First Round 2021 FCS Playoff Prognostication


First Round FCS Playoff Prognostication


I’m not  going to go insanely deep into team capsules and regurgitate information that’s already been shared. If you want to look at each team’s capsules, and you should, you can find them here. I’m going to hit on the higher points for all the games here, rather than draw them out individually. Let’s just be thankful we have playoffs.


Holy Cross @ #1 South Dakota State

At first glance, this looks like a mismatch. Honestly, it looks like it with a second and third glance also. The Jackrabbits come in with the #1 overall seed and a huge win over their biggest rival. The offense is very good and proven against some of the better defenses in FCS. The Crusaders come into their fourth ever playoff game with a passing offense ranking towards the very bottom of the FCS. Being one dimensional offensively is a disadvantageous place to be, especially against a more polished opponent on the road.

Prediction: South Dakota State 45, Holy Cross 7


Monmouth @ #2 Sam Houston State

Monmouth has the unenviable task of flying halfway across the country to try and slow down this Bearkats offense. They do have a highly ranked defense, by the numbers, including a top 15 ranking against the run. Consider that one of their games was against Kennesaw State. That also affects their mid-50s ranking against the pass. That should be concerning. Sam Houston State hasn’t really been in danger all season, so the worry would have to be their reaction to a close game in the second half. But this offense doesn’t usually leave this as a concern.

Prediction: Sam Houston State 55, Monmouth 28


Virginia Military @ #3 James Madison

It’s strange to say, but of all the seeded teams, James Madison might be the one who’s the biggest mystery. A typical season in the Colonial Athletic would have them well tested. But the two division format did them no favors. Their defensive numbers, especially, look supremely scary, but they really haven’t seen a good offense all spring. That will change on Saturday, because the Keydets have a very good offense. An offense that is more predicated on passing than running, which is the area you’d rather attack JMU. Here’s the biggest difference in the programs; JMU has a huge playoff pedigree, VMI is making their first appearance. Call it a hunch. Make a big splash!

Prediction: Virginia Military 27, James Madison 23


Davidson @ #4 Jacksonville State

The game where something has to give. The underdog Wildcats are the nation’s best rushing offense. Jacksonville State is near a top ten defense against the run. If Davidson can keep the ball, control the clock and stay in the game early, who knows? But this is a huge step up in competition against a team who has scholarship athletes, where they see none in their Pioneer League. The Gamecocks have to be excited to be playing a team who has a lot of trouble keeping the opposition from converting third down (Davidson is in the bottom 15 in FCS).

Prediction: Jacksonville State 41, Davidson 10


Sacred Heart @ Delaware

Sacred Heart won the Northeast Conference, but comes into the playoffs with the lowest rated Strength of Schedule of any team in the playoff field. Even with that as a fact, they rate behind Delaware here, both offensively and defensively compared to the Blue Hens’ opposite unit. Uh-oh! If that was ever a recipe for disaster. Don’t be fooled though, the Pioneers do have a solid offense, noted by their 30+ points per game average. Delaware is charged with making Sacred Heart’s third ever playoff trip a short one. They’ve been very consistent all season, don’t expect a trip up here.

Prediction: Delaware 40, Sacred Heart 17


Missouri State @ North Dakota

Whether you think the Bears deserved to be in the field or not, you have to like what The Selection Committee did here. Both of these teams shared the Missouri Valley Conference’s championship, but didn’t play during the regular season because of health issues. So here they are, deciding it on the field. Statistically, Missouri State has the strongest schedule of all playoffs teams, but that’s mostly dependent on their fall match-up with FBS Oklahoma. This might be a game that comes down to third down. North Dakota is great at converting themselves but lousy stopping it. Missouri State is the exact opposite; lousy converting but great stopping. Almost like a hockey game with two teams and opposing strengths and weaknesses on penalty time. Hockey? Go UND.

Prediction: North Dakota 27, Missouri State 21


Eastern Washington @ North Dakota State

A beautiful match-up of two of the last three national champions. Of course, the Bison have been on such a run that goes back over a decade. As is normal, the Eagles come in with a high-powered offense, one much better than North Dakota State has seen all season. Conversely, this is also, probably, the best defense that Eastern Washington has seen all season. These are the yin-yang games that are really entertaining. The Bison usually have a little better offense than what the Eagles defense brings to the table, but it’s more even than seasons past. We’re going to go back into history for this pick. The 2010’s belonged to the Bison, but EWU has a history of playoff runs in even-numbered years. Despite it being 2021, the season is still considered 2020.

Prediction: Eastern Washington 30, North Dakota State 24


Southern Illinois @ Weber State

What a difference of perspective. Weber State has to be disappointed they weren’t awarded a seed. Southern Illinois has to be elated to have received the last at-large. The Salukis are a tough bunch to figure out. They can be drawn into shootouts or struggle in grinders. The Wildcats are who they have been for the better half of the last half decade; hard-nosed and consistent. Despite the hometown Wildcats being undefeated, this is still the toughest First Round game to call, just because the styles don’t mesh. Weber State has struggled to score occasionally. If that happens here, the upset is definitely in play. Gotta make a call - dogs over cats.

Prediction: Southern Illinois 28, Weber State 27