The final three games in the FCS playoff quarterfinals took place on Saturday, with three more berths in next weekend's semifinals up for grabs.
Below, we'll review Saturday's results and take a look ahead at the semifinal schedule and matchups.
Saturday Quarterfinal Scores
South Dakota State def. No. 5 Villanova, 35-21
No. 2 North Dakota State def. No. 7 East Tennessee State, 27-3
No. 8 Montana State def. No. 1 Sam Houston, 42-19
Semifinal Matchups and Schedule
Friday, Dec. 17: No. 3 James Madison at No. 2 North Dakota State (9:15 p.m. ET)
Saturday, Dec. 18: South Dakota State at No. 8 Montana State (2 p.m. ET)
For the fourth time in the past five seasons, South Dakota State is in the FCS semis. They came into these playoffs as an unseeded team and had to win their past two games on the road.
And on Saturday, they had to do so with star running back Pierre Strong Jr.—who has rushed for 1,575 yards and 17 touchdowns this season—sidelined and in the concussion protocol.
"We're some road warriors for sure," SDSU quarterback Chris Oladokun told reporters after the win. "We've touched almost every region in the country, and we have another road test coming up next week. In that locker room, we know how special this group is. When we play together and play harder than the man across from us, we don't think anyone can beat us."
Montana State will try, fresh off of eliminating the defending champs in absolutely dominant fashion. Sam Houston had been playing with fire, winning their last five playoff games dating back to last year's title run by seven or fewer points. The loss snapped a 22-game win streak.
Granted, slowing down SDSU is no easy task. If Strong is healthy enough to play next weekend, the Jackrabbits will once again boast the backfield duo of Isaiah Davis and Strong, one of the best running back tandems in the nation at any level.
Stopping them down will be the key for Montana State. Don't sleep on the Bobcats' ability to pull it off, however—they boast one of the best defenses in the nation.
Almost 200 miles north of where South Dakota State calls home in Brookings, North Dakota State blew out East Tennessee State, stifling star running back Quay Holmes and holding him to just 35 rushing yards. That ended the best season in ETSU football history, as the school set a record with 11 wins this year.
The result was par for the course in Fargo, given that the Bison have claimed eight of the past 10 FCS titles.
They'll face a James Madison team that is no stranger to big December games. The Dukes reached the semifinals in 2020, the final in both 2017 and 2019 as national runners-up and won the national championship in 2018.
James Madison advanced to this year's semis with a 28-6 win over Montana on Friday.
TJ Eck @TJEck_TV
"We were able to really play a balanced football game on offense...great team win."<br><br>Cole Johnson, Mike Greene, and Latrele Palmer talking postgame after <a href="https://twitter.com/JMUFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JMUFootball</a> defeats Montana in the FCS Quarterfinals: <a href="https://t.co/45NP8SY0Fs">https://t.co/45NP8SY0Fs</a> <a href="https://t.co/lJgER2FXTO">pic.twitter.com/lJgER2FXTO</a>
The Dukes will bring one of the top defenses in the nation into Fargo, trying to slow down a North Dakota State run game that ran roughshod over ETSU to the tune of 278 yards.
If the Dukes can slow down that run game, they'll have as good of a shot as anybody. But few teams have had much success doing so—NDSU averaged 382 rushing yards and scored 16 touchdowns on the ground in November wins over Youngstown State, South Dakota and Southern Illinois. The Bison are tough to stop once they get going.