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Transitioning From FCS To FBS Part 2: Potential Teams

North Dakota State has been the absolute best team at the FCS level since 2010. The Bison are natural candidates for the FBS but does it truly make sense? (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Transitioning From FCS To FBS Part 2: Potential Teams

Welcome to second portion of our two-part series examining the transition from the FCS to FBS. In part one we looked at how teams have fared in the past. In this second part, we look at the teams best suited for the transition and also look at a few other teams.

To recap part one briefly, we looked at the schools that transitioned from FCS to FBS since 1987. The teams that performed the best were teams that had multiple playoff appearances in the final five FCS seasons. The second best group was the new programs followed by teams that had one or no playoff appearances in the final five FCS seasons.

We will make some assumptions about each team below that may or may not hold true if these scenarios in reality. For one, we look at each team separately and do not take into account all the dominoes from a potential realignment with our other teams. That would be far too time consuming to consider.

Secondly, geography and travel are big components of the analysis. We look first at which geographical area would be best and then look at the additional travel required if they were to move conferences.

Finally, keep in mind that while these teams would see increased revenues after they moved, they would also see increased costs in the form of stadium upgrades and travel for other sports would increase among other factors.

Now we can look at potential jumpers and new programs with the criteria we laid out in the first part.

North Dakota State (Jump Up)

North Dakota State is the first team discussed any time FCS to FBS transitions are explored. The Bison have only won six of the last seven FCS National Championship and have clearly been the best team of the decade at the FCS level. There is one issue that really hurts the Bison and that is location.

NDSU is currently the most northern member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference until 2020 when North Dakota joins. NDSU is geographically awkward if they were to move up to the FBS. The best fit would be the Big 10 especially in terms of their location and style of play. However, the Bison would probably have to prove themselves at the FBS level first which would put them in the Mountain West. Again, this is not exactly ideal.

Also consider the Fargodome, which has a capacity of 19,000 for football. They would have to upgrade the stadium to accommodate the increased number of fans. That would take money, which the Bison would recoup over time, but what about the additional travel costs not just for football, but also the other sports?

Verdict: We would love to see North Dakota State make the transition, but it does not seem likely given the logistical constraints.

Sam Houston State (Jump Up)

Here is another FCS powerhouse each year. The Bearkats have made seven straight playoff appearances with two National Championship losses to North Dakota State (those pesky Bison). Sam Houston State has one of the best offenses each season in the FCS and play in the Southland Conference.

The Southland Conference is a wonderful geographical set up for the teams. All members are from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, which is more than convenient. So where would they land if they went to the FBS? There are three conferences: The American Athletic Conference,  Conference USA, and Sun Belt.

The American Athletic Conference would place the Bearkats in the West along with Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa, and Navy. Navy is a horrendous fit for the West Division, which means that the AAC could balance the divisions by getting a second West team and moving Navy to the far more natural East. In this case, they would face six west opponents and two east opponents each season.

Conference USA currently has 14 teams with seven from the West Division located in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. If C-USA expanded to 16 teams that would leave only one game per season they would face an East Division opponent (based on an 8 game conference schedule). They would also face that East opponent on the road once every other year. Not a bad move based on assumptions above.

The Sun Belt is the final option and teams leaving the Southland Conference frequently find the Sun Belt as their FBS destination. The conference has been split into East and West Divisions among its 10 members. The West Division has teams from Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. Based on an 8 game schedule, they would have to face two East opponents each year with one at home and one on the road.

Finally, Sam Houston State would have to increase the size of the stadium from the current size of roughly 12,500.

Verdict: The Southland Conference is a wonderful spot for Sam Houston State right now. If they were dead set on the FBS, then Conference USA would be the best option.

James Madison (Jump Up)

James Madison is a recent addition to the top level of the FCS. The Dukes have made the playoffs four straight seasons, but the last two put them up with the best. In 2016, they upset the Bison for the National Championship and then followed that up in 2017 with a loss to Bison in the title game. To be fair, this is not the same sustained success as the previous two entrants, but strong enough for consideration.

The Dukes currently play in the Colonial Athletic Association, which stretches from Maine to South Carolina. JMU sits at the southern edge of the conference, which might make travel costly depending on the scheduling rotation.

JMU, like Sam Houston State, has several options. They could go to the American Athletic, Conference USA, or Sun Belt. James Madison would face the opposite of SHSU’s possibilities for all three.

The Dukes would be in the East for the AAC though that would make it unbalanced in terms of natural East and West programs. For C-USA, they would be a natural fit for the East Division while the same would be true for the Sun Belt.

James Madison has a solid stadium size already at 25,000, which will make the costs relatively less expensive for expansion.

Verdict: James Madison sits in an awkward geographical position for the three conferences above. Conference USA would be the best fit for costs and travel as they would only face a West opponent on the road once every other year.

Jacksonville State (Jump Up)

The Jacksonville State Gamecocks have dominated the Ohio Valley Conference with four straight titles. They have made the FCS playoffs five straight seasons with a title game appearance in 2015 (yes, they lost to NDSU).

As part of the OVC, Jacksonville State is the southern most member, but it is a comfortable distance to northern most team, Eastern Illinois. The team furthest to the west is Southeast Missouri State on the Missouri-Illinois border, which again, is not too bad.

If the Gamecocks were to go to the FBS they too have the options of the AAC, C-USA, and Sun Belt. However, one fits better than the other two and that is the Sun Belt.

JSU’s location in northeast Alabama puts them right in the middle of the conference in terms of location. That would make them ideal to be put in either division as needed. Or the Sun Belt could flip the division from east and west to the north and south while also adding another team to have an even number of teams.

The JSU stadium can hold 24,000, which will help limit the amount they need to spend on expanding the stadium.

Verdict: The Ohio Valley is a decent fit for them, but if they are looking for the FBS, the Sun Belt makes sense. While the AAC and Conference USA are both plausible, the Sun Belt felt most natural.

Eastern Washington (Jump Up)

Eastern Washington has also been a mainstay in the FCS Playoffs. Since their National Championship in 2010, they have made the playoffs five times and progressed to at least the quarterfinals on each occasion. Four of the five appearances resulted in a semifinal appearance.

The Eagles play in the Big Sky Conference which stretches from Washington all the way to the middle of Arizona and out to the eastern border of North Dakota. As mentioned above, the University of North Dakota will be moving to the Missouri Valley Football Conference and it is not hard to see why when their closest in conference opponent is Northern Colorado.

There are two natural destinations for EWU with the Pac-12 and Mountain West. The Pac-12 is a long shot considering they would probably want to see how they perform in the FBS before having them join. So that leaves the Mountain West.

The Eagles would probably be put in the Mountain Division, which would require travel to Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The travel is not horrendous outside of the trip to New Mexico every other year. The west division would be very similar to New Mexico and would also have to be done every other year.

The stadium capacity of Roos Field is a paltry 8,600, which means a huge outlay to expand the size. At least their red turf would go along nicely with Boise State’s blue turf.

Verdict: The current travel arrangements do not differ much as if they were to play in the Mountain West. The stadium expenditure would probably be another point of concern. The reality is go for Pac-12 money (though unlikely) or stay put in the Big Sky.

Virginia Commonwealth (New Program)

VCU, currently in the Atlantic 10 for all other sports, would make a wonderful addition to Conference USA. They are located in Richmond, which is the capital of Virginia. That provides a great fan base for any potential team. VCU has not fielded more than a club team for football. In addition, a stadium would be required for the football team making the likelihood of this happening slim.

What VCU does have in terms of location also applies to the student body. The Rams have the second highest enrollment in the state (not counting Liberty’s online degree numbers). That provides a solid footing if they choose to pursue adding a football program.

There have been some worries expressed by current Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin. He feels that the costs would exceed the revenue generated as noted here. It appears that as long as McLaughlin is at VCU, the Rams will not have a football team without someone donating what is needed.

Verdict: Highly unlikely given the current AD and all the startup costs for the program.

University of Texas Arlington (New Program)

UT Arlington previously had a football program until 1985 when the constant financial losses caused the school to stop sponsoring the sport. It may be time for the Mavericks to make a comeback to the field. UTA is the fourth largest school in Texas with an enrollment of 42,000 in the football crazed state.

Back in 2004, students voted to increase tuition by $2 per semester hour if football was brought back. All good then, right? Well, not quite. The costs would be enormous especially if the ultimate goal is the FBS. The stadium, which currently holds 12,500, would need a massive upgrade to host FBS football games. To pay for the new sport, the cost would most likely go to students in the form of higher tuition as noted above.

One area that UTA would not have to worry about is finding a FBS conference. They are part of the Sun Belt in the other sports offered by the school. That is one piece of the puzzle they will not have to worry about if they bring back football. UTA would have good knowledge about the travel costs if they were to play in the Sun Belt.

Verdict: Viable but UTA needs to be prudent about the costs and expected revenue so they do not make the same mistake from 1985.

That concludes the second part of our series on the FCS to FBS transition. We hope you enjoyed the analysis!

2016 FCS Playoffs Semifinal Predictions

James Madison’s only loss was to North Carolina (pictured above). Since then the Dukes have won 10 straight including their 65-7 demolition of Sam Houston State in the FCS Quarterfinals. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America)

2016 FCS Playoffs Semifinal Predictions

Four teams remain in the hunt for the 2016 FCS National Championship. Three of the top four seeds, #1 North Dakota State, #2 Eastern Washington, and #4 James Madison, are alive along with unseeded Youngstown State. All four are worthy of reaching the National Championship for the right to play for the title.

The two semifinal games will be played over two days. The first game featuring the five time defending National Champions, North Dakota State, will be played on Friday, December 16. The second game featuring the #2 seed Eastern Washington will be played on Saturday, December 17. Through three rounds, our predictions have gone 18-2. Below are the links to our predictions for the previous rounds along with the record for that round.

First Round Predictions (7-1)

Second Round Predictions (7-1)

Quarterfinal Predictions (4-0)

Below are the predictions for the FCS Semifinal games. We will begin with the Friday game of James Madison at North Dakota State.

#4 James Madison (12-1) at #1 North Dakota State (12-1)

Game Time: Friday, December 16 at 7 PM Eastern (ESPN2)

James Madison has played in two playoff games and they have both been blowouts. They dismantled New Hampshire in the second round 55-22 after a slow first quarter. Bryan Schor threw for 371 yards on 30 of 37 passing for 5 touchdowns and an interception.

Their Quarterfinal game against Sam Houston State was even more impressive. They held one of the best offenses in FCS to just 7 points in 65-7 thrashing of Sam Houston State. SHSU’s Jeremiah Briscoe went a horrid 13 of 44 for 143 yards passing and 2 picks. The running game got going for the Dukes with 144 yards and 2 touchdowns from Trai Sharp and 141 yards and 3 touchdowns from Khalid Abdullah. The special teams also had a punt return for a touchdown and blocked  another punt that they then returned for a touchdown.

