That’s almost a third of the remaining field.
By Myron Hosea
CSN So South Columnist
College Sporting News
Coastal Carolina (8-4) won 24-14 at Bethune-Cookman while Stony Brook (10-2) won a home game over Villanova 20-10.
The Chanticleers will face Old Dominion (10-1) on the road while the Seawolves visit Montana State (10-1). Montana State is the 3rd seed for the playoffs, and Old Dominion is the 4th seed. The CCU-ODU game is a 2 p.m. start. Stony Brook and Montana State will kick at 7 p.m. Eastern.
Meanwhile, the three co-champions of the SoCon – Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and Wofford – will enter the action this Saturday after drawing first-round byes.
The Mountaineers (8-3) host Illinois State (8-3). New Hampshire (8-3) visits Wofford (8-3). Central Arkansas (9-2) travels to Georgia Southern (8-3), the number 5 seed in the tournament. All three of these games start at 2 p.m.
Coastal Carolina and Stony Brook will have their hands full Saturday. Old Dominion fields one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke leads the FCS in total offense at more than 400 yards per game. He completes 30 passes per game for the Monarchs.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, can call on one of the nation’s best rushing defenses to try to slow down one of the best rushing attacks. Stony Brook is 5th nationally averaging 288 yards per game on the ground. Montana State is 7th against the run, allowing just 96 yards rushing per game.
Georgia Southern faces a nine-win Central Arkansas team that tied Sam Houston State for the Southland Conference championship. The Bears defeated Sam Houston State 24-20.
The Southland named Central Arkansas coach Clint Conque its Coach of the Year. Junior quarterback Wynrick Smothers was named Offensive Player of the Year, and his center – senior Corey Howard – was Offensive Lineman of the Year.
The Eagles’ pass defense will be tested by Smothers and the Bears’ passing attack. Smothers threw for 2,852 yards and 31 touchdowns. Three receivers caught more than 50 passes each (Jesse Grandy 56-744-7, Dominiqu Croom 52-647-8, and Dezmin Lewis 52- 527-6) while three others caught more than 20 each.
Georgia Southern finished sixth in the SoCon in Pass Efficiency Defense and seventh in Passing Yards Allowed (198 per game).
The Eagles, of course, will counter with their triple option attack that led the nation in rushing with 392 yards per game. Quarterback Jerick McKinnon ran for 1,162 yards and 13 touchdowns while running back Dominique Swope added 919 yards and 14 touchdowns (in nine games).
They’ll face a Bears defense paced by Southland Freshman of the Year Jonathan Woodard who made 10.5 tackles for loss.
There could be lots of offense on display at the Rock in Boone when Appalachian State hosts Illinois State.
Leading the Redbirds offense is Missouri Valley Offensive Player of the Year Matt Brown. The quarterback set seven school and four conference career records this year. He passed for 2,676 yards and 20 touchdowns. Wide receiver Tyrone Walker caught 71 passes for 995 yards and six touchdowns. Running back Darrelynn Dunn ran for 850 yards and 12 scores.
On the defense, Illinois State features defensive lineman Colto Underwood whose 89 total tackles included 18 tackles for loss. Linebacker Mike Zimmer led the team with 109 total tackles while safety Ben Erickson intercepted seven passes.
That Redbird defense will face a potent Appalachian State offense, which benefits from three key stars. Quarterback Jamal Jackson threw for 19 touchdowns and 2,905 yards. He can hand off to running back Steven Miller (1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing) or throw to SoCon Freshman of the Year Sean Price (68 catches, 1,029 yards, eight touchdowns).
Mountaineer linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough – the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year – will lead the defense against Illinois State.
Wofford and New Hampshire will be playing on the gridiron for the first time when the teams step on the Gibbs Stadium field Saturday. The Terriers, of course, follow the lead of senior running back Eric Breitenstein. The Walter Payton Award finalist set the school’s career rushing mark this year and broke his own single-season rushing record. He carried the ball 244 times for 1,653 yards and 16 touchdowns. Breitenstein is almost always the preferred option on critical downs.
Clearing the way for Breitenstein is a stout offensive line paced by Jared Singleton (first team), Calvin Cantrell (second), and Tymeco Gregory (second) who all received All-SoCon recognition.
It seemed that every week a different player or two stepped up to make key plays for a Wofford defense that fought through a rash of injuries. Linebacker Alvin Scioneaux was that guy in the Terriers last game at South Carolina. He made first-team All-SoCon. Watch out for defensive lineman Tarek Odom and cornerback Blake Wylie.
The Wofford defense will have to face a Wildcat offense led by sophomores. Quarterback Andy Vailas tossed 18 touchdown passes and threw for 1,506 yards. Running back Nico Steriti ran for 870 yards and nine scores. The leading receiver is wide receiver R. J. Harris who grabbed 73 passes for 981 yards and nine touchdowns.
Linebacker Matt Evans, a senior, made 115 total tackles and will have to lead New Hampshire’s efforts to stop Wofford’s running game. The Terriers are second nationally in rushing, averaging 348 yards a game. The Wildcats allowed an average of 165 yards rushing a game, 67th in FCS.