The 2016 FCS Playoffs bracket has been cut down to 8 teams. There was some exciting action in the second round and some blowouts as well. The Quarterfinals will be played on both Friday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10. All four games can be found on various ESPN channels. An updated bracket can be found here.
#8 South Dakota State (9-3) at #1 North Dakota State (11-1)
Game Time: Saturday, December 10 at 12 PM Eastern
South Dakota State started their playoffs with a 10-7 win at home against Villanova last week. It was an ugly game with the Jackrabbits rushing for just 7 yards. Taryn Christion threw for 190 yards and a touchdown on 20 of 33 passing. The defense allowed 321 yards of offense to Villanova, but allowed just that one score and were stingy once the Wildcats got inside their territory.
North Dakota State opened their 5 time title defense with a 45-7 walloping of San Diego at home. Easton Stick threw for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns, ran for another 99 yards on 4 carries, and the rushing attack was devastating. The Bison had 299 yards on 31 carries as a team (Lance Dunn had 93 yards and 1 TD while BruceAnderson rushed for 61 yards and a TD) and they averaged 9.6 yards per carry.
This is a rematch of the game on October 15 that South Dakota State won 19-17 in this building. The Bison held a 17-3 lead midway through the third quarter, but SDSU chipped away at the lead. Christion hit Jake Wieneke from 2 yards out with 1 second left and the Jackrabbits pulled off the upset. The Jackrabbits put up 523 yards of offense that day, which was the second most against NDSU’s defense behind Eastern Washington’s 556 yards in the Bison’s second game.
So how will this game go? Probably pretty similar to the first one. The Jackrabbits have the better offense, but the Bison have the better defense. This game will come down to the Bison’s offense. If they can control the clock, shorten the game, and gave success running the ball, then they will probably win. The combination of Dunn, King Frazier, Stick using his legs to extend plays/drives, ChaseMorlock, and Anderson will be tough to stop. The Bison had 161 yards rushing in the first game versus SDSU and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
In a close game, we like the North Dakota State Bison to win and move on to the semifinals. They will be tested by Taryn Christion, but will do enough to win 21-16. The winner of this game will play either Sam Houston State or James Madison in the semifinals.
#5 Sam Houston State (12-0) at #4 James Madison (11-1)
Game Time: Friday, December 9 at 7 PM PM Eastern
Sam Houston State was tested in their second round game at home versus Chattanooga. Despite leading the whole game, the Bearkats needed a late fourth down stop to win 41-36. Jeremiah Briscoe threw for 363 yards and 5 touchdowns with 1 pick on 20 of 40 passing. Yedidiah Louis had 8 catches for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Bearkats put up 421 yards of offense, but it was Chattanooga’s offense who did better with 531 yards.
James Madison blew the doors off New Hampshire at home 55-22. After falling behind 7-0 midway through the first, they responded with 31 straight points to take a 31-7 halftime lead. The Dukes had 408 yards passing (Bryan Schor had 371 yards with 5 touchdowns and 1 interception) and 567 yards of total offense.
This game will be all about offense. SHSU averages 53.1 points and 570.4 yards per game. James Madison averages 48.3 points and 525.8 yards per game. The defenses are porous with SHSU allowing 26.8 points and 428.5 yards per game while JMU allows 23.3 points and 354.5 yards per game.
Sam Houston State and Jeremiah Briscoe can put up points, but can their defense stop the Dukes? They will be motivated going in the road after getting the #5 seed. We like a high scoring game and James Madison to come out on top 48-38. The winner of this game will play either South Dakota State or North Dakota State in the semifinals.
Wofford (10-3) at Youngstown State (10-3)
Game Time: Saturday, December 10 at 2 PM Eastern
Wofford sure knows how to play in close games. They staved off Charleston Southern in round one with a 15-14 victory. In the second round, they went on the road and defeated The Citadel 17-3, but that score is far from how close the game was. The game was tied at 3 after three quarters, then the Terriers took a 10-3 lead after Joe Newman broke off a 36 yard touchdown run. Devin Watson picked off a Citadel pass and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown in the final minute to make it 17-3. The Citadel also missed three of their 4 field goal attempts.
Youngstown State dominated Samford 38-24 in the first round with that game’s score flattered by two late Samford touchdowns. The Penguins second round game was more impressive though. They went on the road to Jacksonville State and held them in check during the second half to win 40-24. They allowed 317 yards on the ground to Jacksonville State, but they built a lead that forced them to throw the ball. Eli Jenkins hit only 6 of his 26 pass attempts for 140 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. The Penguins finished with 520 yards of offense with 290 yards passing and one touchdown from Hunter Wells and 140 yards rushing and 2 big scores from Jody Webb.
Wofford will be running the ball pretty much non-stop in this game. They have averaged 182 yards per game rushing in the playoffs compared to only 38.5 yards passing per game. It will be a heavy dose of Lorenzo Long, who has 1,382 yards and 16 touchdowns on 274 carries this year. In the playoffs, he has 188 yards and 2 touchdowns on 41 carries. Youngstown State allows 117.8 yards rushing per game.
Youngstown State is similar to Wofford in that they like to run the ball a lot. However, they have a passing attack that can get the job done if needed. Martin Ruiz (1,149 yards and 12 TDs) and Jody Webb (987 yards and 6 TDs) are the main ball carriers. Hunter Wells had his best game against Jacksonville State with 290 yards passing. The Penguins are facing a Wofford defense that gives up 91.2 yards rushing and 186.4 yards passing per game.
If Wofford wants to win this game they will need to stop the run and for Wells to throw the ball. The problem is that since Wells became the starter, he has not had a bad game since the North Dakota State contest. He had 0 touchdowns and three interceptions in his first two starts, but has since thrown 4 touchdowns with no interceptions. Wofford will also want to keep this game very low scoring, which is possible if they can force a lot of three and outs.
We like Youngstown State to win this game 24-10. The Penguins will keep Lorenzo Long in check and the offense will score enough points at home to force Wofford into an uncomfortable position. The winner of this game will play either Richmond or Eastern Washington in the semifinals.
