FCS Playoffs – First Round Capsules

  • Fordham @ Chattanooga

Fordham comes into this game after a bye week, which should help out as they make a longer trip than any other team in the eastern half of the United States this round. Chattanooga spent last week getting their doors blown off by Florida State. So one might think the Rams will have an advantage over the Mocs, despite traveling, but, these teams are very different. Fordham employs a pass happy approach, where Chattanooga primarily runs. Chattanooga plays lower scoring, defensive games where Fordham regularly finds themselves in shootouts. In the end, Chattanooga is a little more battle-tested and their pass defense should be able to slow the Fordham attack down. The Mocs should be run the ball effectively and grind out a win.


  • The Citadel @ Coastal Carolina

One would think that with the Chanticleers being ranked in the top-10 all season this would be a cakewalk, not so fast, The Citadel is a running machine, averaging almost 350 yards per game on the ground. With that the Bulldogs also are one of the best teams converting their third downs — meaning they usually control the clock. Coastal Carolina is average defensively overall, but are rather poor against the pass. It wouldn’t be a shock to see The Citadel hit a couple play-action passes for huge gains or scores in what should be a tight game. Smelling an upset here.


  • Colgate @ New Hampshire

Despite the fact some people think the Committee was looking out for their Colonial darling New Hampshire, these teams actually played in New York back in September. Neither team dazzles offensively but each team’s weakness defensively plays into the strength of the other’s offense. The fact that Colgate is so bad stopping opponents when it counts and that New Hampshire relies on the pass more should point to the Wildcats marching up and down the field at will. Expect a very similar result as the initial meeting.


  • Southern Utah @ Sam Houston State

The Thunderbirds must be very disappointed. They won the Big Sky Conference outright and get sent on the road to a team who finished second in a conference (Southland) that didn’t beat another FCS team in non-conference play. Points should be a’plenty here as each team averages more than five touchdowns per game — the Bearkats average more than six. Both teams utilize the pass, but SHSU also runs the ball well. Southern Utah is the nation’s most opportune team in ball secuirty with a +21 turnover margin. If they can force the Bearkats into mistakes an upset is ripe for the pickin. Otherwise, the scoreboard will be lit up like a pinball machine.


  • South Dakota State @ Montana

The Jackrabbits lost a heartbreaking overtime game last week that cost them a seed and a bye. Montana has been playing well of late and won their way into the tournament, where we knew they would get a home game. Both teams thrive throwing the ball and both are more than adept at stopping the pass. Almost every vital statistic between these two is near equal, except that SDSU gives up less points and average almost five more minutes of time of possession per game. Again, Montana has the home field advantage. The Jacks won in the first round at Montana State last year, but games in Missoula are a whole different animal. Looks like a coin flip game. Minor upset.


  • Eastern Illinois @ UNI

Probably the two hottest teams in the tournament, who didn’t receive a bye match up. Both teams rely on the running game and both have their issues passing the ball. The biggest difference appears to be defensively, where Northern Iowa is lock down against the run and Eastern Illinois is average at best. Eastern Illinois is the worst team in the field converting third downs, and Northern Iowa is very good at getting their opponents off the field. Add the fact that EIU is the second most penalized team in the tournament and this could be a recipe for disaster.


  • Duquesne @ William & Mary

The Dukes come to the dance for the first time in school history, having won the Northeast Conference. William & Mary lost last week to Richmond, costing themselves a bye and a national seed. So you have to figure the Tribe is going to be motivated, especially with the winner going to Richmond next week. Neither team has a significant edge offensively or defensively by the numbers. The Tribe does not beat themselves as they are one of the least penalized teams in the field, and average a +1 (+11 overall) turnover margin per game. Add the difference between playing in the Northeast as opposed to the Colonial and this doesn’t look close.


  • Western Illinois @ Dayton

The surprise entry in the field; Western Illinois goes to Dayton with the worst record in the field at 6-5. But don’t let that fool you, as they are 3-3 against teams who made the playoff field. The Flyers were looking at an undefeated season before last week’s slip up against Drake. Still, they won 10 of 11 games, but that was in the Pioneer League, not a breeding ground of pain like the Missouri Valley. If Western Illinois gets healthier this week, this game might get ugly, if not, they should still have enough to survive.