Welcome to the HERO Sports FCS Mailbag, week 10 edition. FCS writers Brian McLaughlin and Sam Herder take questions each and every week on Twitter and give in-depth answers here in the mailbag. Tweet them both at @BrianMacWriter and @TheHerd215 to get your questions answered!
@PeterMooney09: 7-3 first half for the Dukes. Then 31-0 second half and the Dukes took a RZ knee against URI for 2nd yr in a row. Keys to fast O start?
Brian: It seems to me that when James Madison gets pinched, Bryan Schor gets it done. Maybe just let him do his thing first? He seems to break things open when it matters most, and I think he's going to be the pivotal guy in the playoffs like Khalid Abdullah was last year.
Schor is efficient as hell and spreads it around to a whole bunch of guys. Bottom line? Whatever JMU is doing sure is working. The Dukes are getting everybody's ace game, and it has hardly mattered. With that defense? Well, it's hard to breathe when no oxygen is available, know what I mean?
Sam: JMU is a physical team, and it shows in the second half. Often times teams like the Dukes don’t look like world beaters in the first half, but eventually wear teams down in the second. Granted a 7-3 lead on Rhode Island makes you scratch your head a bit.
But like I’ve said for awhile now, the Dukes will be fine. Maybe it’s a matter of being more aggressive to start the game offensively and try to put it out of reach early. You don't want to give an underdog hope they can pull off an upset. And the Dukes can’t afford a slow start in these last two games against Richmond and Elon.
— Jim Lovell (@jrgklovell) November 2, 2017
Brian: If the season ended today, I honestly think Illinois State may be on the fringe and definitely would not be a first-round host. This past weekend's loss to Western Illinois hurt a ton, and blowout losses to what appears now to be a non-playoff team (Southern Illinois by 35) and losing to Northern Arizona by 21 hurts. But hey? The opportunity lies ahead with South Dakota State and North Dakota State … which ISU will be underdogs for in both setting, but one win in the next two games and ISU is definitely in.
Sam: I’m 50/50 on this one, especially after ISU lost to Western Illinois. That puts the Redbirds at 6-3 with two really tough games remaining at South Dakota State and against North Dakota State. Going 1-1 is going to be hard enough, and even at 7-4, it’s not guaranteed the Redbirds make the playoffs.
And the reason for that is there’s a chance Northern Iowa and WIU could also finish 7-4. With NDSU, SDSU and South Dakota basically locks to make the playoffs, there’s only room for two more MVFC teams in the field because I don’t think the committee puts six in. WIU would get the nod over the Redbirds if they both were 7-4 because of the head-to-head win. It then comes down to Illinois State and UNI, who happened to not have played this season. And that’s a tossup on who the committee selects.
How do you think the Ivy league would stack up against the other FCS leagues? How would Yale be ranked?
— Mark Ahrens (@MarkAhrens) November 5, 2017
Brian: Awesome question. I think Yale is definitely a No. 10 to No. 20 range team. Ivys beat out other FCS powers for recruits, and sometimes even beat out Power Five teams in recruiting in special circumstances. Personally? I'd love to see the Ivy elites in the FCS Playoffs.
Hey, how many times has an Ivy done big things in men's March Madness? Princeton, Penn, Cornell, Harvard and Yale have all won men's NCAA basketball tournament games — and that's against Power Five conference competition, too. Think an Ivy couldn't win some FCS Playoff games? I do. That's why I think their elite teams should be ranked.
Sam: It’s tough for me to say because I don’t watch Ivy League football, to be honest. There’s no doubt a bunch of NFL talent in that conference. But if the conference winner were to make the playoffs, I’m just not sure there’s enough depth on those teams to make a deep run.
Will SDSU reach their peak seed this week even if they win out?