North Dakota State opened with San Diego in the second round and they had little trouble with them in a 45-7 win. Easton Stick threw for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns while rushing for another 99 yards. The team averaged 9.6 yards per carry with 299 yards total on the ground.

The Bison’s Quarterfinal matchup was against a familiar foe in South Dakota State. The Bison lost to them 19-17 in the regular season and they had a slow start to the Quarterfinal. SDSU took a 10-0 thanks to the hidden ball trick play.

After that, the Bison were in total control. They got a 49 yard touchdown run from Lance Dunn (after a 71 yard touchdown pass to Dimitri Williams was taken off the board). Their next drive was a soul crushing 20 play possession that took off 12:09 on the clock. Stick kept the ball for a 3 yard touchdown run and the Bison took a 14-10 lead they never relinquished. The Bison won 36-10 with Stick throwing for 188 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, and rushing for another 83 yards and 2 scores. King Frazier had 101 yards rushing while Dunn finished with 91 yards and a score on the ground.

James Madison is full of playmakers on offense with Bryan Schor at quarterback and Khalid Abdullah running the ball. The emergence of Trai Sharp the last three weeks have really helped Dukes on offense. Sharp has 301 yards the last three games, which is more than half of his entire season total (593 yards). The Bison allow 99.2 yards rushing per game.

North Dakota State’s offense will probably be the key to this game. The Bison are averaging 290.6 rushing yards per game over their previous five contests. They want to use that run game to wear down the defense, salt the clock, and score touchdowns. They did that very well against South Dakota State and their key was going 10 for 13 on third down. If James Madison wants to have any chance, they need to stop the run, prevent long drives, and, most importantly, get off the field on third down. Easier said than done.

This game features two physical teams that prefer to run the ball, but can use the passing attack to beat their opponent if needed. James Madison has the better offense here, but the Bison have the better defense. Who will win that battle?

We like James Madison to win this game 31-28. To pick against the Bison, at home, as 5 time defending National Championships, and with a stellar run game, is very hard to do. They could easily make this pick look terrible, but we like the Dukes here.

Youngstown State (11-3) at #2 Eastern Washington (12-1)

Game Time: Saturday, December 17 at 6:30 PM Eastern (ESPNU)

Youngstown State is the only team remaining to have played in the first round. They faced Samford in a game they controlled throughout and won 38-24. Their second round game was against Jacksonville State and they did exactly what they needed to do. They forced Eli Jenkins to throw the ball and he went 6 of 26 passing with 140 yards, a touchdown, and 2 interceptions. The defense gave up 317 yards rushing, but they forced a run first team into a deficit and forced them to pass. Jody Webb finished with 140 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns while Hunter Wells threw for 290 yards and a touchdown on 10 of 18 passing for Youngstown State.

The Penguins had a stiff test in the Quarterfinals as well with Wofford coming to town. Wofford took a 9-0 lead after the first quarter, but YSU responded with two touchdowns to make it a 13-9 lead. After that, the teams exchanged scores until late in the game when Youngstown State hit a 32 yard field goal to tie the game at 23. Wofford attempted a 53 yard field goal at the end of regulation, but it came up short and the game went to overtime.

Overtime was full of twists and turns. Wofford decided to go for it on fourth and one from the YSU 3, but the pitch hit off Lorenzo Long’s hands and went out of bounds. The Penguins had a chance to win it in the first overtime, but Zak Kennedy’s 37 yard field goal was wide right. YSU started the second overtime with a 2 yard touchdown run by Tevin McCaster and then forced an incompletion on fourth down against Wofford’s offense to seal the 30-23 win in double overtime.

Eastern Washington had a bye in the first round and then faced Central Arkansas in the second round. After giving up the first 14 points, the Eagles scored the final 31 points and held the Central Arkansas offense to 75 yards in the second half. Gage Gubrud went 47 of 64 passing with 449 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 31-14 win. He also rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown in a complete performance from him.

Eastern Washington used that strong second half defensive performance against Central Arkansas and parlayed that into a full game against Richmond. In their 38-0 shutout, they held Richmond to 205 yards of total offense including 48 yards on the ground and only 1.3 yards per carry. Gage Gubrud had a more pedestrian game going 21 of 32 for 287 yards with 3 touchdowns and a pick. Cooper Kupp caught 6 passes for 128 yards and a score despite worries over his shoulder.

The weather for this game is expected to be bitterly cold in Cheney, Washington. That would seem to favor the running attacks, which Youngstown State has a distinct advantage in. The Penguins average 257.1 yards per game on the ground and their playoff average is at 244.7 yards per game. Jody Webb (1,200 yards and 6 touchdowns) and Martin Ruiz (1,153 and 12 touchdowns) are the leading rushers, but Ruiz may not play against an EWU defense that allows 188.4 yards rushing per game. Ruiz played little in the Wofford game after being arrested on firearm charges.

Eastern Washington only averages 131.3 yards per game on the ground. Will the weather completely shut down their pass attack? That is difficult to envision because the Eagles will still throw the ball around plenty. However, we saw cold weather shut down Sam Houston State’s offense at James Madison when the weather was cold. The difference here is that Eastern Washington is used to this weather, even if it is not ideal to play in. They know what to expect and should be prepared.

One thing to keep in my about this game is that Youngstown State may be without four or five players including Martin Ruiz. If that is the case, their work is going to be even more difficult.

Youngstown State has a good offense to play in the cold weather. That is to run the ball, but this Eastern Washington defense has been completely different the last 90 minutes of game time. Gage Gubrud will be able to complete enough passes to the trio of Kupp, Shaq Hill, and Kendrick Bourne. If needed, Gubrud can use his legs to run the ball as he is the leading rusher for the Eagles with 558 yards and 5 touchdowns. We will pick Eastern Washington to win this game 28-17.

Check back the first week of the new year for a preview of the FCS National Championship game.

2016 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal Predictions

Cooper Kupp's health will be the focus coming into and during the game against Richmond. He is a top receiver in the FCS and a crucial part of the Eastern Washington pass offense. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images North America)
Cooper Kupp’s health will be the focus coming into and during the game against Richmond. He is a top receiver in the FCS and a crucial part of the Eastern Washington pass offense. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images North America)

2016 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal Predictions

The 2016 FCS Playoffs bracket has been cut down to 8 teams. There was some exciting action in the second round and some blowouts as well. The Quarterfinals will be played on both Friday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10. All four games can be found on various ESPN channels. An updated bracket can be found here.

After going 7-1 in the first round with our predictions, we matched that again in the second round to move our two round total to 14-2. We will make our predictions for the quarterfinals starting with the #1 seed North Dakota State and #8 South Dakota State.

#8 South Dakota State (9-3) at #1 North Dakota State (11-1)

Game Time: Saturday, December 10 at 12 PM Eastern

South Dakota State started their playoffs with a 10-7 win at home against Villanova last week. It was an ugly game with the Jackrabbits rushing for just 7 yards. Taryn Christion threw for 190 yards and a touchdown on 20 of 33 passing. The defense allowed 321 yards of offense to Villanova, but allowed just that one score and were stingy once the Wildcats got inside their territory.

North Dakota State opened their 5 time title defense with a 45-7 walloping of San Diego at home. Easton Stick threw for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns, ran for another 99 yards on 4 carries, and the rushing attack was devastating. The Bison had 299 yards on 31 carries as a team (Lance Dunn had 93 yards and 1 TD while Bruce Anderson rushed for 61 yards and a TD) and they averaged 9.6 yards per carry.

This is a rematch of the game on October 15 that South Dakota State won 19-17 in this building. The Bison held a 17-3 lead midway through the third quarter, but SDSU chipped away at the lead. Christion hit Jake Wieneke from 2 yards out with 1 second left and the Jackrabbits pulled off the upset. The Jackrabbits put up 523 yards of offense that day, which was the second most against NDSU’s defense behind Eastern Washington’s 556 yards in the Bison’s second game.

So how will this game go? Probably pretty similar to the first one. The Jackrabbits have the better offense, but the Bison have the better defense. This game will come down to the Bison’s offense. If they can control the clock, shorten the game, and gave success running the ball, then they will probably win. The combination of Dunn, King Frazier, Stick using his legs to extend plays/drives, Chase Morlock, and Anderson will be tough to stop. The Bison had 161 yards rushing in the first game versus SDSU and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.

In a close game, we like the North Dakota State Bison to win and move on to the semifinals. They will be tested by Taryn Christion, but will do enough to win 21-16. The winner of this game will play either Sam Houston State or James Madison in the semifinals.

#5 Sam Houston State (12-0) at #4 James Madison (11-1)

Game Time: Friday, December 9 at 7 PM PM Eastern

Sam Houston State was tested in their second round game at home versus Chattanooga. Despite leading the whole game, the Bearkats needed a late fourth down stop to win 41-36. Jeremiah Briscoe threw for 363 yards and 5 touchdowns with 1 pick on 20 of 40 passing. Yedidiah Louis had 8 catches for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Bearkats put up 421 yards of offense, but it was Chattanooga’s offense who did better with 531 yards.

James Madison blew the doors off New Hampshire at home 55-22. After falling behind 7-0 midway through the first, they responded with 31 straight points to take a 31-7 halftime lead. The Dukes had 408 yards passing (Bryan Schor had 371 yards with 5 touchdowns and 1 interception) and 567 yards of total offense.

This game will be all about offense. SHSU averages 53.1 points and 570.4 yards per game. James Madison averages 48.3 points and 525.8 yards per game. The defenses are porous with SHSU allowing 26.8 points and 428.5 yards per game while JMU allows 23.3 points and 354.5 yards per game.

Sam Houston State and Jeremiah Briscoe can put up points, but can their defense stop the Dukes? They will be motivated going in the road after getting the #5 seed. We like a high scoring game and James Madison to come out on top 48-38. The winner of this game will play either South Dakota State or North Dakota State in the semifinals.

Wofford (10-3) at Youngstown State (10-3)

Game Time: Saturday, December 10 at 2 PM Eastern

Wofford sure knows how to play in close games. They staved off Charleston Southern in round one with a 15-14 victory. In the second round, they went on the road and defeated The Citadel 17-3, but that score is far from how close the game was. The game was tied at 3 after three quarters, then the Terriers took a 10-3 lead after Joe Newman broke off a 36 yard touchdown run. Devin Watson picked off a Citadel pass and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown in the final minute to make it 17-3. The Citadel also missed three of their 4 field goal attempts.

Youngstown State dominated Samford 38-24 in the first round with that game’s score flattered by two late Samford touchdowns. The Penguins second round game was more impressive though. They went on the road to Jacksonville State and held them in check during the second half to win 40-24. They allowed 317 yards on the ground to Jacksonville State, but they built a lead that forced them to throw the ball. Eli Jenkins hit only 6 of his 26 pass attempts for 140 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. The Penguins finished with 520 yards of offense with 290 yards passing and one touchdown from Hunter Wells and 140 yards rushing and 2 big scores from Jody Webb.

