Photo: Zachary Lucy (North Dakota State Athletics)

Second Round FCS Playoffs & SWAC Championship Preview

2022 Predictions Record: 100-33 (Last Week: 6-2)

We make our predictions for the second round of the FCS Playoffs & the 2022 SWAC Championship 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.

New Hampshire @ Holy Cross (11am/CT; ESPN+)

New Hampshire won a high-scoring first round game against Fordham and will look to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2017. Dylan Laube (1153 Rushing Yards; 15 TDs) set the single-game record for total offense last weekend and his explosiveness will be key against a Holy Cross defense allowing less than 4.0 yards per carry. The defense has done an excellent job in forcing turnovers in key situations, which will be tough against Holy Cross who has only turned the football over four times this season. Dylan Ruiz (13.5 TFLs; 11 Sacks) and Josiah Silver (16 TFLs; 8.5 Sacks) will be two players to watch on the defensive side of the ball for the Wildcats.

Holy Cross won their first FCS Playoff game last season against Sacred Heart and will look to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1983. The Crusaders are extremely balanced on offense behind QB Matthew Sluka (3219 Total Yards; 33 Total TDs) who leads the team in both passing & rushing this season. Jalen Coker (838 Receiving Yards; 10 TDs) makes this offensive attack a vertical threat as well and he could be a major factor this weekend against the Wildcats secondary. The Crusaders have been without All-American LB Jacob Dobbs, but Liam Anderson (70 Total Tackles; 11.5 TFLs) has led the defense this season and will be a key player for Holy Cross this weekend. 

Prediction: Holy Cross (31-28)

Furman @ Incarnate Word (1pm/CT; ESPN+)

Furman had one of the most impressive wins of the first round with a 31-6 win over Elon and will look to clinch their first appearance in the quarterfinals since 2005. The Paladins have dominated the line of scrimmage in some of the biggest games of their season, which has led Dominic Roberto (1061 Rushing Yards; 10 TDs) to his first career 1,000-yard season. The defense has held opponents to less than 3.6 yards per carry and forced 16 interceptions this season, which could be key against the explosive passing attack of the Cardinals. Hugh Ryan (4 INTs; 8 PBUs) and Micah Robinson (3 INTs; 6 PBUs) will face their toughest test of the season and need to force Lindsey Scott Jr. into some mistakes if the Paladins are going to pull off the upset. 

Incarnate Word has never advanced past the second round of the FCS Playoffs in school history, which could change this weekend with a win over the Paladins. Lindsey Scott Jr. (3791 Passing Yards; 50 TDs) will look to continue his record-setting pace, but RB Marcus Cooper (1044 Rushing Yards; 10 TDs) has been an underrated weapon for the Cardinals and needs to offer some balance against the strong Paladins defense. The offensive line for the Cardinals have allowed only 13 sacks this season and it will be key to neutralize the Paladins defensive front. The defense is allowing less than 20.0 points per game behind a dominant defensive line led by Steven Parker (10.5 TFLs; 7 Sacks) and Chris Whittaker (9 TFLs; 7.5 Sacks). 

Prediction: Incarnate Word (37-33)

Gardner-Webb @ William & Mary (1pm/CT; ESPN+)

Gardner-Webb exploded for over 400 rushing yards in a first round win over Eastern Kentucky for the first FCS Playoff win in school history. Narii Gaither (858 Rushing Yards; 7 TDs) leads the Runnin’ Bulldogs rushing attack that has totaled over 31 touchdowns this season. Bailey Fisher (2470 Passing Yards; 28 Total TDs) has been a dynamic piece to the offensive attack and is coming off a huge performance against the Colonels last weekend. The Tribe has only allowed seven total sacks this season, but Ty French (14 TFLs; 10.5 Sacks) has been a nightmare to block all season and will need to have a huge game against the Tribe. 

