The 2016 FCS Playoffs are here! We've got game-by game previews at FCS Playoff Central, and all sorts of analysis and highlights coming your way in the next few weeks. Check back daily for more FCS playoff coverage.
CHATTANOOGA (9-3) – Keionta Davis, DL (8.5 sacks); Derrick Craine, RB (1,106 all-purpose yards); Corey Levin, OL (future NFL player).
SAM HOUSTON STATE (11-0) – Jeremiah Briscoe, QB (4,096 yards passing, 52 touchdowns); WR Yedidiah Louis (977 receiving yards, 11 TDs); P.J. Hall, DL (9.5 sacks, 21 TFLs).[divider]
CHATTANOOGA – 34.1 points per game on offense (18th in the FCS); 17.8 points per game on defense (9th in the FCS).
SAM HOUSTON STATE- 54.2 points per game on offense (1st in the FCS); 25.9 points per game on defense (48th in the FCS).[divider]
No matter what you think of Sam Houston State and its schedule strength, there is one key point to be made: The Bearkats left no doubt during the first halves of their 11 wins, outscoring opponents 380-93 in first-half play. Then the starters sat and the Bearkats' next generation got a turn in the second half of all 11 of those blowouts.
So let's just say for sake of argument SHSU keeps its starters in the game the whole way–could it have been 760 points scored this year and only 186 given up?
Translation: If this scenario happened, the offense would have scored nearly 70 points a game and given up a little over 15 points a game. No matter who you play, that's impressive, and let's face it: Central Arkansas was the toughest opponent this year and the Bearkats were up 38-10 in the first half. UCA is in the second round of the playoffs this weekend.
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So that's the argument for Sam Houston State, but there is another argument to be made–one for Chattanooga. The Mocs were clearly the best team playing in the first round, and they can't wait to shake off their two FCS losses in the SoCon to triple option teams and prove they're a national title contender too.
The Mocs play staunch defense — it'll easily be the toughest defensive test the Bearkats get this year. The Mocs' secondary is giving up only 147.2 passing yards per game, good for No. 1 in the nation. They are also balanced on offense and gave Alabama and Nick Saban fits for nearly three quarters (down only 14-3 late in the third) — and they have NFL talent at several positions on both sides of the ball. This is a good and hungry team that would easily have been seeded if not for two close conference losses to triple-option style teams that do a great job of eating up the clock (Wofford and The Citadel). If the Bearkats win this game decisively with QB Jeremiah Briscoe going wild? Cue the talk about being national championship favorites and Briscoe for national player of the year. If it is close — which I'm expecting — they'll continue to be a discussion topic. The committee certainly made Sam Houston State's playoff road a bumpy one filled with potholes and speed bumps.
I am so, so, so tempted to go with Chattanooga here. I do not see this as a blowout, but a 35-28 type of game–one way or another. And yes, I could see Chattanooga being on the good side of that score, easily. [divider]
Sara Schlagel – Sam Houston State 35-21
Sam Herder – Sam Houston 31-21
Brian McLaughlin – Sam Houston State 35-28
More Second Round Previews
San Diego at North Dakota St | Youngstown St at Jacksonville St
Cent Arkansas at East Washington | Villanova at South Dakota St
Chattanooga at Sam Houston St | Wofford at The Citadel
Richmond at North Dakota | New Hampshire at James Madison