FCS Football Playoff Projections - Semifinals and Celebrations Bowl

FCS Semifinal Projections
Friday, December 17 (Eastern time)
#3 James Madison (12-1) @ #2 North Dakota State (12-1), 9:15pm
James Madison was a pretty rude host to Montana, in the quarterfinals. Not only did they knock out one of the Grizzlies best receivers in Akem, later on they knocked out their quarterback, Humphrey, also. At the time it was still early, but the Dukes looked like the slightly better team. Add in the fact they were at home, it was probably just a matter of time. Still, the Griz showed a lot of heart, only losing 28-6 despite the circumstances. Going to be much tougher this week, as JMU will travel cross country for their biggest non-CAA rival. QB Cole Johnson looked much sharper against Montana and he’ll need to continue that trend. The running game, led by Latrele Palmer, was very good too. The Dukes defense has been good all season and had a field day once knocking out the opposition’s signal caller. Discipline and toughness will be this week’s focus, because North Dakota State is still bringing the lumber. That lumber comes in the shape of huge offensive linemen and running backs for days. Again, the Bison ran for 278 yards in the quarters against East Tennessee State. That’s not a knock on the Bucs, the Bison do what they do. They’re meticulous and patient. And their defense is tenacious. All-American running back for ETSU, Quay Holmes, rushed 14 times for 35 yards. Ouch! The Bison had three backs go for more and two of them had less than ten carries. The FargoDome is going to be rockin’, no doubt. And the home folks would love nothing more than to send JMU out of the playoffs and onto the FBS next season with a loss here. Expect nothing but smash mouth all night long!
PROJECTION: North Dakota State 24, James Madison 17
Saturday, December 18 (all times Eastern)
South Dakota State (11-3) @ #8 Montana State (11-2), 2:00pm
South Dakota State was involved in a back and forth first half at Villanova. Eventually, the Wildcats forged ahead and led 21-14 at halftime. That was it for their scoring though. The Jackrabbits flexed their muscles from then on, surrendering no more points. At that point, it became the Isaiah Davis Show. The bruising running back totaled 25 carries for 174 yards and three scores. Quarterback Chris Oladokun did enough of what was needed to keep the offense chugging in the second half and it was clear sailing from then on. The defense will need to find itself into a quicker start because Montana State is picking up serious momentum right now. Ask #1 seed Sam Houston. The Bobcats rolled into Bowers Stadium and whooped the defending national champions in a place they’d never lost in the playoffs, at home. And now that unseeded South Dakota State won again, Montana State gets a surprising and very fortunate home game in the semifinals. And that’s something they won’t apologize for. Their home field advantage is as good as anyone’s in the country. Don’t expect SDSU to be overly intimidated, if at all, they’re used to big game atmospheres like these. This should be a struggle. Maybe a late kick decides who wins this one.
PROJECTION: South Dakota State 20, Montana State 19
The Celebrations Bowl
South Carolina State (6-5) vs. Jackson State (11-1), 12:00pm
Quite a disparity in records between the final two HBCUs standing. South Carolina State was the champion of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. QB Corey Fields Jr. and RB Kendrell Flowers will push an offense that’s won five of its last six. In that similar time frame, the Bulldog defense has allowed just over 14 points per game in their last seven tilts. This is a team who almost upset FBS New Mexico State early on. They’re definitely the underdog, but it’s not a role they believe and will leave everything on the field to win. Jackson State has been a media darling most of the season. Probably has something to do with their head coach, maybe you’ve seen him in those supplemental insurance commercials with another high profile coach. He’d likely have his team in a better position had this game happened in “prime time” - sorry, I couldn’t help it. The Tigers haven’t lost a game since September 18 and that was at FBS Louisiana-Monroe. QB Sheduer Sanders, yes, the coach’s son, will likely be the best player on the field. He’s thrown for 3,056 yards in twelve games. A lot of that action will be going to WR Keith Corbin III, his favorite target. There’s a lot of common opponent crossover between these two teams; Alabama A&M, Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman. In those games, Jackson State went 3-0, outscoring those teams 110-33. South Carolina State was 1-2, outscored 107-90. Winner will be the HBCU National Champion. Good luck to both.
PROJECTION: Jackson State 38, South Carolina State 14