Wofford will be running the ball pretty much non-stop in this game. They have averaged 182 yards per game rushing in the playoffs compared to only 38.5 yards passing per game. It will be a heavy dose of Lorenzo Long, who has 1,382 yards and 16 touchdowns on 274 carries this year. In the playoffs, he has 188 yards and 2 touchdowns on 41 carries. Youngstown State allows 117.8 yards rushing per game.

Youngstown State is similar to Wofford in that they like to run the ball a lot. However, they have a passing attack that can get the job done if needed. Martin Ruiz (1,149 yards and 12 TDs) and Jody Webb (987 yards and 6 TDs) are the main ball carriers. Hunter Wells had his best game against Jacksonville State with 290 yards passing. The Penguins are facing a Wofford defense that gives up 91.2 yards rushing and 186.4 yards passing per game.

If Wofford wants to win this game they will need to stop the run and for Wells to throw the ball. The problem is that since Wells became the starter, he has not had a bad game since the North Dakota State contest. He had 0 touchdowns and three interceptions in his first two starts, but has since thrown 4 touchdowns with no interceptions. Wofford will also want to keep this game very low scoring, which is possible if they can force a lot of three and outs.

We like Youngstown State to win this game 24-10. The Penguins will keep Lorenzo Long in check and the offense will score enough points at home to force Wofford into an uncomfortable position. The winner of this game will play either Richmond or Eastern Washington in the semifinals.

Richmond (10-3) at #2 Eastern Washington (11-1)

Game Time: Saturday, December 10 at 4 PM Eastern

Richmond opened with an easy 39-10 win over North Carolina A&T in the first round. Their second round game was much more difficult and they needed to mount a fourth quarter comeback to win 27-24. They trailed 24-7 at halftime, but a touchdown pass and touchdown run from Kevin Johnson, along with 2 field goals from Griffin Trau, saw them win as time expired.

Eastern Washington had a bye in the first round and won over Central Arkansas in the second round 31-14. It was a different kind of win because they fell behind 14-0, but dominated the game after that. It was the defense that had a strong second half outing allowing just 75 yards in the final 30 minutes. Gage Gubrud threw for 449 yards and 2 touchdowns on 47 of 64 passing.

There were concerns about Eastern Washington’s defense going into the game last week, but they way they played after letting up 2 touchdowns was impressive. They are going to have to stop Kevin Johnson, who has 604 yards (66.7%) passing and 3 touchdowns with no picks. Johnson is also a threat to run the ball and keep plays alive, especially near the red zone. The Eagles will need to stop Brian Brown from catching too many passes, but good luck with that. Brown has 77 receptions for 1,441 yards and 11 touchdowns this year.

Eastern Washington fans will want to keep an eye on the health of star receiver Cooper Kupp. He started the game despite a shoulder injury and played well catching 10 passes for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did not play most of the second half due to the injury, and his loss for an entire game would be huge. Still, the Eagles can rely on Shaq Hill (72 catches for 1,077 yards and 15 touchdowns) and Kendrick Bourne (74 catches for 1,051 yards and 6 touchdowns) if Kupp cannot play or his action is limited.

Richmond is a resilient team and if they can keep this game close, they will not be deterred. It will help if Kupp cannot play for Eastern Washington that will help Richmond. We like Eastern Washington, even if Kupp does not play, to win this game 28-24. The winner of this game will play either Wofford or Youngstown State in the semifinals.

Check back next week for predictions for both of the semifinal games in the 2016 FCS Playoffs.

2016 FCS Playoffs Round 2 Predictions

Chase Morlock and North Dakota State defeated the then ranked #13 Iowa Hawkeyes of the FBS 23-21 on the road. North Dakota State is the top overall seed in the 2016 FCS Playoffs. (Matthew Holst/Getty Images North America)
Chase Morlock and North Dakota State defeated the then ranked #13 Iowa Hawkeyes of the FBS 23-21 on the road. North Dakota State is the top overall seed in the 2016 FCS Playoffs. (Matthew Holst/Getty Images North America)

2016 FCS Playoffs Round 2 Predictions

The first round of the FCS Playoffs saw eight teams eliminated and the winning teams will be facing the eight teams that had a bye. All the games for the second round will be played on Saturday, December 3. The remaining schedule for the FCS Playoffs can be found at the bottom of this linked article.

If not for a vengeful San Diego team, we would have predicted all 8 games correctly from the first round. As it is, we went 7-1 with our predictions for last week’s games. An updated bracket for the FCS Playoffs can be found here.

For the predictions below, we will start in the upper left of the bracket where the #1 seed North Dakota State is and work our way around.

San Diego (10-1) at #1 North Dakota State (10-1)

Game Time: 3:30 PM Eastern

San Diego went on the road in the first round and got even with the only team to defeat them in the regular season. The Toreros did exactly what they needed to do and that was stop Cal Poly’s rush offense. After allowing 354 yards rushing to Cal Poly in the first matchup, USD allowed just 155 yards on the ground (and only 40 passing) to Cal Poly in the opening round playoff game. They won 35-21 with 296 yards and 2 touchdowns passing from Anthony Lawrence along with 171 yards and 3 touchdowns rushing by Jonah Hodges.

North Dakota State had a bye in the opening round after going 10-1 during the regular season. They had wins over Charleston Southern, Eastern Washington, Iowa, Illinois State, Western Illinois, Northern Iowa, and Youngstown State. Their lone blemish was a 19-17 loss to South Dakota State at home thanks to a late passing touchdown by the Jackrabbits. And we have not even mentioned that the Bison are 5 time FCS National Champions.

We will not break down the stats: We like NDSU to win at home. The Bison have not been as dominant this year, but they sure do know how to win close games. They are 6-1 in games decided by 8 points or less. We like this one to be outside of that zone with the defense shutting down San Diego’s offense to win 28-10. The winner of this game faces either Villanova or South Dakota State.

Villanova (9-3) at #8 South Dakota State (8-3)

Game Time: 3 PM Eastern

Villanova had an opening round home game against St. Francis and it was a rather easy game despite the 31-21 score line. Two fourth quarter touchdowns flattered the final tally for St. Francis as Villanova led 31-7 at halftime. Villanova had 495 total yards with Zach Bednarczyk throwing for 254 yards with 3 touchdowns and a pick.

South Dakota State had a bye in the opening round after a pretty good regular season. They lost to TCU (59-41 in a good showing by SDSU), Cal Poly (38-31), and Illinois State (38-21). Their wins consist of the 19-17 win at North Dakota State and at home against Youngstown State 24-10.

This is an interesting game because Villanova’s offense is not overwhelming (25.8 points and 383.6 yards per game), but SDSU’s defense can give up points and yardage at 28.4 points and 403.4 yards per game. On the other side, Villanova’s defense is very good at 15.4 points and 265 yards per game but they will be strained by SDSU’s offense that averages 37.4 points and 481.7 yards per game.

Can Bednarczyk keep the turnovers down (10 interceptions this year) and can the Villanova rush attack get going against the SDSU defense? The numbers say yes, but SDSU may have something to say about that. SDSU will use the arm of Taryn Christion to get the offense down the field. He has 3,369 yards (64.1%), 29 touchdowns, and 8 picks along with 385 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns.

This game feels like a shootout that could go either way. We will go with South Dakota State to win 41-38. The winner of this game play either San Diego or North Dakota State in the quarterfinals.

Chattanooga (9-3) at #5 Sam Houston State (11-0)

Game Time: 3 PM Eastern

Chattanooga opened the playoffs at home with a convincing 45-14 win over Weber State. Derrick Craine ran for 160 yards and a touchdown while Montrell Pardue returned a fumble 99 yards for a score to blow the game wide open (was 17-0 prior to the score).

Sam Houston State was the only FCS team to go undefeated in the regular season and did so in style. All of their wins were by double digits, but the offense is the main attraction. They averaged 54.2 points and 584 yards per game! Jeremiah Briscoe had a spectacular season with 4,096 yards and 52 touchdowns passing. He only threw 7 picks out of 419 attempts and completed 67.3 % of his passes.

The real question in this game is how well will the Chattanooga defense play? They are good giving up only 17.8 points and 283.4 yards per game and they have big game experience recently against a strong offense (see the game at Alabama where they gave up 332 yards to the Tide). There is also the anger factor for SHSU. The Bearkats were awarded the 5th overall seed, but felt they deserved a higher seed (and potentially another home game).

We are going with the Sam Houston State Bearkats at home 51-41 in another high scoring game. The winner of this game will play either New Hampshire or James Madison in the quarterfinals.

New Hampshire (8-4) at #4 James Madison (10-1)

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

New Hampshire had a fun time against Lehigh in the first round winning 64-21. The Wildcats put up 637 yards of total offense (364 of them on the ground), Adam Riese threw for 273 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 picks, Dalton Crossan rushed for 184 yards and 2 scores, and Trevon Bryant had 113 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns.

James Madison had a bye in the first round after a 10-1 season where they went undefeated in the Colonial. Their lone loss was at North Carolina 56-28 where they were hanging around for the better part of three quarters.

This is also a rematch of the game on October 15 in New Hampshire. The Dukes had a massive 42-14 lead with 10 minutes left, but a furious rally by the Wildcats came up just short and they lost 42-39. The Wildcats threw for 512 yards in the loss (largely due to playing from behind), while the Dukes had 437 yards. Bryan Schor threw for 264 yards and 4 touchdowns with no picks for James Madison. Adam Riese came off the bench to throw for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns for New Hampshire.

Like the game in October, this one might be high scoring. Neither defense is strong as they both give up more than three touchdowns and 350 yards per game. Watch to see how Dalton Crossan does this time around. He rushed for only 35 yards (and a score) on 13 carries in the first game. If he cannot get going again, it might be another big deficit for the Wildcats to overcome.

We are going with the better offense to win here in James Madison. The Dukes average about 19 points and 140 yards per game more than New Hampshire. James Madison wins this rematch at home 45-31 (it could be even higher if neither defense shows up a la Syracuse and Pitt). The winner of this game faces the winner of the Chattanooga and Sam Houston State contest.

Youngstown State (8-3) at #3 Jacksonville State (10-1)

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

Youngstown State started the playoffs with a 38-24 win at home over Samford. It was a pretty comfortable game after a score midway through the fourth quarter made it 24-7. Samford scored two touchdowns in the final 7 minutes to make the score line look closer than it was. Jody Webb rushed for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns while the defense allowed only 24 yards rushing.

Jacksonville State had a bye in the opening round and their only loss was at LSU in week two. The Gamecocks kept the game close until the final 70 seconds of the first half when they allowed two touchdowns and the deficit ballooned from 3 points to 17.

