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2016 FCS Playoffs Round 1 Predictions

Illinois State is pictured celebrating their win over Northwestern earlier in 2016. The Redbirds were a controversial inclusion in the 2016 FCS Playoffs after an up and down regular season that ended at 6-5. They face Central Arkansas on the road in the opening round. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)
Illinois State is pictured celebrating their win over Northwestern earlier in 2016. The Redbirds were a controversial inclusion in the 2016 FCS Playoffs after an up and down regular season that ended at 6-5. They face Central Arkansas on the road in the opening round. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)

2016 FCS Playoffs Round 1 Predictions

The 2016 FCS Playoffs are here. The first round begins with 16 teams playing in 8 games. The winners of those games will then play one of the 8 teams that received a bye in the first round as noted here. The bracket can be found here via the NCAA website.

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 (9-1) at Cal Poly (7-4)

Game Time: 7 PM Eastern

We start off with a replay of a matchup that occurred earlier this year. In that game, Cal Poly put some separation between the schools with two third quarter touchdowns on their way to a 38-16 win. Cal Poly had 354 yards rushing that day, which is par for the course with the Mustangs.

Outside of that game, San Diego was pretty dominant with all 9 wins by double digits. Cal Poly lost to FBS Nevada 30-27 in overtime, at #7 seed North Dakota 31-24, #2 seed Eastern Washington 42-21, and against fellow Playoff team Weber State 22-15. That is an impressive resume of losses not to mention wins over South Dakota State (road) and Montana (home).

Cal Poly has a lot of options with the rushing attack. It could be Joe Protheroe (1,212 yards and 11 touchdowns), Kori Garcia (834 yards and 6 TDs), quarterback Dano Graves (684 yards and 9 TDs), or Kyle Lewis (587 yards and 6 TDs). If the Mustangs put up 300+ yards on the ground again, this one is probably over. San Diego allows just 82.2 yards per game rushing, but we saw that was not the case in the earlier matchup.

If San Diego is going to win this game they will need to do so on the arm of Anthony Lawrence (2,515 yards with 22 touchdowns and 5 picks) as well as the legs of Jonah Hodges (1,222 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns). USD put up only 252 yards of offense against Cal Poly in the first game.

We like Cal Poly to win this rematch, but it will be closer than the 22 point spread earlier. San Diego will score points, but the rushing attack for Cal Poly will be too much. The Mustangs win 45-35. The winner of this game gets to travel to #1 North Dakota State for the second round.

St. Francis (PA) (7-4) at Villanova (8-3)

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

St. Francis will be traveling in state for this game at Villanova. They won the Northeast Conference and suffered losses all four losses on the road to Montana (41-31), Towson (35-28), Albany (20-9), and Wagner (31-24). Those games were pretty close in terms of score and they faced two Colonial opponents, which is the conference Villanova hails from.

Villanova lost at FBS Pittsburgh to start the season 28-7 as well as at Richmond 23-0 and at home to James Madison 20-7. If this is a low scoring game and the Wildcats offense is not moving, they could be in danger of losing.

St. Francis puts up 27.5 points and 352.5 yards per game compared to 25.4 points and 373.5 yards per game for Villanova. Defensively, the Red Flash give up 18.8 points and 304.9 yards per game while Villanova allows 14.9 points and 265.1 yards per game.

Villanova will try to control the game with the rushing attack. Aaron Forbes (745 yards and 7 TDs), Javon White (482 yards and 7 TDs), and quarterback Zach Bednarczyk (460 yards and 2 TDs) will lead the ground game. Bednarczyk has thrown for 1,684 yards with 15 touchdowns, but also has 9 picks.

St. Francis will be led by quarterback Zack Drayer who has 2,357 yards (54.1%) with 21 touchdowns and 10 picks. In all four losses, he has thrown at least 1 interception. The more Marcus Bagley can get on the ground (868 yards and 1 touchdown), the better it is for the Red Flash.

This looks like a low scoring game, but one that Villanova should win. We like them to win 24-6. The winner of this game will play on the road at #8 South Dakota State in the second round.

Weber State (7-4) at Chattanooga (8-3)

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

Weber State is going across the country for this game in Tennessee. They opened with losses at Utah State (45-6) and South Dakota (52-49 in 2 overtimes). They also had losses at North Dakota (27-19) and at home to Northern Arizona (33-20). They did get a big win over Cal Poly at home 22-15 on November 12.

Chattanooga opened 6-0, but hit a rough patch to end the season. They lost at The Citadel 22-14 before back-to-back wins against VMI and Western Carolina. They lost their final two regular season games to Wofford 36-28 and last week to Alabama 31-3. There is no shame in the loss to the Tide especially when they trailed only 14-3 at halftime.

Weber State actually gives up more points per game (28.6) than points scored per game (27.1). That certainly will not help them against a veteran playoff team like Chattanooga. Quarterback Jadrian Clark has 2,823 yards (62.3%) with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He may have to throw for a season high in yardage to keep them int his game (his best is 416 yards against Southern Utah in a 37-36 win).

Chattanooga puts up 33.1 points and 404.5 yards per game. They allow 18.2 points and 281.4 yards per game. The Mocs will put forth a balanced offense led by quarterback Alejandro Bennifield (2,173 yards passing with 23 TDs and 7 picks). Derrick Craine (808 yards and 9 TDs) will be the lead back, but Richardre Bagley (543 yards and 5 TDs) will get touches as well.

Unless Weber State’s defense has sudden turnaround this game looks like it is all Chattanooga. We like the Mocs to win going away 42-21. The winner of this game will face #5 Sam Houston State on the road in the second round.

Lehigh (9-2) at New Hampshire (7-4)

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

Lehigh opened with close defeats to Monmouth at home (23-21) and at Villanova (26-21). They responded by winning their final 9 games of the regular season and taking the Patriot League Championship. New Hampshire had losses to San Diego State (31-0), Dartmouth (22-21), James Madison (42-39), and Albany (36-25).

Lehigh has an explosive offense that puts up 40.5 points and 491.5 yards per game. The defense is porous at times giving up 23.6 points and 398.1 yards per game. Quarterback Nick Shafinsky has 2,448 yards with 20 touchdowns against 5 interceptions. Running back Dominick Bragalone has 1,106 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground while Shafinsky has 302 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing.

New Hampshire has an offense that puts up 25.9 points and 365.8 yards per game. The defense allows 21.8 points and 358.3 yards per game. The Wildcats have a balanced offense, but do their best when the rushing attack is working well. In their 4 losses, they averaged 108.3 yards per game on the ground compared to 204.9 yards per game in their 7 wins. Dalton Crossan has 1,005 yards with 6 touchdowns rushing on the season.

Lehigh’s rush defense allows 191.5 yards per game and that is a number New Hampshire wants to see. This game has a strong possibility of a high scoring game, which may suit Lehigh a bit better. Still, the run game for New Hampshire has a pretty favorable matchup and we will go with the Wildcats to win 49-45. The winner of this game will play at #4 James Madison in the second round.

Samford (7-4) at Youngstown State (8-3)

Game Time: 5 PM Eastern

Samford’s losses have come to some good teams for the most part. They lost 41-21 at Chattanooga, 56-41 at Mississippi in a crazy game, and also at The Citadel 37-34 in overtime. Their fourth loss was not a good one at East Tennessee State 15-14, a team that finished seventh in the Southern Conference. Note that all of those losses came on the road.

Youngstown State has a similar narrative except for the bad loss. They lost at West Virginia 38-21 as well as #8 South Dakota State (24-10) and #1 North Dakota State (24-3). All of those games came on the road just like Samford.

The offenses are opposite in their strength. Samford likes to pass the ball with Devlin Hodges. He has 3,716 yards (71.4%) with 33 touchdowns against 8 interceptions. Look out for Karel Hamilton as the top receiving threat. He has 100 catches for 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. The rushing attack averages only 103.4 yards per game and is led by K’rondis Larry at 470 yards and 2 touchdowns (5.8 yards per carry).

For Youngstown State, they like to run the ball more than they like to pass. They average 260.5 yards rushing and 158 yards passing per game. Martin Ruiz leads the rushing attack with 1,008 yards and 10 touchdowns while Jody Webb had a great final two games. He rushed for 167 yards against Southern Illinois and then followed that up with 166 yards and 2 touchdowns against Missouri State.

This game seems to set up a bit better for YSU because opponents have a good time rushing against Samford. They give up an average of 204.4 yards per game on the ground and 419.7 yards of total offense per game. While the Penguins have the better defense (16.5 points and 294.4 yards allowed per game), the Samford offense is potent.

Samford has scored a touchdown on 34 of 48 (71%) red zone trips compared to 21 of 43 (49%) for Youngstown State. The YSU defense allows 41% of red zone touchdowns to their opponent and Samford allows 57%.

We like Youngstown State’s defense to be the difference here in a close 28-24 contest. The winner of this game will be playing the second round at #3 Jacksonville State.

Charleston Southern (7-3) at Wofford (8-3)

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

Charleston Southern kicked off the season with a 24-17 loss in overtime at North Dakota State. Two weeks later they lost 52-8 at Florida State, which was not a surprise given they were missing some of their team for that game. Their third loss came at home to Gardner-Webb 17-10 on November 5.

Wofford lost 38-13 at Ole Miss in week two before losing two of their first three games in October. They lost 28-26 at home to Samford and then lost on the road at The Citadel 24-21 in overtime. In their penultimate game, they defeated Chattanooga on the road 36-28.