Richmond (10-3) at #2 Eastern Washington (11-1)
Game Time: Saturday, December 10 at 4 PM Eastern
Richmond opened with an easy 39-10 win over North Carolina A&T in the first round. Their second round game was much more difficult and they needed to mount a fourth quarter comeback to win 27-24. They trailed 24-7 at halftime, but a touchdown pass and touchdown run from Kevin Johnson, along with 2 field goals from Griffin Trau, saw them win as time expired.
Eastern Washington had a bye in the first round and won over Central Arkansas in the second round 31-14. It was a different kind of win because they fell behind 14-0, but dominated the game after that. It was the defense that had a strong second half outing allowing just 75 yards in the final 30 minutes. Gage Gubrud threw for 449 yards and 2 touchdowns on 47 of 64 passing.
There were concerns about Eastern Washington’s defense going into the game last week, but they way they played after letting up 2 touchdowns was impressive. They are going to have to stop Kevin Johnson, who has 604 yards (66.7%) passing and 3 touchdowns with no picks. Johnson is also a threat to run the ball and keep plays alive, especially near the red zone. The Eagles will need to stop BrianBrown from catching too many passes, but good luck with that. Brown has 77 receptions for 1,441 yards and 11 touchdowns this year.
Eastern Washington fans will want to keep an eye on the health of star receiver Cooper Kupp. He started the game despite a shoulder injury and played well catching 10 passes for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did not play most of the second half due to the injury, and his loss for an entire game would be huge. Still, the Eagles can rely on Shaq Hill (72 catches for 1,077 yards and 15 touchdowns) and Kendrick Bourne (74 catches for 1,051 yards and 6 touchdowns) if Kupp cannot play or his action is limited.
Richmond is a resilient team and if they can keep this game close, they will not be deterred. It will help if Kupp cannot play for Eastern Washington that will help Richmond. We like Eastern Washington, even if Kupp does not play, to win this game 28-24. The winner of this game will play either Wofford or Youngstown State in the semifinals.
Check back next week for predictions for both of the semifinal games in the 2016 FCS Playoffs.
The first round of the FCS Playoffs saw eight teams eliminated and the winning teams will be facing the eight teams that had a bye. All the games for the second round will be played on Saturday, December 3. The remaining schedule for the FCS Playoffs can be found at the bottom of this linked article.
For the predictions below, we will start in the upper left of the bracket where the #1 seed North Dakota State is and work our way around.
San Diego (10-1) at #1 North Dakota State (10-1)
Game Time: 3:30 PM Eastern
San Diego went on the road in the first round and got even with the only team to defeat them in the regular season. The Toreros did exactly what they needed to do and that was stop Cal Poly’s rush offense. After allowing 354 yards rushing to Cal Poly in the first matchup, USD allowed just 155 yards on the ground (and only 40 passing) to Cal Poly in the opening round playoff game. They won 35-21 with 296 yards and 2 touchdowns passing from Anthony Lawrence along with 171 yards and 3 touchdowns rushing by Jonah Hodges.
North Dakota State had a bye in the opening round after going 10-1 during the regular season. They had wins over Charleston Southern, Eastern Washington, Iowa, Illinois State, Western Illinois, Northern Iowa, and Youngstown State. Their lone blemish was a 19-17 loss to South Dakota State at home thanks to a late passing touchdown by the Jackrabbits. And we have not even mentioned that the Bison are 5 time FCS National Champions.
We will not break down the stats: We like NDSU to win at home. The Bison have not been as dominant this year, but they sure do know how to win close games. They are 6-1 in games decided by 8 points or less. We like this one to be outside of that zone with the defense shutting down San Diego’s offense to win 28-10. The winner of this game faces either Villanova or South Dakota State.
Villanova (9-3) at #8 South Dakota State (8-3)
Game Time: 3 PM Eastern
Villanova had an opening round home game against St. Francis and it was a rather easy game despite the 31-21 score line. Two fourth quarter touchdowns flattered the final tally for St. Francis as Villanova led 31-7 at halftime. Villanova had 495 total yards with Zach Bednarczyk throwing for 254 yards with 3 touchdowns and a pick.
South Dakota State had a bye in the opening round after a pretty good regular season. They lost to TCU (59-41 in a good showing by SDSU), Cal Poly (38-31), and Illinois State (38-21). Their wins consist of the 19-17 win at North Dakota State and at home against Youngstown State 24-10.
This is an interesting game because Villanova’s offense is not overwhelming (25.8 points and 383.6 yards per game), but SDSU’s defense can give up points and yardage at 28.4 points and 403.4 yards per game. On the other side, Villanova’s defense is very good at 15.4 points and 265 yards per game but they will be strained by SDSU’s offense that averages 37.4 points and 481.7 yards per game.
Can Bednarczyk keep the turnovers down (10 interceptions this year) and can the Villanova rush attack get going against the SDSU defense? The numbers say yes, but SDSU may have something to say about that. SDSU will use the arm of Taryn Christion to get the offense down the field. He has 3,369 yards (64.1%), 29 touchdowns, and 8 picks along with 385 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns.
This game feels like a shootout that could go either way. We will go with South Dakota State to win 41-38. The winner of this game play either San Diego or North Dakota State in the quarterfinals.
Chattanooga (9-3) at #5 Sam Houston State (11-0)
Game Time: 3 PM Eastern
Chattanooga opened the playoffs at home with a convincing 45-14 win over Weber State. Derrick Craine ran for 160 yards and a touchdown while Montrell Pardue returned a fumble 99 yards for a score to blow the game wide open (was 17-0 prior to the score).
Sam Houston State was the only FCS team to go undefeated in the regular season and did so in style. All of their wins were by double digits, but the offense is the main attraction. They averaged 54.2 points and 584 yards per game! Jeremiah Briscoe had a spectacular season with 4,096 yards and 52 touchdowns passing. He only threw 7 picks out of 419 attempts and completed 67.3 % of his passes.
The real question in this game is how well will the Chattanooga defense play? They are good giving up only 17.8 points and 283.4 yards per game and they have big game experience recently against a strong offense (see the game at Alabama where they gave up 332 yards to the Tide). There is also the anger factor for SHSU. The Bearkats were awarded the 5th overall seed, but felt they deserved a higher seed (and potentially another home game).
We are going with the Sam Houston State Bearkats at home 51-41 in another high scoring game. The winner of this game will play either New Hampshire or James Madison in the quarterfinals.