YSU’s Hunter Wells has been serviceable the last five games in replace of the normal starter Ricky Davis. Wells has thrown for 746 yards (63.2%) with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. It is really going to come down to Martin Ruiz (1,086 yards and 11 touchdowns) and Jody Webb (847 yards and 4 touchdowns) running the ball. They are up against the Jacksonville State rush defense that allows 78.8 yards per game, but they must get going to keep the pressure off Wells.

This Jacksonville State team does not have the explosive offense as we have seen in recent years, but this offense is still pretty good with Eli Jenkins back for his last playoff run. He has 1,967 yards (52.3%) with 10 touchdowns and 6 picks, but his running ability is what really gives defense headaches. He has 795 yards and 12 touchdowns and he will spread the ball to Roc Thomas (782 yards and 7 TDs) and Josh Clemons (731 yards and 9 TDs). Those three will dictate how the run game, and JSU’s offense, will perform in this game. Youngstown State allows 101.2 yards per game on the ground.

It appears that whichever running attack is most productive will win this game. We like that team to be Jacksonville State with the Gamecocks winning 34-21. The winner of this game will play either Wofford or The Citadel in the quarterfinals.

Wofford (9-3) at #6 The Citadel (10-1)

Game Time: 6 PM Eastern

The Wofford Terriers played in a dog fight the opening round (pun intended) at home against Charleston Southern. They won 15-14 in a game that truly could have turned on one play. It was an ugly game if you like offense: CSU had 286 yards to 185 for Wofford. The passing games were sparsely used (as expected with run-heavy offenses) with a combined 135 yards passing from the two teams. Lorenzo Long earned every single one of his 96 yards and 2 touchdowns on 27 carries.

The Citadel earned a bye for the opening round after winning the Southern Conference. They defeated Chattanooga (22-14) and Samford (37-24) at home along with Wofford on the road (24-21). Their only loss was at North Carolina when they were crushed 41-7. However, they racked up 344 yards on the ground against the Tar Heels.

When these two teams met on October 22nd, overtime was needed. The Citadel settled for a field goal in the first part of overtime and then forced a fumble and recovered it on Wofford’s offensive possession to win the game. Wofford won the rushing battle that day 299 to 190 with Long rushing for 103 yards. The difference was turnovers. Wofford lost 3 fumbles (one led to a touchdown and the other ended the game) and also had an interception returned for a touchdown.

This will be another game with a lot of running as both teams average less than 75 yards passing per game. Wofford averages 282.9 yards rushing per game compared to 358.5 per game for The Citadel. Wofford relies mostly on Lorenzo Long for their rushing as he has 1,290 yards and 16 scores. He is the key for both Wofford’s offense and The Citadel’s defense.

The Citadel has a 4 headed rushing attack with Tyler Renew (1,020 and 4 TDs), Cam Jackson (656 yards and 5 TDs), Reggie Williams (650 yards and 4 TDs), and Dominique Allen (601 yards and 7 TDs).

This will be another dog fight, literally, between the Wofford Terriers and The Citadel Bulldogs. Wofford had control of the first game between these teams, but lost because of mistakes. If they can repeat that game, minus the mistakes, they will win. We like Wofford to win 17-14. The winner of this game will face either Youngstown State or Jacksonville State.

Richmond (9-3) at #7 North Dakota (9-2)

Game Time: 6 PM Eastern

Richmond rolled to a first round victory at home against North Carolina A&T, 39-10. The Spiders had 491 yards of offense, but most importantly held Tarik Cohen to 70 yards on 13 carries and the Aggies to 226 yards of offense. Kevin Johnson threw for 315 yards with 1 touchdowns and no picks.

North Dakota received a bye after going 9-2 during the regular season. Their losses came in the first two weeks on the road against Stony Brook (13-9) and Bowling Green (27-26). After that, they defeated South Dakota (47-44 in double overtime), Cal Poly (31-24), and Weber State (27-19) en route to 9 straight wins.

Both teams look similar in the stat columns: Richmond averages 31.2 points per game compared to 30.1 for UND. On defense, the Spiders give up 22.2 points per game while UND allows 21.5. The differences are Richmond allows less yardage per game on defense (305.2 to 353.2), posts more yards per game on offense (429.7 to 391.8), and prefers to pass the ball while UND likes to run the ball.

Kevin John will be the key for Richmond as Kyle Lauletta is out for the playoffs. Lauletta had 3,022 yards (63%) with 24 touchdowns and 8 picks on the season prior to his injury. Even if the rushing attack is not working, he can still pick apart defenses. His main target is Brian Brown, who has 70 catches for 1,254 yards and 10 scores.

The North Dakota rushing attack is led by John Santiago (924 yards and 7 TDs), but we will also see plenty of Brady Oliveira (837 yards and 9 TDs). They will need to soften up the defensive rush for Keaton Studsrud. He has only 1,816 yards (56.6%) with 12 touchdowns, but he does not turn the ball over much with two interceptions and one lost fumble on the year.

We like the Richmond passing attack to have success against North Dakota’s pass defense that allows 261.6 yards per game. The Spiders take this one 34-26. The winner of this game will play either Central Arkansas or Eastern Washington.

Central Arkansas (10-2) at #6 Eastern Washington (10-1)

Game Time: 4 PM Eastern

What a fourth quarter Central Arkansas had in the first round against Illinois State. They entered the quarter down 17-7, but blocked a punt and returned it a short 4 yards for a touchdown. After scoring a touchdown on their next drive, they went for an onside kick (up 21-17) and recovered it. They made it 24-17, but let up a 55 yard pass to see the game tied at 24 with 6:15 left in the game. They took the lead for good thanks to Antwon Wells‘ 4 yard touchdown run to win 31-24 after scoring 24 fourth quarter points.

Eastern Washington had a great regular season. They defeated Washington State on the road to start the year 45-42, but lost a tough one to North Dakota State on the road the following week, 50-44. They secured wins over Northern Iowa (34-30), Northern Colorado (49-31), the Montanas (even though they both had a subpar season), and Cal Poly (42-21).

Central Arkansas does not have the offense that EWU has with 34.7 points per game versus 44.2, but they have the better defense, at least according to the stats. They allowed 20.9 points per game (28.8 for EWU) and 320.1 yards per game (443.6 per game for EWU). Quarterback Hayden Hildebrand (2,936 yards, 60.7% completions, 19 touchdowns, and 9 picks) is facing a defense that allows 237.1 yards per game through the air. Even the rushing attack, which does not have a go-to back, could see some success against the Eagles rush defense that gives up 206.5 yards per game.

If Eastern Washington will win this game, it will have to be on offense. And they sure can do it with Gage Gubrud running the show. He has 4,071 yards (68%) with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing with 463 yards and 4 touchdowns. It does not hurt to have one of the best receivers in the FCS (feel free to name a better receiver) in Cooper Kupp. Kupp has 91 catches for 1,297 yards and 12 scores. One of his partners is Shaq Hill, who has some good numbers of his own with 65 catches for 1,014 yards and 15 touchdowns. The fearsome trio is rounded out by Kendrick Bourne who has 61 catches for 925 yards and 6 touchdowns.

This has all the makings of a shootout. Central Arkansas will have success against the Eastern Washington defense. Will the Bears defense have an answer for trio of Eagles receivers? We think EWU does enough on offense to get the win, but Gage Gubrud will need to avoid turnovers to do so. Eastern Washington takes this one 52-49. The winner of this game will play either Richmond or North Dakota.

Picks

Here are the picks for the eight games: North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Sam Houston State, James Madison, Jacksonville State, Wofford, Richmond, and Eastern Washington.

Check back next week for the FCS Playoff quarterfinal predictions.

2016 FCS Playoff Bracket Announced

Do not adjust your screen. We may see Eastern Washington's unique red "Inferno" field quite a bit in the 2016 FCS Playoffs. (Photo courtesy of Eastern Washington University Athletics)
Do not adjust your screen. We may see Eastern Washington’s unique red “Inferno” field quite a bit in the 2016 FCS Playoffs. (Photo courtesy of Eastern Washington University Athletics)

2016 FCS Playoff Bracket Announced

The 24 teams in the 2016 FCS Playoff Bracket were announced and the usual heavy hitters are in the field. North Dakota State is the reigning five time National Champions and they were awarded the #1 overall seed. The bracket can be found here via the NCAA’s website.

The top four seeds, in order, are North Dakota State, Eastern Washington, Jacksonville State, and James Madison. Seeds five through eight, in order, are Sam Houston State, The Citadel, North Dakota, and South Dakota State. The top 8 seeds all receive a bye into the second round with those games to be played on December 3.

Below are the 10 automatic qualifiers for the 2016 FCS Playoffs:

Big Sky – Eastern Washington (10-1)

Big South – Charleston Southern (7-3)

Colonial Athletic – James Madison (10-1)

Missouri Valley – South Dakota State (8-3)

Northeast – Saint Francis (PA) (7-4)

Ohio Valley – Jacksonville State (10-1)

Patriot League – Lehigh (9-2)

Pioneer – San Diego (9-1)

Southern – The Citadel (10-1)

Southland – Sam Houston State (11-0)

Below are the 14 At-Large picks:

Big Sky – Cal Poly (7-4)

Big Sky – North Dakota (9-2)

Big Sky – Weber State (7-4)

Colonial – New Hampshire (7-4)

Colonial – Richmond (8-3)

Colonial – Villanova (8-3)

MEAC – North Carolina A&T (9-2)

Missouri Valley – Illinois State (6-5)

Missouri Valley – North Dakota State (10-1)

Missouri Valley – Youngstown State (8-3)

Southern – Chattanooga (8-3)

Southern – Samford (7-4)

Southern – Wofford (8-3)

Southland – Central Arkansas (9-2)

Overall, four different conferences had four teams in: Big Sky, Colonial Athletic, Missouri Valley, and Southern Conference.

First Round Matchups

All games for the first round will take place on Saturday, November 26. We will list all those games along with their start time as well as the second round opponent.

San Diego (9-1) at Cal Poly (7-4) – 7 PM Eastern. The winner of this game will play at #1 North Dakota State on December 3.

St. Francis (PA) (7-4) at Villanova (8-3) – 2 PM Eastern. The winner of this game will play at #8 South Dakota State on December 3.

Weber State (7-4) at Chattanooga (8-3) – 2 PM Eastern. The winner of this game will play at #5 Sam Houston State on December 3.

Lehigh (9-2) at New Hampshire (7-4) – 2 PM Eastern. The winner of this game will play at #4 James Madison on December 3.

Samford (7-4) at Youngstown State (8-3) – 5 PM Eastern. The winner of this game will play at #3 Jacksonville State on December 3.

Charleston Southern (7-3) at Wofford (8-3) – 2 PM Eastern. The winner of this game will play at #6 The Citadel on December 3.