Be prepared for a lot of rushing attempts. CSU averages 273.7 yards per game while Wofford averages 295.8 yards per game. Defensively, CSU allows 134.7 yards per game compared to 68.6 for Wofford. When Mike Holloway (860 yards and 9 touchdowns) rushes for more than 100 yards per game, CSU has averaged 41.6 points in those five games.

Wofford will rely Lorenzo Long who has rushed for 1,194 yards with 14 touchdowns in 2016. Long has rushed for at least 100 yards in 8 of the last 9 games for Wofford.

If this game comes down to the passing attack, then it would be CSU who has the advantage. Shane Bucenell has 1,009 yards with 14 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. However, if CSU has to pass a lot it probably means they are down a few scores. The same goes for Wofford and Brandon Goodson (581 yards passing with 3 touchdowns and 2 picks).

We like Wofford’s ground attack to be the better in this game and we will take them to win 24-21 at home. The winner of this game will play at #6 The Citadel in the second round.

North Carolina A&T (9-2) at Richmond (8-3)

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

Of all the games in the opening round, this has to be one of the more intriguing matchups with the MEAC going against the Colonial. The North Carolina A&T Aggies defeated Kent State on the road in week two 39-36 in quadruple overtime. They followed that up with a crushing 58-21 loss at Tulsa the next week. Their only other loss came in the final week of the regular season at North Carolina Central 42-21. The Aggies were down 35-7 after 1:05 elapsed in the fourth quarter.

Richmond opened the season with a road victory over Virginia 37-20. Two weeks later they lost 42-14 to Stony Brook on the road. They also lost two of their last three games to James Madison (47-43) and William & Mary (34-13). The Spiders own some good wins this year too: over then ranked #21 Colgate (38-31), then ranked #17 Albany (36-30 in triple OT), and then ranked #11 Villanova (23-0).

Both teams have similar stats with strong offenses and mediocre defenses. Obviously, Richmond has played the stronger schedule, but the Aggies are interesting. They average 37.5 points and 418.6 yards per game on offense. They allow 21.6 points and 329.4 yards per game on defense. Tarik Cohen will be the key. He has 1,518 yards with 18 touchdowns and averages 7.6 yards per carry. In their two losses, he had just 98 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. He had four different games where he rushed for at least 200 yards.

What Cohen will be facing is a Richmond defense that allows 23.3 points and 312.5 yards per game. The Spiders allow 155.9 yards per game on the ground. Richmond’s offense will not be led by quarterback Kyle Lauletta after tearing his ACL. He had thrown for 3,022 yards with 24 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. It will be Kevin Johnson who faces an Aggie defense that allows 235 yards passing per game. Receiver Brian Brown has 67 catches for 1,179 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Richmond is a big favorite here at home and that is who we are going with to win based on their passing attack. However, we like the Aggies to keep this competitive throughout, but Richmond gets the win 41-31. The winner of this game will play at #7 North Dakota in the second round.

Illinois State (6-5) at Central Arkansas (9-2)

Game Time: 3 PM Eastern

Illinois State was an interesting inclusion into this field. They went 6-5, but the strength of their wins and the Missouri Valley helped them get in. They defeated Northwestern 9-7 in week two and then lost the next four games. Two of those losses were to #1 North Dakota State (31-10) and Youngstown State (20-6). They won four of the last five games including a 38-21 over #8 South Dakota State.

Central Arkansas lost to Samford 35-29 n week two, but came back in week four and defeated Arkansas State 28-23 on the road. Their only other loss was the last game of the regular season at Sam Houston State 59-23.

Illinois State averages 26.2 points and 390.1 yards per game on offense. Jake Kolbe has thrown for 2,495 yards (63.1%) with 20 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Anthony Warrum is the big play receiver with 57 catches for 956 yards and 9 touchdowns, but Spencer Schnell (54 catches for 434 yards and 1 TD) and Christian Gibbs (46 catches for 530 yards and 5 TDs) will see quite a few passes thrown their way.

Central Arkansas has an offense that puts up 35 points and 448.6 yards per game. Hayden Hildebrand has thrown for 2,668 yards (61.9%) with 17 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Desmond Smith has 61 catches for 808 yards and 6 touchdowns while Jatavious Wilson has 57 receptions for 784 yards and 3 touchdowns. The rest of the team has 87 catches for 1,109 yards and 8 touchdowns altogether.

Both teams have a better rush defense than pass defense and it is Central Arkansas that allows 67.9 yards per game on the ground compared to 132 yards per game for Illinois State. The running combination of Carlos Blackman (580 yards and 4 TDs) and Antwon Wells (492 yards and 8 TDs) for Central Arkansas could have a chance to do some damage on the ground.

In another close first round game, we like the home team to prevail with Central Arkansas taking this game 31-28. The winner of this contest will play at #2 Eastern Washington in the second round.

Picks

Here are the predicted winners of the first round in the 2016 FCS Playoffs: Cal Poly, Villanova, Chattanooga, New Hampshire, Youngstown State, Wofford, Richmond, and Central Arkansas.

Check back next week for predictions for the second round of the 2016 FCS Playoffs.

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.

2015 FCS Playoff Quarterfinals Predictions

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2015 FCS Playoff Quarterfinals Predictions

We are down to the final eight teams in the FCS Playoffs this weekend. After going 4-4 in round one, we improved to 5-3 in the second round to have a playoff total of 9-7 going into the final three rounds. The four games are split evenly with two games played on Friday and two on Saturday. The schedule can be found here and the updated bracket is here via the NCAA website.

#8 Charleston Southern Buccaneers (10-2) at #1 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (11-1) – Friday 8 PM Eastern Time

Charleston Southern had a bye in round one and then had to take on a hot Citadel team at home in the second round. After holding The Citadel to 181 yards in their regular season meeting, they did slightly worse by allowing 199 yards in the Second Round Playoff matchup. The Bucs offense did worse in terms of yardage than The Citadel (267 to 199), but did better when it mattered most. Mike Holloway had touchdown runs of 32 and 41 while finishing with 120 yards on 13 carries.

Jacksonville State also had a bye in the first round as the top seed and they had a great game in round two against Chattanooga at home. The Mocs took a 7-0 lead before Jacksonville State rang up 21 straight points. The Gamecocks held a two touchdown lead on two separate occasions, but their lead evaporated thanks to two fourth quarter touchdowns that gave Chattanooga a 35-28 lead. Troymaine Pope ripped off a 75 yard touchdown run to tie it and the game ended in overtime after an interception by the JSU defense and a touchdown run by Eli Jenkins.

These two teams did not meet in the regular season. The big matchup in this game will be Charleston Southern’s #22 ranked rush defense (and #2 defense as ranked by yards per game) against the Jacksonville State rushing offense. The Gamecocks have the #4 ranked rush offense and #4 ranked offense by yards per game. Against Chattanooga, Troymaine Pope had 17 carries for 234 yards and 3 touchdowns while Eli Jenkins ran for 195 yards and 3 touchdowns on 24 carries.

The matchup of strength on strength will be fun to watch and we are taking the top seeded Jacksonville State Gamecocks to win by a score of 27-20. The winner of this game will play either Sam Houston State or Colgate in the Semifinals.

Colgate Raiders (9-4) at Sam Houston State Bearkats (10-3) – Saturday 8 PM Eastern Time

Colgate opened with a big road win against CAA team New Hampshire, 27-20. The balanced offense (189 yards rushing and 188 yards passing) was able to withstand a 41 of 56 for 309 yards (1 touchdown and 1 interception) performance from Sean Goldrich. In round two, the Raiders had a 17-0 lead against James Madison before blowing that and trailing 28-24 at halftime. The game was close for the rest of the way with Jake Melville’s three yard run giving them the 44-38 lead (and win by that score) in the fourth quarter. James Holland had 165 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing while Melville ran for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns in addition to his 120 yards and 2 touchdowns passing.

Sam Houston State won their opening round game against Southern Utah at home in a thriller 42-39. The 344 yards rushing led the way, but the Bearkats also had 235 yards through the air including the eventual game winning score on a 55 yard touchdown pass from Jeremiah Briscoe to Yedidiah Louis. Round two was on the road against undefeated McNeese State 34-29. Briscoe threw for 313 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception while Cory Avery had 147 yards and a score on 30 rushes. Daniel Sams was held to 225 yards passing (4 touchdowns and a pick) and 57 yards rushing on 19 carries.

Both of these teams are a bit surprising thanks to their upset wins in the second round (and first round for Colgate). This game has a high scoring feel to it especially with Sam Houston State’s #1 ranked offense in yards per game at 543 per game. The defenses are decent at best and that is why this game could have both teams scoring in the 40s. We are going with Sam Houston State to win 52-45 to get back to the FCS Semifinals. The winner of this game will play either Charleston Southern or Jacksonville State in the Semifinals.

Northern Iowa Panthers (9-4) at #3 North Dakota State Bison (10-2) – Saturday 12 PM ET

Northern Iowa has played two games in the FCS Playoffs. The first was at home where they thrashed Eastern Illinois 53-17 with three touchdown passes from Aaron Bailey (on just 11 attempts) and 147 yards rushing and a touchdown from Tyvis Smith. The second round saw UNI travel to Portland State for a late kickoff, but once again the Panthers did not yield more than 17 points in a 29-17 win. Aaron Bailey had just 31 yards passing on 7 of 14, but he ran wild to the tune of 200 yards and 2 touchdowns. His backfield mate Tyvis Smith also had 207 yards and 2 touchdowns as Portland State could not overcome the UNI running game.

