Welcome to the HERO Sports FCS Mailbag, FCS playoffs semifinal 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!
COMPARE: Teams | Players
@PeterMooney09: Certain upper Midwest corners of the internet says JMU is doomed and I’m not talking about Chase Kiddy’s articles. Was Weber the best team to lose in the QF or are the dukes just the most overrated undefeated defending champion in I-AA/FCS history? #sarcasm
Brian: Weber State was the best quarterfinalist to lose. The Wildcats had a Pac12 team pinned to the mat in the 4th quarter in September, before the usual depth took over. Their only loss to an FCS team before James Madison was without their quarterback, and we all saw how good Cantwell is.
They play great defense and special teams and let's just speak the truth — Weber State was as good as James Madison and had to beat two very good teams to even get to JMU. There's nothing wrong with the Dukes, they just played a good team. And at this point, they should all be good.
Sam: It's quite obvious if we were to re-seed the playoffs, it would be JMU, North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Weber State. Of course it's easy to say that now. I think people up North think SDSU has a great chance to knock off the Dukes because of what the Wildcats were able to do: effective quarterback run game, make the 50/50 downfield catches and pressure Bryan Schor.
Those are things the Jackrabbits do well. Now will JMU play that poorly two weeks in a row? Probably not. But SDSU's offense will be much more explosive than Weber State's and its defense is playing well too.
Brian: JMU's special teams were rated No. 2 in the 24-team playoff field when we crunched the numbers (behind Weber State) and South Dakota State was rated No. 7. We took six or seven categories and ranked all the teams in those categories to come up with this. And yes, I think at this point, special teams are an extreme factor in any game.
Since this one will undoubtedly be close, don't be surprised by a long Chase Vinatieri field goal by SDSU or the excellent punting game by JMU playing a big factor.
Sam: SDSU's special teams were very, very bad at one point this season. That was when the Jacks started MVFC play 1-2. Muffed punts, fumbles on kick returns and even Vinatieri was missing PATs. But that has since been figured out. The Jacks don't have a return man to fear. But their coverage teams are solid. And Vinatieri has long range for field goals. Overall, I'd give the ST edge to JMU.
Brian: Lets go with sophomores…. Ron'Dell Carter's been a key guy on the defensive line all year. He doesn't start but he's been solid when he has gotten in the game. Also, Bryce McGinley isn't exactly an unknown name, but this is a guy who has been a big time contributor on a team loaded with upperclassmen.
This program knows how to recruit. This success we've seen won't end any time soon.
Sam: I'll go with two receiving targets to help this offense become more explosive. Riley Stapleton came up clutch last week and will have to duplicate that as the stage gets bigger. And I'm not sure the health of Jonathan Kloosterman, but I think Clayton Cheatham has shown flashes of his abilities.
If he gives Schor another weapon to work with, the Dukes can stay balanced.
Brian: I think if SDSU can get into the mid-20s on offense, this game is going to get very, very interesting because JMU's defense is the key here. If JMU holds SDSU to the teens? JMU undoubtedly wins. If it is in the 20s? It's a coin toss. My guess is that we're going to be in the coin toss range with this one. JMU? Pretty much what I just typed above.
Sam: SDSU needs to stretch the field with Jake Wieneke, which will open up the underneath routes for Dallas Goedert, which will open up holes in the second level for Taryn Christion in the QB run game. On the flip side, JMU's defense has to find a way to contain these three guys. The secondary is stacked, but they have yet to face two receiving threats like this.
Defensively, SDSU needs to get pressure on Schor. JMU's offensive line has been shaky in pass protection. The key for the Dukes: get the run game going and hit the big play through the air when needed. And of course, both teams need to avoid turnovers and own the time of possession.
Brian: Kennesaw State may be a semifinalist next year. Nearly the entire team is back and it would appear Coach Bo is sticking around. The Owls are no less than a final eight team next year, if not final four. Book it.
Sam: Everything on paper says they'll be right back in the discussion next year. And the way this program has built and built and built, the Owls should be getting votes in the top 5-8 next preseason.
Brian: SDSU Coach Stig said he's 'doubtful'. I doubt that he's 'doubtful'. These are the games that are played. But to answer your question? The last official word anybody heard was Monday when Stig said 'doubtful'.
Sam: Goedert will play. Whether he's 50 percent, 80 percent or 100 percent, he's going to play in this game. The bigger question is how effective he'll be. He had a bum hip earlier this season. And it wasn't until he got healthy was when SDSU got out of its funk and started its winning streak.
@Ghol13: Is it too early to start planning for Frisco?
Brian: No. I think NDSU fans should be booking their hotels right now. Don't wait until Monday.
Sam: Flights out of Fargo will jump $200 the second NDSU wins. Of course, the Bison have to take care of business, but the way their playing, odds are heavy they make it to Frisco. So if you haven't yet, start making those reservations now before everything is booked up and the prices rise. (You can always cancel.) (Speaking from experience.)