New Hampshire (8-4) at #4 James Madison (10-1)
Game Time: 2 PM Eastern
New Hampshire had a fun time against Lehigh in the first round winning 64-21. The Wildcats put up 637 yards of total offense (364 of them on the ground), Adam Riese threw for 273 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 picks, Dalton Crossan rushed for 184 yards and 2 scores, and TrevonBryant had 113 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns.
James Madison had a bye in the first round after a 10-1 season where they went undefeated in the Colonial. Their lone loss was at North Carolina 56-28 where they were hanging around for the better part of three quarters.
This is also a rematch of the game on October 15 in New Hampshire. The Dukes had a massive 42-14 lead with 10 minutes left, but a furious rally by the Wildcats came up just short and they lost 42-39. The Wildcats threw for 512 yards in the loss (largely due to playing from behind), while the Dukes had 437 yards. Bryan Schor threw for 264 yards and 4 touchdowns with no picks for James Madison. Adam Riese came off the bench to throw for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns for New Hampshire.
Like the game in October, this one might be high scoring. Neither defense is strong as they both give up more than three touchdowns and 350 yards per game. Watch to see how Dalton Crossan does this time around. He rushed for only 35 yards (and a score) on 13 carries in the first game. If he cannot get going again, it might be another big deficit for the Wildcats to overcome.
We are going with the better offense to win here in James Madison. The Dukes average about 19 points and 140 yards per game more than New Hampshire. James Madison wins this rematch at home 45-31 (it could be even higher if neither defense shows up a la Syracuse and Pitt). The winner of this game faces the winner of the Chattanooga and Sam Houston State contest.
Youngstown State (8-3) at #3 Jacksonville State (10-1)
Game Time: 2 PM Eastern
Youngstown State started the playoffs with a 38-24 win at home over Samford. It was a pretty comfortable game after a score midway through the fourth quarter made it 24-7. Samford scored two touchdowns in the final 7 minutes to make the score line look closer than it was. Jody Webb rushed for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns while the defense allowed only 24 yards rushing.
Jacksonville State had a bye in the opening round and their only loss was at LSU in week two. The Gamecocks kept the game close until the final 70 seconds of the first half when they allowed two touchdowns and the deficit ballooned from 3 points to 17.
YSU’s Hunter Wells has been serviceable the last five games in replace of the normal starter Ricky Davis. Wells has thrown for 746 yards (63.2%) with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. It is really going to come down to Martin Ruiz (1,086 yards and 11 touchdowns) and Jody Webb (847 yards and 4 touchdowns) running the ball. They are up against the Jacksonville State rush defense that allows 78.8 yards per game, but they must get going to keep the pressure off Wells.
This Jacksonville State team does not have the explosive offense as we have seen in recent years, but this offense is still pretty good with EliJenkins back for his last playoff run. He has 1,967 yards (52.3%) with 10 touchdowns and 6 picks, but his running ability is what really gives defense headaches. He has 795 yards and 12 touchdowns and he will spread the ball to Roc Thomas (782 yards and 7 TDs) and Josh Clemons (731 yards and 9 TDs). Those three will dictate how the run game, and JSU’s offense, will perform in this game. Youngstown State allows 101.2 yards per game on the ground.
It appears that whichever running attack is most productive will win this game. We like that team to be Jacksonville State with the Gamecocks winning 34-21. The winner of this game will play either Wofford or The Citadel in the quarterfinals.
Wofford (9-3) at #6 The Citadel (10-1)
Game Time: 6 PM Eastern
The Wofford Terriers played in a dog fight the opening round (pun intended) at home against Charleston Southern. They won 15-14 in a game that truly could have turned on one play. It was an ugly game if you like offense: CSU had 286 yards to 185 for Wofford. The passing games were sparsely used (as expected with run-heavy offenses) with a combined 135 yards passing from the two teams. Lorenzo Long earned every single one of his 96 yards and 2 touchdowns on 27 carries.
The Citadel earned a bye for the opening round after winning the Southern Conference. They defeated Chattanooga (22-14) and Samford (37-24) at home along with Wofford on the road (24-21). Their only loss was at North Carolina when they were crushed 41-7. However, they racked up 344 yards on the ground against the Tar Heels.
When these two teams met on October 22nd, overtime was needed. The Citadel settled for a field goal in the first part of overtime and then forced a fumble and recovered it on Wofford’s offensive possession to win the game. Wofford won the rushing battle that day 299 to 190 with Long rushing for 103 yards. The difference was turnovers. Wofford lost 3 fumbles (one led to a touchdown and the other ended the game) and also had an interception returned for a touchdown.
This will be another game with a lot of running as both teams average less than 75 yards passing per game. Wofford averages 282.9 yards rushing per game compared to 358.5 per game for The Citadel. Wofford relies mostly on Lorenzo Long for their rushing as he has 1,290 yards and 16 scores. He is the key for both Wofford’s offense and The Citadel’s defense.
The Citadel has a 4 headed rushing attack with Tyler Renew (1,020 and 4 TDs), Cam Jackson (656 yards and 5 TDs), Reggie Williams (650 yards and 4 TDs), and Dominique Allen (601 yards and 7 TDs).
This will be another dog fight, literally, between the Wofford Terriers and The Citadel Bulldogs. Wofford had control of the first game between these teams, but lost because of mistakes. If they can repeat that game, minus the mistakes, they will win. We like Wofford to win 17-14. The winner of this game will face either Youngstown State or Jacksonville State.
Richmond (9-3) at #7 North Dakota (9-2)
Game Time: 6 PM Eastern
Richmond rolled to a first round victory at home against North Carolina A&T, 39-10. The Spiders had 491 yards of offense, but most importantly held Tarik Cohen to 70 yards on 13 carries and the Aggies to 226 yards of offense. Kevin Johnson threw for 315 yards with 1 touchdowns and no picks.
North Dakota received a bye after going 9-2 during the regular season. Their losses came in the first two weeks on the road against Stony Brook (13-9) and Bowling Green (27-26). After that, they defeated South Dakota (47-44 in double overtime), Cal Poly (31-24), and Weber State (27-19) en route to 9 straight wins.