The North Dakota State Bison had a bye in round one before playing round two at home against Montana. The Bison dismantled the Grizzlies 37-6 thanks to a dominant defensive performance particularly against the run. Montana was only able to rush for 6 yards on the day with 19 carries. The defense also picked off Brady Gustafson four times with two of those returned for touchdowns. When Montana did score their lone touchdown, it was automatically canceled out by Bruce Anderson’s 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to end the slight hope of a comeback.

These two teams did meet in the regular season here at the FargoDome. Carson Wentz threw for 335 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions that day, but a broken wrist has sidelined him since mid-October. Whether Wentz plays against UNI is unknown, but what is known is that Northern Iowa will try to establish the run with Bailey and Smith while NDSU will try and stop it. If the Bison have another defensive performance like last week, it does not matter who is at quarterback.

We will go with North Dakota State at home in this one to keep their drive for five straight National Championships alive 31-20. The winner of this game will play the winner of the Richmond at Illinois State game in the Semifinals.

#7 Richmond Spiders (9-3) at #2 Illinois State Redbirds (10-2) – Friday 7:30 PM ET

The Richmond Spiders faced a familiar foe in round two after an opening round by. They crushed William & Mary 48-13 in the opening round just two weeks after defeating them 20-9 in the regular season finale. The game really turned when William & Mary was trying to cut the 14-3 deficit to 14-10, but a 100 yard interception return by David Jones made the score 21-3 and the Tribe never recovered. Richmond had 302 yards rushing and 146 passing. All six of their offensive touchdowns came on the ground with three from Jacobi Green, two from quarterback Kyle Lauletta, and one from David Broadus.

Illinois State also faced a conference opponent in the second round after a bye. They played Western Illinois at home and just like the regular season matchup, the Redbirds did not put them away until late. The game was 22-19 Illinois State with less than 10 minutes to play before two touchdowns in the final six minutes ended the Western Illinois season. Tre Roberson had another bad day passing (10 of 23 for 132 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions), but he made up for that with 111 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. As expected, Marshaun Coprich had a heavy dose of running and he was nearly unstoppable going for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns on 31 carries. Anthony Warrum was a bright spot in the passing game for ISU with 6 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.

Both of these teams have good offenses with each favoring one type of attack. On the season, Richmond has favored the passing game while Illinois State prefers to run the ball, but both offenses can use the pass or run. The defenses are far from spectacular, which means a lot of points could be in the forecast. We will take the Illinois State Redbirds to win after making the FCS Championship game last year in a 41-38 thriller. The winner of this game will face off against Northern Iowa or North Dakota State in the Semifinals.

2015 FCS Playoff Round 2 Predictions

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2015 FCS Playoff Round 2 Predictions

The 2015 FCS Playoffs continue on Saturday, December 5 with eight games in the second round. We went an even 4-4 last week with our predictions for round one.The eight winners on Saturday will then move on to the Quarterfinals to be played on the weekend of December 12. The schedule for the second round can be found here while an updated bracket can be found here.

Chattanooga Mocs (9-3) at #1 Jacksonville State Gamecocks – 2 PM Eastern Time

Chattanooga completely dominated Fordham in the first round in their 50-20 win at home. Jacob Huesman had 211 yards and 3 touchdowns passing while also running for another 129 yards on the ground. The Mocs had 560 yards of offense with 349 coming on the ground.

Jacksonville State (first round bye) had a great year as they went 10-1 and their only loss was a 27-20 loss in overtime on the road to the Auburn Tigers. They had two close games early in the year against FCS opponents, but they went on to destroy most of their opponents. The offense puts up 503 yards per game (4th best in the FCS) while the defense allows only 277 yards a game (6th in the FCS).

These two teams met in the opening week with Jacksonville State winning on the road 23-20. The Mocs were held to 196 yards of total offense while Troymaine Pope had 173 yards on 15 carries alone for JSU. With this game back in Jacksonville, we will take the Gamecocks to win, but the Mocs will give a good showing. Jacksonville State wins 35-24 with the winner of this game facing the winner of the Citadel-Charleston game.

The Citadel Bulldogs (9-3) at #8 Charleston Southern Buccaneers (9-2) – 1 PM Eastern Time

The Citadel came in to the first round high off their win over the South Carolina Gamecocks. In a back and forth affair, Eric Goins hit a 43 yard field goal as the game ended to give them another big win. Defense was optional for the two teams with both teams having more than 550 yards apiece. The Bulldogs had 524 yards rushing (!) with four different players having at least 90 yards on the ground.

Charleston Southern had a bye in the first round after a very good defensive performance in the regular season. Their two losses were to Troy and Alabama out of the FBS. The defense allows 20 points per game (20th in the FCS), but impressively allowed only 266 yards per game, which is second best in the FCS. The rushing defense has allowed only 110 yards per game.

This is yet another rematch of a regular season game in the FCS Playoffs. Charleston Southern won 33-20 on September 26 at The Citadel after trailing 17-6 at halftime. Their 17 point fourth quarter put the game firmly in their grasp. The Citadel had 181 yards on the ground, which was well below their 359 yards per game average.

This game is tough to call because The Citadel are riding high off two big wins. On the other hand, CSU has defeated them at their place and showed they can stop the running attack. We will go with The Citadel to keep their great play alive and win 30-24. The winner of this game will face the winner of the Chattanooga-Jacksonville State game.

Colgate Raiders (8-4) at #5 James Madison Dukes (9-2) – 1 PM Eastern Time

Colgate won their first round contest on the road at New Hampshire 27-20. The Raiders had lost in the regular season to the Wildcats at home 26-8, but were able to turn it around despite giving up nearly 400 yards of offense. Jake Melville had 188 yards passing and 66 yards rushing, but it was James Holland who had all four touchdowns for Colgate.

James Madison earned a first round bye after a three way tie for first in the Colonial Athletic Association. Their 9-2 record was pretty dominant with the exception of a 59-49 loss to Richmond and 44-41 loss to William & Mary. Both of those teams are still in the FCS Playoffs. The offense was the key for JMU as they put up 550 yards per game (best in the FCS) and 44.8 points per game (#2 in the FCS). The defense was below average as they ranked in the bottom half of nearly all major categories.

We went against Colgate last week and we will do so again this week as well. The offensive firepower for James Madison appears to be too much for Colgate to stop. The Raiders will probably put some points up themselves. James Madison takes this one 47-31 with the winner facing the Sam Houston State-McNeese State victor.

Sam Houston State Bearkats (9-3) at #4 McNeese State Cowboys (10-0) – 7 PM Eastern Time

Sam Houston State played a wild first round game at home against Southern Utah where they escaped 42-39. After 58 first half points, the defenses emerged with only 23 points coming in the final 30 minutes. SHSU erased a 39-26 deficit early in the third quarter despite losing quarterback Jared Johnson in the second quarter. Johnson is expected to play against McNeese State.

McNeese State had a bye in the first round thanks to their undefeated regular season. Their opening game against LSU was cancelled and they cruised through most of their schedule. They had close wins against Abilene Christian (15-13) and Lamar (20-14) on the road, but those contests both featured late touchdowns from the losing sides. The Cowboys defense is the best in the FCS in rushing yards allowed (78.6 per game) and is second in points per game at 11.1. They have allowed only 11 touchdowns and 5 field goals all season.

Stop if you have heard this one before: Sam Houston State at McNeese State is a rematch from the regular season. In that game, SHSU jumped out to a 10-0 lead thanks to a pick six before McNeese State rattled off 27 points to end the game. The Bearkats had some success against the MSU defense with 180 yards rushing and 200 yards passing. McNeese ran for 305 yards with quarterback Daniel Sams accounting for 164 of those yards and a touchdown.

This game will feature an incredible offense in SHSU against an incredible defense in MSU. Considering we saw this play out on November 7 with a big game from McNeese State at home, it is hard to see the outcome changing. SHSU does have more playoff experience in their favor (made the Semifinals last year while MSU last made the playoffs in 2013), but this game still is McNeese State’s to lose. We will go with them to win 31-20 with the winner facing either Colgate or James Madison.

Montana Grizzlies (8-4) at #3 North Dakota State Bison (9-2) – 3:30 PM Eastern Time

Montana won their opening round contest at home against South Dakota State 24-17. The Grizzlies held a 24-0 lead at half, but nearly squandered that with 17 points by South Dakota State. The Grizz were led by Brady Gustafson’s 295 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air as the defense was on their heels late in the game.

North Dakota State had a subpar regular season by their standards with two loss, but still earned a first round bye. They tied for the Missouri Valley title with Illinois State (the two teams did not play each other) with their lone loss coming at home to South Dakota 24-21. The rushing attack led the way for the Bison (244 yards per game) while the defense was stingy once again. The defense allowed only 17.6 points per game (9th in the FCS) and 291 yards per game (12th in the FCS).

In yet another unsurprising twist, these two teams met in the regular season opener. North Dakota State lost that game 38-35 with a last second touchdown by the Grizzlies to give them the big win. The Bison and Grizzlies have both played in quite a few close games this year (five games decided by 7 points or less with a 3-2 record for each team). This game is tough to call, but we will go with the Bison to win at home 31-21. The winner faces the Portland State-Northern Iowa winner.