North Carolina A&T (9-2) at Richmond (8-3) – 2 PM Eastern. The winner of this game will play at #7 North Dakota on December 3.

Illinois State (6-5) at Central Arkansas (9-2) – 2 PM Eastern. The winner of this game will play at #2 Eastern Washington on December 3.

Road to the National Championship

First Round – All games on Saturday, November 26

Second Round – All games on Saturday, December 3

Quarterfinals – Games will be played on Friday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10

Semifinals – Games will be played on Friday, December 16 and Saturday, December 17

National Championship – Will be played on Saturday, January 7, 2017 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Check back later in the week for predictions for the first round of the 2016 FCS Playoffs.

2014 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals Wrap Up

John Crockett ran for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns for North Dakota State (Bruce Crummy / AP Photo)
John Crockett ran for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns for North Dakota State (Bruce Crummy / AP Photo)

2014 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals Wrap Up

Four games were played this week and we are now left with 4 teams. It was another exciting week with all the games competitive to the end and producing plenty of drama. The 2014 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals wrap up is below. Feel free to compare the results to the predictions made here.

 

#8 Chattanooga Mocs (10-3) at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats (11-1)

This game was played Friday night and it was a tight battle. New Hampshire’s second half surge allowed them to win 35-30 over Chattanooga.

It took a few drives to get the scoring started, but the Wildcats did with Sean Goldrich’s pass to Nico Steriti going for 39 yards. The Mocs had the perfect answer when quarterback Jacob Huesman ran in from 19 yards out to tie the game at 7. The first quarter ended with the Mocs threatening to put more points on the board.

The fourth play of the quarter was a missed 37 yard field goal from Henrique Riberio that kept the game knotted at 7. The Mocs’ next drive put them up 14-7 with Derrick Craine running in from 33 yards out untouched. The Wildcats answered right back with Goldrich connecting with R.J. Harris for a 49 yard touchdown. The Wildcats faked the extra point and converted the two point attempt to lead 15-14. With less than 30 seconds left in the first half, Chattanooga came up with a touchdown from Huesman on a 1 yard touchdown run. They opted for the extra point and led 21-15 at the break.

The second half was a bit slow to start with the Wildcats striking first again. Goldrich ran in from 5 yards out to give the Wildcats the lead again at 22-21. The Mocs responded with a long drive that burned the final 8:28 of the third quarter and 9 seconds of the fourth quarter. The drive ended with Riberio hitting a 27 yard field goal and giving the lead back to the Mocs at 24-22.

The Wildcats made an emphatic response on their next two drives. First, Steriti ran in from 6 yards out to make it 28-24 after a failed two-point attempt. Then came the back-breaker. On a double reverse, Goldrich ended up getting the ball back and found a wide open R.J. Harris. Harris caught the ball and with a caravan of teammates was able to go down the sideline for a 61 yard touchdown. The Wildcats led 35-24 with 11 minutes left. The Mocs had a chance to cut into the lead on the next drive, but Huesman was picked off by Nick Cefalo at the New Hampshire 16 yard line.

The Mocs did get a a touchdown with 1:32 left in the game when Huesman hit Craine for an 8 yard touchdown, but missed the two point conversion. The Wildcats recovered the onside kick to preserve the 35-30 victory.

Jacob Huesman went 28 of 37 for 335 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran 14 times for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns. Keon Williams had 76 yards on 21 carries while Derrick Craine had 7 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown. Faysai Shafaat had 6 catches for 90 yards while Tommy Hudson had 7 catches for 82 yards.

Sean Goldrich went 12 of 24 for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns. Nico Steriti ran 16 times for 58 yards and a touchdown while also catching 2 passes for 34 yards and a touchdown. Goldrich carried the ball 5 times for 24 yards and a touchdown. R.J. Harris had a monster game with 7 receptions for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns.

 

#5 Illinois State Redbirds (11-1) at #4 Eastern Washington Eagles (11-2)

Illinois State built a big lead before Eastern Washington made a furious rally in the fourth quarter. However, it fell short with Illinois State winning 59-46 in an exciting game.

The Redbirds took a 10-0 lead after a field goal and a 7 yard touchdown run from Marshaun Coprich. The latter came after a Vernon Adams interception. The Eagles were able to close the gap to 10-7 by the end of the first quarter when Quincy Forte ran for a 9 yard touchdown.

The second play of the second quarter was Brady Tibbits pounding the ball in from 3 yards out to restore the lead back to 10 points at 17-7. The Eagles were able to only muster a field goal in response before the Redbirds made it 24-10 game on Tre Roberson’s 7 yard touchdown pass to Cameron Meredith. The next drive by Eastern Washington was perfect. They scored a touchdown on Jabari Wilson’s 1 yard run and left only 36 seconds on the clock. At the break, Illinois State led 24-17.

The third quarter proved to be a turning point in the game. ISU started with a 21 yard touchdown run from Copich before EWU settled for another field goal and trailed 31-20. The next three drives all went in favor of ISU. First, Copich ran for a 2 yard touchdown to make it 38-20, but then came an interception thrown by Adams to give ISU the ball at the 23 yard line. 6 plays later, Roberson ran for a 5 yard touchdown and a 45-20 lead at the end of the third quarter.

The fourth quarter was packed with action starting with Adams 2 yard touchdown lead to make it 45-27. ISU came right back to make it 52-27 when Roberson hit Lechein Neblett from 31 yards out. EWU and Adams scored two touchdowns in short order. First was Adams to Cooper Kupp from 30 yards out and then came the same combination, but from 35 yards out. That made it 52-39 after a missed extra point and failed two point attempt on the Eagles.

The Redbirds ended any hope of an Eastern Washington comeback when Copich ran for a 74 yard touchdown to make it 59-39. The Eagles scored a late touchdown when Vernon Adams hit Shaq Hill for a 47 yard touchdown.

Tre Roberson went 19 of 24 for 206 yards with 2 touchdowns while also running for 62 yards and a touchdown.. Marshaun Copich had a monster game on the ground with 258 yards and 4 touchdowns on 30 carries. Cameron Meredith caught 9 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. Lechein Neblett caught 3 passes for 43 yards and a score.

Vernon Adams went 25 of 44 for 425 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 picks. Quincy Forte ran for 88 yards and a score on 13 carries. Cooper Kupp had 10 catches for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns.

 

Sam Houston State Bearkats (10-4) at #6 Villanova Wildcats (12-2)

A late touchdown from Sam Houston State propelled them back into the FCS semifinals with a 34-31 win over Villanova. Villanova’s normal quarterback, John Robertson, was declared out with a concussion shortly before the game.

Villanova’s first drive ended in a blocked punt that set up the Bearkats inside the red zone. They would take advantage with Jared Johnson completing a 2 yard touchdown pass to LaDarius Brown. Villanova responded with a touchdown of their own when Chris Polony completed a 54 yard touchdown pass to Poppy Livers, but a missed extra point made it 7-6 in favor of the Bearkats. The Wildcats would take the lead on the next drive after starting from their own 1 yard line. Polony ran for a 36 yard touchdown to make it 13-7.

The first quarter ended with Sam Houston State getting into with Johnson completing a 51 yard pass to Brown to the Villanova 29 yard line. Johnson capped the drive with a 4 yard touchdown pass to Gerald Thomas to recapture the lead at 14-13. The two teams exchanged field goals to end the first half. Sam Houston State clung to a 17-16 lead at the break.

The Bearkats got off to a great start in the second half. On the first play from scrimmage Johnson hit Brown for a 66 yard touchdown pass to make it 24-16. Villanova tied the game two drives later when Kevin Monangai ran for a 58 yard touchdown and Polony connected with Kevin Gulyas on the two point attempt. The third quarter ended tied up at 24.

The Bearkats took the lead again with a 30 yard field goal from Luc Swimberghe. The Wildcats took the lead on their next drive with Polony running in from a yard out to make it 31-27. Sam Houston State wasted no time in getting the lead back with Jalen Overstreet pounding the ball in from a yard out to lead 34-31. The Wildcats were forced to settle for a field goal attempt, but a delay of game would prove costly. Chris Gough’s 51 yard attempt was no good and the Bearkats held on for the 34-31 win.

Jared Johnson had a very efficient game going 22 of 27 for 303 yards with 3 touchdowns. He also had 32 yards rushing on 12 carries. Keshawn Hill had 75 yards on 20 carries. LaDarius Brown had an excellent game with 6 catches for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns while Yedidah Louis had 7 catches for 64 yards.

Chris Polony had a very good game in replace of John Robertson. He went 13 of 24 for 228 yards with a touchdown pass while also running 13 times for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kevin Monangal had 27 carries for 166 yards and a touchdown. Poppy Livers caught 4 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown.

This game was delayed with 1:40 left in the fourth quarter due to a medical emergency in the stands. It has been reported that EWU’s Jake Rodgers’ father was being attended to.

 

#7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (12-1) at #2 North Dakota State (12-1)

For the second week in a row, North Dakota State was pushed to the brink in the playoffs. And for the second week in a row North Dakota State survived. The Bison defeated Coastal Carolina for the second straight year in the quarterfinals, this time it was by a score of 39-32. John Crockett ran wild with 26 carries for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Crockett started his big day on the first drive with a 70 yard touchdown run on the fourth play of the game. The Chanticleers were unable to match with a touchdown, but settled for a 32 yard field goal from Alex Catron. The Bison’s next drive also resulted in a touchdown with an easy throw and catch. Carson Wentz hit Kevin Vaadeland for a 20 yard strike with the latter strolling easily into the end zone to make it 14-3. Coastal Carolina need a response to keep this a game and got just that with a 4 yard touchdown run from Alex Ross to make it 14-10 in favor of NDSU at the end of the first quarter.

The Bison extend their lead to 17-10 with Adam Keller’s 27 yard field goal almost midway through the second quarter. That field goal capped a 13 play drive that took 6:38 off the clock. The ensuing kickoff was taken by Devin Brown and returned 98 yards for a game-tying touchdown. The Bison responded immediately on their next drive. Wentz hit Luke Albers for a 21 yard touchdown despite two defenders on him. Coastal Carolina ended the first half with a 25 yard field goal to make it a 24-20 lead for NDSU.

The Bison extended the lead on their first drive of the third quarter. Wentz punched the ball in from 2 yards out to make it 31-20 and Coastal Carolina was in danger of letting the game slip away again. However, they were able to get a touchdown when Ross had a 4 yard touchdown run, but failed to convert the two point attempt and trailed 31-26. The final three plays of the third quarter saw the Chanticleers go from their own 5 yard line to North Dakota State’s 2 yard line. First was Ross’ 48 yard pass to John Israel followed by a 32 yard run by De’Angelo Henderson. The final play of the quarter was Ross hitting Osharmar Abercrombie for a 13 yard pitch and catch.

