If you don’t follow the FCS that’s fine. But you do have to admit that a 24-team playoff bracket is the second most fabulous thing below March Madness.
There are four teams left in the FCS playoffs: South Dakota State (11-2), North Dakota State (12-1), James Madison (13-0) and Sam Houston State (12-1).
The Bison, who have won five FCS championships in the last six years host SHSU at 7 p.m. Friday on ESPN2.
The Jackrabbits, who have never won an FCS title will host the defending champions in James Madison at 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
Why each team will advance
James Madison: Yes, let’s start with the squad that won it last year. The fact is that defensively this team is solid. Twenty-five INTs and 43 sacks in 13 games is preeeeety good. But the Dukes aren’t gonna beat you by scoring a ton of points. The team they are facing is top 3 in scoring. So defensively, if the Dukes want to win is where they will have to find success.
South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits have a very special offense with three very special skilled players in Taryn Christion, Dallas Goedert and Jake Wieneke. Oddly enough SDSU has averaged much more yards on the ground in their wins this year than in their losses. Having a solid but balanced attack will be the key to victory. Run some play action, throw in some dives and back to play action and go along with your skilled pass catchers to keep the Dukes on their feet.
North Dakota State: The Bison will advance to their sixth FCS title game in seven years if they stick to the run. SHSU is so bad at defending the run it ain’t funny. The Bison average 267.5 rushing yards. SHSU’s defense??? Well they give up 180.2 rushing yards per game. #LOL Don’t give up any big plays on defense which the Bearkat offense can do to you. Limit the big plays, play defense, run the ball and win TOP and NDSU will be headed to Frisco, Texas.
Sam Houston State: This game is the best offense verse the best defense. One could say that NDSU’s weakness is their pass defense or at least when a QB gets outta the pocket and looks downfield. If I’m K.C. Keeler (SHSU head coach) I’m going for it on every fourth down. I’m throwing in a few trick plays. I’m running a lot of draw plays. You lead the world in offense damn near. NDSU knows that so make them guess. Are we gonna set four wide and pass or are we gonna make you think we are and hand it off. Fourth and seven at our own 37 we are going for it. If we don’t get it well we tried if we do then it’s go go go. This game has to be played way outta the back end of the playbook.
Why each team will not advance
James Madison: The Dukes are gonna feel pressure. They are defending last years crown. Every team that wins a title that isn’t NDSU is trying to win multiple in a row to challenge NDSU. Playing on the road while feeling pressure could boil over and cost the Dukes a victory. JMU is coming off a tough 31-28 last-second field goal over Weber State. Their opponent is coming off a slashing of New Hampshire.
South Dakota State: Right in the middle of the season SDSU lost two out of three games. In those two mishaps, the Jackrabbits finished with 52 and 65 rushing yards. They also got killed in TOP and didn’t even have the ball for 20 minutes in either game. I can throw stats left and right at you but the fact is that if this team just goes with the pass 50 times against JMU they aren’t gonna advance. That balanced offense is so so so important for the Jackrabbits success.
North Dakota State: Don’t fall behind. The crowd is a huge factor for NDSU. SHSU can score six points in 12 seconds. And all of a sudden the Bearkats are up 14-0 in the first five minutes because NDSU had missed tackles and the crowd is done. NDSU has had troubles with experienced QBs in the past and senior Jeremiah Briscoe is one of the best.
Sam Houston State: The Bearkats will not advance if they lose the turnover battle. One thing with throwing the football a lot is that you are more likely to interceptions obvi. The Bearkats have let two teams make their last two playoff games actually games. What happens if they fall behind early? Can they come back? IDK they haven’t had to this postseason. If NDSU controls TOP and SHSU’s offense can’t get on the field then this game is over quickly.
Predictions: South Dakota State over James Madison, 35-14
North Dakota State over Sam Houston State, 31-7