have to hope a bunch of teams that right now look like they can go 8-3 end up 6-5. But if JSU beats KSU, the Gamecocks are solidly in and some peeps might even be screaming for a No. 8 seed.
Chase: I'm assuming that this question is asking if Jacksonville State would get at-large consideration. In a perfect world, probably not. The best wins JSU would have at that point would be Murray State and Eastern Kentucky, and that just doesn't really move the needle for me.
I wouldn't totally count them out, though — it seems there's always a couple bubble teams that get in and leave you scratching you head, and the brand power of Jacksonville State gives it a powerful leg up on other candidates here.
Sam: If JSU finishes 8-3 and doesn't get the auto-bid out of the OVC, I don't think the Gamecocks get into the playoffs. I'm not sure the conference has shown it deserves to get two teams into the playoffs, and if JSU got in as a second team, it would be by name recognition because the Gamecocks would have three losses against their three best opponents.
Adam Willey: If JSU beats KSU and KSU ends with only 2 losses, should KSU get a seed?
Brian: I'm sorry I sound like a broken record here, but again that all depends on what the rest of the field has going on — and its a lot like Matthew Fraase's question above. If KSU loses, it'll still get into the playoffs via the Big South title auto bid, but it would need some help to still cling to a seeding.
I can see scenarios where KSU gets a No. 8 seed with a 9-2 record, but keep in mind that Jacksonville State would now likely be 9-2 and you'd have to have JSU ahead of KSU if you're using any kind of logic. Could JSU and KSU both be seeded? Seems like a stretch to me, but if a boatload of other teams lose a bunch in November, I guess it's possible.
Chase: No. No. No.
Sam: Nope. That would mean KSU lost to the only two quality opponents on its schedule. And even though it was an FBS loss, I consider the Georgia State loss a bad one. GSU is 2-6 and ranked 132nd in the Sagarin ratings. McNeese got left out of the playoffs altogether last year at 9-2. I'm not sure what would be on KSU's resume at 9-2 to say the Owls are a seed.
Preston Adams: With all the love we have for college football and sport here, fan enthusiasm seems to be shrinking on the whole. What can programs do, specifically football, to engage with their fan bases and bring back some more widespread enthusiasm?
Brian: This is a great question, and I agree. In the 1990s when I was a student at Florida, the stands were never empty no matter who the Gators played. Now they can be playing LSU and if kickoff is too early, there may be 5,000 seats empty. I just think things have changed. The TV screens at home are AMAZING. You're not going to bake or freeze in the stands or have to wait in a long line for … ahem … anything.
I'm sure all of this factors in, along with the cell phone thing. How do you ramp up enthusiasm these days? I can only speak for myself — I'd say, compete hard, find kids who love the school as much as we as alumni do, and do it the right way. That's one of the reasons I like the FCS level — you find way more "genuine" at this level, but it's still great football. Maybe they should all convert to being FCS fans eh?
Chase: So this is the McDonald's salad conundrum, right? McDonald's has a respectable core audience, but if you're a big brand, your job of getting people into your building is never really done. So how does McDonald's appeal to people who don't love the chicken nuggets and Big Macs? It starts offering salads and Szechuan sauce. McDonald's expands its brand, hoping it might attract a few extra dollars with each menu item.
Obviously, nobody thinks, "I want a salad, I wonder where the nearest McDonald's is," but the tactic still works because of its larger group appeal. If a mom needs to feed her three kids, she might be more likely to take them to McDonald's because she herself could get a salad. A group of traveling vegetarians might reluctantly stop at a McDonald's in a rural area because, well, at least they have a salad option.
Chicken nuggets and Big Mac's keep the base happy, and salads open up additional opportunities for fringe groups.
So, what the hell does this have to do with football? Well, Preston, I know where you're coming from, so I'm going to invent a scenario to really lay out my point. Let's concoct a totally hypothetical scenario about a college football team.
Let's call them the Crames Fadison University Yukes. Crames Fadison has a really strong football product with a large core audience of passionate fans, yet that core audience can't fill the Crames Fadison stands on their own. Many Crames Fadison students attend the game, but they arrive late (they were partying at a tailgate somewhere) and leave early (they want to go party at a house somewhere).
Until this completely fictional athletic administration figures out how to feed these fickle Yukes fans some salad, they are going to continue to leave the game.
The reality with many kids at large universities (like the ones at made-up Crames Fadison, which I'm imagining as some sort of haughty, private liberal arts school in upstate New York, perhaps chaired by a Vanderbilt descendant) is that football games are Instagram opportunities.
Go to the game, make an appearance, snap some photos to show how cool you are, and then get out of there and get to the next event. Crames Fadison has to find a way to center the entire Saturday experience around the Game, to make its gravity well so pleasantly overwhelming that students would be fools not to hang around.
This is already the case for devoted fans, simply by the rites of their fandom — they don't need the salad to go to McDonald's. It's the soccer moms and vegetarians that need converting. That's what Crames Fadison should focus on — investigating what sort of salad its students will stick around for.
Sam: Have a great tailgating scene and serve booze at the games. Make football games the place to be and the thing to do for college students. Because if we're being honest, not every person in the student section is truly invested in the game or even the team.
So when the buzz starts to go away at halftime, they leave. Say whatever you want about the drinking culture in college, but this is the truth that administrations need to realize, if they don't already.