Senior FCS Analyst Sam Herder will continue his season-long score predictions.
Here are his picks for the semifinals:
2021 Spring Predictions Record: 52-24
2019 Record: 100-42
Delaware @ 1-seed South Dakota State
Delaware flew nearly 1,600 miles round-trip for Sunday’s quarterfinal game against Jacksonville State. The Blue Hens turn it around quickly and flew 1,300 miles to Sioux Falls, SD, on Thursday for an 11 a.m. Saturday game. They will bus 55 minutes from Sioux Falls to Brookings. SDSU and Delaware have great athletes, but both are built and have the mindset to out-physical the opponent and not out-athlete the opponent. By the fourth quarter, I’m curious about how Delaware’s legs will hold up. Will the SDSU three-yard runs starting turning into eight-yard runs?
On the flip side, I like SDSU’s ability to stop Delaware’s rushing attack. That leaves it up to a banged-up Nolan Henderson and the wide receivers to have a good game. While the Jacks’ secondary looked vulnerable last week against Southern Illinois, the corners did play better in the second half.
SDSU having home field is a big advantage in this one. And I think SDSU’s offensive line takes over the game late to seal it with some LSD (long-sustained drive).
Prediction: SDSU 27-17
3-seed James Madison @ 2-seed Sam Houston
You can look at SHSU’s win against NDSU two ways, depending on what colored lens you’re viewing it through. 1) NDSU’s offense was nonexistent most of the game and was still in a position to win the game in the final minute. 2) If not for two special teams gaffes, the Bearkats would have blown the Bison out. Regardless of how you view it, there’s no denying SHSU earned a ton of respect in the quarterfinal win and proved its defense is legit against a power team.
The run defense will be put to the test again. JMU’s group of RBs is the best in the FCS. But what the Dukes possess that NDSU didn’t is good quarterback play. Cole Johnson is getting better every game. And the speed of WR Kris Thornton and the downfield play-making ability of Antwane Wells Jr. will make it tough to stack the box.
The Bearkats have never lost a home FCS playoff game. They’ll have the home-field crowd behind them. They have the best quarterback of the remaining four teams in Eric Schmid. And JMU may be down a starting cornerback with Wesley McCormick injuring his groin last week. With all of that said, JMU is on a mission in this bracket, and I think the Dukes have enough balance on offense and are strong enough on defense to get a narrow win.
Prediction: JMU 28-24