Northern Iowa Panthers (8-4) at #6 Portland State Vikings (9-2) – 10 PM Eastern Time

Northern Iowa overwhelmed Eastern Illinois at home last week in the first round by a score of 53-17. Aaron Bailey threw for 162 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 7 of 11 passing while also rushing for 72 yards. Tyvis Smith had 147 yards rushing and a touchdown on 24 carries. The Panthers put up 485 yards of offense and had a pick six late in the game from Ray Buchanan.

Portland State had a bye in the first round thanks to their 9-2 regular season with a second place finish in the Big Sky. Their two losses came by a grand total of 5 points. They also had four wins by a touchdown or less including the shocking win over Washington State to begin the season. The rushing attack is 11th best in the FCS and the offense averages 35.8 points per game (12th in the FCS). The defense is average in the amount of yards given up, but allows 21.7 points per game, which is 38th best in the FCS.

This is not a rematch of a regular season game for a change. The rushing attacks for both teams will be heavily featured especially with the quarterbacks being one of the top two rushers for each team. The teams are nearly similar in every category except for two: Northern Iowa’s pass defense (#106) and Portland State’s rush defense (#71). That favors UNI slightly that they have the better rush defense.

We will go with Northern Iowa 31-28 to win on the road, but a Portland State win would not be shocking. The winner of this game will play either Montana or North Dakota State.

William & Mary Tribe (9-3) at #7 Richmond Spiders (8-3) – 12 PM Eastern Time

William & Mary had some trouble in the first round against Duquesne. The Tribe were never able to fully put the game away despite having a two possession lead on three separate occasions. The Tribe finished with 480 yards of offense with 253 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 picks from Steve Cluley and 137 yards and 2 touchdowns from Kendell Anderson. The 52 points scored was the most by the Tribe on offense in 2015.

Richmond had a bye in the first round after going 8-3 in the regular season and tying for the Colonial Athletic title (won the head-to-head matchups against William & Mary and James Madison). The offense is good averaging 465 yards per game (#14 in the FCS and 33.5 points per contest (#23 in the FCS). The defense is decent giving up 24.6 points per game (#53) and 375 yards per game (#54). Quarterback Kyle Lauletta has thrown a touchdown pass in 8 games and two or more in six games.

This game will feel awfully familiar for Richmond. Their final regular season was at home against William & Mary, a game they won 20-9 with a late touchdown from Lauletta to Reggie Diggs to seal it. Jacobi Green ran for 217 yards and a touchdown for Richmond while Cluley had 3 interceptions for William & Mary.

The three losses for William & Mary have come when they failed to score 30 points or more and all were on the road. The three losses for Richmond have come when they failed to score 26 points or more and all came on the road. We will (tepidly) take Richmond to win 28-21 with the winner facing either Western Illinois or Illinois State.

Western Illinois Leathernecks (7-5) at #2 Illinois State Redbirds (9-2) – 2 PM Eastern Time

Western Illinois proved the Playoff Committee correct in the opening round by winning on the road against Dayton, but it was far from an attractive victory. They trailed early in the game and probably should have been in a larger deficit than 7 points if not for mistakes from Dayton. Still, they scored the final 24 points and had 152 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries from Nikko Watson.

Illinois State tied for the Missouri Valley title with North Dakota State and those two teams did not meet in the regular season. Their losses came on road to Iowa 31-14 (currently undefeated and playing in the Big Ten Championship) and South Dakota State 25-20 (lost in the opening round of the playoffs). The Redbirds will lean heavily on running back Marshaun Coprich who has 1,710 yards and 20 touchdowns this year. Quarterback Tre Roberson has not had the best year passing (48% completions on 175 passing attempts), but he can take off with the ball as noted by his 630 yards and 9 touchdowns on 100 carries. The defense allows only 19.8 points per game (#18 in the FCS).

These two teams met on October 24 with Illinois State winning 48-28. The game was tied 28 in the final five minutes of third quarter, but the Redbirds rode Coprich (206 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Roberson (211 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 89 yards rushing, 2 rushing touchdowns) to the victory. Western Illinois’ Trenton Norvell had 313 yards and 2 touchdowns passing in that game as well.

We are going to take Illinois State win once again due to the duo of Coprich and Roberson, but a close game would not be surprising. The Redbirds win 45-37 with the winner getting either Richmond or William & Mary.

2015 FCS Playoff Round 1 Predictions

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2015 FCS Playoff Round 1 Predictions

The 2015 FCS Playoffs begin on Saturday, November 28 with eight games in the first round. The eight winners on Saturday will then face one of the top eight national seeds in the second round on Saturday, December 5. The entire schedule can be found here while the bracket can be found here.

Fordham Rams (9-2) at Chattanooga Mocs (8-3) – 1 PM Eastern Time

The Fordham Rams enter this game after finishing the regular season 9-2 and second in the Patriot League. Their two losses were to Villanova (14-7) and Colgate (31-29), but their offense has been able to get going in their wins. They have won every game they have scored at least 35 points and even won a 24-16 battle against Bucknell. There is a worry about the defense, as they ranked in the lower half of nearly all major categories.

Chattanooga tied for first in the Southern Conference, but won the tiebreaker and exits off a big loss on the road to Florida State. However, their two losses were by a field goal apiece including the season opener against top ranked Jacksonville State at home. The Mocs will rely on their run first option attack as well as a good defense (23rd in the nation). The Mocs played in five games decided by 8 points or less in 2015 with a 3-2 record.

This is a tough matchup to call, but we will go with Chattanooga to win 30-27. The winner of this game will face the top seeded Jacksonville State Gamecocks in Round 2.

The Citadel Bulldogs (8-3) at Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (9-2) – 2 PM Eastern Time

The Citadel finished tied for first in the Southern Conference, but lost the head-to-head tiebreaker to Chattanooga. They will feature the #2 rushing attack in the FCS and are coming off a big win over South Carolina. Three of their last four games been decided by 8 points or less and are 2-1 in those games so they know how to win close games. The Citadel defense is a better than average at #40 in the nation.

Coastal Carolina finished second in the Big South after losing two games in conference to Charleston Southern and Liberty. Both of those games were on the road and by a combined 11 points. They have one of the better offenses in the FCS and also boast a good defense that gives up only 18.2 points per game. The offense is balanced enough to give most teams fits. De’Angelo Henderson will be the man to stop for The Citadel as he has 1,245 yards rushing and 15 rushing touchdowns.

This game being at home for Coastal Carolina boosts their chances big time and they are a bit more balanced than The Citadel. If the Bulldogs can hog possession with their rushing attack, they have a chance to pull the upset, but we will go with Coastal Carolina to win 42-31. The winner of this game will face #8 Charleston Southern in Round 2.

Colgate Raiders (7-4) at New Hampshire Wildcats (7-4) – 3:30 pM Eastern Time

Colgate was the surprise winner of the Patriot League after pulling a 31-29 upset at home against Fordham. It was a slow start to the season going 0-3 with one of the losses coming to this same New Hampshire team. They were not very good in that game, losing 26-8. Quarterback Jake Melville will be the main man for Colgate as the leading passer and rusher. As he goes, so will the offense. Colgate has the 72nd ranked defense by total yards in the FCS and have struggled mightily against the pass at #106.

New Hampshire finished in a tie for fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Wildcats suffered three losses in losses in conference and were not very close in any of those games. Their offense is only 74th in the nation by yards while the defense is similar at 77th by yards. The defense has been susceptible to the run giving up over 200 yards per game, but has allowed just 21.5 points per game employing a bend, but do not break style. It is also worth noting that all four losses came on the road for New Hampshire.

Despite the fact that New Hampshire won rather easy in the 26-8 drubbing of Colgate, this game could be defensive and much closer. With New Hampshire being at home, we will give them the edge by a score of 17-10. The winner of this game will face the #5 seed James Madison in Round 2.

Southern Utah Thunderbirds (8-3) at Sam Houston State Bearkats (8-3) – 3 PM Eastern

Southern Utah had a great season winning the Big Sky Conference. They opened 0-2 with losses to Utah State and South Dakota State, but would not lose again in 8 games when they lost by a point to Portland State. The offense for Southern Utah is one of the top 25 by yards, passing, points, touchdowns, and field goals. The defense has been poor at times particularly against the run (#87), but they also put together a streak of 5 straight games in the middle of the season where they allowed 7 points or less.

Sam Houston State finished in a tie for second in the Southland Conference behind the undefeated McNeese State team. Sam Houston State also opened 0-2 before ripping off 6 wins in a row. The offense for the Bearkats is #2 at 544.5 yards per game and they also like to put up points in bunches to the tune of nearly 44 per contest. The defense gives up nearly 400 yards per game, but also allows only a solid 24.5 points per game.

This game has a shootout feel to it. Whichever defense makes the most plays will probably win this game. We will go with Sam Houston State to win 45-40. The winner of this game will play #4 McNeese State in the second round.

South Dakota State Jackrabbits (8-3) at Montana Grizzlies (7-4) – 3 PM Eastern Time

South Dakota State comes out of the incredibly competitive Missouri Valley Football Conference where they finished in a three way tie for third. Their three losses were to North Dakota State, Western Illinois, and Northern Iowa, with the former two making the FCS Playoffs as well. SDSU had a shift in offensive style with Zach Zenner off to the NFL. The Jackrabbits have a top 20 passing offense led by Zach Lujan, who has missed some of the season due to injury. The defense is stingy when it comes to allowing points as they allow just 16.7 per contest, which ranks 9th best in the FCS.

