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Transitioning From FCS To FBS Part 2: Potential Teams

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

Transitioning From FCS To FBS Part 2: Potential Teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

North Dakota State (Jump Up)

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

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

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

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

Sam Houston State (Jump Up)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Madison (Jump Up)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacksonville State (Jump Up)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eastern Washington (Jump Up)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia Commonwealth (New Program)

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

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

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

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

University of Texas Arlington (New Program)

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

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

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

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

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

2016 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal Predictions

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

2016 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal Predictions

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

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

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

Game Time: Saturday, December 10 at 12 PM Eastern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Time: Saturday, December 10 at 2 PM Eastern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Time: Saturday, December 10 at 4 PM Eastern

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 FCS Playoffs Round 2 Predictions

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

2016 FCS Playoffs Round 2 Predictions

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

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

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

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

Game Time: 3:30 PM Eastern

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

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

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

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

Game Time: 3 PM Eastern

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Time: 3 PM Eastern

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

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

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

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

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

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Time: 2 PM Eastern

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Time: 6 PM Eastern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Time: 6 PM Eastern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Time: 4 PM Eastern

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

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

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

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

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

Picks

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

Check back next week for the FCS Playoff quarterfinal predictions.

2016 FCS Playoff Bracket Announced

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

2016 FCS Playoff Bracket Announced

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

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

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

Big Sky – Eastern Washington (10-1)

Big South – Charleston Southern (7-3)

Colonial Athletic – James Madison (10-1)

Missouri Valley – South Dakota State (8-3)

Northeast – Saint Francis (PA) (7-4)

Ohio Valley – Jacksonville State (10-1)

Patriot League – Lehigh (9-2)

Pioneer – San Diego (9-1)

Southern – The Citadel (10-1)

Southland – Sam Houston State (11-0)

Below are the 14 At-Large picks:

Big Sky – Cal Poly (7-4)

Big Sky – North Dakota (9-2)

Big Sky – Weber State (7-4)

Colonial – New Hampshire (7-4)

Colonial – Richmond (8-3)

Colonial – Villanova (8-3)

MEAC – North Carolina A&T (9-2)

Missouri Valley – Illinois State (6-5)

Missouri Valley – North Dakota State (10-1)

Missouri Valley – Youngstown State (8-3)

Southern – Chattanooga (8-3)

Southern – Samford (7-4)

Southern – Wofford (8-3)

Southland – Central Arkansas (9-2)

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

First Round Matchups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Road to the National Championship

First Round – All games on Saturday, November 26

Second Round – All games on Saturday, December 3

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

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

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

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

2015 FCS Playoff Quarterfinals Predictions

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2015 FCS Playoff Quarterfinals Predictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 FCS Playoff Round 2 Predictions

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2015 FCS Playoff Round 2 Predictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 FCS Playoff Round 1 Predictions

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2015 FCS Playoff Round 1 Predictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 FCS Playoffs Semifinals Wrap Up

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

 

2014 FCS Playoffs Semifinals Wrap Up

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2014 FCS National Championship

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

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

2014 FCS Playoffs Semifinals Predictions

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

 

2014 FCS Playoffs Semifinals Predictions

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

2014 FCS National Championship

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

 

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

2014 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals Wrap Up

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

2014 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals Wrap Up

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Semifinal Games

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

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

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

 

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