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! [divider]
— SBORG (@SBORG) August 30, 2017
I think the best chance for a Valley upset will come this week when South Dakota travels to Bowling Green. To me? That’s a near definite win. The Coyotes are strong and Bowling Green should have lost to North Dakota last year (one-point loss). That’d be the best bet.
Keep an eye on Western Illinois at Coastal Carolina, now that the Chants are technically in the FBS. And an outside shot? I like this Southern Illinois team, and while Memphis did win eight games last year, I’m curious to see how this one goes.
Could the Tigers pull away from the Salukis? Yeah, it’s possible … but don’t be surprised if this is interesting in the 4th quarter.
Sam: I'll go with South Dakota beating Bowling Green this weekend. No team wants to deal with containing quarterback Chris Streveler. Granted, Drake isn't the strongest of opponents, but the Coyotes still made a statement with a 77-7 season-opening win.
I think USD is going to make huge strides this season and turn its close losses last season into wins this year. An FBS win solidifes them as a playoff contender.
@BradyV99: Who are your sleeper teams this season?
Brian: I’m going to steal my answer from my article on 10 teams that could make the playoffs this year that didn’t in 2016. Albany is my numero uno sleeper candidate.
Albany is ticked off after being shunned by the playoff committee last year. They had seven wins, an FBS victory over Buffalo and generally played well down the stretch. They beat two playoff teams too. So they’re hungry and ready.
Sam: Brian went with sleeper teams to make the playoffs, so I'll go with sleeper teams to win the whole dang thing.
Everyone talks about James Madison, North Dakota State and South Dakota State as the legit contenders. I think Wofford is going to scare a lot of people in the playoffs. Sure, they might have two or three losses somewhere during the regular season. But come playoff time, they will be a tough opponent.
The Terriers should have one of the nation's best defenses and the option attack is always tough to defend. Let's not forget they took the national runner-ups Youngstown State to double-overtime in the quarterfinals.
@BrianMacWriter What do you think about Delaware? Think they could pull off a season like JMU did last year?
— Justin Ruffner (@capecoddds) August 30, 2017
Brian: I think the Blue Hens are the sleeping giant of FCS, just like the Montana schools.
When everything is working like clockwork, watch out for Delaware — and I think that time is now. Danny Rocco is a magician. He made Richmond into a national power in the FCS, and he has way, way more to work with at Delaware. It’s a great fanbase and one of the strongest FCS programs over the decades.
The Blue Hens returned a great contingent and got some great additions to the roster. Honestly, I think they’ll be winning big games sooner rather than later — and they’ll be a thorn in James Madison’s side in the next few years.
Sam: I don't think Delaware will pull off a season like JMU did last year.
The Dukes were a consistently ranked, playoff team that just needed a change in culture to vault them to the top. But with that said, I think you're going to see Delaware rise rapidly, just not to the level or as quickly as JMU did.
A lot of people say the Dukes came out of nowhere last year. But if you sit back and look at it, it shouldn't have been too surprising. JMU has great talent, great facilities, a strong budget and a fanbase thirsty for success. It was a matter of time before it became a national contender.
Delaware has all those things. It may not happen this season, but coach Rocco will have the Blue Hens competing for championships in the future.
Hi Brian…which FCS conference do you think is strongest?
— Mark Ahrens (@MarkAhrens) August 31, 2017
Brian: Right now I'd say Missouri Valley with a close second going to CAA. The thing with the Valley is the depth of the entire group.
Yes, JMU knocked off NDSU, but would last season's No. 3 Valley team Youngstown beat last season's No. 3 CAA team New Hampshire? Probably. Would No. 6 Western Illinois handle William and Mary or Towson, generally I would say yes. And on and on. BUT … that gap is tightening.
Sam: The MVFC still holds that title. The CAA has excellent teams, but top to bottom, the Valley is no doubt the strongest.
Missouri State was picked to finish second to last in the MFVC preseason poll. The Bears took it to Missouri in the first half before falling 72-43. Indiana State, who was picked to finish last, probably should have beat Eastern Illinois, who was picked fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference. There's a reason the MVFC has the most playoff teams year after year.
Who do you like to go undefeated during the regular season this year?
— JMU Duke Blawg (@jmudukeblawg) August 31, 2017
Brian: Three teams stick out to me. James Madison, North Dakota State and Sam Houston State. They all have what it takes to do it.
Can NDSU and JMU survive the gauntlet they face on the road in conference? That remains to be seen but it’s very possible.
Sam: After pounding East Carolina into submission, there's no doubt in my mind JMU can go undefeated. Will the Dukes have a slipup in the tough CAA? It's possible. But a one-loss season still gets them a top-two playoff seed.
After a ranked win, SHSU will more than likely run the table against inferior opponents. The question is how much will that impress the playoff committee.
— Brian Finneran (@BFinn86) August 31, 2017
Brian: Mr. Finneran of 'Nova and Atlanta Falcons fame, thanks for the question. Well … I think we should ask Rob Rolle how good they’ll be in between his inevitable INTs this year.
Even with Tanoh and Calitro now plying their trade in NFL stomping grounds, I think the defense is still stout and the offense is going to be even better. Easily a playoff team.
Sam: Everyone likes to talk about how SDSU is closing the gap on NDSU. But people forget just how tough its second round game against Villanova last season was, a 10-7 win in the blistering Brookings winter.
The Wildcats lost NFL talent and their longtime head coach. But they're built for continued success. I've always said a strong defense is a must to do damage in the playoffs, and Villanova has a defense that can make any game winnable.