With the dawn of the 2023 Mississippi State football season, let’s get up to speed on Southeastern Louisiana thanks to an FCS expert.
Welcome, Bulldog fans, to the 2023 Mississippi State football season.
Each week, I am going to attempt to come up with five insightful, ground-breaking, thought-provoking, mind-boggling, and downright original questions. Then, I will send them, with minimal notice, to a blogger that covers whoever MSU is set to play that week so that you can get to know who will be on the opposing sidelines when kickoff comes around.
I’ll learn something, you’ll learn something, we’ll laugh together, it’ll be a great time.
Mississippi State football vs. Southeastern Louisiana Lions Q&A
Evan Ertel: This week, we graciously thank Mr Sam Herder (@SamHerderFCS) of HeroSports.com for his time and extensive knowledge of the FCS. His season preview on Southeastern Louisiana taught me a lot about their team and I recommend it highly if you want to sound like the most football-educated person at your tailgate. Let’s get this show on the road:
It feels like with each passing season, we see a few more FCS teams hanging around in “Buy Games” with some even pulling outright wins. There have been a total of 20 games where FCS teams upset their FBS opponent in the last two seasons. As someone who covers the FCS extensively, have you seen an upward trend in the quality of FCS rosters over the last few years? How do you view the current landscape of FCS competition versus FBS as a whole?
Sam Herder: It’s tough to really pinpoint any trends with FCS over FBS wins. It ebbs and flows. 20 may seem like a lot, but there were 16 FCS over FBS wins in 2013 alone. But in 2011, for example, there were only six. So the number rises and falls, it just depends on the year and the matchups.
I think the overall individual talent in the FCS is as good as it’s ever been. The transfer portal has hurt and helped the FCS. 329 FCS players transferred to the FBS this offseason, some of them being standout players. But then, 546 FBS players have transferred to the FCS this season, many of them former three-star or four-star recruits who didn’t get a chance to hit the field at their FBS school. And with FBS teams hitting the portal hard and using fewer scholarships on high school prospects, I’ve been told by multiple FCS coaches that the level of HS recruits coming to the FCS has never been better.
Evan Ertel: Southeastern Louisiana was an FCS playoff team in 2022. They were dismissed from the bracket after an OT heartbreaker against Samford, only a week after combining with Idaho for over 80 points and 1,100 yards of offense. They played two really excellent games, but ultimately, after three straight years of second-round exits, where do expectations stand with the 2023 Lions squad?
Sam Herder: Expectations are to be right where Southeastern has been the last few years – A team ranked in the teens in the FCS, a playoff squad, good enough to win a first-round game, but probably not quite there to advance to the quarterfinals.
Evan Ertel: Given the quality of the 2022 roster and how the college football transfer portal works currently, what type of talent did SE LA lose after last season, and who were they able to keep around for the 2023 campaign?
Sam Herder: SLU lost a few standout players to the FBS, like Zy Alexander (DB) to LSU, Gage Larvadain (WR) to Miami (OH), and Jack Henderson (DB) to Minnesota. They did land FCS transfer Zachary Clement at QB, who was All-Southland last year at Northwestern State. OL John Allen is a big prospect who probably could have played in the FBS if he entered, but he’s back as the reigning Southland Offensive Lineman of the Year.
Evan Ertel: Saturday will be the Lions’ first game versus a Power 5 opponent since 2019 where the squad traveled to Oxford and gave that team just about all it could handle, losing by 11 in a game where Ole Miss was favored by 26 points. What is the general attitude around the program in regard to the opportunity presented with this weekend’s game?
Sam Herder: It’s a mixed feeling.
For one, SLU plays two straight FBS opponents. And that’s good for the athletic department with the guaranteed payouts. FCS players also enjoy playing these FBS games because they feel they have been overlooked by the higher D1 subdivision.
But the FCS is also all about building your playoff resume. And number of D1 wins is key. By scheduling two FBS opponents, you mostly take away an opportunity at two D1 wins because SLU will be underdogs in both of these FBS matchups.
Evan Ertel: Diving in a bit more on the actual game Saturday, who are three names Bulldogs fans should know going into Saturday’s game? (Offense, Defense, X-Factor guy)
Sam Herder: John Allen is their standout OL. It’ll be interesting to see how he plays against P5 competition.
SLU has had a great lineage of QBs lately, and Eli Sawyer looks primed to be that next guy, splitting reps with transfer Zachary Clement.
And keep an eye on TE Ivan Drobocky. He had a team-high six receiving touchdowns last season and will likely be utilized even more in 2023.