Familiarity abounds as six of the eight FCS Playoffs second round games are rematches that occurred during the regular season. Of those six, there is only one in which the higher seeded playoff team lost during the regular season (North Dakota State). It will be an intriguing slate of games to see who makes the right adjustments for the opportunity to advance in the postseason.
Chattanooga Mocs (9-3) at No. 1 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (10-1)
Time: 1 p.m.
Quick Hits: This is the juiciest second round matchup by far. Jacksonville State earned the No. 1 overall seed for a reason. They are in the top five nationally in both total offense (503 yards per game) and total defense (277.1 yards allowed per game) although their ho-um (+4) turnover margin is a weakness. Chattanooga is already hot, coming off a 50-20 thumping of Fordham in the first round.
Players to Watch: JSU has a deadly connection between stud QB Eli Jenkins and WR Josh Barge while the Mocs strut out dual-threat QB Jacob Huesman, who just torched Fordham for 211 yards and three scores through the air with 129 yards on the ground.
Prediction: Chattanooga 35, Jacksonville State 31. The winner of this game is going to Frisco. Neither team played in a tough conference, but the Mocs were tested a little more often. They dropped a 23-20 contest to the Gamecocks in the season opener. Here’s where they get it back.
The Citadel Bulldogs (9-3) at No. 8 Charleston Southern Buccaneers (9-2)
Quick Hits: The Bulldogs racked up a ludicrous 524 yards rushing and four scores in a first round win over Coastal Carolina, but they will be colliding with a defensive buzz saw in the Bucs, whose 266.5 yards allowed per game ranks second in the FCS.
Players to Watch: It’s pick your poison against the Bulldogs, who are led by the three-headed monster rushing attack of QB Dominic Allen and RBs Tyler Renew and Cam Jackson. Oh, and throw in Vinny Miller who also ran for 100 yards, just for kicks. The elite Bucs’ defense, which has allowed a mere 109.7 rushing yards per game is led by linebackers Solomon Brown and Aaron Brown.
Prediction: The Citadel 28, Charleston Southern 21. The Bulldogs’ triple-option offense is too much to prepare for in one week. The team may not be suited to play from behind, but if they’re winning that problem goes out the window. They will grab an early lead to get revenge for a 33-20 loss to the Bucs earlier in the year and advance to the Quarterfinals.
Colgate Raiders (8-4) at No. 5 James Madison Dukes (9-2)
Quick Hits: Colgate is coming in hot with a six-game winning streak -- albeit with five of those wins at seven points or less. But this will be a battle of bad defenses as both teams sport squads who rank very low in several defensive categories. The Dukes' main advantage in this game comes with their explosive home crowd, which averaged over 20,000 fans this season.
Players to Watch: The Dukes will be without star QB Vlad Lee, lost for the season with a foot injury and will look to the running game led by a strong offensive line as well as RB Cardon Johnson. The Raiders, however, have an elite pass rush anchored by Pat Afriyie and Alex Campbell who will need to plenty of pressure on the Dukes in the backfield. Otherwise, JMU's elite offensive attack -- which leads the FCS in yards per game (549.7) and averages nearly 45 points per game -- will have a field day.
Prediction: Colgate 35, James Madison 31. The Dukes have shown they can put up points, but without Lee they won’t have enough on Saturday. Riding the hot hand with the Raiders. They are ranked 102nd in passing yards allowed, but a gut feeling says they will do enough to outlast the Dukes on offense.
Sam Houston State Bearkats (8-4) at No. 4 McNeese State Cowboys (10-0)
Time: 6 p.m.
Quick Hits: The Cowboys are itching to prove they are worthy of higher than a four seed while the Bearkats are right there with Chattanooga as one of the best non-top eight seeds in the playoffs.
Players to Watch: The Bearkats have a pair of stud RBs in Cory Avery and Jalen Overstreet, but both went down with injuries last week so their effectiveness will be in question. The Cowboys have the tandem of QB Daniel Sams and RB Ryan Ross to lead them.
Prediction: Sam Houston State 24, McNeese State 21. The Cowboys beat Sam Houston three weeks ago, but the Bearkats will get their revenge in the playoffs for McNeese’s first, and only, loss of the year.
Montana Grizzlies (8-4) at No. 3 North Dakota State Bison (9-2)
Time: 2:30 p.m.
Quick Hits: The Grizzlies are led by a scorching hot offense and while try to get win No. 2 over the Bison this week after capturing a thrilling 38-35 win over NDSU in the season opener. The Bison use a power running game behind one of the best offensive lines in the nation to wear down opponents with a rushing attack that ranks No. 11 in the FCS with 244 rushing yards per game.
Players to Watch: Bison star QB Carson Wentz will most likely not be active throughout the playoffs with a broken bone in his throwing wrist, but backup Easton Stick – in the running for best name in the FCS – has done a great job. Their elite ground game is led by King Frazier -- another "Best Name" nominee -- but are not limited to him as they have several backs who can rack up a ton of yards. The Grizzlies have perhaps the best pass rusher in the nation, DE Tyrone Holmes, who lead the nation with 15 sacks. He will also need to be the anchor for their run defense if the Grizzlies are going to pull off an upset.
Prediction: North Dakota State 42, Montana 21. The Bison are hungry to get revenge for the loss they suffered earlier in the year and will get it easily on Saturday.
Northern Iowa Panthers (8-4) at No. 6 Portland State Vikings (9-2)
Time: 9 p.m.
Quick Hits: After starting the year 2-4, the Panthers have won six straight while the Vikings are coming off a pair of squeakers over Southern Utah and Eastern Washington. The Panthers look to their defense, who had four First Team All-Valley defensive performers, including the conference's Defensive Player of the Year, Deiondre' Hall.
Players to Watch: UNI defensive backs Hall and Tim Kilfoy backend the Panthers’ secondary. LB Brett McMakin and DL Karter Schult, the other two All-Valley first teamers along with Hall and Kilfoy, lead the front seven. The Vikings are led by RB David Jones, who has put up 1,080 yards and eight rushing scores this season.
Prediction: Northern Iowa 21, Portland State 20. When in doubt, go with a Missouri Valley team. When in doubt, go with the hot team.
William & Mary Tribe (9-3) at No. 7 Richmond Spiders (8-3)
Time: 11 a.m.
Quick Hits: This has the opportunity to be a great game. It is a quick rematch after the Spiders downed the Tribe, 20-9, on Nov. 21. The Tribe need to figure things out on defense as Richmond RB Jacobi Green ran wild for 217 yards in the first matchup.
Players to Watch: The Tribe have a great defense led by DeAndre Houston-Carson and Luke Rhodes and also strut out RB Kendell Anderson, who needs just 77 yards to eclipse the Tribe's single-season rushing record. The Spiders are spear-headed by the one-two punch of Green and QB Kyle Lauletta.
Prediction: Richmond 24, William & Mary 14. The Spiders will get a second straight win over the Tribe in a defensive battle. Anderson is going to break the record, but it won't matter as Green will rush for 100-plus yards again on the Tribe and advance.
Western Illinois Leathernecks (7-5) at No. 2 Illinois State Redbirds (9-2)
Time: 1 p.m.
Site/Time: Hancock Stadium/1 p.m.
Watch: Streamed live on ESPN3 where Michael Reghi (play-by-play) and Dustin Fox (expert analysis) will have the call.
Listen: Dick Liedtke (play-by-play) and Ted Schmitz (expert analysis) have the call on WJBC 1230-AM.