Both teams look similar in the stat columns: Richmond averages 31.2 points per game compared to 30.1 for UND. On defense, the Spiders give up 22.2 points per game while UND allows 21.5. The differences are Richmond allows less yardage per game on defense (305.2 to 353.2), posts more yards per game on offense (429.7 to 391.8), and prefers to pass the ball while UND likes to run the ball.
Kevin John will be the key for Richmond as Kyle Lauletta is out for the playoffs. Lauletta had 3,022 yards (63%) with 24 touchdowns and 8 picks on the season prior to his injury. Even if the rushing attack is not working, he can still pick apart defenses. His main target is Brian Brown, who has 70 catches for 1,254 yards and 10 scores.
The North Dakota rushing attack is led by John Santiago (924 yards and 7 TDs), but we will also see plenty of Brady Oliveira (837 yards and 9 TDs). They will need to soften up the defensive rush for Keaton Studsrud. He has only 1,816 yards (56.6%) with 12 touchdowns, but he does not turn the ball over much with two interceptions and one lost fumble on the year.
We like the Richmond passing attack to have success against North Dakota’s pass defense that allows 261.6 yards per game. The Spiders take this one 34-26. The winner of this game will play either Central Arkansas or Eastern Washington.
Central Arkansas (10-2) at #6 Eastern Washington (10-1)
Game Time: 4 PM Eastern
What a fourth quarter Central Arkansas had in the first round against Illinois State. They entered the quarter down 17-7, but blocked a punt and returned it a short 4 yards for a touchdown. After scoring a touchdown on their next drive, they went for an onside kick (up 21-17) and recovered it. They made it 24-17, but let up a 55 yard pass to see the game tied at 24 with 6:15 left in the game. They took the lead for good thanks to Antwon Wells‘ 4 yard touchdown run to win 31-24 after scoring 24 fourth quarter points.
Eastern Washington had a great regular season. They defeated Washington State on the road to start the year 45-42, but lost a tough one to North Dakota State on the road the following week, 50-44. They secured wins over Northern Iowa (34-30), Northern Colorado (49-31), the Montanas (even though they both had a subpar season), and Cal Poly (42-21).
Central Arkansas does not have the offense that EWU has with 34.7 points per game versus 44.2, but they have the better defense, at least according to the stats. They allowed 20.9 points per game (28.8 for EWU) and 320.1 yards per game (443.6 per game for EWU). Quarterback Hayden Hildebrand (2,936 yards, 60.7% completions, 19 touchdowns, and 9 picks) is facing a defense that allows 237.1 yards per game through the air. Even the rushing attack, which does not have a go-to back, could see some success against the Eagles rush defense that gives up 206.5 yards per game.
If Eastern Washington will win this game, it will have to be on offense. And they sure can do it with Gage Gubrud running the show. He has 4,071 yards (68%) with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing with 463 yards and 4 touchdowns. It does not hurt to have one of the best receivers in the FCS (feel free to name a better receiver) in CooperKupp.Kupp has 91 catches for 1,297 yards and 12 scores. One of his partners is Shaq Hill, who has some good numbers of his own with 65 catches for 1,014 yards and 15 touchdowns. The fearsome trio is rounded out by Kendrick Bourne who has 61 catches for 925 yards and 6 touchdowns.
This has all the makings of a shootout. Central Arkansas will have success against the Eastern Washington defense. Will the Bears defense have an answer for trio of Eagles receivers? We think EWU does enough on offense to get the win, but Gage Gubrud will need to avoid turnovers to do so. Eastern Washington takes this one 52-49. The winner of this game will play either Richmond or North Dakota.
Here are the picks for the eight games: North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Sam Houston State, James Madison, Jacksonville State, Wofford, Richmond, and Eastern Washington.
Check back next week for the FCS Playoff quarterfinal predictions.
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 JoeProtheroe (1,212 yards and 11 touchdowns), Kori Garcia (834 yards and 6 TDs), quarterback Dano Graves (684 yards and 9 TDs), or KyleLewis (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. AaronForbes (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 KevinJohnson 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 JataviousWilson 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 AntwonWells (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.
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.
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.
The Richmond at North Dakota State game will be played on Friday evening at 8 PM Eastern Time on ESPN2. Sam Houston State at Jacksonville State will be at 12 PM Eastern Time on Saturday and can be seen on ESPNU. The schedule can be found here.
Below are the 2015 FCS Playoff Semifinals Predictions.
Sam Houston State Bearkats (11-3) at #1 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (12-1) – Saturday at 12 PM ET
Sam Houston State has played in the first three rounds of the FCS Playoffs. The Bearkats defeated Southern Utah 42-39 at home in a wild game in the opening round and then defeated the #4 seed McNeese State on the road in the second round. Last week, the Bearkats routed Colgate 48-21 at home with big games from Jeremiah Briscoe (358 yards and 3 touchdowns passing) and Cory Avery (197 yards and 1 touchdown on 25 carries). Since the 27-10 loss at McNeese State on November 7, the offense has averaged 45 points and 588 yards of offense per game.
Jacksonville State had a bye in the first round before a thrilling 41-35 win in overtime against Chattanooga at home in the second round. The rushing attack was lethal in that game with Eli Jenkins having 195 yards and 3 touchdowns on 24 carries, but he was outdone by teammate Troymaine Pope who had 234 yards and 3 touchdowns on 17 carries. In the Quarterfinal game against Charleston Southern, they put up 506 rushing yards with massive games from those two players again. Jenkins had 250 yards and 3 touchdowns on 16 carries while Jenkins had 195 yards and 2 touchdowns on 21 carries. Even Miles Jones had 67 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
This game features two of the best offenses the FCS has to offer. Sam Houston State is ranked number one in total yards (7,716), passing yards (4,018), yards per game (551), and touchdowns (75). The Bearkats are also ranked fifth in rushing yards (3,698) and third in points per game (43.3). Jacksonville State is number two in total yards (6,770) and touchdowns (65) while they are ranked third in rushing yards (4,004) and yards per game (521). They rank seventh in points per game at 39.4 per contest.
This game should be a high scoring, back and forth affair. Jacksonville State will being using their ground game yet again and they face the 115th ranked rush defense in the FCS by total rushing yards allowed (2,618). Sam Houston State will try the passing game and they faced the 58th ranked pass defense in total passing yards allowed (2,354).
Jacksonville State gets the nod at home in what should be an entertaining game at home. We will go with the Gamecocks to win 63-56 and make their first FCS Championship game appearance.
