Led by No. 1 JSU, ASN's Fab 14 advances to FCS playoffs
The full 24-team field (ASN teams in bold), including the eight-seeded teams that receive first-round byes: (1) Jacksonville State, (2) Illinois State, (3) North Dakota State, (4) McNeese State, (5) James Madison, (6) Portland State, (7) Richmond, (8) Charleston Southern, Chattanooga, The Citadel, Colgate, Coastal Carolina, Dayton, Duquesne, Eastern Illinois, Fordham, Montana, New Hampshire, Northern Iowa, Sam Houston State, South Dakota State, Southern Utah, Western Illinois and William & Mary.
BYE TEAMS AT A GLANCE
(1) Jacksonville State (10-1, 8-0 OVC) closed out its season with a 42-20 win over Murray State. The Gamecocks' lone loss was a 27-20 decision at Auburn, ranked No. 6 in the FBS at the time. With a top-five ranking in offense and defense in the FCS and a triple-threat of quarterback Eli Jenkins, running back Troymaine Pope and wide receiver Josh Barge, they’ll play the Chattanooga-Fordham winner on Dec. 5.
The best team in the Southland this fall, (4) McNeese State (10-0, 9-0 Southland) is also the only undefeated team in the FCS. Their week 1 game against LSU was cancelled, and they beat conference rival Sam Houston State, 27-10, during the regular season. Dual threat QB Daniel Sams runs the offense and is supported across scrimmage from a defense ranked ninth overall in the FCS. They’ll face the Sam Houston State-Southern Utah on Dec. 5.
The story for (5) James Madison (9-2, 6-2 CAA) is the loss of QB Vad Lee for the season to injury. The Dukes notched an important 38-29 victory over CAA foe Villanova (6-5) on Saturday to close out the regular season. Bryan Schor has replaced Lee capably, with five aerial scores against one pick, and 706 yards through the air. He has also rushed for 297 yards and three scores. The Dukes defense will need to stiffen when they play host to the Colgate-New Hampshire winner on Dec. 5.
(7) Richmond (8-3, 6-2 CAA) will get a first-week bye on the strength of sharing of the Colonial title. The Spiders have defeated CAA rivals James Madison and William & Mary. Jacobi Green works out of the backfield and put up 217 yards in the victory. He has 14 rushing touchdowns on the year. The Spiders, who won the 2008 title, will be making their 10th playoff appearance. They face the Duquesne-William & Mary winner on Dec. 5.
(8) Charleston Southern (9-2, 6-0 Big South) come into the playoffs with the second ranked defense in the FCS. The Buccaneers' option offense is led by playmaker Austin Brown. They beat conference rivals The Citadel and Coastal Carolina, who meet in the first round. CSU gets the winner in the second round of the playoffs on Dec. 5.
SATURDAY'S GAMES AT A GLANCE
Fordham (9-2, 5-1 Patriot) at Chattanooga (8-3, 6-1 Southern), 1 p.m. ET: The Mocs dropped The Citadel earlier this season, whose stock leapt after upsetting the SEC’s South Carolina, 23-20, on Saturday. QB Jacob Huesman doubles as the Mocs' leading rusher. Chattanooga also soundly beat Western Carolina, 41-13, which finished 7-4. Fordham counters with QB Kevin Anderson who threw for nearly 3,000 yards, and RB Chase Edmonds. They put up a signature win against Army this fall and also beat Penn, which ended Harvard’s 22-game winning streak. The Rams defense will be put to the test.
Coastal Carolina (9-2, 4-2 Big South) at The Citadel (8-3, 6-1 Southern), 2 p.m. ET: The news of The Citadel’s win over South Carolina on Saturday sparked off a tumultuous roar among 81,000 Clemson faithful in the state’s northwest corner as they faced Wake Forest. The Bulldogs play another state opponent in the Chanticleers in a first-round playoff game at home. Their triple-option offense confounded the Gamecocks to the tune of 350 rushing yards in a 23-20 victory. The Bulldogs face Coastal Carolina, whose only losses were close contests against Charleston Southern (33-25) and Liberty (24-21). Their defense is well outside the top 50 and will be thoroughly tested by the Bulldogs on the ground. The Chanticleers feature Alex Ross at quarterback and De’Angelo Henderson out of the backfield.
Sam Houston State (8-3, 7-2 Southland) vs. Southern Utah (7-3, 8-8 Big Sky), 3 p.m. ET: SHSU suffered a 59-45 loss to Texas Tech of the FBS, as well as conference foes Lamar and McNeese State. On Saturday they rolled over Southland foe Central Arkansas (7-4, 7-2) to stake a convincing claim to the postseason. With three losses they are ranked sixth in the FCS behind an offense that is ranked ninth in the nation in rushing. Southern Utah enters the postseason ranked 17th in the FCS polls.
New Hampshire (7-4, 5-3 CAA) at Colgate (7-4, 6-0 Patriot), 3:30 p.m. ET: UNH was a bubble team that made the 24-team field and will face a Colgate team that won seven out of its last eight and currently rides a five-game winning. The Red Raiders lost to UNH 26-8 on Sept. 12, but the are playing much better defense after an 0-3 start. The Wildcats counter with a balanced offense with QB Sean Goldrich (1,558 yards, 8 TDs passing) and RB Dalton Crossan (876 yards, 13 TDs rushing).
William & Mary (8-3, 6-2 CAA) vs. Duquesne (8-3, 5-1 NEC), 3:30 p.m. ET: The Tribe are eager for a rematch against Richmond after a tough season ending loss to the Spiders. They registered a 44-41 win over JMU and a 31-17 victory over the CAA’s Towson as part of their playoff drive. DeAndre Houston-Carson leads the Tribe defensively with 86 stops, 4.5 TFLs, and four interceptions, include a 94-yard pick-six in a win over Villanova.
Eastern Illinois (7-4, 7-1 OVC) vs. Northern Iowa (7-4, 5-3), 5 p.m. ET: EIU is the only ASN representative in a bracket that includes a first-round matchup of Montana (7-4, 6-2 Big Sky) vs. South Dakota State (8-3, 5-3 MVFC). The winner of that game will go on to face No. 3 North Dakota State (9-2, 7-1 MVFC). The Panthers finished second in the Ohio Valley behind top-seeded Jacksonville State. Northern Iowa has ex-Illini Aaron Bailey under center who is also the team’s top rusher. Eastern Illinois cracked the top 25 in FCS (#24) while UNI comes into the postseason unranked. The winner will move on to play (6) Portland State (9-2, 6-2 Big Sky).
Above: Jacksonville State's Eli Jenkins leads the No. 1-seeded team in the FCS playoffs. (Courtesy JSU Athletics)