William & Mary has exceeded all expectations in Mike London’s fourth season as the head coach for the Tribe. Bronson Yoder (1061 Rushing Yards; 10 TDs) and Malachi Imoh (709 Rushing Yards; 9 TDs) lead a Tribe rushing attack that ranks 3rd in the country this season. Darius Wilson (1950 Passing Yards; 13 TDs) has done an excellent job at producing explosive plays in key situations, which will be important this weekend against the Runnin’ Bulldogs defense. The defense will be led by Buck Buchanan finalist John Pius (19 TFLs; 11.5 Sacks), but an underrated player to watch will be Nate Lynn (10 TFLs; 6 Sacks) who is quietly putting together an impressive junior season. 

Prediction: William & Mary (30-17)

Delaware @ South Dakota State (2pm/CT; ESPN+)

Delaware had an impressive performance against Saint Francis (PA) last weekend, but face a much tougher test against the top overall seed this weekend. The Blue Hens will have to establish some offensive consistency against one of the best defenses in the country, which makes Nolan Henderson (3200 Passing Yards; 32 TDs) an extremely important piece in this matchup. Jourdan Townsend (674 Receiving Yards; 6 TDs) and Thyrick Pitts (574 Receiving Yards; 10 TDs) will be key players for creating explosive plays against a Jackrabbits secondary allowing less than 185 yards per game through the air. 

South Dakota State won the last matchup against the Blue Hens in the Spring 2021 semifinals to send the Jacks to the FCS National Championship. Mark Gronowski (2247 Passing Yards; 18 TDs) will face one of his toughest tests of the season against a Delaware secondary allowing less than 140 yards per game through the air. The rushing attack could be an important part of this game, which is led by Isaiah Davis (932 Rushing Yards; 10 TDs) and will need to help the offense establish balance this weekend. The rushing defense has been dominant this season for the Jackrabbits, which will put some pressure on DyShawn Gales (3 Interceptions) and the secondary against the Blue Hens. 

Prediction: South Dakota State (24-14)

Weber State @ Montana State (2pm/CT; ESPN+)

Montana State won a competitive 43-38 game over Weber State earlier this season, but will be without defensive coordinator Willie Mack Garza due to a suspension. The Bobcats have one of the most explosive rushing attacks in the country (327.7 YPG; 41 Rushing TDs) and will try to replicate their 347-yard and 4 touchdown performance against the Wildcats in late October. The x-factor in this game could be the return of All-American RB Isaiah Ifanse who missed the entire regular season due to his recovery from knee surgery. 

The Wildcats will be looking for revenge in Bozeman, MT after four safeties due to special team mistakes cost them against the Bobcats earlier this season. Dontae McMillan (745 Rushing Yards; 6 TDs) and Damon Bankston (693 Rushing Yards; 8 TDs) lead a Weber State rushing attack that put up over 300 yards in their first round win over North Dakota. The Bobcats held the Wildcats to less than 80 yards on the ground last game, which is something to monitor this weekend in this game. Winston Reid (101 Total Tackles; 11 TFLs) and Garrett Beck (61 Total Tackles; 6 TFLs) will be two key defensive pieces for the Wildcats to try and slow the potent Montana State rushing attack. 

Prediction: Montana State (38-35)

Southeastern Louisiana @ Samford (2pm/CT; ESPN+)

Southeastern Louisiana won a first round thriller over Idaho after the Vandals missed back-to-back field goals with less than 15 seconds left. Cephus Johnson III (1354 Passing Yards; 15 Total TDs) stole the show for the Lions last weekend and will need to have another huge performance against a Samford defense allowing over 434 yards per game. Carlos Washington Jr. (627 Rushing Yards; 13 TDs) will aim to continue his stellar season for the Lions after his two touchdown performance against the Vandals. Defensive backs Zy Alexander (3 INTs; 4 PBUs) and Donniel Ward-Magee (52 Total Tackles; 3 INTs) could be integral pieces to slowing down one of the most explosive passing offenses in the country.  

Samford won their first SoCon championship since 2013 as the Bulldogs went undefeated against FCS competition this season. Michael Hiers (3290 Passing Yards; 35 TDs) has emerged as one of the best QBs in the country in his first season for the Bulldogs. Wide receivers Chandler Smith (892 Receiving Yards; 10 TDs) and Kendall Watson (851 Receiving Yards; 9 TDs) have been huge weapons for the Samford passing attack. The biggest question mark will be the performance of the rushing defense this weekend as the Bulldogs have allowed over 155 yards per game on the ground this season. Noah Martin (80 Total Tackles; 6 TFLs) and Nathan East (63 Total Tackles; 7 QBHs) will be two key players to watch this weekend against the Lions. 

