By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
College Sporting News
In the past, these conferences might only have four to five teams make the field but now all can see the strength of power definitely is shifting from the East to the West with all but two of the eight playoff games this week involving a West team.
What teams are playing this week?
The games this week include the following six:
South Dakota State at #1 North Dakota State (10-1)
Central Arkansas (9-2) at #5 Georgia Southern (8-3)
Stony Brook at #3 Montana State (10-1)
Cal Poly (9-2) at Sam Houston State (8-3)
Illinois State (8-3) at Appalachian State (8-3)
Wagner at #2 Eastern Washington (9-2)
With this line-up, we are assured of at least two West teams playing in the quarterfinals as two games involve pairings between two West squads.
And most likely, we will see at least half of these teams make it to Round 3 as three of the five seeds are from the West.
How does this year compare to this time last year?
At the round of 16 a year ago, we saw just six teams playing. Of course, we saw five of the six win their games last year.
We shall see if five or more make it this year to the quarterfinals.
Remember, last year three of the four semi-finalists and the two teams playing in the national championship game resided in the West.
For someone that has covered this region for the past eight seasons, the balance of power is finally this way.
Given the seeds and the number of teams, it appears as if we will see at least a duplication of last year. Of course, two seeded teams from the east in Old Dominion and Georgia Southern might have something to say about it but from where I sit, I like the West’s chances to make it three titles in a row.
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CSN West Playoff Round 2 Predictions
With six games, I will just give a brief overview of each game.
South Dakota State (9-3) at #1 North Dakota State (10-1), 4pm (ET)
This is the CSN game of the week as these two Dakota Marker rivals meet in this game. The trophy, however, will not be up for grabs as this is reserved just for the regular season winner. This is not only the first time the two have played in the postseason but will be the 100th overall meeting between these two rivals.
The Jackrabbits easily won their first ever playoff game last week in defeating Eastern Illinois, 58-10. Running back Zach Zenner rushed for a school-record 295 yards and three touchdowns.
The two teams played just three weeks ago—a 20-17 Bison win and that game was also in Fargo.
I believe these rivals have the best defenses of all the playoff teams so I think this will be a low scoring game. Turnovers and the home crowd will likely be the biggest factors in this game.
Given that, I will take the Bison by the same field goal margin and score as their meeting earlier this season.
North Dakota State 20 South Dakota State 17.
Central Arkansas (9-2) at #5 Georgia Southern (8-3), 2 pm (ET)
This is the second all-time meeting between these two schools. The only other meeting came in the 2006 regular-season finale. The Bears defeated the Eagles 34-31 in overtime at Paulson Stadium.
It's a battle of contrasting offensive styles with the Bears employing the passing game and the Eagles with the running game.
Both are able to move the ball at times very easily so I think this will be a rather high scoring game. But with the game being in Statesboro, I don’t see Georgia Southern losing there. The game, however, I believe will be closer than most experts think. I will take the Eagles by a touchdown.
Georgia Southern 45 Central Arkansas 38.
Stony Brook (10-3) at #3 Montana State (10-1) 7 pm (ET)
I see the Bobcats easily winning this game in Bozeman. They will be able to handle the Seawolves rushing attack and I believe will be able to score on the Stony Brook defense.
Montana State 35 Stony Brook 17.
Cal Poly (9-2) at Sam Houston State (8-3), 4 pm (ET)
Sam Houston State and Cal Poly meet in Texas and the biggest factor will be what will give--the third-ranked Bearkat FCS rushing defense (76 yards per game) or the Mustang third-ranked FCS rushing offense (333 yards per game).
I think the offense of SHSU will be able to score and a little more than the Mustangs.
Sam Houston State 42 Cal Poly 31.
Illinois State (8-3) at Appalachian State (8-3), 2 pm (ET)
Appalachian State will be looking to make a statement after its last two trips to the playoffs have ended in disappointing fashion. In 2010, the Mountaineers were outplayed versus Villanova, losing, 42-24. Last season, Maine went into Boone, N.C., and shocked ASU, running away with a 34-12 victory.
The Redbirds have the ability to win this game in my opinion with MVFC offensive player of the year Matt Brown at quarterback. I think the Redbird defense will also be able to stop the Mountaineers.
Given the past history, I don’t think the home field will hold serve over ISU for ASU. I will take the Redbirds by a field goal.
Illinois State 27 Appalachian State 24.
Wagner (9-3) at #2 Eastern Washington (9-2), 6pm (ET)
Like the Montana State game, I think this is a mismatch. Eastern Washington will be able to throw the ball easily and I believe the Eagles will have this game won at the halftime break.
I will take the Eagles easily.
Eastern Washington 42 Wagner 14.