The first play of the fourth quarter was Henderson finishing the drive with a 2 yard touchdown run. Once again, the two point attempt was no good and Coastal Carolina held their first lead of the game at 32-31. The Bison were not able to respond until two drives later, but they did with none other than John Crockett. He ran 45 yards to the end zone and Wentz’s run on the two point conversion made it 39-32. The Chanticleers still had two more chances to tie the game. Their penultimate drive ended with a punt at the North Dakota State 45 yard line that went for a touchback. The Bison missed a 49 yard field goal that would have put them up 10 points, but the defense stepped up. A sack on second down but Coastal Carolina in a third and 19 hole while they picked off Ross’ pass on fourth down to seal the win.

Alex Ross went 11 of 24 for 197 yards with no touchdowns and a pick. He did have 2 touchdowns on the ground. De’Angelo Henderson ran 24 times for 143 yards and a touchdown. Bruce Mapp led Coastal Carolina in receiving with 4 catches for 81 yards. John Israel had 2 catches for 72 yards.

Carson Wentz completed 11 of 17 passes for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also ran for 45 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries. John Crockett carried the ball 26 times for 227 yards with 2 touchdowns. Carey Woods was the top receiver with 4 catches for 48 yards. No other receiver had more than 2 catches.

 

Semifinal Games

There will be two games next week with one taking place on Friday evening and the other on Saturday afternoon. The games are as follows:

Sam Houston State Bearkats (11-4) at #2 North Dakota State Bison (13-1) – 8 PM ET on ESPN2 Friday evening.

#5 Illinois State Redbirds (12-1) at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats (12-1) – 2 PM ET on ESPNU Saturday afternoon.

 

Check back later this week to see the predictions for both of those games.

2014 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals Predictions

Coastal Carolina and North Dakota State square off in the Quarterfinals for the second consecutive season ((AP Photo/Kevin Cederstrom)
Coastal Carolina and North Dakota State square off in the Quarterfinals for the second consecutive season ((AP Photo/Kevin Cederstrom)

2014 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals Predictions

By the end of the games on Saturday there will be only 4 teams standing after the conclusion of the Quarterfinal matchups. Round 1 provided a record of 5-3 and those predictions can be found here. The Second round was much better with an 8-0 record and those picks can be found here. Let’s see if we can make it 4-0 this weekend with the 2014 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals Predictions.

 

#8 Chattanooga Mocs (10-3) at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats (11-1) – 8 PM ET on ESPN2

Chattanooga looked solid last week against Indiana State, but there are some glaring issues they need to address if they are to win. They struggled in the red zone especially with a chance to put the Sycamores away. They cannot have a repeat and expect to win against New Hampshire. The Wildcats did an excellent job of holding the Fordham passing attack to 161 yards last week. This has the feel of a shootout with New Hampshire coming out on top 42-31.

 

#5 Illinois State Redbirds (11-1) at #4 Eastern Washington Eagles (11-2) – 4:00 PM ET on ESPN3

Both teams looked good in their second round matchups last week at home. Illinois State took care of fellow Missouri Valley Football Conference foe Northern Iowa while Eastern Washington held Montana in check. This game figures to be even both on paper and on the field. As mentioned last week, EWU has only two losses with both coming on the road. ISU has one loss to Northern Iowa on the road, but were also tested in two others. Let’s go wtih Eastern Washington at home by a field goal, 41-38 though it would not be surprising to see Illinois State come out with the win.

 

Sam Houston State Bearkats (10-4) at #6 Villanova Wildcats (12-2) – 1 PM ET on ESPN3

Sam Houston State has been impressive during their 7 game win streak including last week’s victory over the third seeded Jacksonville State Gamecocks. Their defense has been very good, especially in the second half of both playoff games. Villanova struggled with a better than expected Liberty team last week and needed a fourth quarter touchdown to win. This game figures to be close and we will go with Sam Houston State to win a third straight road playoff 27-24.

 

#7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (12-1) at #2 North Dakota State (12-1) – 12 PM ET on ESPN

This game has some revenge factor in it. In 2013, Coastal Carolina went into the FargoDome and got smashed by North Dakota State 48-14 in the Quarterfinals. The Chanticleers are back in 2014 in the Quarterfinals once more. The good news for Coastal Carolina is that the Bison do not look as dominant as they have in the past three years, but the Bison are still the three-time defending FCS Champions and are at home. NDSU needed a late touchdown last week to beat South Dakota State, but they showed the mettle of a champion in doing so. This game will not be a 34 point blowout, but it is hard to pick against NDSU at home in the playoffs. The Bison hang on for another week 24-21.

 

Semifinal Matchups

Based on the outcomes predicted above the semifinal games would be as follows:

#4 Eastern Washington Eagles at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats

Sam Houston State Bearkats at #2 North Dakota State Bison

Be sure to check back this weekend for the wrap up of the four quarterfinal games.

2014 FCS Playoffs Second Round Wrap Up

North Dakota State Celebrates Their Win Over South Dakota State (Joe Ahlquist / Argus Leader)
North Dakota State Celebrates Their Win Over South Dakota State (Joe Ahlquist / Argus Leader)

2014 FCS Playoffs Second Round Wrap Up

Eight games were played in second round to determine the Quarterfinal matchups next weekend. As usual, there were surprises, close games, and expected results. Let’s take a look at each game from the second round and be sure to check the results compared to the predictions made last week, which can be found here.

 

Fordham Rams (11-2) at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats (10-1)

New Hampshire had a strong performance against Fordham holding the Rams to just 161 yards passing. The Wildcats won 44-19.

New Hampshire scored on their first play from scrimmage with a 51 yard run by Jimmy Owens. The missed extra point kept the score at 6-0. Their second possession resulted in another touchdown as quarterback Sean Goldrich ran in for an 8 yard touchdown on fourth and two. The Wildcats were successful on the two point attempt to make it a 14-0 lead. New Hampshire was on their way to another score until a lost fumble by Goldrich gave the ball to Fordham.

The Rams turned that fumble into a field goal and would have more good fortune on New Hampshire’s next drive. The Wildcats were on their way to another score until a lost fumble by Jared Allison was recovered at the 3 yard line. Two plays later, Chase Edmonds ripped of a 91 yard dash to the end zone and the Rams missed the two-point conversion. The Rams closed the deficit to 14-12 after a 26 field goal on their next drive from Michael Marando.

Following the field goal, New Hampshire made it a two-score game with Nico Steriti’s 11 yard touchdown run. The Wildcats hit a 30 yard field goal as time expired in the first half to take a 24-12 lead at the break.

The Wildcats opened the second half with an excellent kickoff return and parlayed that into a touchdown with Steriti punching the ball in from a yard out to make it 31-12. Fordham responded in kind with an excellent return of their own in addition to a penalty that put them at New Hampshire’s 12 yard line. Three plays later, Mike Nebrich hit Brian Wetzel for a 5 yard touchdown and trailed 31-19 early in the third quarter. Late in the third quarter, the Wildcats extend the lead to 37-19 on Steriti’s 7 yard touchdown run. Once again, the extra point attempt was no good.

The fourth quarter saw New Hampshire’s punt blocked early on, but Fordham was unable to cash in. The Wildcats capped the scoring later in the quarter with Steriti’s 24 yard touchdown run. They did make the extra point for a 44-19 lead.

Mike Nebrich had a tough game passing for Fordham. He went 12 of 30 for 161 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Chase Edmonds ran for 208 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Tebucky Jones Jr. led the Rams with 3 catches for 64 yards. Brian Wetzel had 3 catches for 34 yards and a touchdown.

New Hampshire was led by Sean Goldrich, who went 22 of 37 for 240 yards with no touchdowns or no picks. He also ran for 48 yards and a touchdown. Nico Steriti ran 14 times for 110 yards and 4 touchdowns while Jimmy Owens had 3 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown. R.J Harris was the top receiver with 8 catches for 91 yards. Harold Spears caught 4 passes for 71 yards.

 

Indiana State Sycamores (8-5) at #8 Chattanooga Mocs (9-3)

Chattanooga’s balanced attack proved to be too much for Indiana State in their 35-14 win. The Mocs threw for 241 yards and ran for 262.

Indiana State started with an early interception that put the Mocs at the three yard line. Keon Williams punched the ball in from 3 yards out to make it 7-0 Chattanooga. A punt on the next drive for Indiana State resulted in a long drive by the Mocs. They went 90 yards in 14 plays while burning 6:10 off the clock. Jacob Huesman ran for a one yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Chattanooga. After both teams traded punts, Indiana State got the ball and quickly cut the deficit in half. Mike Perish connected with A.J. Johnson for a 75 yard touchdown. The first quarter ended with Chattanooga holding a 14-7 lead.

Chattanooga attempted a 25 yard field goal early in the second quarter, but it was blocked by the Sycamores. The Mocs had yet another chance to extend the lead on the next drive, but Huesman was stuffed on fourth and goal from the one to keep the game at 14-7 still. After a poor Indiana State punt and a penalty, but the Mocs finally put points back on the board with Huesman completing a 29 yard touchdown pass to Tommy Hudson. The Mocs had one final chance to go up even more but missed a 21 yard field goal. Chattanooga led 21-7 at halftime.

The Mocs’ first drive put them ahead comfortably after Huesman pounded the ball in from a yard out to give them a 28-7 lead. Indiana State was able to get on the board immediately with Jordan Wallace returning the kickoff 64 yards for the touchdown. Both defenses stepped up for the remainder of the quarter with Chattanooga leading 28-14 after 45 minutes.

The Mocs first drive of the fourth quarter was impressive, yet yielded no points once again. The Mocs went 83 yards in 16 plays while taking 9:27 off the clock. However, their 23 yard field goal attempt was blocked and another red zone opportunity went begging. Indiana State would give the Mocs another great opportunity, as Mike Perish lost a fumble at his own 28 yard line. Derrick Caine punched the ball in for a one yard touchdown. Another Perish turnover, this time an interception at the Chattanooga 13 yard line, allowed the Mocs to win 35-14.

Perish went 12 of 27 for 151 yards with a touchdown and 2 picks. He also lost a fumble. The Sycamores were not effective on offense, but were awful at running the ball. Their top rusher was LeMonte Booker with 3 carries for 26 yards. The Sycamores had 18 carries for 27 yards for the entire game. A.J. Johnson had 4 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown.

Jacob Huesman had a solid game for the Mocs. He went 15 of 24 for 241 yards with a touchdown through the air. He was also the top rusher with 153 yards and 2 touchdowns on 31 carries. Keon Williams added in 70 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. C.J. Board caught 2 passes for 65 yards while Xavier Borishade had 2 catches for 43 yards.

 

Northern Iowa Panthers (9-4) at #5 Illinois State Redbirds (10-1)

Illinois State took a 24-0 lead at halftime and were able to hold on from there to reach the quarterfinals. They got revenge on Northern Iowa with a 41-21 win on Saturday. Former Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson threw 4 touchdown passes.

