2022 FCS Playoffs: Quarterfinal Predictions

The second round of the FCS playoffs went chalk as all eight seeds won. Who wins this week to advance to the semifinals?

Let’s predict some scores.


Predictions Record:
2022 record: 88-41
2019-2021 record: 244-115


Quarterfinal

RELATED: Quarterfinal Betting Odds

#6 Samford at #3 North Dakota State

Game Preview

A southern team with an up-tempo passing offense and a gettable rushing defense going to the Fargodome is historically not a favorable playoff matchup.

Samford has yet to lose to an FCS team this season, an impressive accomplishment, especially in the top-to-bottom competitive SoCon. The squad has great talent, especially at the offensive skilled positions. Standout QB Michael Hiers tried to play last week in the 48-42 OT win vs. Southeastern Louisiana, but he left early after aggravating his throwing hand/wrist. Quincy Crittendon stepped in and was a gamer, finishing 26/40 for 314 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions while also rushing for 94 yards and a score. His running ability compared to the pocket-passer Hiers may actually be better for Samford’s offense. NDSU has more difficulties defending an elusive QB, and immobile QBs have taken their lumps in the Fargodome. But a freshman playing in the loud Fargodome (even if it’s not a sellout) also presents its challenges.

Samford may jump out to a quick 7-0 lead before the Bison adjust. But the Fargodome crowd will help NDSU’s defensive line overwhelm Samford’s o-line and throw the offense out of rhythm. Plus, NDSU’s secondary is its strength and is No. 3 in the FCS with 149.4 passing yards allowed per game.

NDSU will overwhelm the Bulldogs in the trenches on the other side of the ball as well. Very few FCS teams can line up and battle NDSU’s OL for all four quarters. Samford allowed 348 yards on the ground to Southeastern and is ranked 82nd in the FCS with 174.3 rushing yards allowed per game. And maybe people don’t realize this because the two teams do it in different ways, but NDSU is averaging 36.0 PPG (No. 13 in the FCS) and Samford is averaging 34.8 PPG (No. 21).

If Samford can hit on explosive plays and utilize Crittendon’s legs to extend drives, the Bulldogs may be able to give NDSU a game. But the Bison have eaten in these stylistic matchups plenty of times, and they are just at another level on the lines to take control of this game.

Prediction: NDSU 45-21


#5 William & Mary at #4 Montana State

Game Preview

This is a fun cross-country matchup pitting the best CAA team vs. arguably the best Big Sky team. Two squads that want to run the ball and can do it in a variety of ways.

Montana State’s defense has not been as strong as in previous years, but most of the damage done against the Bobcats has been through the air. The Bobcats allowed 128.8 YPG on the ground compared to 235.3 passing YPG. The run defense is solid, and it starts up front with DT Sebastian Valdez plugging things up. W&M is more of a threat passing the ball than MSU. Darius Wilson has thrown for 2,190 yards, 16 TDs, and six interceptions. That can keep the Bobcats off-balanced and result in the safeties getting picked on if their eyes aren’t right and they bite on some play-action. If W&M is to win, Wilson will need a big day. But a late game, in the cold, and in front of a loud crowd will make it tough for the passing attack to take over.

MSU’s rushing attack has looked unstoppable all season. And it got even better with the return of 2021 First Team All-American RB Isaiah Ifanse. W&M needs to be disruptive with the likes of Nate Lynn and John Pius to force passing situations. And the safeties are going to have to close off running lanes in the hurry because MSU can come downhill at you with the likes of Ifanse and QB Sean Chambers, but they are also so good with QB Tommy Mellott and RB Elijah Elliott getting to the perimeter as the athletic offensive line gets out in space.

MSU looks like one of the hottest teams in the FCS right now. The Bobcats are rolling on offense and they have played their best defense lately. It’s a late kick for W&M’s body clocks, in the cold, on a short week, some long journey across the country, and in front of a rowdy crowd.

Prediction: Montana State 38-21


#7 UIW at #2 Sac State

Game Preview

Last week, I wrote it was a good thing for UIW that it became known head coach GJ Kinne was taking the Texas State HC job instead of speculating. While not ideal, it at least gave the players an answer to something they were all wondering. Well, this week, Sac State players have been the ones wondering if their head coach is staying or going as Troy Taylor has been linked to the Stanford opening. As of this writing, he was a Top 2 finalist for the job and the other finalist Jason Garrett tweeted last night that he is staying with his current TV gig.

While at the end of the day, it’s the players that decide the game on the field, preparation in the days leading up to games is so important. And any deviation from that preparation can be harmful.

The game will come down to UIW’s passing attack vs. Sac State’s rushing attack. Lindsey Scott Jr. is having a Walter Payton Award-winning season, throwing for 4,185 yards, 55 TDs, and six interceptions. If you are going to have success against Sac State’s defense, it is through the air. The Hornets allow 131.2 rushing yards per game and 243.5 passing YPG, which is 91st in the FCS.

Sac State does not want to get into a track meet with UIW where both QBs throw 40+ times. Jake Dunniway has made big-time throws in clutch moments, but he has thrown seven interceptions in a three-game span in October and threw three more picks last week in the rain vs. Richmond. Sac State will want to have long drives on the ground, chewing up the clock and testing how well UIW holds up physically. I expect RB Cameron Skattebo and QB Asher O’Hara to combine for at least 50 carries. UIW has gotten tougher defensively compared to past years and allows 140.6 rushing yards per game.

I think the more physical team wins. The Hornets running game can control the pace of the game and defensively will have more opportunities for turnovers. Sac State has also found ways to win late in games vs. ranked opponents several times this year. They do it again tonight.

Prediction: Sac State 35-31


#8 Holy Cross at #1 South Dakota State

Game Preview

Holy Cross has reached four FCS playoffs in a row. The Crusaders have a lot of upperclassmen who started as underclassmen on those teams. This is a veteran squad that has built up to this moment, utilizing physicality with its style of play and showcasing the talent it has accrued through some of the better FCS recruiting classes under Bob Chesney and his staff.

The team erased doubts last week in a convincing 35-19 over New Hampshire. But it is running into the most talented team in the FCS this weekend.

The Jackrabbits continue to peak the more games they play, a sign of a championship squad. A stout Holy Cross front seven may be able to hold its own in the trenches for parts of this game, but SDSU RB Isaiah Davis will get his yards and is usually good for one highlight-reel run per playoff game. This could be a big day for Mark Gronowski and his dangerous group of WRs and TEs. The Crusaders allow some explosive plays through the air, especially if they are loading the box.

The No. 1 objective for Holy Cross defensively will be to stop the run. The problem, though, is defending TE Tucker Kraft or the Janke twins in 1-on-1 coverage is going to result in mismatches somewhere on the field. SDSU first-year OC Zach Lujan has done a good job of identifying and attacking those mismatches all year.

A big difference in this year’s Holy Cross team is a more dynamic offense, going from 32.23 points per game last year to 38.8 PPG. Matthew Sluka taking the next step as a passer has been key in that, going from 1,512 yards passing and an 11:5 TD:INT ratio to 2,364 yards and a 26:3 TD:INT ratio. Finding success on the ground against the top FCS rushing defense will be an uphill battle. Sluka will have to win it with his arm and the weapons on the outside, but that isn’t the comfort zone for Holy Cross.

If SDSU plays a clean game, it will be too much for Holy Cross to keep up with the Jacks in the second half.

Prediction: SDSU 41-17

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