FCS Second Round: Central Arkansas-Eastern Washington
FCS Playoffs Second Round
The Matchup - Central Arkansas (10-2) at No. 2 seed Eastern Washington (10-1)
Kickoff - 4 p.m. ET at Roos Field (8,600) in Cheney, Washington
Coverage - ESPN3
Series - First meeting
Players to Watch - Central Arkansas: QB Hayden Hildebrand (221 of 364, 2,936 yards, 19 TDs, 9 INTs), WR Desmond Smith (67 receptions, 869 yards, 8 TDs), LB George Odum (79 TT, 8 TFL, 4 FF); Eastern Washington: QB Gage Gubrud (300 of 441, 4,071 yards, 40 TDs, 11 INTs; 107 carries, 463 yards, 4 TDs), WR Cooper Kupp (91 receptions, 1,297 yards, 16 total TDs), LB Miquiyah Zamora (84 TT, 4.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks)
The Skinny - Central Arkansas goes from playing on their gray and purple stripes - where they beat Illinois State 31-24 in the first round - to the all-red turf at Eastern Washington, whose Eagles are 5-0 at home this season. Against Illinois State, Hildebrand connected on two touchdown passes with Smith, the Bears' all-time leading receiver. Their offense will want to get a run game going with freshman Carlos Blackman to keep Eastern Washington's high-powered offense of the field. It doesn't help that their defense has surrendered 247.3 passing yards per game. But the second-place finisher in the Southland Conference is dangerous on returns with Tremon Smith handling punts and Jatavious Wilson on kickoffs. Eastern Washington, the Big Sky co-champion, features two of the three players invited to the announcement of the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award, Gubrud and Kupp. They've helped lead the No. 1 passing offense (406.8 ypg), No. 2 total offense (541.3 ypg) and No. 3 scoring offense (44.2 ppg) in the FCS. Gubrud is No. 1 in the FCS in total offense (412.2 ypg) and Kupp must be defended against passes on trick plays (5 of 6, 135 yards, 2 TDs). Not to be overlooked is WR Shaq Hill (65 receptions, 1,104 yards, 15 TDs), also the Eagles' all-time kick returner. The defense has been much-improved this season and allowed its lowest point totals in the final five regular-season games - a 19.8-point average that's huge considering their porous defenses in the past.
Up Next - The winner will play either Richmond (9-3) or No. 7 seed North Dakota (9-2) in the quarterfinals Dec. 9 or 10.
Prediction - Coach Beau Baldwin's Eagles will come out throwing and keep throwing. Eastern Washington, 35-24.