#7 Richmond Spiders (10-3) at #3 North Dakota State Bison (11-2) – Friday at 8 PM ET
Richmond had a bye in the first round before facing William & Mary for the second straight game. They took care of the Tribe again with a more emphatic thumping by a score of 48-13. In the Quarterfinals, they had to travel to face Illinois State where they produced an upset 39-27. The Spiders took a 10-0 lead after the first quarter and never relinquished that lead, but the Redbirds fought valiantly. Kyle Lauletta threw for 369 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 18 of 30 passing. Jacobi Green had 137 yards and 3 touchdowns on 20 carries. The Spiders held the duo of Tre Roberson and Marshaun Coprich to a combined 66 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries.
North Dakota State had a bye as well in the first round. They faced Montana at home in the second round where they crushed the Grizzlies 37-6 behind a rush defense that allowed only 6 yards on 19 carries. The defense also had two interception returns for touchdowns while the special teams returned a kickoff for a touchdown to crush any hope of a Montana comeback midway through the third quarter.
The Bison faced Northern Iowa in the Quarterfinal game for the second time this year. The Bison gave up a touchdown on Northern Iowa’s first drive, but did not allow the Panthers to reach the end zone after that. They held Aaron Bailey to 101 yards and a touchdown through the air as well as 33 yards rushing on 18 carries. They also kept Tyvis Smith in check with 58 yards on 16 carries. The Bison allowed only 221 yards for the entire game. Despite the rumors of Carson Wentz possibly playing, he did not play as EastonStick had a solid game going 13 of 17 for 116 yards. King Frazier ran for 107 yards and a touchdown while Bruce Anderson’s 97 yard kickoff return to open the second half gave the Bison the lead they did not relinquish.
If it seems like we have seen this before from North Dakota State that is because we have. This will mark their fifth straight year making the Semifinal round with a home game and only one of those games was closer than a touchdown (23-20 win over Georgia Southern in 2012). The Bison are at home and know how to stop potential potent offenses. We like the Bison (yet again) to make their fifth straight National Championship game by a score of 28-17.
The FCS National Championship will be played on Saturday, January 9, 2016 in Frisco, Texas. That game will be televised on ESPN2 and the Watch ESPN app at 12 PM Eastern Time.
#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.
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. JacobHuesman 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. AaronBailey 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 KyleLauletta 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.
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.
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 AmaraDarboh, 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. ConnorCook 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 AnthonyWalker’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.
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. MasonMonheim, 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. BrandonReilly 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.
#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.
Eight games were played in second round to determine the Quarterfinal matchups next weekend. As usual, there were surprises, close games, and expected results. Let’s take a look at each game from the second round and be sure to check the results compared to the predictions made last week, which can be found here.
Fordham Rams (11-2) at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats (10-1)
New Hampshire had a strong performance against Fordham holding the Rams to just 161 yards passing. The Wildcats won 44-19.
New Hampshire scored on their first play from scrimmage with a 51 yard run by Jimmy Owens. The missed extra point kept the score at 6-0. Their second possession resulted in another touchdown as quarterback Sean Goldrich ran in for an 8 yard touchdown on fourth and two. The Wildcats were successful on the two point attempt to make it a 14-0 lead. New Hampshire was on their way to another score until a lost fumble by Goldrich gave the ball to Fordham.
The Rams turned that fumble into a field goal and would have more good fortune on New Hampshire’s next drive. The Wildcats were on their way to another score until a lost fumble by Jared Allison was recovered at the 3 yard line. Two plays later, ChaseEdmonds ripped of a 91 yard dash to the end zone and the Rams missed the two-point conversion. The Rams closed the deficit to 14-12 after a 26 field goal on their next drive from Michael Marando.
Following the field goal, New Hampshire made it a two-score game with Nico Steriti’s 11 yard touchdown run. The Wildcats hit a 30 yard field goal as time expired in the first half to take a 24-12 lead at the break.
The Wildcats opened the second half with an excellent kickoff return and parlayed that into a touchdown with Steriti punching the ball in from a yard out to make it 31-12. Fordham responded in kind with an excellent return of their own in addition to a penalty that put them at New Hampshire’s 12 yard line. Three plays later, Mike Nebrich hit Brian Wetzel for a 5 yard touchdown and trailed 31-19 early in the third quarter. Late in the third quarter, the Wildcats extend the lead to 37-19 on Steriti’s 7 yard touchdown run. Once again, the extra point attempt was no good.
The fourth quarter saw New Hampshire’s punt blocked early on, but Fordham was unable to cash in. The Wildcats capped the scoring later in the quarter with Steriti’s 24 yard touchdown run. They did make the extra point for a 44-19 lead.
Mike Nebrich had a tough game passing for Fordham. He went 12 of 30 for 161 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Chase Edmonds ran for 208 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Tebucky Jones Jr. led the Rams with 3 catches for 64 yards. Brian Wetzel had 3 catches for 34 yards and a touchdown.
New Hampshire was led by Sean Goldrich, who went 22 of 37 for 240 yards with no touchdowns or no picks. He also ran for 48 yards and a touchdown. Nico Steriti ran 14 times for 110 yards and 4 touchdowns while Jimmy Owens had 3 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown. R.J Harris was the top receiver with 8 catches for 91 yards. Harold Spears caught 4 passes for 71 yards.
Indiana State Sycamores (8-5) at #8 Chattanooga Mocs (9-3)
Chattanooga’s balanced attack proved to be too much for Indiana State in their 35-14 win. The Mocs threw for 241 yards and ran for 262.
Indiana State started with an early interception that put the Mocs at the three yard line. Keon Williams punched the ball in from 3 yards out to make it 7-0 Chattanooga. A punt on the next drive for Indiana State resulted in a long drive by the Mocs. They went 90 yards in 14 plays while burning 6:10 off the clock. Jacob Huesman ran for a one yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Chattanooga. After both teams traded punts, Indiana State got the ball and quickly cut the deficit in half. Mike Perish connected with A.J.Johnson for a 75 yard touchdown. The first quarter ended with Chattanooga holding a 14-7 lead.
