Alright folks. The 2017 FCS Playoffs are here. We've shown you the top FCS highlights, broken down the matchups, and previewed every game. Now, on that we're in the semifinal round of the FCS Playoffs — it is time to get into the meat and potatoes of the previews and predictions. Read on:
[divider]COMPARE: Any Two FCS Players | Any Two FCS Teams[divider]
First, let's look at the games:
THIS WEEK'S PREVIEWS
(games ET on Friday/Saturday – ESPN2/ESPNU)
Now let's take a look at the semifinal predictions — from HERO Sports FCS writer Brian McLaughlin.
We had two convincing quarterfinal victories by North Dakota State and South Dakota State, and two nail-biters with James Madison's last-second field goal and Sam Houston State withstanding Kennesaw State's comeback attempt. Don't be surprised if we see those kinds of endings again in this round. Once again, I'm very curious to see which Sam Houston State team shows up in Fargo. If it's the team that has dominated its competition in the first halves of the first two playoff games? The Bearkats are going to give NDSU fits.
If it's the Sam Houston State team that was outscored 45-23 in the second half and let opponents back into the game in both playoff games, the Bison will roll. As for James Madison, I think we learned two things last Friday night — yes, they can be beaten. And yes, they have a resolve in tough situations and can rally back. If the Dallas Goedert injury is as bad as South Dakota State coach John Stiegelmeier said it was on Monday (he is 'doubtful'), that'll be a huge factor, but games have been played before when it comes to injuries. If SDSU is at full strength? Watch out, JMU. Could be a repeat of Weber State.[divider]
Here we go:
NO. 5 SOUTH DAKOTA ST. AT NO. 1 JAMES MADISON: Man, oh man … just when you thought you couldn't see a game on the level of the Weber State-JMU quarterfinal last Friday, this game presents itself. This one has all the trappings of a barn burner, again.
Keep in mind though, SDSU star tight end and top FCS pro prospect Dallas Goedert left last weekend's game with a muscle injury in his leg, and his coach — John Stiegelmeier — said Goedert was 'doubtful' for JMU on his Monday radio show. We'll soon see if that holds up, and if so, what kind of effect that has, but SDSU has plenty of offensive weapons.
Then again, JMU's defense is stellar. Then again, my eyes are crossed because I think the stat matchups can all be thrown out in the playoffs — as we saw last week with JMU-Weber. B-MAC'S PICK: JMU 28-21.
MCLAUGHLIN: Podcast with James Madison QB Bryan Schor (Dec. 11)[divider]
NO. 6 SAM HOUSTON ST. AT NO. 2 NORTH DAKOTA ST.: North Dakota State is really hitting all of its marks right now. Along with its usual dose of discipline and power, the Bison also have a quick-strike capability that makes them even more lethal. NDSU's Easton Stick can kill you with his arm or his feet, and the NFL Scouts continue to nod their heads in approval.
On the other side, you have what could be the highest FCS quarterback drafted since Carson Wentz in Sam Houston's Jeremiah Briscoe. He can make things happen, and his wrecking ball teammate on defense — P.J. Hall — also can make things happen. Oh, and enjoy this matchup, folks — the No. 1 pass offense in the FCS (SHSU) vs. the No. 1 passing defense (NDSU). My take is that good defense beats good offense. B-MAC'S PICK: NDSU 35-21.