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December 01, 2016

FCS Playoffs Second Round

The Matchup - Youngstown State (9-3) at No. 3 seed Jacksonville State (10-1)

Kickoff - 2 p.m. ET at Burgess-Snow Field (24,000) in Jacksonville, Alabama

Coverage - ESPN3

Series - First meeting

Players to Watch - Youngstown State: RB Martin Ruiz (191 carries, 1,086 yards, 11 TDs), RB Jody Webb (138 carries, 847 yards, 4 TDs), DE Derek Rivers (14.5 TFL, 11 sacks, 16 QB hurries); Jacksonville State: QB Eli Jenkins (149 of 285, 1,967 yards, 10 TDs, 6 INTs; 150 carries, 795 yards, 12 TDs); DE Darius Jackson (15 TFL, 10 sacks, 13 QB hurries); FS Marlon Bridges (79 TT, 4 INTs, 5 FF)

The Skinny - Both teams will try to control game clock with their rushing attacks, but both also are strong against the run. Youngstown State averages 262.9 rushing yards per game compared to Jacksonville State's average of 244.5. Ruiz was an All-Missouri Valley Football Conference first-team selection, while Webb is coming off a career-high 174 yards and two touchdowns in the Penguins' first-round playoff win over Samford - a game they led 38-10 midway through the fourth quarter. It took until the seventh game of the season for the Penguins to surrender a rushing touchdown. They've allowed only four on the ground and just 101.2 rushing yards per game, and no FCS opponent has scored more than 24 points. Rivers and fellow DE Avery Moss have keyed the Penguins to an FCS-high 43 sacks and will work to contain the elusive Jenkins. The JSU run game is balanced with Jenkins and RBs Roc Thomas (782 yards, 7 TDs) and Josh Clemons (731 yards, 9 TDs). Jenkins will play in his 53rd career game, tying the school record. An early season injury held back Gamecocks all-time leading receiver Josh Barge (39 receptions, 600 yards, 2 TDs), but he's a clutch veteran. The Gamecocks are plus-12 in turnover margin because their defense has 18 interceptions, led by CB Jaylen Hill's six. They allow only 78.8 rushing yards per game - third lowest in the FCS - and are excellent at limiting big plays as 10 non-FBS opponents have only two carries of 20 or more yards.

Up Next - The winner will play either Wofford (9-3) or No. 6 seed The Citadel (10-1) in the quarterfinals Dec. 9 or 10.

Prediction - Jacksonville State dominates the Ohio Valley Conference, but its play outside the conference also has risen under third-year coach John Grass. Jacksonville State, 24-21.

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