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Previewing the FCS Semifinals

Two teams we expected to be here, and two surprises. Who will advance to Frisco?

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend number one seeded Jacksonville State outscored Charleston Southern in a shootout, North Dakota State ground out a 10-point win over Northern Iowa, Sam Houston State obliterated Colgate, and Richmond stunned #2 Illinois State.

That brings us to the FCS semifinals, with the first of two games tonight at 8 PM on ESPN2. This is possibly higher-level football than you'll see on Saturday between a bunch of 5-7 and 6-6 FBS teams, so watch! It'll be fun. Trust me.

North Dakota State hosts Richmond in the Fargodome tonight. The Bison boast one of the most dominant defenses in the country while Richmond has been scoring 43.5 points per game in its playoff run. I've made a habit of picking against NDSU this postseason, and it hasn't quite worked out for me. But I just can't get past the lackluster offense. If the defense isn't forcing turnovers and wreaking havoc in the opposing backfield, the Bison are vulnerable.

Easton Stick went 13-of-17 for 116 yards and no touchdowns last week in the 23-13 win over UNI. The rushing game produced a solid, if not spectacular, 168 yards and two touchdowns. If it comes down to a shootout, they won't be able to outscore the Spiders. So the question is, will the defense be able to stifle Richmond enough to get by?

Before last week, I would have undoubtedly said yes, but the way Spiders QB Kyle Lauletta played against Illinois State last week makes me question it more. The sophomore went 18-of-30 for 369 yards, and more importantly, was poised in the pocket and threw some absolute dimes deep down the field.

Spiders RB Jacobi Green will get his on the ground, even against a stout Bison front, so it really comes down to Lauletta. Bison fans can gloat when I'm proven wrong once again, but I'm gonna pick another upset and say that Richmond does just enough to win a thriller in Fargo.

Jacksonville State looks to advance to its first FCS championship game ever but must get by Sam Houston State, which has reached Frisco in two of the last four years (losing to NDSU both times). After a thrilling OT win over Chattanooga, the Gamecocks got back to their dominant ways in a 58-38 beatdown of Charleston Southern.

The Bearkats have been just as impressive since getting into the dance as an at-large, getting revenge on previously unbeaten McNeese State and beating up on Patriot League champion Colgate. Expect this one to be a shootout: Sam Houston averages 43 points per game, Jacksonville State averages almost 40. The difference? The Gamecocks have allowed less than 20 points per game. Jacksonville State and its dominant front seven, allowing just 3.3 yards per rush, should end the Bearkats' impressive run.