Chattanooga attempted a 25 yard field goal early in the second quarter, but it was blocked by the Sycamores. The Mocs had yet another chance to extend the lead on the next drive, but Huesman was stuffed on fourth and goal from the one to keep the game at 14-7 still. After a poor Indiana State punt and a penalty, but the Mocs finally put points back on the board with Huesman completing a 29 yard touchdown pass to Tommy Hudson. The Mocs had one final chance to go up even more but missed a 21 yard field goal. Chattanooga led 21-7 at halftime.
The Mocs’ first drive put them ahead comfortably after Huesman pounded the ball in from a yard out to give them a 28-7 lead. Indiana State was able to get on the board immediately with Jordan Wallace returning the kickoff 64 yards for the touchdown. Both defenses stepped up for the remainder of the quarter with Chattanooga leading 28-14 after 45 minutes.
The Mocs first drive of the fourth quarter was impressive, yet yielded no points once again. The Mocs went 83 yards in 16 plays while taking 9:27 off the clock. However, their 23 yard field goal attempt was blocked and another red zone opportunity went begging. Indiana State would give the Mocs another great opportunity, as Mike Perish lost a fumble at his own 28 yard line. DerrickCaine punched the ball in for a one yard touchdown. Another Perish turnover, this time an interception at the Chattanooga 13 yard line, allowed the Mocs to win 35-14.
Perish went 12 of 27 for 151 yards with a touchdown and 2 picks. He also lost a fumble. The Sycamores were not effective on offense, but were awful at running the ball. Their top rusher was LeMonte Booker with 3 carries for 26 yards. The Sycamores had 18 carries for 27 yards for the entire game. A.J. Johnson had 4 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Jacob Huesman had a solid game for the Mocs. He went 15 of 24 for 241 yards with a touchdown through the air. He was also the top rusher with 153 yards and 2 touchdowns on 31 carries. Keon Williams added in 70 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. C.J.Board caught 2 passes for 65 yards while Xavier Borishade had 2 catches for 43 yards.
Northern Iowa Panthers (9-4) at #5 Illinois State Redbirds (10-1)
Illinois State took a 24-0 lead at halftime and were able to hold on from there to reach the quarterfinals. They got revenge on Northern Iowa with a 41-21 win on Saturday. Former Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson threw 4 touchdown passes.
Illinois State began with Roberson’s first touchdown pass to Cameron Meredith from 6 yards out. After a Northern Iowa punt, Illinois State went up 14-0 after Marshaun Copich ran in from a yard out. The first quarter ended with the Redbirds right on the door step of UNI’s end zone as they faced a second and goal from the four yard line.
The Redbirds would get into the end zone with Roberson and Meredith connecting once more, this one from 2 yards out. The Panthers next drive got to the ISU 30 yard line, but their pass was incomplete on fourth and 5 to give the ball back to Illinois State. The Redbirds tried a 51 yard field goal, but it was blocked by Xavier Williams. On the final play, ISU hit a 45 yard field goal to take a 24-0 lead at halftime.
The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and did well on their first drive. Sawyer Kollmorgen was hit at the ISU three yard line, fumbled the ball, and then managed to get back on it in the end zone for a Northern Iowa touchdown. The Redbirds responded with a 39 yard field goal to lead 27-7. After a UNI punt, Tre Roberson hit James O’Shaughnessy for a 26 yard touchdown. The third quarter ended with Illinois State leading 34-7 and at the UNI 7 yard line.
The Redbirds would end up not getting points after Lechein Neblett lost a fumble at the UNI 6 yard line. The Panthers would score following the fumble with David Johnson scoring from 2 yards out to make it a 34-14 game. The Panthers continued to gain momentum following ISU’s lost fumble on the kickoff. UNI recovered and scored three plays later when Kollmorgen hit BrettLeMaster for a 20 yard touchdown. That made it 34-21 and there was still plenty of anxious moments to come.
The Redbirds went all the way down to the UNI 22 yard line before a lost fumble by Roberson gave the ball back to the Panthers. They managed to get down to the ISU 30 yard line, but the fourth and 10 pass was incomplete to stop that potential scoring drive. UNI’s next drive ended in disaster on a trick play. Wide receiver Brett LeMaster threw a pass back to the quarterback, but was picked off by TeddyCorwin. Three plays later, Roberson hit O’Shaughnessy for a 36 yard touchdown and the clinching touchdown at 41-21.
Sawyer Kollmorgen went 18 of 31 for 234 yards with one touchdown while also running for another touchdown. The Panthers were held in check on the ground gaining only 33 yards on 25 carries as a team. David Johnson led the team with 16 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Charles Brown had 2 catches for 77 yards while Brett LeMaster had 4 catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Tre Roberson went 22 of 33 for 382 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air. He also ran 10 times for a total of 37 yards. Marshaun Copich led the way with 148 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. Cameron Meredith finished with 7 catches for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns while James O’Shaughnessy had 4 catches for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns as well.
Montana Grizzlies (9-4) at #4 Eastern Washington Eagles (10-2)
It was more of a defensive battle than expected, but that did not stop Eastern Washington from coming out on top. The Eagles beat Montana 37-20 on Saturday to advance to the quarterfinals.
Montana’s second drive resulted in a punt, but that was blocked by EWU. Two plays later, Vernon Adams hit Terry Jackson II for a 2 yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead. The Grizzlies responded with a long drive that resulted in a 28 yard field goal from Daniel Sullivan. Eastern Washington led 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter failed to produce much in the way of offense until the final minute. Vernon Adams ran for a 3 yard touchdown to take a 13-3 lead. The extra point was missed and that lead would hold until halftime for the Eagles.
The Eagles began the second half with the ball and made the most of it. Adams connected with Cory Mitchell for a 23 yard touchdown to go up 20-3. The Grizzlies first drive ended with an interception by Jordan Johnson, but the Eagles were not able to make them pay for the turnover. Montana finally scored their first touchdown when Jordan Canada broke loose for a 38 yard score. The Eagles did not let Montana get any momentum, as they scored a touchdown in response courtesy of a 27 yard run by Quincy Forte. The Grizzlies came right back down the field at the end of the third quarter thanks to Johnson’s 50 yard pass Travon Van to the 10 yard line. The third quarter ended with EWU leading 27-10 and Montana threatening to close the gap.
