Most every college football fan has likely fallen in love with the Kennesaw State Owls. The young program is the story of the FCS Playoffs so far.
The Owls have a beloved mascot that everyone finds adorable, and in just their third year of having a football team they not only made the playoffs but beat Samford in the first round and knocked off Jacksonville State the following week. People are starting to believe in the Owls now, and many are calling for them to pull off the upset against Sam Houston State.
The Bearkats have made the playoffs for seven straight years and have an impressive 15-6 postseason record during that stretch. However, they have yet to win the big game as North Dakota State has knocked them out on three separate occasions.
Last week, Sam Houston State looked like it was set to advance after jumping out to a 41-14 halftime lead over South Dakota, but it fell apart and the Coyotes cut the lead to 44-42 in the fourth quarter. The Bearkats rallied, yet it showed this team has to keep the pedal to the metal at all times.
FCS Quarterfinals Betting Odds
Kennesaw State +3.5
Sam Houston State -3.5
Keep an Eye On…
Sam Houston State boasts one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country in Jeremiah Briscoe. He is the nation’s leading passer and threw for over 500 yards in the Bearkats win over South Dakota last week. He won the Walter Payton Award last season, and while he has not had quite the same success in 2017, he has been extremely competent leading the offense.
Briscoe threw for 57 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions last season and this year his numbers are a bit more realistic. In 2017, he has tossed 41 touchdowns against 12 interceptions, but he has had some struggles with his accuracy.
He completed 55 percent or less of his passes in five games this year, making Sam Houston State more vulnerable than it was in 2016. But Briscoe does take a lot of shots downfield and poured on the yards at the end of the year. He threw for at least 350 yards and four touchdowns in each of his last four games.
The Owls have not seen an offense like this. The only team Kennesaw State faced that airs it out close to as much as Sam Houston State was Samford. The Owls split their two meetings against the Bulldogs this season and Devlin Hodges was able to have success through the air against this team.
Matchup to Watch
While we just broke down the nation’s leading passer, let’s talk about the team that leads the nation in rushing. Kennesaw State is averaging 34 more yards per game on the ground than any other team in the country and the Owls are picking up 5.7 yards per carry on average.
The Owls mostly run an option attack, but they’re able to mix it up a bit as well, which has been key to their success. Quarterback Chandler Burks has run for over 1,000 yards and has proven to be an able pitchman. He has found the end zone 17 times and has thrown for almost 1,200 yards. Kennesaw State uses a plethora of rushers as three running backs have over 600 yards.
Sam Houston State has not been good on defense this year. The Bearkats give up a lot of points, but they aren’t as bad as you might think against the run. They are allowing 4.3 yards per carry and have experience against the triple option. Sam Houston State faced Southeastern Louisiana earlier this season and limited the Lions offense to just 4.6 yards per carry.
This should be the highest-scoring game of the quarterfinals and it might come down to clock control. Sam Houston State is a quick-strike offense and the Bearkats will want to score fast and score often, while Kennesaw State wants to chew up the clock with methodical drives. I believe the Bearkats are going to be able to get enough stops to outlast the Owls in this one.
Pick: Sam Houston State -3.5