Montana finished in a tie for second with Portland State in the Big Sky Conference. After opening with a win against the 4-time defending FCS Champions NDSU, Montana lost games to Cal Poly and Liberty. Their other two losses came to Weber State and Portland State. The passing game for Montana is the key for the offense (#11 in the FCS), but wide receiver Jamaal Jones will be the top target. Jones averages 99 yards per game and also has 9 receiving touchdowns. The Grizzlies are a middle of the road team on defense giving up 389 yards per game with the yardage split nearly even between rushing and passing.

Both of these teams like to pass the ball to move the chains, but both defenses struggle against the run and are decent against the pass. That will make for an interesting dynamic along with Montana being at home. The SDSU defense is much better at not giving up points (16.7 to 24.2 for Montana) so we will go with them in 24-21 win on the road. The winner of this matchup will face the #3 seed North Dakota State Bison.

Eastern Illinois Panthers (7-4) at Northern Iowa Panthers (7-4) – 5 PM Eastern Time

Eastern Illinois made a strong rally to finish the season in second place in the Ohio Valley Conference. They opened 0-3 including a field goal loss to Illinois State at home. They won the next five games before a 24-3 loss to top ranked Jacksonville State. They won their final two games to finish 7-4 and reach these FCS Playoffs. The offense has been better at running the ball than passing, but only yields 337 yards per contest on offense. Devin Church will be they key man running the ball, but can also be a receiving threat out of the backfield. The Panthers’ defense is top 35 against the pass and average against the run. EIU gives up 24.2 points per game, the same amount that they score.

Northern Iowa finished in a three way tie for third in the Missouri Valley. They lost their opener to Iowa State, came back to win the next two, and then lost the next 3 to sit at 2-4. They won their final five games over mostly bottom teams from the MVFC. Aaron Bailey is the cog in the UNI offense as the leading passer and rusher. He prefers to run as much as possible, but can throw the ball when required. The Northern Iowa defense is stingy against the run and also gives up 19.7 points per game (top 20 in both categories).

With this game being at home for UNI, they are the clear favorites to win this game. Their lone loss at home in 2015 was to Western Illinois by 5 points. The UNI defense may be too much for Eastern Illinois to overcome. Northern Iowa wins 24-13. The winner of this game will take on #6 Portland State in the second round.

Duquesne Dukes (8-3) at William & Mary Tribe (8-3) – 3:30 PM Eastern Time

The Duquesne Dukes won the Northeast Conference thanks to a 30-20 win over St. Francis (PA) in the final week of the regular season. The losses for the Dukes were to Dayton, Albany, and Bryant with all three coming on the road. The offense produces a solid 408 yards per game, but the emergence of running back Rafiq Douglas will be important for Duquesne. After failing to crack 90 rushing yards in the first seven games, Douglas has ran for at least 165 in three of the final four games of the regular season. The defense is ranked in the top 25 in yards per game at 326 yards per contest and they have allowed only 1,400 yards rushing all season.

William & Mary finished in a three way tie for first in the Colonial Athletic Association with losses to Virginia (35-29), Delaware (24-23), and Richmond (20-9) with all three of those coming on the road. At home the Tribe did not lose a game and only one game was closer than 14 points (James Madison, 44-41). The offense is incredibly balanced with the passing attack averaging just 20 more yards per game. The defense will be the unit that determines the outcome. They give up only 18 points per game (#13 in the FCS) and the yards per game surrendered is at 331 (#28 in the FCS).

This contest has a defensive feel to it and it also feels like the Tribe are more likely to win. Duquesne’s losses all came on the road while William & Mary was unblemished at home. The defense for the Tribe has also faced better competition. We will call for William & Mary to win 28-10. The winner of this matchup will play #7 Richmond in the second round.

Western Illinois Leathernecks (6-5) at Dayton Flyers (10-1) – 12 PM Eastern Time

Western Illinois was a surprise pick to make the FCS Playoffs at 6-5, but did finished in a three way tie for third. WIU lost to Illinois (FBS), Coastal Carolina, Illinois State, Youngstown State, and North Dakota State with only YSU not in the FCS Playoffs. WIU also beat FCS Playoff teams in Eastern Illinois, Northern Iowa, and South Dakota State. Trenton Norvell will lead the offense and the #32 passing attack, but Nikko Watson has back-to-back games of at least 150 yards rushing and a touchdown. The defense for Western Illinois is a major concern. They are below average in every major statistical category, which is never a good sign.

Dayton finished in a tie for the Pioneer League title, but their head-to-head win over San Diego made them the champs. Their lone loss came in the regular season finale at Drake where they lost 27-17. The offense is balanced for Dayton, but only averages 341 yards per game and that ranks 85th in the FCS. The passing defense for Dayton is poor at 87th in the FCS, but the Flyers have a solid run defense (30th) and do not give up a ton of points at 18.6 per game (#16 in the FCS).

This is a tough game to call because Dayton does not have a stellar offense (#85 in yards per game), but Western Illinois does not have a good defense (#84 in yards allowed per game with 409). On the flip side, WIU had the #32 passing offense against Dayton’s 87th ranked passing defense. In a true coin flip game, we will go with Dayton win at home 24-20. The winner of this game will face the second seeded Illinois State Redbirds.

2015 Big Ten Week 1 Roundup

It was not a good day for Christian Hackenberg and Penn State in their opening game. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images North America)
It was not a good day for Christian Hackenberg and Penn State in their opening game. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images North America)

2015 Big Ten Week 1 Roundup

Below are some thoughts from each game that a Big Ten team participated in from the opening week of College Football. One thing to keep in mind is that was only week one, which means there is plenty of room for improvement for both winners and losers in the game.

Michigan Wolverines at Utah Utes

Result: Utah Win 24-17 (Thursday, September 3)

The most visible thing about Michigan’s opening week loss and Jim Harbaugh’s debut to Utah was the three interceptions by quarterback Jake Rudock. His most egregious was the pick 6 he threw midway through the fourth quarter that gave Utah a 24-10 lead.

Outside of the interceptions, Rudock played solidly. He missed some wide open throws, but his touchdown pass to Jake Butt late in the third quarter (into triple coverage) showed he has the ability to make good. Speaking of Butt, he had a good game by making 8 receptions for 93 yards. Also playing well was Amara Darboh, who had 8 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Another concern for Michigan was the running game and offensive line. The Wolverines gained just 76 yards on 29 carries as a team for only a 2.6 yards per carry average. The offensive line also has issues getting a good push, especially in short yardage situation.

Overall, it was not the worst start for Michigan. There were positives and they have three consecutive home games versus Oregon State, UNLV, and BYU.

#2 TCU Horned Frogs at Minnesota Golden Gophers

Result: TCU Win 23-17 (Thursday, September 3)

There is a lot to take out of this game for Minnesota. They played a top ranked offense from 2014 and held them to 23 points and forced two turnovers.

The Gophers were able to get a solid game from Rodney Smith, who ran for 88 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. That was good considering their opponent and they lost David Cobb from last year’s squad. Mitch Leidner played well with 197 yards and 1 touchdown through the air, but he also lost a fumble midway through the first quarter that led to a TCU touchdown. One final note is that Rodrick Williams had a fumble as he was about to score that cost the Gophers points.

Then there was the Gophers’ defense that played a bend, but do not break style. They gave up 449 yards to TCU’s offense and were able to get an interception off Trevone Boykin that stopped a scoring threat. They also forced a fumble inside their own red zone to save more points. It was a really good performance for Minnesota given how many yards they allowed.

Minnesota will be on the road next week to play Colorado State.

#5 Michigan State Spartans at Western Michigan Broncos

Result: Michigan State Win 37-24 (Friday, September 4)

Michigan State had a tricky game to open the season against a talented Western Michigan squad. Connor Cook looked good throwing for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns, but completed only 15 of 31 passes. The running game for the Spartans looked really good between freshman LJ Scott (13 carries for 77 yards), Madre London (13 carries for 59 yards and 2 touchdowns), and Gerald Holmes (9 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown). Aaron Burbridge had an excellent showing at wide receiver catching 4 passes for 117 yards.

There will probably be some worry about Michigan State giving up 24 points to Western Michigan, but the duo of quarterback Zach Terrell and running back Jarvion Franklin are good. The Spartans were solid in the running game holding Franklin to just 23 yards on 8 carries before he left midway through the third quarter with a head injury. Overall, the Spartans allowed only 18 yards on 23 carries. The Spartans did give up over 100 yards to the receiving couple of Corey Davis (10 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown) and Daniel Braverman (13 catches for 109 yards). However, the Spartans played well on the road and shut down the running game forcing the Broncos to play catch up.

Michigan State has a massive game next weekend against Oregon at home.

#21 Stanford Cardinal at Northwestern Wildcats

Result: Northwestern Win 16-6 (Saturday, September 5)

The high point for the Big Ten was right around 2 PM Central Time on Saturday with Northwestern’s 16-6 victory over Stanford. It was a dominating performance from the Wildcats in a statement game for a team that is coming off back-to-back 5-7 seasons.

