FCS Playoffs – Intrigue and Solid Matchups

Well just when you think you have it all figured out, the FCS Selection Committee does something to shock the nation once again. This year I was actually pleased with the brackets for the most part but one game caught me off guard and I’ll talk about that later on.  But here it is, the 2007 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Postseason Bracket!

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The bracket show opened with the shocker of the day. The New Hampshire Wildcats, despite a 4-4 conference record, made it into the tourney and their prize is a date in Cedar Falls with the #1 overall seeded Panthers. While shocking, I can also see why the committee decided to use a CAA team since there were so many questionable teams this year in terms of postseason resumes. This also matches up two Payton Award Finalist QBs with UNI’s Eric Sanders and UNH’s Ricky Santos both trying to win their first championship rings. While this game could become a shootout, I think the difference will be Northern Iowa’s defense as they get the key stops and preserve victory for the home crowd.   Northern Iowa 38, New Hampshire 27

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Yes folks its actually going to happen. For the first time ever, Delaware and Delaware State will meet in what is being dubbed “The First Battle of the First State.” This game is long overdue and what better way than to have the first meeting come in a do or die situation. Expect Delaware Stadium to be rocking as it already is one of the louder stadiums in the country but add Delaware State’s fan base, people who have longed to get a shot at the Hens for decades, to the mix and you get a recipe for one of the best matchups of the playoffs. The best part is that its televised this Friday at 1:30 pm on ESPN. Both offenses rely on their passing game as Delaware’s Joe Flacco and DSU’s Vashon Winston both have the ability to beat you with their arms. That may mean the deciding factor in this is Delaware’s Payton Award finalist RB Omar Cuff. Cuff has had an incredible year with 29 rushing TD’s. If the Hornets can’t stop him, expect the Hens to take this one in Newark.  This is shaping up to be a dandy.  Delaware 34, Delaware State 31

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The Panthers are making the three hour trip from Charleston to Carbondale for this intra-state rivalry that sees the 2nd place finishers in the OVC and the Gateway conferences clash. For Eastern Illinois, senior RB Ademola Adeniji finished the regular season with just under 1200 rushing yards and 15 TD’s and is the key to their offense. He needs to have a big game against SIU to give his Panthers a chance and not put all the pressure on young QB Bodie Reeder.  For the Salukis, two words: Nick Hill. The Senior Payton Award finalist had an incredible year passing with 2619 yards and 23 TDs for a passer rating of 175.5. Aside from Northern Iowa, this will be his toughest test of the year to date as he has to contend with a Panther defense that is led by Buchanan finalist Donald Thomas but he has the experience and receiving corps to put up the points that are needed. The home crowd will be the difference as Southern Illinois wins a close one.  Southern Illinois 24, Eastern Illinois 16

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It’s a battle in the Northeast as Fordham makes a return to the FCS Postseason and UMass returns to try and build on its runner up campaign last year. For the Rams to have any chance in this game, they need QB John Skelton to get going early and often. UMass has seemed to struggle if it gets down in games and Fordham has to get out of the gates early. But that will be a problem against a Minutemen defense that is led by Buchanan finalist LB Jason Hatchell. Over the last three regular season games, UMass gave up just 18 points while putting up big numbers through the air thanks to Payton finalist QB Liam Coen.  Coen has had an outstanding year with over 2200 passing yards and 23 TDs. Put all that together with the fact that the game is in Amherst and that tells me UMass will get it done in a very business like manner. You can catch the game on ESPNU this Saturday at Noon.  Massachusetts 41, Fordham 24