Illinois State began with Roberson’s first touchdown pass to Cameron Meredith from 6 yards out. After a Northern Iowa punt, Illinois State went up 14-0 after Marshaun Copich ran in from a yard out. The first quarter ended with the Redbirds right on the door step of UNI’s end zone as they faced a second and goal from the four yard line.

The Redbirds would get into the end zone with Roberson and Meredith connecting once more, this one from 2 yards out. The Panthers next drive got to the ISU 30 yard line, but their pass was incomplete on fourth and 5 to give the ball back to Illinois State. The Redbirds tried a 51 yard field goal, but it was blocked by Xavier Williams. On the final play, ISU hit a 45 yard field goal to take a 24-0 lead at halftime.

The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and did well on their first drive. Sawyer Kollmorgen was hit at the ISU three yard line, fumbled the ball, and then managed to get back on it in the end zone for a Northern Iowa touchdown. The Redbirds responded with a 39 yard field goal to lead 27-7. After a UNI punt, Tre Roberson hit James O’Shaughnessy for a 26 yard touchdown. The third quarter ended with Illinois State leading 34-7 and at the UNI 7 yard line.

The Redbirds would end up not getting points after Lechein Neblett lost a fumble at the UNI 6 yard line. The Panthers would score following the fumble with David Johnson scoring from 2 yards out to make it a 34-14 game. The Panthers continued to gain momentum following ISU’s lost fumble on the kickoff. UNI recovered and scored three plays later when Kollmorgen hit Brett LeMaster for a 20 yard touchdown. That made it 34-21 and there was still plenty of anxious moments to come.

The Redbirds went all the way down to the UNI 22 yard line before a lost fumble by Roberson gave the ball back to the Panthers. They managed to get down to the ISU 30 yard line, but the fourth and 10 pass was incomplete to stop that potential scoring drive. UNI’s next drive ended in disaster on a trick play. Wide receiver Brett LeMaster threw a pass back to the quarterback, but was picked off by Teddy Corwin. Three plays later, Roberson hit O’Shaughnessy for a 36 yard touchdown and the clinching touchdown at 41-21.

Sawyer Kollmorgen went 18 of 31 for 234 yards with one touchdown while also running for another touchdown. The Panthers were held in check on the ground gaining only 33 yards on 25 carries as a team. David Johnson led the team with 16 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Charles Brown had 2 catches for 77 yards while Brett LeMaster had 4 catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.

Tre Roberson went 22 of 33 for 382 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air. He also ran 10 times for a total of 37 yards. Marshaun Copich led the way with 148 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. Cameron Meredith finished with 7 catches for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns while James O’Shaughnessy had 4 catches for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns as well.

 

Montana Grizzlies (9-4) at #4 Eastern Washington Eagles (10-2)

It was more of a defensive battle than expected, but that did not stop Eastern Washington from coming out on top. The Eagles beat Montana 37-20 on Saturday to advance to the quarterfinals.

Montana’s second drive resulted in a punt, but that was blocked by EWU. Two plays later, Vernon Adams hit Terry Jackson II for a 2 yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead. The Grizzlies responded with a long drive that resulted in a 28 yard field goal from Daniel Sullivan. Eastern Washington led 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter failed to produce much in the way of offense until the final minute. Vernon Adams ran for a 3 yard touchdown to take a 13-3 lead. The extra point was missed and that lead would hold until halftime for the Eagles.

The Eagles began the second half with the ball and made the most of it. Adams connected with Cory Mitchell for a 23 yard touchdown to go up 20-3. The Grizzlies first drive ended with an interception by Jordan Johnson, but the Eagles were not able to make them pay for the turnover. Montana finally scored their first touchdown when Jordan Canada broke loose for a 38 yard score. The Eagles did not let Montana get any momentum, as they scored a touchdown in response courtesy of a 27 yard run by Quincy Forte. The Grizzlies came right back down the field at the end of the third quarter thanks to Johnson’s 50 yard pass Travon Van to the 10 yard line. The third quarter ended with EWU leading 27-10 and Montana threatening to close the gap.

The Grizzlies were unable to punch it in and had to settle for a 27 yard field goal to trail 27-13. The Grizzlies next possession started at their own 3 yard line and ended with a lost fumble from Travon Van. The Eagles were only able to get a field goal, but that made it a three possession game at 30-13. Van redeemed himself on the next drive by taking a 30 yard touchdown pass from Johnson to cut the deficit to 30-20.

The Eagles moved the ball back down the field to the Montana 13 yard line. On fourth and 4, Adams was picked off in the end zone. That would not prove to hurt them, as Johnson was picked off by Todd Raynes and returned for a 40 yard touchdown. That made it 37-20 and clinched the victory for Eastern Washington.

Jordan Johnson went 18 of 33 through the air for 223 yards with a touchdown and 2 picks. Johnson also ran for 48 yards on 16 carries. Jordan Canada ran 11 times for 79 yards and a touchdown. Travon Van had an excellent game receiving with 9 catches for 161 yards and a touchdown. He did, however, also lose a fumble. Sean Haynes had 6 catches for 48 yards.

Vernon Adams did not put up eye popping numbers going 24 of 35 for 182 yards with 2 touchdowns and a pick. He also ran for 37 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Quincy Forte had 128 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Cooper Kupp led the Eagles in receiving with 12 catches for 86 yards.

 

Sam Houston State Bearkats (9-4) at #3 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (10-1)

Sam Houston State gave up a lot of yards (over 500) but won the battle that counts the most on the scoreboard. The Bearkats scored 13 second half points to beat Jacksonville State on the road 37-26.

Jacksonville State started very well on the opening drive. Quarterback Eli Jenkins went 2 for 2 for 69 yards. DaMarcus James capped the drive off with a 1 yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead. After a punt from each team, SHSU tied the game when Jared Johnson completed a 10 yard touchdown pass to Keshawn Hill. Jenkins responded right away with a 73 yard touchdown pass to Spencer Goffigan on the second play of the drive. The penultimate play of the first quarter was Jenkins being picked off by Tristan Eche and taking it back to the Jacksonville State 22 yard line.

The Bearkats would tie the game at 14 when Johnson ran for a 10 yard touchdown on the third play of the second quarter. The Gamecocks responded on the next series with Jenkins scrambling for a 14 yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked and JSU led 20-14. That lead did not last long with Jared Johnson hitting LaDarius Brown for a 19 yard touchdown and a 21-20 lead.

The final half of the second quarter saw three field goals between the two teams. JSU started first with a 37 yard field goal followed by the Bearkats drilling a 29 yarder of their own. The first half ended with Jacksonville State hitting a 42 yard field goal courtesy of Connor Rouleau. Jacksonville State held a slim 26-24 lead at the halftime intermission.

Both teams had to punt in their first series of the third quarter. On SHSU’s second series, they started at their own 9 yard line and scored the go-ahead touchdown when Johnson connected with Brown for the second time. This touchdown went for 49 yards, but the Bearkats missed the two point conversion and led 30-26. On the following possession, JSU went for it on fourth and 2 from the Sam Houston State 42 yard line. They were stuffed for a one yard loss and the Bearkats would score on a 33 yard touchdown run by Jalen Overstreet. That made it 37-26, which is how the the third quarter ended.

The fourth quarter did not produce any points though JSU had a great chance to score a touchdown late in the game. On first and goal at the 9 yard line, Eli Jenkins was picked off in the end zone by Mikell Everette to end any hopes of a Gamecocks comeback. The Bearkats ended up being able to run the clock out thanks to getting three first downs.

Jared Johnson went 13 of 19 for 161 yards with 3 touchdowns. He was also the top rusher with 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Jalen Overstreet was not far behind with 10 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown. LaDarius Brown had 4 catches for 88 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Eli Jenkins went 12 of 24 for 253 yards with a touchdown and 2 picks. He also ran for 84 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The top rusher was DeMarcus James with 19 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown. Anthony Johnson caught 4 passes for 74 yards. Spencer Goffigan had just the one catch for 73 yards and a touchdown.

 

Liberty Flames (9-4) at #6 Villanova Wildcats (10-2)

The Liberty Flames put a serious scare into Villanova and had their chances to pull another upset in the FCS Playoffs. However, Villanova overcame 4 lost fumbles to win 29-22 on Saturday.

Liberty started the game with a 72 yard kickoff return to get their first drive started at the Villanova 27 yard line. 5 plays later, Josh Woodrum punched the ball in from a yard out to give them a 7-0 lead. After forcing a Villanova punt, the Flames went up by 10 points thanks to a 50 yard field goal from Josh Lunsford. Villanova was unable to move the ball effectively on Liberty and trailed by that 10-0 score at the end of the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Josh Woodrum was picked off by Villanova, but the Wildcats were unable to take advantage of the turnover, as they lost a fumble at the Liberty 44 yard line. That lost fumble was turned into a 23 yard field goal from Lunsford and a 13-0 lead for the Flames. Villanova finally got something going on the next drive when John Robertson connected with Kevin Gulyas for an 87 yard gain to the Liberty 5 yard line. Two plays after that, Robertson ran in for a 3 yard touchdown to make it 13-7.

The Wildcats’ fortunes continued to be positive when Liberty lost the kickoff at their own 16 yard line. The Wildcats made the most of that with a 1 yard touchdown run from Austin Medley made it 14-13 in favor of Villanova. Liberty’s fortunes in the turnover department swung back in their favor when Villanova’s Robertson was sacked by Toby Onyechi and Nick Newman picked the ball up and ran it back for a 58 yard touchdown return. The two point conversion failed, but Liberty held a 19-14 lead at halftime.

Villanova’s turnover troubles continued in the third quarter. After forcing a punt by Liberty, Jason Ceneus fumbled the kick and Liberty recovered at the Villanova 45 yard line. The Flames were able to get deep into Villanova territory, but the Wildcats defense forced a field goal, which was good and gave Liberty a 22-14 lead at the end of three quarters.

Villanova got another big play on their first drive of the fourth quarter. Robertson and Gulyas connected on a 70 yard touchdown with the two-point conversion also being good to make it a tie game at 22. The Wildcats’ next drive ended with yet another lost fumble when Robertson turned it over at the Liberty 27. They forced a Liberty punt and then went on a long time consuming drive. The Wildcats went 84 yards in 18 plays and took 7:11 off the clock. Robertson ran in from a yard out to make it 29-22 and just over a minute remaining. The Flames had one last drive, but their desperation heave at the end of the game was broken up.

Josh Woodrum went 16 of 33 for 182 yards with no touchdowns and a pick for the Flames. D.J. Abnar had 21 carries for 54 yards while Darrin Peterson caught 5 passes for 103 yards. The Flames finished with only 246 yards of total offense against Villanova.