The Wildcats decided to let freshman Clayton Thorson handle the quarterback duties and he played mistake-free in his first start. He threw for 105 yards on 12 of 24 passing, but was impressive with a 42 yard dash for the lone touchdown of the game. He finished with 8 carries for 68 yards and that touchdown. Also helping Thorson out was running back Justin Jackson, who had 28 carries for 134 yards.

On both sides of the ball, Northwestern was the more physical and dominant team. The Wildcats rushed for 225 yards as a team compared to just 85 for Stanford. The defense for Northwestern had a rough first drive giving up 64 yards and a field goal, but were clearly best after that. The defense was led by Anthony Walker’s impressive performance. He finished with 10 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, a fumble recovery, and 2 pass breakups.

Northwestern already looks like a handful after one game, but it is useful to remember that is has been only one game. The Wildcats have Eastern Illinois at home next weekend.

Illinois State Redbirds at Iowa Hawkeyes

Result: Iowa Win 31-14 (Saturday, September 5)

Most games against FCS competition do not yield much in the way of impressions, but this is different. Illinois State made the FCS National Championship in 2014, but lost narrowly to North Dakota State 29-27. They have a high powered offense, but were held to just 14 points and 231 yards.

C.J. Beathard looked good for Iowa going 15 of 24 for 211 yards and 1 touchdown. His top two targets were Jordan Canzeri (4 catches for 80 yards) and Matt VandeBerg (6 catches for 59 yards and a touchdown). The nice surprise was LeShun Daniels‘ 123 rushing yards on 26 carries.

The defense was very good for Iowa until the final quarter. They gave up 152 yards in the fourth quarter as well as the 14 points that Illinois State scored. However, they were able shut down Tre Roberson, who had just 49 yards on 5 of 12 passing before leaving with cramps. Marshaun Coprich had only 32 on 13 carries.

Yes, it was only the FCS Illinois State Redbirds, but this was a good start. Iowa has an in-state rivalry game next week on the road at Iowa State.

Richmond Spiders at Maryland Terrapins

Result: Maryland Win 50-21 (Saturday, September 5)

Maryland took a while to get going against Richmond, but eventually all phases of the games got in gear. Quarterback Perry Hills had an okay game going 12 of 21 for 138 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.

The running game was excellent for the Terps by gaining 341 yards on 45 carries and scored 3 touchdowns. Brandon Ross led the team 150 yards and a touchdown, Ty Johnson had 83 yards and 1 touchdown, and Wes Brown ran for 74 yards and a touchdown.

The star on Saturday for Maryland was return man William Likely. He had 2 kickoff returns for 63 yards, but did his damage on punt returns. He had 8 returns for 233 yards including a 67 yard return for a touchdown.

The defense is a bit of a concern having given up a lot of yards in the first half, but they settled down nicely in the final 30 minutes. The Terps will be playing Bowling Green next week at home.

Norfolk State Spartans at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Result: Rutgers Win 63-13 (Saturday, September 5)

Of all the games this weekend, this was the hardest to decipher if anything significant happened. Rutgers demolished a sub par Norfolk State team, but they looked good doing it. Both quarterbacks were excellent with Chris Laviano going a perfect 4 for 4 with 138 yards and 3 touchdowns. Hayden Rettig threw for 110 yards and a touchdown on 9 of 11 passing. Neither passer hurt their chances of winning the job against Norfolk State.

Josh Hicks ran the ball well with 118 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 carries while Paul James had 15 carries for 82 yards. Leonte Carroo had a field day by catching 3 passes for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns.

The defense was pretty solid after giving up 75 yards and a touchdown to start the game. For the game, Rutgers allowed only 196 yards and actually held Norfolk State to -3 yards rushing.

It was a good performance given the Scarlet Knights dismissed 5 players from the team. Rutgers will be at home next week with Washington State coming to town.

Kent State Golden Flashes at Illinois Fighting Illini

Result: Illinois Win 52-3 (Saturday, September 5)

Another Big Ten team that was in turmoil to start the season was Illinois. They were originally scheduled to play on Friday night, but constant lightning forced the game to Saturday afternoon. That proved to be no issues as the Illini crushed Kent State.

Wes Lunt was efficient by throwing for 162 yards and 4 touchdowns on 11 of 19 passing. The offense scored touchdowns on both of the first 2 drives courtesy of Lunt’s arm. Josh Ferguson ran for 76 yards and a touchdown to lead the Illini while Ke’Shawn Vaughn ran for 43 yards and a score. 10 different receivers caught a pass with the most catches by one player being 2 (four different receivers had two catches). Geronimo Allison led the team in receiver with 57 yards and a touchdown on 2 catches.

The defense was determined for Illinois as they forced 4 turnovers and allowed only 245 yards. Mason Monheim, Eaton Spence, and Taylor Barton were the trio that picked off passes. V’Angelo Bentley looked dangerous in the return game with 3 punt returns for 85 yards with a long of 48.

The Illini showed no effects of losing Tim Beckman as their head coach and Bill Cubit had them ready. They will take on Western Illinois at home next week.

Penn State Nittany Lions at Temple Owls

Result: Temple Win 27-10 (Saturday, September 5)

This game marked a negative turning point for the Big Ten for the opening weekend. Penn State was out of sorts against Temple as they suffered a bad defeat.

By now, most people know how this went. The offensive line was horrendous by giving up 10 sacks. Christian Hackenberg had no time to throw and it showed by his stat line of 11 completions on 25 attempts for 103 yards and an interception. That interception was a terrible throw by Hackenberg that nearly resulted in a pick 6. The Owls did score a touchdown as a result.

Akeel Lynch was decent for Penn State by gaining 78 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Brandon Polk was electric on his two carries with a total of 50 yards including a 33 yarder. The Nittany Lions finished the game with 77 yards rushing and only 180 yards of total offense.

Penn State’s defense was not terrible early on was they forced 4 punts and a fumble to start the game. They did give up a 93 yard drive that ended in a touchdown for Temple in the second quarter. The second half was much worse as they were constantly on the field.

Penn State has a chance to fix their issues next week at home with Buffalo going to Happy Valley.

BYU Cougars at Nebraska Cornhuskers

Result: BYU Win 33-28 (Saturday, September 5)

The Penn State game was bad for the Big Ten, but the ending to this game was brutal. A Hail Mary by BYU’s Tanner Mangum fell into the waiting arms of Mitch Mathews for the 33-28 win and a crushing blow to Nebraska in Mike Riley’s Nebraska debut.

Nebraska’s offense was pretty good especially Tommy Armstrong. He threw for 319 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception on 24 of 41 passing. The Cornhuskers ran for 126 yards as a team, but Terrell Newby was the high mark at 43 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Jordan Westerkamp was all over the field with 7 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Reilly also had 5 catches for 70 yards.

The real issue for Nebraska, as it has been for many years now, was the defense. They allowed 511 yards to BYU and that includes a stretch when the Cougars were without Taysom Hill. It has to be disconcerting to see Nebraska’s defense constantly be unable to finish a game. Another worrisome issue has to be kicker Drew Brown, who missed both of his field goals on Saturday.

Nebraska welcomes South Alabama to Lincoln next week.

Southern Illinois Salukis at Indiana Hoosiers

Result: Indiana Win 48-47 (Saturday, September 5)

Indiana did everything they could to not win against Southern Illinois, but managed to win 48-47 thanks to stopping a 2 point conversion in the final minute of the game.

The Indiana offense was scoring at will with Nate Sudfeld throwing for 349 yards and a touchdown. UAB transfer Jordan Howard ran for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns and wide receiver Ricky Jones caught 6 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown.

As usual, the worry is all about the defense for Indiana. They allowed a whopping 659 yards off offense including 411 through the air. Mark Iannotti threw for all 411 of those yards as well as 4 touchdowns on 24 of 31 passing. He also led the Salukis in rushing with 106 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries bringing his offensive yardage total up to 517 for the game.

The Hoosiers did have 9 players suspended for the game on Saturday, but defense has been an issue for a while. The defense will need to get better in a hurry as they face Florida International at home next week.

#20 Wisconsin Badgers versus #3 Alabama Crimson Tide

Result: Alabama Win 35-17 (Saturday, September 5)

The main showcase for the Big Ten on Saturday was Wisconsin and Alabama squaring off in Arlington, Texas. It was not a good showing for Wisconsin as they wilted in the second half.

The Badgers were crushed in the trenches on both sides of the ball. They managed just 40 yards rushing on 21 carries for the entire game with Alex Erickson’s 25 yard rush making him the leading rusher. Corey Clement had 16 yards on 8 carries, but was hampered by injuries that caused him to miss significant playing time.

Despite the poor rushing performance, the Badgers got to see a pretty good game out of Joel Stave. He went 26 of 39 for 228 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception (which came late in the fourth quarter with the outcome determined). He still has a good target in Alex Erickson, who also led the team in receiving with 73 yards and a touchdown on 6 grabs.

The defense for Wisconsin gave up 502 yards, but the game was all about Derrick Henry for Alabama. He ran 147 yards and 3 touchdowns on 13 carries and made the Badgers’ defenders look silly. The defense will need to get much better, especially on the line. It is also worth noting that safety Michael Caputo left after getting hit in the had making a tackle in the first half.

The Badgers get some serious competition relief with Miami (OH) going to Madison next week. The Badgers will be delighted to have them in town to work on their issues.