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You can impress a lot of people by saying you’re going to the Eagles/Cowboys game in Lake Charles, LA this weekend. Or you might just get weird looks but McNeese State and Eastern Washington fans know that this is the REAL matchup. It’s a high powered Eastern Washington offense vs. a shutdown McNeese State defense. The Cowboys are looking to put the clamps on QB Matt Nichols who passed for over 3000 yards and had 30 TDs while they will try to use their balanced attack to exploit the Eagles’ defense. Expect a mix of QB Derrick Fourroux passing and throwing in the option offense while also seeing a lot of RB Kris Bush. Fourroux’s favorite target is WR Carlese Franklin who caught almost 50 percent of Fourroux’s passes.  Meanwhile, Nichols and his big target WR Aaron Boyce are looking to continue their success through the air while RB Dale Morris will also look to get the ground game going against a stingy Cowboy defense led by their Buchanan finalist in DE Bryan Smith. It will be very close but I’m going to call the upset right now. I think Nichols has a career day and the Eagles escape the Bayou with a win.  Eastern Washington, 20  McNeese State 17

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What a matchup! The two teams who’ve combined to win the last three national championships are paired up in a contest in the North Carolina mountains. Both teams are familiar with each other as they played just 14 months earlier in Boone with the Mountaineers coming out on top 21-10. As much as I’d like to think my alma mater will pull this one off, the problem for me is that JMU has so many new faces and this is basically the same App State team from 2006 that won it all. Oh yeah and they also have that whole beating Michigan thing too. The BIG question mark for JMU will be Rodney Landers. He has looked very suspect passing the ball in recent weeks and if he can’t get that part of his game going, it will be a long afternoon for the Dukes. They need to establish the run early and mix in some throws to keep the Mountaineer defense off balance. For App State, they too have the spread option offense but Armanti Edwards and Kevin Richardson have demonstrated that they are the best at running it. Those are the two guys JMU needs to focus on if they want to have any chance in this game.  In the end, I see a close battle that may come down to the 4th quarter but in the end, experience wins out and the Mountaineers get the win and stay in Boone for another round.  Appalachian State 34, James Madison 21

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Well someone was going to have to make the trip to Missoula and unfortunately for the Terriers, they were picked. It’s a tough break for Wofford being that they were co-champs of the Southern conference and having beaten Appalachian State should’ve had priority but that’s how the ball bounces sometime. I personally thought JMU would end up here but those are the breaks. Wofford is not going to be a pushover for Montana at all and I’m sure Grizz fans are a little surprised to see such a strong opponent in the opening round. Once again, Montana went undefeated and grabbed a seed and they did with another balanced offensive attack. QB Cole Bergquist had over 2700 total yards while RB Lex Hilliard rushed for over 1000 yards to lead the Grizz.  To go with that, they have two very capable receivers in Ryan Bagley and Mike Ferriter who had almost identical stats. Then there is the outstanding defense led by Buchanan finalist Kroy Biermann who has an eye popping 15 sacks this season. Put that together and you might have the most complete team in the field.  Wofford however won’t come in intimidated. They know that they can exploit anyone on the ground with the powerful attack of RB Kevious Johnson along with their QB Josh Collier who had pretty equal stats rushing and passing this year.  Anyone that can beat Appalachian State should also be recognized as a force in the country. In the end though, I think Montana is too complete of a team and that’s a hell of a trek up to Montana for Wofford which could affect them. I think its close in the beginning but the Grizzlies pull away in the second half. Montana 35, Wofford 17

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A record five CAA teams made it in this year and Richmond was certainly deserving as they won the CAA South and narrowly missed the autobid thanks to losing on a coin flip to UMass in a very odd way of determining a conference champion. I saw this Spider team firsthand and they are very impressive both running the ball and on defense.  RB Tim Hightower once again had an impressive campaign finishing with 1500+ yards on the ground and 17 TDs. QB Eric Ward also was efficient with 1800 yards of passing and 12 TDs of his own. The Spiders will see a mirror image of themselves in the Ohio Valley champion Colonels.  They too are led by a senior RB in Bobby Washington who eclipsed the 1000 yard mark this year as well as QB Allan Holland who finished with just under 2000 passing yards and 14 TDs. This one I think will be one of those games that goes under the radar but will be a very closely contested battle as these teams look pretty evenly matched. It will most likely come down to who can make key defensive stops in the 4th quarter. I believe that will be the Spiders who will just be too good down the stretch and will pull this one out late in the game, possibly overtime.   Richmond 23, Eastern Kentucky 20

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