New Hampshire at #5 Maine 2013 FCS Playoffs 2nd Round Game Breakdown

George Hammond

New Hampshire at #5 Maine 2013 FCS Playoffs 2nd Round Game Breakdown


New Hampshire at #5 Maine, Saturday, 2:00

These two teams have much in common: They’re in the same conference, they’re neighboring states, and they just met on the gridiron two weeks ago in the regular-season finale. New Hampshire (8-4) won that meeting, 24-3, to gain an at-large berth in the FCS playoffs for the 10th consecutive year – the longest such streak in the nation.  On Saturday, New Hampshire easily dispatched of Patriot League champion Lafayette, 45-7, to make the final 16 while the Black Bears (10-2) had a bye as the No. 5 seed in the 24-team field.

So here are the questions surrounding this encore meeting:

* Can we take anything from that first meeting? After all, New Hampshire was fighting for its playoff lives while Maine had already clinched the Colonial Athletic Association’s automatic bid as champion and likely had a first-round bye sewn up as well. Yes, they’re rivals, but that first game meant much more to the Wildcats, plus they were playing at home where they were unbeaten this season (6-0) and had outscored opponents 243-97.

* Have the Wildcats gotten into Maine’s head? Don’t laugh. New Hampshire has won three consecutive meetings and 10 of the last 11, plus a 28-21 victory in Orono, Maine, last year.

Can Maine rebound and play like it did earlier in the season?  It almost knocked off Northwestern, beat Villanova and scored 34 points in a win against a stout William & Mary defense. But down the stretch, the Bears struggled with Stony Brook and Albany while losing to New Hampshire. Their only decisive victory in the last four games was a 41-0 victory over Rhode Island.

So that’s the scenario for what could be one of the top playoff contests this postseason. The bye week should help Maine immensely although Saturday’s easy win over Lafayette (where it led 31-0 at halftime) shouldn’t have taxed New Hampshire too much. The Wildcats will be ready for Round II as well. If there’s a key to the contest, it might be how well each team defends the run. New Hampshire held Maine to 95 yards rushing two weeks ago while the Bears allowed New Hampshire to gain 213 yards rushing. The Wildcats do rely on the run a little more (28th in the nation at 203.6 ypg), however, the Black Bears can’t allow the same thing to happen this time.

Don’t expect a 21-point margin by either team this time. But the Wildcats seem to be on a roll. They’ve won four consecutive games and seven of eight. The forecast is for clear skies and temperatures in the mid-30s on Saturday at Alfond Stadium so weather shouldn’t be a factor for these cold-weather schools. The winner gets the winner of the SE Louisiana-Sam Houston State contest in the quarterfinals Dec. 13 or 14.

Projected score: New Hampshire 24, Maine 20


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