Purdue Boilermakers at Marshall Thundering Herd

Result: Marshall Win 41-31 (Sunday, September 6)

Purdue continued the Big Ten’s downward slide, but they had a chance to pull the upset as a touchdown underdog. A couple of interceptions thrown by Austin Appleby were returned for a pick six. The first happened on the opening play of the game and the other happened as the Boilermakers were mounting a drive to have a chance to tie the game or take the lead. Both times it was Tiquan Lang who brought the ball back to the house for Marshall.

If you take away the two pick sixes, Appleby played pretty well. He went 29 of 45 for 244 yards with 1 touchdown and he also had another touchdown on the ground on a sneak. He made smart decisions for the most part (again outside of the two pick sixes). He did throw two other interceptions with one coming late in the game after the pick 6 put the game beyond a doubt.

DeAngelo Yancey led the team in receiving with 5 catches for 78 yards while Anthony Mahoungou was second with 4 catches for 59 yards. Nine different receivers caught a pass for Purdue, which is good news for the depth.

The rushing game for Purdue was good with D.J. Knox leading the team with 102 yards and a touchdown while making himself very difficult to tackle. Markell Jones ran for 72 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries as well. Overall, the offense seemed to have a good rhythm going between the two pick sixes, but it fell apart with those turning points.

The defense was okay for Purdue. They gave up 397 yards, but were able to recover two fumbles and got an interception. However, the interception was squandered by the offense with a missed field goal. In crunch time, the defense allowed Marshall to go down the field on an 11 play, 84 yard drive to make it a 34-31 lead for Marshall. It was a decent performance that is better than the 41 points would indicate.

Purdue faces Indiana State at home next weekend.

#1 Ohio State Buckeyes at Virginia Tech Hokies

Result: Ohio State Win 42-24 (Monday, September 7)

Ohio State ended the bad run for the Big Ten, but they were not without some nervous moments. The Buckeyes rushed out to a 14-0 lead thanks to a touchdown pass from Cardale Jones and an 80 yard run by Ezekiel Elliott. After that, the offense stalled for the rest of the first half thanks to adjustments by Virginia Tech and turnovers. Virginia Tech came back to scored 17 unanswered points while the Hokies took a 17-14 lead at halftime.

Elliott finished the game with 122 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, but the game plan was not conducive to him running a lot. Jones settled down after his interception and finished with 186 yards and 2 touchdowns on 9 of 18 passing. He also ran the ball for 99 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

The biggest performance came from former quarterback Braxton Miller who was in the wildcat and catching passes. His first catch was an excellent diving grab for 24 yards before he caught a 54 yard touchdown pass early in the second half. Then there was his incredible spin on a rushing play that went for 53 yards and a touchdown. JT Barrett also saw action in the fourth quarter at quarterback. He had a 26 yard touchdown pass and also had a nice run of 40 yards.

The offense was solid early and in the second half, but Jones will need to cut down on the turnovers and bad decisions (his interception was tipped and intercepted on a bad decision to throw). The Buckeyes finished with 572 yards of total offense and were only 3 of 9 on third down. Nevertheless, the offense is going to be incredible the rest of the year.

The Ohio State defense was solid early on, even with the absence of Joey Bosa. They did let some receivers get free on the touchdown drives, but were pretty good outside of those. One area of concern is that Virginia Tech was 8 of 17 on third down conversions and also lost contain at times. The latter will be helped with the return of Bosa next week.

Ohio State has a quick turnaround with a home game against Hawaii in week two.

Check back next week for thoughts from the Big Ten performances in week two.

2015 FCS National Championship Preview And Prediction

John Crockett will be instrumental in the Bison's offensive attack (Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports Images)
John Crockett will be instrumental in the Bison’s offensive attack (Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports Images)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is for the FCS National Championship Game following the 2014 FCS Season. If you are looking for the 2015-16 FCS Championship Preview, it can be found here.

2015 FCS National Championship Preview And Prediction

 Saturday, January 10 will see the crowning of the FCS National Champion for the 2014 season. The #5 Illinois State Redbirds (13-1) will face the #2 North Dakota State Bison (14-1) in Frisco, Texas. Game time is set for 1 PM Eastern Time. Let’s start by taking a look at each team’s road to the Championship.

 

Illinois State Redbirds (13-1) Road To The FCS National Championship

First Round – Bye

Second Round – 41-21 over Northern Iowa at home

Quarterfinals – 59-46 win over Eastern Washington on the road

Semifinals – 21-18 win over New Hampshire on the road

The Redbirds had an average score of 40 to 28 in their three playoff games.

 

North Dakota State Bison (13-1) Road To The FCS National Championship

First Round – Bye

Second Round – 27-24 win over South Dakota State at home

Quarterfinals – 39-32 win over Coastal Carolina at home

Semifinals – 35-3 win over Sam Houston State at home

The Bison had an average score of 34 to 20 in their three playoff games.

Below is the 2015 FCS National Championship Preview And Prediction.

 

FCS National Championship Preview

North Dakota State is favored by 6 points with the Over/Under at 53 points.

For those who have not followed the FCS season, North Dakota State is the three-time defending FCS Champions. They won in 2011, 2012, and 2013 by an average score of 30 to 9 and have not yielded higher than 13 points in any game (2012). Plus, in the 2014 they have done all of this with a new coach in Chris Klieman. Klieman was on the staff since 2011 first as the defensive backs coach before being elevated to defensive coordinator in 2012 and 2013. He was tabbed to replace former head coach Craig Bohl last year.

The Bison will be led on offense by their running back John Crockett. He has run for 1,920 yards and 20 touchdowns (128 yards a game). In the three playoff games he has rushed for 495 yards and 5 touchdowns. In addition, he has caught 4 passes for 82 yards.

Handing the ball of to Crockett will be Carson Wentz. Wentz has not put up gaudy numbers, but he is clearly excellent at leading the offense. He has 2,874 yards passing with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. During the playoffs he has gone 38 of 61 for 587 yards with 5 touchdowns passes and only 1 interception.

Wentz’s top target for 2014 has been Zach Vraa but he was injured against South Dakota State in the second round and has not played since. His status is questionable for Saturday’s tilt. In his absence, RJ Urzendowski has filled in well with 7 catches for 171 yards and 3 touchdowns.

2014’s playoff run has not been easy for the Bison. They needed a last minute comeback against South Dakota State to move on while also needing a fourth quarter score to get past Coastal Carolina in the quarterfinals. Against Sam Houston State, the score was 7-3 before routing the Bearkats 28-0 in the final 30 minutes. With all that said, a win is a win no matter how small the margin.

The other team playing the National Championship game has a great story behind them as well. They are led by former Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Tre Roberson. Roberson played at Indiana from 2011 through 2013 compiling 2,433 yards passing and 20 touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions. He also ran for 982 yards and 10 touchdowns. In June of 2014 Roberson decided to leave Indiana and headed to Illinois State.

That turned out to be great for both Roberson and the Redbirds. This year, Roberson has thrown for 3,064 yards with 27 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. On the ground Roberson has 868 yards and 10 touchdowns, which makes him dangerous regardless of the play call. In the three playoff games Roberson has gone 59 of 88 for 866 yards with 6 touchdowns and no interceptions through the air. Roberson has also rushed for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns.

As excellent as Roberson has been this season, he had a great boost from Marshaun Coprich. For the season, Coprich has 2,168 yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground. During the playoffs Coprich has run for 485 yards and 6 touchdowns. His 258 yards and 4 touchdowns performance against Eastern Washington on the road in the quarterfinals is the game that stood out the most.

At wide receiver will be the duo of Cameron Meredith and Lechein Neblett. Meredith has 65 catches for 1,047 yards and 9 touchdowns while Neblett has 52 catches for 995 yards and 8 touchdowns. James O’Shaughnessy has been an excellent third option overall, but is deadly near the red zone. He has 27 catches for 500 yards and 7 touchdowns. Those three have accounted for 81.5% of all the passing yards for the Redbirds.

Meredith has 21 catches for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns in the playoffs. Neblett has caught 15 passes for 241 yards and 1 touchdown. O’Shaughnessy has 8 catches for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns.

 

Prediction

Now we reach the prediction part of the article. These two teams did not meet during the regular season despite both playing in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Still, there is plenty of familiarity with North Dakota State playing the Redbirds in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The Bison won in 2012 and 2013, but fell in 2011. Those teams, however, are not the 2014 versions for both schools.

What we do know is that both teams can win a close ball game or a shootout. However, this game does not seem like it will be a shootout given how strong of a defense the Bison boast. The Bison have given up an average of 13 points per game and have given up 20 points or more only three times. The first game was their 23-3 loss at Northern Iowa. The other two games were in the playoffs against South Dakota State (27-24) and Coastal Carolina (39-32). Of course, the Bison won those games so they can hang with anyone.

Illinois State showed excellent resolve coming back in the semifinals at New Hampshire in the fourth quarter. They trailed 18-6 before scoring the last 15 points and getting the birth to this game. However, another deficit like that would be extremely difficult to overcome.

North Dakota State wins 20-17 to capture their fourth straight FCS Championship.

