And then there were eight.
The playoffs in the FCS always serve as one of the more underrated events, and last week’s slate of games delivered as the number of teams remaining dwindled. We had upsets, shootouts and a bunch of blowouts in the second round. The one thing we didn’t have, though, was a ton of close games as only one affair was decided by a single score.
Kennesaw State Owls (Defeated Jacksonville State 17-7)
For the second straight week, the Owls make this list and it’s impossible not to fall in love with this team’s story. Kennesaw State’s dream season keeps getting better and the Owls are now in the quarterfinals in just their third year of having a football team. Their defense was fantastic with Bryson Armstrong leading the way, holding Jacksonville State to under 200 total yards of offense. On the other side of the ball, the Owls were able to go on long, clock-killing drives in the second half that salted away the game.
The Owls are on top of the world and have a decent shot to make the semifinals. This week they will face Sam Houston State and should be able to put up points and control the ball against the Bearkats’ defense.
Weber State Wildcats (Defeated Southern Utah 30-13)
Throughout the year I have been saying that this Weber State team is one to watch. The Wildcats were underrated coming into the campaign and stayed that way in the regular season, but are now showing how talented they really are when it matters the most.
The Wildcats avenged their one loss to an FCS opponent by handling the Thunderbirds by 17 points last weekend. Stefan Cantwell had a phenomenal game in the Weber State victory, totaling over 400 yards of offense. The defense was lights out, too. Southern Utah was held under 220 total yards by a Wildcats defense that had a chip on its shoulder after falling apart against the Thunderbirds earlier in the year.
We are about to see just how good the Wildcats really are. They face the undisputed best team in the country in James Madison, and a win in Harrisonburg would be huge for Jay Hill and the program.
Movin’ On Down
Jacksonville State Gamecocks (Lost to Kennesaw State 17-7)
For the third time in four seasons, being the No. 3 seed proved to be a curse for the Gamecocks. Jacksonville State looked lifeless on offense in the loss to Kennesaw State and the defense had trouble in the second half once the Owls ran away from Darius Jackson.
The Gamecocks may be getting even more bad news, too. John Grass has won four straight Ohio Valley Conference titles since taking over the program from Bill Clark in 2014, but he has been linked to the South Alabama head coaching job. After Clark’s success at UAB, other schools have been kicking the tires on Grass in hopes of replicating those results, so the Jaguars might pull the trigger and hire Grass. That would be a huge loss for the program.
Central Arkansas Bears (Lost to New Hampshire 21-15)
The Bears have only themselves to blame for their early exit from the postseason. Central Arkansas doubled up New Hampshire in terms of yardage, but four turnovers doomed the Bears. It was a disappointing end to the season for Central Arkansas, which put together its best regular season ever as a member of the FCS.
Central Arkansas may be in danger of losing its head coach, too. Steve Campbell is a hot name right now and has been linked to a couple different vacancies. He has been around the Southeast as a coach for the last three decades and has a slew of connections.
FCS Playoff Power Rankings (Updated 12/6)
1: James Madison Dukes
2: North Dakota State Bison
3: South Dakota State Jackrabbits
4: Weber State Wildcats
5: Sam Houston State Bearkats
6: Wofford Terriers
7: Kennesaw State Owls
8: New Hampshire Wildcats
9: Central Arkansas Bears
10: Jacksonville State Gamecocks
11: Southern Utah Thunderbirds
12: Northern Iowa Panthers
13: South Dakota Coyotes
14: Furman Paladins
15: Stony Brook Seawolves
16: San Diego Toreros
17: Western Illinois Leathernecks
18: Elon Phoenix
19: Samford Bulldogs
20: Nicholls State Colonels
21: Monmouth Hawks
22: Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
23: Central Connecticut State Blue Devils
24: Lehigh Mountain Hawks