The Grizzlies were unable to punch it in and had to settle for a 27 yard field goal to trail 27-13. The Grizzlies next possession started at their own 3 yard line and ended with a lost fumble from Travon Van. The Eagles were only able to get a field goal, but that made it a three possession game at 30-13. Van redeemed himself on the next drive by taking a 30 yard touchdown pass from Johnson to cut the deficit to 30-20.
The Eagles moved the ball back down the field to the Montana 13 yard line. On fourth and 4, Adams was picked off in the end zone. That would not prove to hurt them, as Johnson was picked off by Todd Raynes and returned for a 40 yard touchdown. That made it 37-20 and clinched the victory for Eastern Washington.
Jordan Johnson went 18 of 33 through the air for 223 yards with a touchdown and 2 picks. Johnson also ran for 48 yards on 16 carries. Jordan Canada ran 11 times for 79 yards and a touchdown. Travon Van had an excellent game receiving with 9 catches for 161 yards and a touchdown. He did, however, also lose a fumble. Sean Haynes had 6 catches for 48 yards.
Vernon Adams did not put up eye popping numbers going 24 of 35 for 182 yards with 2 touchdowns and a pick. He also ran for 37 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Quincy Forte had 128 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Cooper Kupp led the Eagles in receiving with 12 catches for 86 yards.
Sam Houston State Bearkats (9-4) at #3 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (10-1)
Sam Houston State gave up a lot of yards (over 500) but won the battle that counts the most on the scoreboard. The Bearkats scored 13 second half points to beat Jacksonville State on the road 37-26.
Jacksonville State started very well on the opening drive. Quarterback Eli Jenkins went 2 for 2 for 69 yards. DaMarcus James capped the drive off with a 1 yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead. After a punt from each team, SHSU tied the game when JaredJohnson completed a 10 yard touchdown pass to Keshawn Hill. Jenkins responded right away with a 73 yard touchdown pass to Spencer Goffigan on the second play of the drive. The penultimate play of the first quarter was Jenkins being picked off by Tristan Eche and taking it back to the Jacksonville State 22 yard line.
The Bearkats would tie the game at 14 when Johnson ran for a 10 yard touchdown on the third play of the second quarter. The Gamecocks responded on the next series with Jenkins scrambling for a 14 yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked and JSU led 20-14. That lead did not last long with Jared Johnson hitting LaDarius Brown for a 19 yard touchdown and a 21-20 lead.
The final half of the second quarter saw three field goals between the two teams. JSU started first with a 37 yard field goal followed by the Bearkats drilling a 29 yarder of their own. The first half ended with Jacksonville State hitting a 42 yard field goal courtesy of Connor Rouleau. Jacksonville State held a slim 26-24 lead at the halftime intermission.
Both teams had to punt in their first series of the third quarter. On SHSU’s second series, they started at their own 9 yard line and scored the go-ahead touchdown when Johnson connected with Brown for the second time. This touchdown went for 49 yards, but the Bearkats missed the two point conversion and led 30-26. On the following possession, JSU went for it on fourth and 2 from the Sam Houston State 42 yard line. They were stuffed for a one yard loss and the Bearkats would score on a 33 yard touchdown run by Jalen Overstreet. That made it 37-26, which is how the the third quarter ended.
The fourth quarter did not produce any points though JSU had a great chance to score a touchdown late in the game. On first and goal at the 9 yard line, Eli Jenkins was picked off in the end zone by Mikell Everette to end any hopes of a Gamecocks comeback. The Bearkats ended up being able to run the clock out thanks to getting three first downs.
Jared Johnson went 13 of 19 for 161 yards with 3 touchdowns. He was also the top rusher with 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Jalen Overstreet was not far behind with 10 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown. LaDarius Brown had 4 catches for 88 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Eli Jenkins went 12 of 24 for 253 yards with a touchdown and 2 picks. He also ran for 84 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The top rusher was DeMarcus James with 19 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown. Anthony Johnson caught 4 passes for 74 yards. Spencer Goffigan had just the one catch for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Liberty Flames (9-4) at #6 Villanova Wildcats (10-2)
The Liberty Flames put a serious scare into Villanova and had their chances to pull another upset in the FCS Playoffs. However, Villanova overcame 4 lost fumbles to win 29-22 on Saturday.
Liberty started the game with a 72 yard kickoff return to get their first drive started at the Villanova 27 yard line. 5 plays later, JoshWoodrum punched the ball in from a yard out to give them a 7-0 lead. After forcing a Villanova punt, the Flames went up by 10 points thanks to a 50 yard field goal from Josh Lunsford. Villanova was unable to move the ball effectively on Liberty and trailed by that 10-0 score at the end of the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Josh Woodrum was picked off by Villanova, but the Wildcats were unable to take advantage of the turnover, as they lost a fumble at the Liberty 44 yard line. That lost fumble was turned into a 23 yard field goal from Lunsford and a 13-0 lead for the Flames. Villanova finally got something going on the next drive when John Robertson connected with Kevin Gulyas for an 87 yard gain to the Liberty 5 yard line. Two plays after that, Robertson ran in for a 3 yard touchdown to make it 13-7.
The Wildcats’ fortunes continued to be positive when Liberty lost the kickoff at their own 16 yard line. The Wildcats made the most of that with a 1 yard touchdown run from Austin Medley made it 14-13 in favor of Villanova. Liberty’s fortunes in the turnover department swung back in their favor when Villanova’s Robertson was sacked by Toby Onyechi and Nick Newman picked the ball up and ran it back for a 58 yard touchdown return. The two point conversion failed, but Liberty held a 19-14 lead at halftime.
Villanova’s turnover troubles continued in the third quarter. After forcing a punt by Liberty, Jason Ceneus fumbled the kick and Liberty recovered at the Villanova 45 yard line. The Flames were able to get deep into Villanova territory, but the Wildcats defense forced a field goal, which was good and gave Liberty a 22-14 lead at the end of three quarters.
Villanova got another big play on their first drive of the fourth quarter. Robertson and Gulyas connected on a 70 yard touchdown with the two-point conversion also being good to make it a tie game at 22. The Wildcats’ next drive ended with yet another lost fumble when Robertson turned it over at the Liberty 27. They forced a Liberty punt and then went on a long time consuming drive. The Wildcats went 84 yards in 18 plays and took 7:11 off the clock. Robertson ran in from a yard out to make it 29-22 and just over a minute remaining. The Flames had one last drive, but their desperation heave at the end of the game was broken up.