2014 FCS Playoffs Semifinals Wrap Up

Illinois State and New Hampshire were battling for their first appearance in the FCS Championship game (Jim Cole / AP Photo)
Illinois State and New Hampshire were battling for their first appearance in the FCS Championship game (Jim Cole / AP Photo)

 

2014 FCS Playoffs Semifinals Wrap Up

The FCS National Championship for the 2014 season is now set. One game was exciting while the other was a second-half blowout. The two games were played over two days with Sam Houston State at North Dakota State on Friday evening and Illinois State at New Hampshire on Saturday afternoon. Be sure to check out the predictions made here as you read through the two recaps! Here is the 2014 FCS Playoffs Semifinals Wrap Up.

 

Sam Houston State Bearkats (11-4) at #2 North Dakota State Bison (13-1)

A big second half from North Dakota State allowed them to pull away from Sam Houston State and win 35-3. The game was 7-3 at the halftime interval in favor of the Bison while John Crockett accounted for 232 yards and 3 touchdowns on offense.

The first 5 drives of the game all resulted in three-and-outs with 3 from SHSU and 2 from NDSU. The third drive of the game for the Bison appeared to be headed the same way until Crockett broke a screen pass for 31 yards. 5 plays later, Crockett did the honors of scoring the first points of the game on a 3 yard run to make it 7-0. The Bearkats ended the first quarter with a drive going at midfield after starting at their own 13 yard line.

The first play of the second quarter was Jared Johnson throwing a beautiful strike to Gerald Thomas in stride to get them down to the NDSU 11 yard line. The Bearkats would settle for a 22 yard field goal from Luc Swimberghe to make it 7-3. The Bearkats’ next drive ended with a missed 46 to the left. Neither team threatened for the rest of the half with the Bison holding a 7-3 lead at halftime.

The third quarter began with the Bison getting the ball first. On third and four from their own 49 yard line, Carson Wentz threw a pass that was picked off by Mikell Everette at the SHSU 39 yard line. The Bearkats were unable to do anything after going three-and-out.

The next drive for North Dakota State would give them a double-digit cushion in a hurry. The third play of the drive was Wentz to Crockett on a wheel route out of the backfield for a 35 yard gain. The following play, King Frazier made one defender miss and was off to the end zone for a 33 yard touchdown run. That made it 14-3. The lead became 21-3 on the first play of the next drive. Crockett took a simple handoff to the right, broke a tackle, and sprint to the end zone for a 55 yard score. The third quarter ended with the Bison leading 21-3 and at the Bearkats’ 29 yard line.

Six plays into the fourth quarter was Crockett’s third touchdown run of the game from 10 yards out. The Bearkats’ tried to respond on the next drive, but on first and 10 from the Bison’s 33 yard line, Jared Johnson was picked off by Nick DeLuca undercutting the route. That led to a 14 yard touchdown pass from Wentz to RJ Urzendowski to cap the scoring.

Jared Johnson went 20 of 31 for 227 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He was also the leading rusher with 66 yards on 25 carries. Keshawn Hill had 12 carries for 26 yards. Yedidah Louis finished as the top receiver for SHSU by catching 6 passes for 62 yards. Gerald Thomas had 2 catches for 60 yards while Hill finished with 7 catches for 50 yards.

Carson Wentz finished 13 of 19 for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception. John Crockett was the start for the Bison by running 26 times for 166 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also was the leading receiver with 2 catches for 66 yards. King Frazier had 3 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown. Andrew Bonnet had 4 catches for 44 yards.

 

#5 Illinois State Redbirds (12-1) at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats (12-1)

Both teams were searching for their first appearance in the FCS National Championship. For three quarters it appeared that New Hampshire was going to be the team, but a stunning fourth quarter rally by Illinois State allowed them to win 21-18.

The Redbirds scored first with a 33 yard field goal from Nick Aussieker to lead 3-0. The Wildcats had an excellent opportunity on the next drive. A short kick and personal foul penalty put them at the Illinois State 42. That led to a 4 yard touchdown run from quarterback Sean Goldrich to put them in the lead 7-3. Tre Roberson and the Redbirds responded well by moving inside the New Hampshire 10 yard line. On first and goal from the nine, Roberson scrambled for 4 yards but lost the ball and the Wildcats ended the scoring threat by recovering the ball.

The first play of the second quarter was Goldrich’s 47 yard pass to Harold Spears to the ISU 44 yard line. Six plays later was Nico Steriti’s 6 yard touchdown run and a two point conversion made it 15-3. The Redbirds missed a 40 yard field goal on the ensuing drive but did get a 23 yarder with under 2 minutes to play. A big return by Dalton Crossnan gave New Hampshire the ball at midfield, but Goldrich was intercepted three plays later. The first half ended with New Hampshire leading 15-6.

The Wildcats started with the ball to start the second half and extended their lead to 18-6 after settling for a 25 yard field goal from Brad Prasky. The remainder of the quarter was a struggle for both offenses until Illinois State ended the quarter with Roberson hitting Anthony Warrum for a 36 yard gain to the New Hampshire 19 yard line.

The fourth play of the final quarter was Marshaun Coprich getting to the edge and scoring from 2 yards out to make it 18-13 with over 14 minutes to play. The Redbirds forced a punt on the next drive to set up the eventual game-winning score. On second and two from the New Hampshire 47, Roberson kept the ball and ran it to the house after his line opened up a hole for him. They went for two and converted it via Jon-Marc Anderson’s run to lead 21-18.

The Wildcats still had a chance to score. They moved it into Illinois State territory before being faced with a fourth and 3 at their 46. On the fourth down play Goldrich found Kyon Taylor, but for no gain. The Redbirds got the ball back and eventually ran out the clock for the victory.

Tre Roberson went 18 of 31 for 278 yards through the air with no touchdowns or picks. He had 95 yards and a touchdown rushing on 12 carries. Marshaun Coprich had 24 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown. Lechein Neblett led the game with 8 catches for 147 yards. Cameron Meredith had 5 catches for 67 yards.

Sean Goldrich went 19 of 33 for 214 yards with no touchdowns and an interception while also having a rushing touchdown. Nico Steriti finished wtih 100 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. R.J. Harris had 6 catches for 68 yards, but was injured with a concussion early in the fourth quarter. Harold Spears had 2 catches for 61 yards.

 

2014 FCS National Championship

The FCS National Championship game for the 2014 season will be played on Saturday, January 10, 2015. The game will be played in Frisco, Texas at FC Dallas Stadium. Game time is 1 PM Eastern Time with the #5 Illinois State Redbirds (13-1) taking on the #2 North Dakota State Bison.

Be sure to check back to see the preview and prediction for the FCS National Championship.

2014 FCS Playoffs Semifinals Predictions

Tre Roberson has been electric for Illinois State after transferring from Indiana (Valley-Football.org)
Tre Roberson has been electric for Illinois State after transferring from Indiana (Valley-Football.org)

 

2014 FCS Playoffs Semifinals Predictions

We have one final weekend to determine who will be playing in the 2014 FCS National Championship. Two games will take place on Friday and Saturday to determine those participants. It starts with Sam Houston State visiting North Dakota State on Friday night before Illinois State travels to New Hampshire on Saturday afternoon.

Yours truly went 5-3 in the first round predictions before rebounding with an 8-0 record in the second round. The Quarterfinals provided a solid 3-1 record to make it 16-4 in the first three rounds. Let’s hope it moves up to 18-4 with the 2014 FCS Playoffs Semifinals Predictions below.

 

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

Two familiar foes face off on Friday night in the FargoDome. In both 2011 and 2012, North Dakota State ended Sam Houston State’s season in the FCS Championship game. What has been most impressive for the Bearkats this postseason is they have won the last two games on the road, but the defense has been very good in the second half.

Meanwhile, North Dakota State is just being North Dakota State by winning games at home. However, they have needed to rally in both playoff games to win. The Bison are favored by more than 2 touchdowns here, but the Bearkats’ defense has been solid in the playoffs.

North Dakota State just does not lose at home, but this game is going to be closer than most think. Sam Houston State’s 8 game win streak is not a fluke, but the Bison continue to get it done at home. North Dakota State manages to win 30-27 to reach their fourth straight FCS Championship.

 

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

This game, just like the other semifinal, should be a good matchup. Illinois State is averaging 50 points per game in the playoffs while New Hampshire is putting up 39.5 points per game. The Redbirds’ win last week on the road at #4 Eastern Washington was impressive, but now they have to go to the dungeon and beat top seeded New Hampshire. That is a tall order, but quarterback Tre Robeson and running back Marshaun Coprich are more than capable of doing so.

Roberson has 2,786 yards passing with 27 touchdowns and 9 interceptions on the season. He also has 773 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground. Coprich has been a machine with 2,089 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns while he averages 161 yards per game on the ground.

Sean Goldrich is hoping that he, and the UNH defense, can keep the Redbirds offense off the field. After missing 5 games in the middle of the season due to injury, Goldrich has played decently. He will need to avoid turnovers if New Hampshire is to make the FCS National Championship.

Perhaps it is surprising to see that Illinois State is favored by 6.5 points on the road at the top ranked team (line courtesy of 5Dimes). However, the Redbirds have been explosive on offense and last week’s 59-46 win over EWU was no fluke. The Wildcats’ defense will keep them in the game, but Illinois State comes out on top 42-34.

 

2014 FCS National Championship

Based on the predictions above, it will be the #2 North Dakota State Bison facing the #5 Illinois State Redbirds on January 10 to determine the winner of the 2014 FCS National Championship.

 

Be sure to check back on Saturday for recaps of both semifinal games.

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.