FCS First Round: Samford-Youngstown State
FCS Playoffs First Round
The Matchup - Samford (7-4) at Youngstown State (8-3)
Kickoff - 5 p.m. ET Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium (20,630) in Youngstown, Ohio
Coverage - ESPN3
Series - Youngstown State leads 3-0
Players to Watch - Samford: QB Devlin Hodges (342 of 479, 3,716 yards, 33 TDs, 8 INTs); WR Karel Hamilton (100 receptions, 1,242 yards, 14 TDs), LB Shaheed Salmon (88 tackles, 13 TFL); Youngstown State: RB Martin Ruiz (1,008 yards, 10 TDs), DE Derek Rivers (37 tackles, 10 sacks, 15 QB hurries), S LeRoy Alexander (50 tackles, 3 INTs)
The Skinny - Youngstown State school president Jim Tressel is the proud papa of the week. The Penguins program that he coached to four FCS national titles in the 1990s is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2006. His first title came in 1991 following a 10-0 win over Samford in the semifinals. The Penguins are coming off a blowout win over Missouri State in which they had three rushers gain 166 yards or more (Ruiz, Jody Webb and Joe Alessi). The QB position hasn't been settled for coach Bo Pelini, and Hunter Wells is the better passer and Ricky Davis the more mobile signal caller. The defense features the FCS' active sacks leader in Rivers, but the unit is particularly stout against the run. The Penguins also feature place-kicker Zak Kennedy and punter Mark Schuler. Samford is regrouping from a surprising loss to East Tennessee State, the Bulldogs' third in four games and nearly enough to keep them from an at-large bid. It may not take long for their offense to leave the losses behind because it has produced 30 scoring drives of less than two minutes. Hodges, the Southern Conference's offensive player of the year, dissects opponents with a quick-strike, short passing game. Hamilton has hit the 100-reception mark and Kelvin McKnight and Emmanuel Obajimi have combined for 103 catches. Salmon and defensive ends Ahmad Gooden and Roosevelt Donaldson have gotten into opposing backfields for a combined 41 tackles for loss. Lanky cornerback Omari Williams is tied for second in the FCS with 18 passes defended.
Up Next - The winner plays at No. 3 seed Jacksonville State (10-1) in the second round Dec. 3.
Prediction - Despite last Saturday's results, this is a terrific matchup. Youngstown State was 6-0 at home, but the Missouri Valley Football Conference schedule set up nicely for that to happen. Youngstown State 27-21.