Josh Woodrum went 16 of 33 for 182 yards with no touchdowns and a pick for the Flames. D.J. Abnar had 21 carries for 54 yards while Darrin Peterson caught 5 passes for 103 yards. The Flames finished with only 246 yards of total offense against Villanova.
John Robertson went 8 of 19 for 217 yards with a touchdown and no picks. He also ran 18 times for 100 yards and a touchdown, but also lost 2 fumbles that led to 10 Liberty points. Kevin Monangal had 102 yards rushing on 20 carries. Kevin Gulyas caught 2 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown.
Richmond Spiders (9-4) at #7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (11-1)
Coastal Carolina ran past Richmond in a mistake filled game from both teams. Coastal Carolina won 36-15 to reach the Quarterfinals for the second straight season.
The first drive for both teams saw them get inside the opponent’s 40 yard line, but they opted to punt to try and pin the other team deep. That worked for Coastal Carolina when they picked off Richmond’s Michael Strauss, however, they missed a 33 yard field goal to keep it scoreless. Richmond had the same result on their ensuing drive with the field goal being no good from 48 yards. The Chanticleers finally got on the board late in the first quarter with Alex Catron connecting on a 32 yard field goal. The first quarter ended 3-0 in favor of Coastal Carolina.
Coastal Carolina’s first drive of the second quarter appeared to be heading for a score until De’Angelo Henderson’s fumble at the three yard line gave the ball to the Spiders. Richmond would end up punting, but it was a bad punt that went only 13 yards and out at their own 26. The defense stood tall and forced another field goal that was good from 27 yards. Coastal Carolina held a 6-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Coastal Carolina made it 14-0 after Alex Ross completed a 13 yard touchdown pass to CraigWeick and they converted the two-point attempt.
The third quarter saw a huge uptick in points scored. First, Coastal Carolina scored on Andre Johnson’s 9 yard touchdown run. The Spiders responded on their second play of the half when Strauss and Brian Brown connected for a 76 yard touchdown pass. Those two also hooked up for the two-point attempt and Richmond trailed 21-8. The Chanticleers built the lead back up to 21 points on Henderson’s 50 yard touchdown run. The Chanticleers also went for two and got it to make it a 29-8 game just six minutes into the second half. Two drives later, Coastal Carolina was up when Alex Ross ran in for a one yard touchdown and they went up 36-8 at the end of three quarters.
Richmond had a lot of chances inside of Coastal Carolina territory in the final 15 minutes. The first drive ended in a lost fumble by Strauss. The second drive was a punt before the third drive ended at the Costal Carolina on a fourth and one play. The fourth drive for Richmond was a 15 yard touchdown pass from Strauss to Brown to make it 36-15. Their final drive was an interception in the Coastal Carolina end zone.
Michael Strauss went 27 of 54 for 402 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The Spiders ran 19 times for 54 yards as a team. Jacobi Green was the top rusher with 7 carries for 31 yards. Brian Brown caught 8 passes for 181 yards and 2 scores. ReggieDiggs caught 8 passes for 140 yards while Rashad Ponder had 9 catches for 82 yards.
Alex Ross went 22 of 41 for 171 yards with one touchdown. Ross also ran for 52 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. De’Angelo Henderson had 19 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown while Andre Johnson ran for 58 yards and a score on 13 carries. The Chanticleers had 54 carries for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns as a team. Bruce Mapp was the top receiver with 7 catches for 59 yards.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits (9-4) at #2 North Dakota State Bison (11-1)
For the second straight week South Dakota State was involved in the game of the day. Unfortunately, the Jackrabbits were on the short end this week as they fell to the three-time defending FCS Champions North Dakota State, 27-24.
The Bison’s first drive ended in a touchdown with Carson Wentz throwing a 27 yard touchdown pass to RJ Urzendowski. That would be the only scoring for the first quarter as both teams struggled to move the ball close enough to even get field goal opportunities.
The Bison made it 14-0 early in the second quarter when Wentz ran for a 27 yard touchdown. The Jackrabbits needing a response got one from their go to guy. Zach Zenner ran for a 17 yard touchdown to make it 14-7 in favor of North Dakota State. The Jackrabbits forced a punt from the Bison and Je Ryan Butler returned that punt 80 yards to the NDSU 11 yard line. Three plays later, Zenner ran in from 4 yards out to tie the game at 14. That would be the score at the halftime break.
The Jackrabbits took their first lead of the game on their first possession of the second half. Justin Syrovatka hit a 33 yard field goal to make it 17-14. The Bison responded with a 42 yard field goal of their own to knot the game at 17. That is how the third quarter would end and set the game up for a wild finish.
The Bison took a 20-17 lead on their first fourth quarter possession with Adam Keller hitting a 29 yard field goal. The Jackrabbits responded with a touchdown when Austin Sumner hit Jake Wieneke for a 3 yard score. That made it 24-20 SDSU, but there was plenty of time left for the Bison to rally. The Bison marched down the field and took the lead back with a 12 yard touchdown pass from Wentz to Urzendowski. On the ensuing drive, Sumner was picked by Tre Dempsey to seal the victory for the Bison.
Austin Sumner went 13 of 22 for 132 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Zach Zenner had 32 carries for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jason Schneider had 3 catches for 59 yards. The Jackrabbits totaled 275 yards of offense against the Bison.
Carson Wentz went 14 of 25 for 235 yards with 2 touchdowns. He also had 13 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown. John Crockett carried the ball 23 times for 102 yards. RJ Urzendowski led the Bison with 4 catches for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns.
#8 Chattanooga Mocs (10-3) at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats (11-1) – 8 PM ET on ESPN2
#5 Illinois State Redbirds (11-1) at #4 Eastern Washington Eagles (11-2) – 4:00 PM ET on ESPN3
Sam Houston State Bearkats (10-4) at #6 Villanova Wildcats (12-2) – 1 PM ET on ESPN3
#7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (12-1) at #2 North Dakota State (12-1) – 12 PM ET on ESPN.
Chattanooga at New Hampshire will be played on Friday evening. The remaining three games will be on Saturday.
Be sure to check out the predictions for the quarterfinal games later this week.