Prediction: Samford (34-27)

Montana @ North Dakota State (2:30pm/CT; ESPN+)

Montana scored 31 unanswered points to win an exciting first round game against Southeast Missouri State. The Griz were sparked due to elite special teams and Lucas Johnson (2163 Passing Yards; 28 Total TDs) played an outstanding second half for the Griz with two key touchdown passes down the stretch. Nick Ostmo (743 Rushing Yards; 7 TDs) has emerged as a strong rushing threat and will need to add balance against a Bison defense allowing almost 150 yards per game on the ground. 

North Dakota State will look to win their 10th FCS National Championship this season and the Bison enter this game with a 41-3 record in the playoffs. The Bison will be without Hunter Luepke, but running backs TaMerik Williams (559 Rushing Yards; 7 TDs) and Kobe Johnson (508 Rushing Yards; 3 TDs) can be explosive rushing threats for the Bison offensive attack. The Bison secondary is allowing less than 150 yards per game and has forced 11 interceptions, which could be key against the Griz passing attack in this matchup. 

Prediction: North Dakota State (23-16)

Richmond @ Sacramento State (4pm/CT; ESPN+)

Richmond had the most dominant win of the first round with a 41-0 win over Davidson, but the Spiders will face a much tougher test this weekend. Reece Udinski (3398 Passing Yards; 26 TDs) has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country and could take advantage of a Sacramento State secondary that is allowing over 245 yards per game through the air. The Spiders have played excellent against the run this season and that will be key against one of the best rushing attacks in the country. Tristan Wheeler (105 Total Tackles; 11 TFLs) and Phillip O’Connor (86 Total Tackles; 7.5 TFLs) will need to have huge performances this weekend if the Spiders are going to pull off the upset. 

Sacramento State completed an undefeated regular season, but the Hornets are still searching for their first win in the FCS Playoffs. The Hornets are averaging over 250 yards per game on the ground behind Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year Cameron Skattebo (1251 Rushing Yards; 5 TDs) and Asher O’Hara (19 Rushing TDs). Caleb Nelson (1 INT; 10 PBUs) and Dillon Juniel (2 INTs; 6 PBUs) will be key defensive players to watch for the Hornets against the efficient passing attack of the Spiders. Armon Bailey (12.5 TFLs; 6 Sacks) has been a major factor for the Hornets defense and could be a problem for a Richmond offensive line that has allowed 24 sacks this season. 

Prediction: Sacramento State (26-23)

Southern @ Jackson State (3pm/CT; ESPN2)

Southern will aim to win their first SWAC Championship since 2013 and make their first Celebration Bowl appearance in school history. Besean McCray (1619 Passing Yards; 642 Rushing Yards) has been a dual threat weapon for the Jaguars offense and will need to create some explosive plays this weekend. Karl Ligon (541 Rushing Yards) and Kendric Rhymes (336 Rushing Yards) are two names to watch at the RB spot due to injuries going into this matchup. The Jaguars defense will have to generate pressure, which makes Tahj Brown (11.5 TFLs; 6.5 Sacks) and Trey Laing (13.5 TFLs; 4.5 Sacks) integral pieces for Southern. 

Jackson State had an impressive 35-0 win over Southern in late October and the Tigers have not won back-to-back SWAC Championships since 1995-96. Sy’Veon Wilkerson (1039 Rushing Yards; 8 TDs) has emerged as one of the top weapons for the Tigers in his first season at Jackson State. Shedeur Sanders (3083 Passing Yards; 32 TDs) had a three touchdown performance earlier this season against Southern and has been the unquestioned leader of the Tigers this season. The Jackson State defense is one of the best in the FCS and has only surrendered more than 15 points once this season. SWAC Defensive Player of the Year Aubrey Miller (101 Total Tackles; 8 TFLs) and Justin Ragin (14.5 TFLs; 8.5 Sacks) are two key contributors to watch this weekend for the Tigers defense.

Prediction: Jackson State (38-10)

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