John Robertson went 8 of 19 for 217 yards with a touchdown and no picks. He also ran 18 times for 100 yards and a touchdown, but also lost 2 fumbles that led to 10 Liberty points. Kevin Monangal had 102 yards rushing on 20 carries. Kevin Gulyas caught 2 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown.

 

Richmond Spiders (9-4) at #7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (11-1)

Coastal Carolina ran past Richmond in a mistake filled game from both teams. Coastal Carolina won 36-15 to reach the Quarterfinals for the second straight season.

The first drive for both teams saw them get inside the opponent’s 40 yard line, but they opted to punt to try and pin the other team deep. That worked for Coastal Carolina when they picked off Richmond’s Michael Strauss, however, they missed a 33 yard field goal to keep it scoreless. Richmond had the same result on their ensuing drive with the field goal being no good from 48 yards. The Chanticleers finally got on the board late in the first quarter with Alex Catron connecting on a 32 yard field goal. The first quarter ended 3-0 in favor of Coastal Carolina.

Coastal Carolina’s first drive of the second quarter appeared to be heading for a score until De’Angelo Henderson’s fumble at the three yard line gave the ball to the Spiders. Richmond would end up punting, but it was a bad punt that went only 13 yards and out at their own 26. The defense stood tall and forced another field goal that was good from 27 yards. Coastal Carolina held a 6-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Coastal Carolina made it 14-0 after Alex Ross completed a 13 yard touchdown pass to Craig Weick and they converted the two-point attempt.

The third quarter saw a huge uptick in points scored. First, Coastal Carolina scored on Andre Johnson’s 9 yard touchdown run. The Spiders responded on their second play of the half when Strauss and Brian Brown connected for a 76 yard touchdown pass. Those two also hooked up for the two-point attempt and Richmond trailed 21-8. The Chanticleers built the lead back up to 21 points on Henderson’s 50 yard touchdown run. The Chanticleers also went for two and got it to make it a 29-8 game just six minutes into the second half. Two drives later, Coastal Carolina was up when Alex Ross ran in for a one yard touchdown and they went up 36-8 at the end of three quarters.

Richmond had a lot of chances inside of Coastal Carolina territory in the final 15 minutes. The first drive ended in a lost fumble by Strauss. The second drive was a punt before the third drive ended at the Costal Carolina on a fourth and one play. The fourth drive for Richmond was a 15 yard touchdown pass from Strauss to Brown to make it 36-15. Their final drive was an interception in the Coastal Carolina end zone.

Michael Strauss went 27 of 54 for 402 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The Spiders ran 19 times for 54 yards as a team. Jacobi Green was the top rusher with 7 carries for 31 yards. Brian Brown caught 8 passes for 181 yards and 2 scores. Reggie Diggs caught 8 passes for 140 yards while Rashad Ponder had 9 catches for 82 yards.

Alex Ross went 22 of 41 for 171 yards with one touchdown. Ross also ran for 52 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. De’Angelo Henderson had 19 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown while Andre Johnson ran for 58 yards and a score on 13 carries. The Chanticleers had 54 carries for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns as a team. Bruce Mapp was the top receiver with 7 catches for 59 yards.

 

South Dakota State Jackrabbits (9-4) at #2 North Dakota State Bison (11-1)

For the second straight week South Dakota State was involved in the game of the day. Unfortunately, the Jackrabbits were on the short end this week as they fell to the three-time defending FCS Champions North Dakota State, 27-24.

The Bison’s first drive ended in a touchdown with Carson Wentz throwing a 27 yard touchdown pass to RJ Urzendowski. That would be the only scoring for the first quarter as both teams struggled to move the ball close enough to even get field goal opportunities.

The Bison made it 14-0 early in the second quarter when Wentz ran for a 27 yard touchdown. The Jackrabbits needing a response got one from their go to guy. Zach Zenner ran for a 17 yard touchdown to make it 14-7 in favor of North Dakota State. The Jackrabbits forced a punt from the Bison and Je Ryan Butler returned that punt 80 yards to the NDSU 11 yard line. Three plays later, Zenner ran in from 4 yards out to tie the game at 14. That would be the score at the halftime break.

The Jackrabbits took their first lead of the game on their first possession of the second half. Justin Syrovatka hit a 33 yard field goal to make it 17-14. The Bison responded with a 42 yard field goal of their own to knot the game at 17. That is how the third quarter would end and set the game up for a wild finish.

The Bison took a 20-17 lead on their first fourth quarter possession with Adam Keller hitting a 29 yard field goal. The Jackrabbits responded with a touchdown when Austin Sumner hit Jake Wieneke for a 3 yard score. That made it 24-20 SDSU, but there was plenty of time left for the Bison to rally. The Bison marched down the field and took the lead back with a 12 yard touchdown pass from Wentz to Urzendowski. On the ensuing drive, Sumner was picked by Tre Dempsey to seal the victory for the Bison.

Austin Sumner went 13 of 22 for 132 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Zach Zenner had 32 carries for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jason Schneider had 3 catches for 59 yards. The Jackrabbits totaled 275 yards of offense against the Bison.

Carson Wentz went 14 of 25 for 235 yards with 2 touchdowns. He also had 13 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown. John Crockett carried the ball 23 times for 102 yards. RJ Urzendowski led the Bison with 4 catches for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns.

 

Quarterfinal Matchups

#8 Chattanooga Mocs (10-3) at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats (11-1) – 8 PM ET on ESPN2

#5 Illinois State Redbirds (11-1) at #4 Eastern Washington Eagles (11-2) – 4:00 PM ET on ESPN3

Sam Houston State Bearkats (10-4) at #6 Villanova Wildcats (12-2) – 1 PM ET on ESPN3

#7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (12-1) at #2 North Dakota State (12-1) – 12 PM ET on ESPN.

 

Chattanooga at New Hampshire will be played on Friday evening. The remaining three games will be on Saturday.

 

Be sure to check out the predictions for the quarterfinal games later this week.

2014 FCS Playoffs Round 2 Predictions

Vernon Adams leads Eastern Washington against fellow Big Sky member Montana on Saturday (AP Photo)
Vernon Adams leads Eastern Washington against fellow Big Sky member Montana on Saturday (AP Photo)

2014 FCS Playoffs Round 2 Predictions

Eight games were played last week in the first round of the 2014 FCS Playoffs and eight more will be played in the second round this Saturday. Last week produced a 5-3 record based on the predictions of round one by missing Sam Houston State, Liberty, and South Dakota State. Here are the 2014 FCS Playoffs Round 2 Predictions.

 

Fordham Rams (11-2) at #1 New Hampshire (10-1) – 1 PM ET

As expected, Fordham took care of Sacred Heart in the first round and get the top seeded New Hampshire Wildcats in the second round. The Wildcats only loss was to Toledo 54-20, a MAC team that will go bowling at season’s end. The defense has been very good for New Hampshire and they will be tested by Mike Nebrich’s passing attack. Fordham faced another Colonial football team in Villanova during week two and got pasted 50-6. New Hampshire shuts down Fordham to win 27-10 and moves on to the quarterfinals. 

 

Indiana State Sycamores (8-5) at #8 Chattanooga Mocs (9-3) – 1 PM ET

Indiana State was impressive in their comeback win in round one at Eastern Kentucky. They were 16 points down and scored the final 36 points to win 36-16. Now they face the high-powered Chattanooga team that had losses to Central Michigan (20-16), Jacksonville State (26-23 in OT), and Tennessee (45-10). In the 9 wins for the Mocs, they have scored at least 31 points. That streak continues, but Indiana State certainly can make it close. Chattanooga wins 35-27 and moves on to play in the quarterfinals.

 

Northern Iowa Panthers (9-4) at #5 Illinois State Redbirds (10-1) – 2 PM ET

This game is a rematch of November 1’s game that saw Northern Iowa win 42-28 at home over Illinois State. Now the Redbirds are at home where they went 7-0 including a win over South Dakota State. In the November 1 game, Northern Iowa scored two special teams touchdowns and had a pick six with 50 seconds left to seal the win. It is hard to imagine the Redbirds imploding like that again this weekend. Illinois State wins 41-31.

 

Montana Grizzlies (9-4) at #4 Eastern Washington Eagles (10-2) – 4:30 PM ET

This game is yet another rematch of a regular season game. Eastern Washington, at home, beat Montana 36-26 in an air raid between the two teams. This Saturday has a chance for snow in the morning, but the weather is expected to be fine by game time. This should be another shootout between quarterbacks with Vernon Adams and Jordan Johnson slinging the ball around as they please. Eastern Washington’s losses were to Washington (59-52) and Northern Arizona (28-27). Eastern Washington wins a thriller 52-48.

 

Sam Houston State Bearkats (9-4) at #3 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (10-1) – 2 PM ET

This is a tough game to pick. Both teams are on impressive win streaks with Sam Houston State at 6 wins and Jacksonville State at 10. Jacksonville State has been seeded at three for a reason – they are very good. However, their fellow conference member Eastern Kentucky did not look great last week blowing a 16 point lead and losing. The Bearkats defense will keep this close and pull the upset. Sam Houston State wins 27-24 in overtime over Jacksonville State.

 

Liberty Flames (9-4) at #6 Villanova Wildcats (10-2) – 4:30 PM ET

Liberty shocked James Madison last week in the opening round. They face Villanova in the second round and this is where their season ends. Villanova has two losses this year, both by a single point. They lost a hear-breaker to Syracuse in double overtime 27-26 and 10-9 to Richmond, a fellow FCS playoff team. Villanova will be too much on offense and defense on their way to a 41-3 victory.

 

Richmond Spiders (9-4) at #7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (11-1) – 1 PM ET

Richmond dispatched Morgan State with ease in the opening round while Coastal Carolina’s resume was boosted by the fact that Liberty, who beat them in the regular season finale, came back to beat James Madison in the first round. It is worth noting that Richmond beat Liberty earlier the season 46-39 in double overtime. Both teams can score or play defense, though the former seems more likely in round two. In a close game, Coastal Carolina pulls out the 45-42 win.

 

South Dakota State Jackrabbits (9-4) at #2 North Dakota State Bison (11-1) – 3:30 PM ET

These two teams played on November 1 will North Dakota State using a big second half to win 37-17 over South Dakota State. The Bison trailed 10-6 at the halftime, but their rushing attack came alive and they were able to move the ball with ease in the final 30 minutes. Also in that game, Zach Zenner had 96 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries for the Jackrabbits. This should be a very good game, but the Bison hang on for the 28-21 win and move on to the quarterfinals to continue their defense of three straight FCS Championships.

 

Quarterfinals Matchup Predictions

Based on the predictions above, the quarterfinals would look as follows:

#8 Chattanooga Mocs at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats

#5 Illinois State Redbirds at #4 Eastern Washington Eagles

Sam Houston State Bearkats at #6 Villanova Wildcats

#7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at #2 North Dakota State Bison