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First Round FCS Playoffs & Bayou Classic Preview & Predictions

2022 Predictions Record: 94-31 (Last Week: 8-3)

We predict the top Round 1 games from the FCS Playoffs slate & the 2022 Bayou Classic 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.

***We will be covering Southeastern Louisiana v. Idaho this weekend, which is why that matchup is not listed in our predictions below.***

Southern vs Grambling State (1pm/CT; NBC)

Grambling State ended a 3-game Southern winning streak in this historic rivalry last season and could play spoiler again this season. The rushing attack will be key for the Tigers behind the legs of Maurice Washington (540 Rushing Yards; 7 TDs) who is leading the SWAC in Yards per Carry this season (9.8 YPC) by a significant margin. Lewis Matthews (97 Total Tackles; 10.5 TFLs) and Sundiata Anderson (12.5 TFLs; 7 Sacks) have been the defensive leaders for the Tigers and will key pieces for slowing down a Southern rushing attack averaging over 200 yards per game. 

Southern needs a win this weekend to clinch their spot in the SWAC Championship next weekend against Jackson State. There is a major question on who will start at QB for the Jaguars, but running backs Karl Ligon (484 Rushing Yards; 4 TDs) and Kendric Rhymes (316 Rushing Yards; 4 TDs) need to have big games to take the pressure off whoever takes the first snaps at QB. The Jaguars defense has allowed less than 105 yards per game on the ground, which will be key against a Grambling State rushing attack averaging over 4.5 yards per carry this season. Trey Laing (13.5 TFLs; 4.5 Sacks) and Tahj Brown (11.5 TFLs; 6.5 Sacks) are two players to watch defensively for the Jaguars in this matchup. 

Prediction: Southern (24-21)

Elon @ Furman (11am/CT; ESPN+)

Elon will look to win their first FCS Playoffs game in school history and will face Furman for the 2nd time in the postseason. Jalen Hampton (1023 Rushing Yards; 10 TDs) has lead the Phoenix offensive attack, but Matthew McKay (2471 Passing Yards; 24 Total TDs) could be the x-factor against a Paladin defense allowing over 260 passing yards per game. Marcus Hillman (16.5 TFLs; 8.5 Sacks) has been dominant this season and will need to be the leader of the Phoenix defense against a Paladin rushing attack averaging over 214 rushing yards per game. 

Furman has not won a playoff game since 2017, which was a 28-27 win over Elon in the 1st Round of the FCS Playoffs. The Paladins have done an excellent job rushing the ball this season behind Dominic Roberto (963 Rushing Yards; 10 TDs) and playmaking ability of Tyler Huff (537 Rushing Yards; 5 TDs). Ryan Miller (652 Receiving Yards; 11 TDs) can be a huge matchup nightmare at the tight end position. Braden Gilby (76 Total Tackles; 14 TFLs) and Bryce McCormick (60 Total Tackles) will be key players to watch this weekend for the Paladins defense. 

Prediction: Furman (23-20)

Saint Francis (PA) @ Delaware (1pm/CT; ESPN+)

Saint Francis won their 3rd conference title in school history and will look to win their first FCS Playoffs game in school history against the Blue Hens. The Red Flash have been extremely balanced on the offensive side of the ball, but Cole Doyle (1849 Passing Yards; 21 TDs) has exploded onto the scene this season at the QB position. Two freshman standouts at WR lead the passing attack as Makai Jackson (920 Receiving Yards; 8 TDs) and Elijah Sarratt (664 Receiving Yards; 13 TDs) will challenge the Blue Hens secondary in this matchup. 

Delaware has made it past the 1st Round of the FCS Playoffs in six of their last seven appearances in the postseason. Nolan Henderson (2934 Passing Yards; 28 TDs) needs to have a big game for the Blue Hens and expect Jourdan Townsend (672 Receiving Yards; 6 TDs) to be one of the biggest targets for Henderson this weekend. The Delaware secondary could be the x-factor in this game as the Blue Hens are allowing less 135 yards per game and have allowed only seven total touchdowns through the air this season. 

Prediction: Delaware (34-24)

Fordham @ New Hampshire (1pm/CT; ESPN+)

Fordham makes their first appearance in the FCS Playoffs since 2015, but will look to win their first playoff game since 2014. Tim DeMorat (4561 Passing Yards; 53 TDs) set the FCS record for the most passing touchdowns in the regular season and will look to lead Fordham through the FCS Playoffs. Fotis Kokosioulis (1180 Receiving Yards; 14 TDs), Dequece Carter (1115 Receiving Yards; 12 TDs), and MJ Wright (1061 Receiving Yards; 10 TDs) might be one of the most explosive receiving trio in the entire country. James Conway (114 Total Tackles) and Ryan Greenhagen (103 Total Tackles) will be the key players to watch defensively for the Rams. 

New Hampshire won the most recent FCS Playoffs matchup between these programs in 2014. The Wildcats have been dominant on the defensive line and that will be key as New Hampshire looks to find ways to get pressure on Tim DeMorat. Dylan Ruiz (13.5 TFLs; 11 Sacks) and Josiah Silver (14 TFLs; 8.5 Sacks) will be the players to watch and both could have a huge impact on this game up front for the Wildcats. Dylan Laube (996 Rushing Yards; 12 TDs) will need to have a big game this weekend as the Wildcats need to control the time of possession and keep the Fordham offense on the sidelines. 

