Round 1 of the FCS Playoffs had a couple of so-called “upsets” with three road teams winning, but only one in my mind was a real shocker, that was Jacksonville State’s destruction of Samford 55-14 as the Gamecocks finish off what was a great day for the Ohio Valley Conference. As for the Big Sky, getting four teams into the tournament for the first time in league history, not so much, as two teams lost today.
- Furman fell behind early to South Carolina State, but the Paladins took advantage of some big plays, namely by Jarius Hollman, a 90 yard punt return, then a pick six to win a fifth straight game, 30-20. Furman completed just 3 passes in the game and now earns the right to play NDSU next Saturday in Fargo. Furman may not have the name recognition as Wofford and Georgia Southern do, but remember this team beat both of them this season and the SoCon traditionally plays great football. Should be a good matchup next Saturday at 2:30.
- The MEAC and Ohio Valley go in opposite directions: I made it plain last week that I thought each league should have only got one team into the tournament, the MEAC proved me right, Bethune-Cookman ran into the buzz saw that is Coastal Carolina, while South Carolina State, which had no resume to get in to the field of 24, lost to Furman. Meanwhile, the Ohio Valley, which had not won a playoff game since 2000, got two winners yesterday, Tennessee State clobbered Butler out of the Pioneer, while Jacksonville State was tremendous, rushing for 367 yards to get a date with McNeese State next weekend. Eastern Illinois is still the team getting the spotlight, but if you had the Ohio Valley as the conference with the most teams left, you are a tremendous FCS mind.
- Sam Houston State owns the Big Sky. The Bearkats, who some considered left for dead, save their best football for the playoffs as they ran roughshod over Southern Utah 51-20. SHSU racked up 531 total yards, including 355 rushing, Tim Flanders was great again as they improved their record to 4-0 against the Big Sky the last 2 playoff years. They will play SE Louisiana next week, the Lions beat Sam Houston during the regular season.
- Fordham and Coastal Carolina can score. The Chanticleers and Rams each put up plenty of points yesterday (48 and 37 respectively) but each will receive much stiffer challenges next week, Coastal heads to Missoula, while Fordham plays at Towson. Remember the last time a Patriot League team played at Towson in the playoffs, the Tigers lost (that was Lehigh in 2011).
- SDSU may be the hottest team in the country. Figure the Jacks have been in playoff mode since they lost to Missouri State; they have responded winning five straight games, including a double overtime thriller with Northern Iowa, but also consider they have won 3 straight on the road. Zach Zenner was tremendous again, running for 249 yards and a couple scores, the Jack defense held NAU to just 53 rushing yards and now sets up maybe the matchup of the 2nd round as SDSU plays at Eastern Washington. The Eagles can score with the best of them, but guaranteed they have not faced a defense like SDSU’s.
- We will have 3 conference rematches in the 2nd round and in my mind that’s just no good. Look at Maine, the Black Bears earned the 5th seed and home field, but were placed in same bracket with New Hampshire, the team that Maine just lost to two weeks ago. Eastern Illinois gets paired up with Tennessee State, Tigers are only OVC team to play EIU tough and still lost by a couple of scores, and if there’s one team that SELA didn’t want to see early in the tournament it had to be Sam Houston. That’s why all conference rematches should be bracketed that the earliest they play is the quarters, but that’s another subject for another day.