FCS Football Playoff Projections - Quarterfinals

FCS Quarterfinal Projections
Friday, December 10 (all times Eastern)
#6 Montana (10-2) @ #3 James Madison (11-1), 7:00pm
Montana played last Friday, beating fellow Big Sky member, Eastern Washington, 57-41. That 41 points surrendered might seem concerning, but EWU isn’t your normal FCS offensive juggernaut. The Grizzlies were all over that vaunted offense, despite the huge numbers given up. A lot of it came by way of special teams. Big returns switched field position constantly. And the running game racked up over 200 yards and everybody contributed. Even though QB Cam Humphrey threw three touchdowns, he’ll need to be a lot better than 11 of 23 to win this week.
James Madison nearly scored at will in their 59-20 win over Southeastern Louisiana. Much like Humphrey, Dukes’ QB Cole Johnson completed a lower percentage of passes, 12 of 22. Similarly, he had five touchdowns and 321 yards. They ran for over 5 yards per carry also. Much like Montana, JMU was playing the FCS second best offense and performed much better. It’s amazing how these two FCS blue bloods enter having played near mirror games in the previous round. Montana is good enough to pull this upset and the large crowd cheering in JMU’s favor shouldn’t phase them. Don’t expect 50+ by both teams here. This might be the closest game of the weekend. Make sure to watch this one.
PROJECTION: James Madison 24, Montana 21
Saturday, December 11 (all times Eastern)
#7 East Tennessee State (11-1) @ #2 North Dakota State, 12:00pm
East Tennessee State will be happy to not see that Kennesaw State triple option despite beating them, 32-31. The Buccaneers were trailing by 14 points with just over five minutes remaining. Tyler Riddell threw two touchdown passes in the final minute and one-half and also threw for a two-point conversion on the final score with just 35 seconds left. That kind of situation isn’t likely to work in Fargo. RB Quay Holmes will have to be the man again. He had three touchdowns and 182 yards from scrimmage against the Owls. North Dakota State is totally hitting their stride right now. They completely dominated Southern Illinois, 38-7. QB Cam Miller was 9-14 for 88 yards and a pick. How did the Bison dominate with that kind of passing performance? When your team rushes 62 times for 389 yards, you don’t have to pass. When you consider that ETSU was very fortunate to make this far and the fact they’ve shown they can be run against - scary. Never mind NDSU’s defense is probably the best overall in FCS.
PROJECTION: North Dakota State 34, East Tennessee State 10
South Dakota State (10-3) @ #5 Villanova (10-2), 2:00pm
There’s one unseeded team who won in the Second Round, surprise! It’s South Dakota State. Almost nobody is really surprised. They rolled in their opening round game, but this last win at Sacramento State was much tougher, 24-19. And that’s after leading 24-3 at halftime. Luckily, for the Jackrabbits, they’d built enough of a cushion to hold off at the end. RBs Isaiah David and Pierre Strong Jr. were good once again, but they were not nearly as successful as in the First Round. And the defenses will just get stronger from here. Not only that, a Pacific Time Zone game last week is followed by an Eastern Time Zone this week. Will the jet lag catch up to them? Villanova is the beneficiary, indirectly, of SDSU’s upset last week. If Sacramento State had been able to hold serve at home, the Wildcats would be flying to the Golden State here. Instead, they get another home game in the Philadelphia area. They won a tough one last Friday, against a very game and motivated Holy Cross, 21-16. QB Daniel Smith was not good at all, 8 of 22 passing for 133 yards. They made the most of the opportunities when they could, scoring sevens instead of Holy Cross’ threes. The team controlling the line of scrimmage and running the ball probably wins this one.
PROJECTION: Villanova 17, South Dakota State 14
#8 Montana State (10-2) @ #1 Sam Houston (11-0), 8:30pm
Montana State started slow against Tennessee-Martin, but ended up grounding the Skyhawks, 26-7. Pardon the pun, but it actually has more meaning than pertaining to last week’s opponent’s nickname. The Bobcats played the extreme game offensively, tilted to the ground attack. QB Tommy Mellott and RB Isaiah Ifanse combined for 51 rushes, 356 yards and all three touchdowns. The defense was all up in UT-M’s business, allowing no big plays. The longest from scrimmage was only 19 yards. If that kind of efficiency happens again this week, we could be seeing a major upset - at least by seeding standards. Sam Houston was in a very predictable war, with a team designed to push them defensively. Mentioned it last week, the way to hurt the Bearkats on defense is through the air and Incarnate Word is exactly that kind of team. The Cardinals are not the kind of defensive unit to scare SHSU. This week should be different. MSU does have that kind of defense. The question is, can the Bobcat rushing attack muster enough against a very solid Bearkat run defense? Eventually, you figure the SHSU offense to push a few into the end zone.
PROJECTION: Sam Houston 28, Montana State 14