The first round of the FCS playoffs are set to get underway this week and the action is sure to be intense with so many games. There’s no time for fluff on Black Friday, so let’s take a look at the games
Stony Brook vs. Lehigh
Stony Brook is a large favorite in this one and rightfully so. Lehigh has the worst run defense at the FCS level, the Mountain Hawks are allowing 6.5 yards per carry, and finished with a 5-6 record. The Mountain Hawks only made the playoffs because they won the Patriot League, but their brand of football is exciting at least. This one should be one of the highest scoring games of the week as Lehigh will put up points, but will be outgunned by Stony Brook in the end.
Weber State vs. Western Illinois
The Wildcats are one of the most underrated teams in the country. Weber State came very close to knocking off Cal in the second week of the season and was tied with Southern Utah before starting quarterback Stefan Cantwell went down with an injury.
The matchup between Western Illinois WR Jaelon Acklin and Weber State DB Taron Johnson should be a great one. Acklin is by far the Leathernecks’ best receiver, while Johnson was just named Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year.
Weber State opened as an underdog in this game and I LOVE that play.
Northern Iowa vs. Monmouth
Northern Iowa is a massive favorite over Monmouth in this game. The Panthers may have gone just 7-4 but had one of the toughest schedules in the country and play in a stadium with a true home field advantage.
On the other hand, Monmouth lost to a 4-7 Albany team and got crushed by Kennesaw State last week. The Hawks are 9-2 largely due to a very weak schedule and they don’t stand much of a chance in this one.
New Hampshire vs. Central Connecticut State
If you’re looking for a Cinderella story in the FCS playoffs, CCSU is the team for you. The Blue Devils pulled off a big upset when they knocked off Duquesne a few weeks ago and won the Northeast Conference as a result. This isn’t a bad team either, with a well-rounded offense.
New Hampshire has had some bad losses this season. The Wildcats got hammered on the road by Holy Cross and were blanked 15-0 by Albany in their season finale. They are more susceptible to an upset bid than you might think.
Kennesaw State vs. Samford
The Selection Committee gave us two rematches of regular season meeting in the first round of the playoffs and this is one of them.
Kennesaw State was able to dominate Samford in terms of total yards when these teams met earlier in the season, with the Owls racking up over 500 yards of offense on the Bulldogs. However, Samford pulled out the win thanks to a little bit of luck and the great play of QB Devlin Hodges.
The Owls are slight favorites this time around and I don’t think Samford’s defense is going to be able to stop them.
Nicholls State vs. South Dakota
I’ve raved about Chris Streveler all season long and he is the reason that the Coyotes are a big road favorite against the Colonels. He should be the favorite for the Walter Payton Award even though South Dakota lost four of its last five games as he has single-handedly willed this team to the postseason.
Streveler should have a big day against Nicholls State’s defense. The Colonels have seen nothing like him and I think he’ll go for 300 through the air and 100 on the ground.
Elon vs. Furman
The Phoenix have been remarkable this season. Elon went 2-9 last year and finished in the cellar of the Colonial, but won eight straight games to make the playoffs for the second time in school history. This team is an incredible 8-0 in one possession games and freshman QB Davis Cheek has played very well.
Elon beat Furman earlier in the season, but is an underdog in this game despite playing at home. The Paladins went 0-3 against playoff teams this season and seeing them as a road favorite is a bit puzzling.
Northern Arizona vs. San Diego
Case Cookus should be able to beat the Toreros defense through the air in this one. San Diego did not look impressive outside of Pioneer League play this season and Cookus is due for a big performance.
San Diego is going to have a hard time moving the ball against a Northern Arizona team with a surprisingly good secondary that has shut down Big Sky opponents this year.