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FCS Playoffs Semifinals Preview & Predictions

2022 Predictions Record: 113-33 (Last Week: 4-0)

We make our predictions for the Semifinals of the FCS Playoffs right here. You can find more detailed previews of some of the biggest games each week on our YouTube channel and each week on our FCS Preview Show.

Incarnate Word @ North Dakota State (Dec. 16, 6pm/CT; ESPN2)

Line: North Dakota State (-9.5)

Key Players: Incarnate Word

QB Lindsey Scott Jr. (71.6% Comp, 4404 Passing Yards, 59 Passing TDs, 632 Rushing Yards, 9 Rushing TDs)

WR Darion Chafin (63 Receptions, 1211 Receiving Yards, 17 TDs)

WR Taylor Grimes (76 Receptions, 1144 Receiving Yards, 15 TDs)

LB Kelechi Anyalebechi (112 Total Tackles, 10 TFLs, 2 INTs, 2 FRs, 3 PBUs)

Key Players: North Dakota State

RB Kobe Johnson (103 Carries, 762 Rushing Yards, 7.4 YPC, 5 Rushing TDs)

QB Cam Miller (69.8% Comp, 1710 Passing Yards, 11 Passing TDs, 365 Rushing Yards, 14 Rushing TDs)

DB Dawson Weber (42 Total Tackles, 2 TFLs, 3 INTs, 5 PBUs, 3 FFs)

DL Spencer Waege (41 Total Tackles, 15.5 TFLs, 8 Sacks, 7 QBHs, 1 FF)

Analysis: Incarnate Word will bring one of the most explosive offenses in the country into the Fargodome and face a North Dakota State passing defense that ranks fourth in the country in passing yards allowed per game. The Bison have only allowed 200+ passing yards twice this season (Arizona & Samford), while Incarnate Word has thrown for over 300+ yards in ten games this season. An underrated aspect of the Incarnate Word offense has been Marcus Cooper (1324 Rushing Yards; 12 TDs) who has topped the 100-yard mark in both playoff games for the Cardinals. 

Injuries for the Bison may be one of the biggest question marks in this matchup as TaMerik Williams was added to the long list of injuries for the North Dakota State offense last weekend. North Dakota State will need to establish their rushing attack behind Kobe Johnson and TK Marshall as the Bison enter this game averaging over six yards per carry on the ground. The Cardinals defense allowed over 300 rushing yards last weekend, which the Bison will try to replicate in this matchup. Cam Miller has been extremely efficient through the air, but has rushed for eight touchdowns in the last three games for the Bison.  

Time of possession & the turnover battle are two key statistics to watch on Friday night. The Bison are 1-2 in games that they lose the turnover battle, while Incarnate Word has done an excellent job in forcing turnovers in key situations. North Dakota State has the ability to dominate the time of possession behind their rushing attack, while Incarnate Word has lost the time of possession battle in ten games this season due to their explosive offense. The Bison have a history of slowing down high-powered offenses utilizing ball control and forcing their opponents to make uncharacteristic mistakes… Will that be the narrative this weekend? 

Prediction: North Dakota State (35-31)

Montana State @ South Dakota State (Dec. 17, 3pm/CT; ESPN2)

Line: South Dakota State (-5.5)

Key Players: Montana State

QB Tommy Mellott (1507 Passing Yards, 10 Passing TDs, 1058 Rushing Yards, 7.1 YPC, 12 Rushing TDs)

RB Isaiah Ifanse (21 Carries, 254 Rushing Yards, 12.0 YPC, 2 Rushing TDs; 2 Games Played Due To Injury)

LB Callahan O’Reilly (83 Total Tackles, 6 TFLs, 3 Sacks, 4 INTs, 3 FFs, 2 FRs)

DL Sebastian Valdez (37 Total Tackles, 10 TFLs, 7.5 Sacks, 2 FFs)

Key Players: South Dakota State

QB Mark Gronowski (64.6% Comp, 2555 Passing Yards, 21 Passing TDs, 10 Rushing TDs)

RB Isaiah Davis (211 Carries, 1190 Rushing Yards, 5.6 YPC, 13 Rushing TDs)

DL Reece Winkelman (27 Total Tackles, 12 TFLs, 6.5 Sacks, 2 FFs, 3 PBUs)

DB DyShawn Gales (27 Total Tackles, 3 TFLs, 3 INTs, 4 PBUs)

Analysis: The Bobcats and Jackrabbits meet in the semifinals for the second straight season as Montana State won a 31-17 game last season to advance to Frisco. South Dakota State enters this game with the second ranked defense in the country as the Jackrabbits have held opponents to under 265 yards per game. Jason Freeman (68 Total Tackles; 7 TFLs) and Isaiah Stalbird (40 Total Tackles; 4 PBUs) have stepped up in the absence of All-American LB Adam Bock. The defensive line will be key this weekend against a dominant Montana State rushing attack as Reece Winkelman and Caleb Sanders (8 TFLs; 6 Sacks) have been the leaders for the defensive line.  

Montana State looks to be peaking at the right time this season as the Bobcats lead the country in rushing offense as they are averaging 332.4 yards per game on the ground. The Bobcats have rushed for 320+ yards in four straight games and have surpassed three or more rushing touchdowns in eleven games this season. Isaiah Ifanse missed the entire season due to an injury, but has averaged 12.0 yards per carry in his first two games since his return. The Jacks allowed a season-high 261 rushing yards last week to Holy Cross, which is something Tommy Mellott & Sean Chambers (18 Rushing TDs) could try to exploit this weekend in Brookings. 

The question becomes will the Jackrabbits find a way to neutralize the versatile rushing attack of the Bobcats this weekend? If the Bobcats need to stretch the field vertically then expect Willie Patterson (579 Receiving Yards; 9 TDs) to be a key player on Saturday afternoon. Isaiah Davis and Amar Johnson (549 Rushing Yards; 5 TDs) are the leaders for South Dakota State on the ground. Both are going to be key pieces this weekend as the Jackrabbits need to establish the rushing attack against a Bobcats defense that is only allowing 129.2 yards per game on the ground. 

Prediction: Montana State (24-21)

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