FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal: Sam Houston State-James Madison
FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal
The Matchup - No. 5 seed Sam Houston State (12-0) at No. 4 seed James Madison (11-1) at Bridgeforth Stadium (24,877) in Harrisonburg, Virginia
Kickoff - 7 p.m. ET Friday
Coverage - ESPN2
Series - First meeting
Coaches - Sam Houston State: K.C. Keeler (34-9, three seasons; 208-82-1 overall); James Madison: Mike Houston (11-1, first season; 54-20 overall)
Players to Watch - Sam Houston State: QB Jeremiah Briscoe (302 of 459, 4,459 yards, 57 TDs, 8 INTs), WR/PR Yedidiah Louis (73 receptions, 1,133 yards, 14 TDs), C Bridge Blount, DE P.J. Hall (48 TT, 21 TFL, 11 sacks, 7 PBU), S Darion Flowers (44 TT, 3 INTs, 7 PBU); James Madison: QB Bryan Schor (186 of 250, 2,397 yards, 23 TDs, 4 INTs; 96 carries, 522 yards, 9 TDs), RB Khalid Abdullah (227 carries, 1,387 yards, 17 TDs), WR/KR Brandon Ravenel (42 receptions, 669 yards, 5 TDs), LB Gage Steele (77 TT, 2 TFL, 3 QB hurries), S Raven Greene (57 TT, 5 INTs, 7 PBU)
The Skinny - This anticipated matchup features two offenses that score in bunches and don't turn the ball over often. Southland Conference champion Sam Houston State only has 13 turnovers and CAA Football champion James Madison averages less than one per game with 11. The visiting Bearkats, the only unbeaten team in the FCS, rank No. 1 nationally in total offense (570.4 ypg) and scoring offense (53.1 ppg), while the Dukes are third in total offense (525.8) and second in scoring offense (48.3). While Sam Houston has never faced James Madison, Keeler did when he coached for 11 seasons at Delaware, most recently in a 13-10 win over the Dukes in 2010. Briscoe has thrown for 57 touchdowns, the FCS single-season record and one shy of former Hawaii QB Colt Brennan's Division I mark, set in 2006. Nathan Stewart (951) and Davion Davis (927) hope to join Louis as Briscoe's 1,000-yard receivers by game's end. The Bearkats' high-powered offense also features RBs Remus Bulmer (816 yards, 7 TDs) and Corey Avery (737 yards, 10 TDs). The defense hasn't been tested in the second half of most wins, but it came up with the necessary stop to finish off a 41-36 second-round win over Chattanooga. Hall commands double-teams and LB Justin Johnson is the team's leading tackler (89). James Madison looks to even its playoff record (10-11) in 13 all-time appearances. Schor is the CAA offensive player of the year and he threw five touchdowns in last Saturday's 55-22 win over New Hampshire. The Dukes are excellent at converting third downs, ranking second in the FCS with 53.7 percent success. Abdullah has rushed for more than 100 yards in eight games. The athletic defense is more bend without breaking, allowing 354.5 yards per game. Defensive end Andrew Ankrah hasn't quite supplied the pass rush of a year ago and DT Simeyon Robinson leads the team with four sacks. Rashard Davis, the CAA special teams player of the team, has returned three punts for touchdowns, while Ravenel went the distance on a kickoff return last Saturday.
Up Next - The winner will play either No. 8 seed South Dakota State (9-3) or No. 1 seed North Dakota State (11-1) in the FCS semifinals either Dec. 16 or 17.
Prediction - Which offense will have the ball last? Well, weather could temper an offensive explosion. The Bearkats, top-ranked in the STATS FCS Top 25, surely won't like the frigid temperatures at night. James Madison, 35-28.