— J.D. Dorman (@Dorman_JD) November 5, 2017
Brian: I don't think SDSU controls its own destiny as far as moving higher, to answer your question. I have SDSU as the No. 5 seed now, and if the Jackrabbits handle potential playoff teams Illinois State and South Dakota the next two weeks, that put them at 9-2. The problem is, if NDSU keeps its nose clean against the same two opponents as SDSU, the Bison are the Valley champs with one loss.
So there are more variables than just what SDSU does, obviously. Jacksonville State and Central Arkansas look like they'll finish 10-0 against FCS competition this year. I think that keeps them ahead of a SDSU team with 2 losses against FCS teams. But hey, if JSU, UCA or NDSU slip up once and SDSU wins out? We could see SDSU host throughout the playoffs. Lots at stake this week and next.
Sam: SDSU should continue to climb the seeds with two more ranked wins. If the Jacks win out, I believe they should get a No. 4 seed behind JMU, NDSU and JSU, assuming those teams win out. If a 10-1 Southland Conference team is higher than a 9-2 MVFC team, I just don’t know what else can be said or done to get it through the committee’s head on the strength of those conferences. You’d think results from the previous few playoffs would indicate there’s a big difference in level of play.
Does Elon beat UNH this week?
— Wyatt Cook (@_Yalright_) November 5, 2017
Brian: Hey, the Phoenix find a way to win time and time again. But I have a feeling they're going to have a tough time the next two weeks at New Hampshire and at home vs. James Madison. Even if Elon falls twice the next two weeks, they still deserve a spot in the FCS Playoffs, and if they win one out of the two, they will have a first-round home game.
Sam: With Elon narrowly defeating Towson last weekend, I’m not as big on the Phoenix than I was in the previous weeks. I thought Villanova would handle them a couple weeks ago, but they proved me wrong. Elon is a great team that has a chance for a playoff seed. But UNH is a tough place to play, and the Wildcats are pushing for a playoff spot at 6-3. I say they hand Elon its first FCS loss of the season.
JSU, UCA, and NDSU are all 10-1 at the end of the regular season. What’s 2-4 look like for the Seeds?
— Matthew Fraase (@MatthewFraase) November 5, 2017
Brian: Easy. A one-loss Missouri Valley champion is going to be in the No. 2 spot, and No. 3 and No. 4 will be Jacksonville State and Central Arkansas as they will have finished 10-0 against FCS competition. The Gamecocks and Bears have one common opponent in Murray State, and they both blew out the Racers. I think the debate would be more about who gets 3 and who gets 4, but regardless both of those seeds would be on the road in the semifinals.
Sam: Of those three: NDSU No. 1, then JSU and UCA. It appears the committee has JSU locked in the Top 3 and you’d assume they would still give an NDSU resume the nod over JSU’s. And honestly, I think a 9-2 SDSU team would deserve a No. 4 seed over UCA. But it also appears the committee is high on the Southland Conference.
Will the committee put NDSU at #2 seed if they win out?
— THEsocalledfan (@GulsethMichael) November 5, 2017
Brian: Hands down, yes. They'd better. A Valley team with one loss not being a top two seed would be a travesty. The real debate is what do you do with a two-loss Valley champion compared with another weaker conference champ with no FCS losses? That's the real debate. Then you really have to break down the resumes.
Sam: I honestly just don’t see how any team has an argument for the No. 2 seed over NDSU unless Elon wins out to finish 10-1, which would mean a victory against JMU. And that doesn’t seem likely. Two more victories for the Bison means six ranked wins for the season. The only other team close to that is Elon, who currently has four like NDSU. It would also mean an outright MVFC conference championship, the top league in the FCS.
NDSU has had really bad losses since 2011 to teams that didn’t make the playoffs that season, went 10-1 and still got a Top 2 seed. An FBS win helped those seasons. The Bison’s loss this season is to SDSU, a potential seeded team. Common sense, no matter which team you cheer for, says NDSU should be a No. 2 seed with two more wins this season. And if common sense doesn’t prevail, logic should by stacking all the resumes side by side.