Prediction: Fordham (38-35)

Davidson @ Richmond (1pm/CT; ESPN+)

Davidson will make their 3rd consecutive FCS Playoffs appearance, but will look to win their first postseason game in school history. The Wildcats enter this matchup leading the country in rushing offense as five different players have topped the 300-yard mark for the season. Running backs Dylan Sparks (785 Rushing Yards; 5 TDs) and Coy Williams (779 Rushing Yards; 11 TDs) have been the leaders of the Wildcats rushing attack. The x-factor will be the secondary slowing down one of the most efficient passing attacks in the country and Kaedon Jenkins (12 Pass Breakups) will be one of the key players to watch in the secondary.

Richmond finds themselves in the FCS Playoffs for the first time since 2016 when the Spiders made a run to the quarterfinals. Reece Udinski (3152 Passing Yards; 24 TDs) has been one of the most efficient QBs in the country, but will face a secondary that has only allowed three teams to surpass 200 yards passing this season. Linebackers Tristan Wheeler (97 Total Tackles; 9 TFLs) and Phillip O’Connor (80 Total Tackles; 6.5 TFLs) have been the leaders of the #1 rushing defense in the CAA, which will be the x-factor against the powerful rushing attack for the Wildcats. 

Prediction: Richmond (33-14)

North Dakota @ Weber State (3pm/CT; ESPN+)

North Dakota looks to win the 2nd FCS Playoffs game in school history this weekend against the Wildcats. Tommy Schuster (2546 Passing Yards; 17 TDs) will need to continue his efficient play through the air against a Weber State secondary that has forced 15 interceptions. Tyler Hoosman (885 Rushing Yards; 12 TDs) is going to be an important offensive weapon to offer some balance to the offensive attack, while Bo Belquist (790 Receiving Yards; 6 TDs) has to continue being the #1 target for Schuster. 

Weber State has made three runs to the quarterfinals under Jay Hill, including a run to the semifinals in 2019. RBs Dontae McMillan (681 Rushing Yards; 5 TDs) and Damon Bankston (571 Rushing Yards; 7 TDs) could be primed for big performances against a North Dakota rushing defense allowing over 5.0 yards per carry. Defensive backs Maxwell Anderson (5 INTs; 9 PBUs) and Eddie Heckard (2 INTs; 8 PBUs) are two players that could change the game defensively for the Wildcats this weekend. 

Prediction: Weber State (42-23)

Gardner-Webb @ Eastern Kentucky (4pm/CT; ESPN+)

Gardner-Webb will make their first appearance in the FCS Playoffs in school history after winning their 3rd Big South conference title. The Runnin’ Bulldogs will look to do just that this weekend against an Eastern Kentucky defense allowing over 225 yards per game on the ground. Narii Gaither (613 Rushing Yards; 5 TDs) has topped the 100-yard mark in back-to-back games, while Bailey Fisher (7 Rushing TDs) is a threat to make plays with his legs in the redzone. The defensive line is led by Ty French (12.5 TFLs; 10 Sacks) who will need to generate pressure to slow down a dangerous Easter Kentucky passing attack. 

Eastern Kentucky makes their first FCS Playoffs appearance since 2014, but has a storied history in the postseason with 2 National Championships in school history. Parker McKinney (3502 Passing Yards; 28 TDs) has had an explosive season for the Colonels and could take advantage of a Gardner-Webb secondary allowing over 248 yards per game through the air. The Colonels have two major playmakers on the defensive side of the ball in Matthew Jackson (78 Total Tackles; 5.5 TFLs) and TK McLendon (11 TFLs; 6 Sacks) who could give the Runnin’ Bulldogs problems after giving up almost 30 sacks this season. 

Prediction: Eastern Kentucky (37-24)

Southeast Missouri State @ Montana (9pm/CT; ESPN2)

Southeast Missouri State is making the 4th FCS Playoffs appearance after winning the 3rd OVC championship in school history. The Redhawks have been extremely balanced on the offensive side of the ball with Paxton DeLaurent (2155 Passing Yards; 17 TDs) and Geno Hess (1446 Rushing Yards; 19 TDs) leading the SEMO offensive attack. Wide receivers Ryan Flournoy (755 Receiving Yards; 6 TDs) and Johnny King (706 Receiving Yards; 5 TDs) are going to be major threats to a Griz secondary allowing less than 190 yards per game through the air. 

Montana will make their 26th appearance in the FCS Playoffs and have not lost in the 1st Round since a 2007 loss to Wofford. The Griz will rely on the play of Lucas Johnson (1857 Passing Yards; 26 Total TDs) against a Redhawks defense allowing 239 yards per game through the air. Nick Ostmo (740 Rushing Yards; 7 TDs) has emerged as a dynamic threat on the ground for the Griz. Patrick O’Connell (13 TFLs; 8 Sacks) and Marcus Welnel (11.5 TFLs; 5.5 Sacks) are going to be x-factors on the defensive side of the ball against the dominant SEMO rushing attack. 

Prediction: Montana (31-28)

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