FCS Playoffs 2012: Preview and Predictions for Quarterfinals
College football playoffs are underway, but you won't be finding many big names in these games. That said, some of the best college football you'll see isn't coming from the BCS bowl games, but rather from the FCS playoffs.
After some exciting action this weekend, eight teams remain in the quarterfinals. Here are previews and predictions for each of the four games.
North Dakota State vs. Wofford
The casual observer might not know it, but both of these teams have had success against BCS opponents. North Dakota State upset Colorado State 22-7 earlier in the season, while Wofford was tied with South Carolina at the half before the Gamecocks pulled away.
However, their past performances against BCS opponents won't matter in this FCS slugfest. And a slugfest it will be, with both teams featuring bruising running games and tough defenses.
Wofford is led by running back Eric Breitenstein, who has rushed for a stellar 1,900 yards on a 7.1 yards per carry average. Breitenstein can even get it done against top defenses—He rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown against South Carolina.
North Dakota State may lack an offensive star like Breitenstein, but its defense more than makes up for it. Opposing rushers have averaged just 2.3 yards per carry against the NDSU defense, so if anyone can slow him down, it will be the Bison.
One of the enduring mantras of football is that defense beats offense. Expect this mantra to hold in this game, with North Dakota State taking this one in a close affair.
Prediction: North Dakota State 17, Wofford 13
Montana State vs. Sam Houston State
A quick look at the records makes Montana State appear to be the favorite, but Sam Houston State's 9-3 record does not represent their abilities as a football team. When an FCS team takes on not one, but two BCS teams, including No. 9 Texas A&M, they can be forgiven for not being undefeated.
So really, this is a game between two one-loss teams. Sam Houston State is more efficient on offense, averaging 6.5 yards per play on offense, while Montana State is more efficient on defense, giving up 4.7 yards per play on average.
What gives Sam Houston State the edge in this one, though, is its experience against better opposition. This, paired with an offense that scored 42.3 points per game this season, should help the Bearkats advance.
Prediction: Sam Houston State 41, Montana State 31
Georgia Southern vs. Old Dominion
The FCS could not have picked a more interesting matchup if it tried. Old Dominion features one of the nation's best quarterbacks in Taylor Heinicke, who leads a passing offense that has produced 4,699 passing yards this season on 542 attempts. Georgia Southern, on the other hand, has passed the ball 72 times all season.
This will be one of the nation's best passing offenses versus one of the nation's best rushing offenses in a game that will be a massive conflict of styles. They do share one thing, though: They are both led by their quarterbacks.
Georgia Southern quarterback Jerick McKinnon is hardly a prolific passer, but he did rush for 1,481 yards and 15 touchdowns on a 7.1 yards per carry clip. He can lead this offense perfectly, running effectively and passing for big gains when opportunities arise.
Heinicke, on the other hand, is an elite passer and an underrated runner. With 51 combined touchdowns this season, Heinicke is one of the stars of FCS, but his mediocre defense could be his downfall.
This game may or may not be close, but it will definitely be high scoring. Expect Heinicke to do just enough to win.
Prediction: Old Dominion 48, Georgia Southern 41
Illinois State vs. Eastern Washington
Illinois State had no business beating Appalachian State. It lost to a 3-8 Missouri State squad and nearly lost to a 1-10 South Dakota team. Yet, win the Redbirds did in an overtime thriller, and now they have to face perhaps the favorite for the FCS championship in Eastern Washington.
What makes Eastern Washington so good is the brutal schedule it faces as part of the Big Sky. Eastern Washington handed both Montana State and Cal Poly their only conference losses of the season, giving the Eagles a championship in the toughest conference in the FCS.
Eastern Washington has only dominated a handful of games this season, including a 20-3 win over BCS opponent Idaho, but it can beat the best teams in the country any day.
Illinois State lacks the pedigree of Eastern Washington, but it does feature a talented passing connection between quarterback Matt Brown and wide receiver Tyrone Walker, who have hooked up for 1,171 yards and eight touchdowns this season. They will need to have a strong connection to upset Eastern Washington, though.
Prediction: Eastern Washington 27, Illinois State 17
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