Introduction to the first round of Bison Media Zone 2021 FCS

The FCS Playoffs are back to their normal format today, after a spring tournament which brought together 16 teams and a sacred champion in mid-May. Ten teams return from the spring-to-fall playoffs, including defending champion Sam Houston, who enters with a 21-game winning streak. The Bearkats’ last loss came on November 16, 2019 against Northwestern State. So much has changed for the KC Keeler team since then, including the announcement of the switch to FBS.

Here’s a quick primer for all of this weekend’s games, including my predictions for the entire tournament at the end.

Pierre Strong Jr. of South Dakota State rushes for a 75-yard touchdown during a Missouri Valley Football Conference football game on Saturday, November 6, 2021 against North Dakota State at Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

As a quick reminder, all of the games for today and next week are exclusively on ESPN Plus. The quarter-finals will have one game on Friday, December 10 on ESPN2, another on ESPN at 11 a.m. on December 11, and the other two on ESPN Plus.

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Sacré-Coeur at Sainte-Croix – 11 am: Two schools separated by less than two hours compete, each in search of a first victory in the playoffs. Holy Cross is in the playoffs for the third year in a row they lost to Monmouth and South Dakota State. The Pioneers won the Northeastern Conference for the second straight season, they took six straight wins entering today’s game. The winner will play against Villanova next week.

Davidson to Kennesaw State – 1 p.m.: Kennesaw returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2019 with a 10-1 record and another Deep South championship. The Owls bring their triple option offense against a Davidson team that arrives at 8-2 and won the Pioneer League for a second straight year. These teams are the top two offensives in the country, Davidson averaging 348 yards, while KSU is aiming for 275. Kennesaw has won at least one playoff game every year they have. The winner faces the state of eastern Tennessee.

UT Martin at Missouri State – 3 p.m .: The Bears are one of the best FCS stories this year, an 8-3 record and a second place finish in the Missouri Valley. Jason Shelley transformed MSU and they are one of the dormant teams in this tournament. They will face a team from UT Martin that won the Ohio Valley Conference but was untested throughout the season. The winner faces Montana State in Bozeman.

Stephen F Austin at Incarnate Word – 2 p.m .: Two former conference rivals meet in the first round to take on another former conference enemy. Stephen F. Austin is an interesting team, they’ve won eight games, but perhaps their most impressive game was a one-point loss to Sam Houston, who didn’t have his starting QB in that game. Incarnate Word has had a wild year, which began with a loss to Youngstown State, including a victory over FBS and a championship from Southland. The winner receives Sam Houston next weekend.

Florida A&M in Southeast Louisiana – 6 p.m .: The Rattlers got a blanket offer from SWAC, the first time this has happened since 1997. FAMU is 9-2 with losses to Jackson State and South Florida and is bringing tremendous defense to this game. The Rattlers have the best statistical defense in the country, allowing just 156 points in 11 games. They will face reigning Walter Payton winner Cole Kelley, the SELA quarterback, who has had another impressive season. The Lions lost their regular season final to Nicholls at home, so they’re ready for a big rebound game. The winner plays James Madison.

UC Davis in South Dakota State – 2 p.m .: Two former Great West Conference rivals meet today at Brookings. The Aggies came in limp, after an 8-1 start, they lost their last two games and no close range, knocked down by Eastern Washington and Sacramento State. It will be difficult to find the magic on the road against the State of South Dakota, which hopes for another race in Frisco. The Jacks were able to hang on and beat North Dakota last weekend to come in at 8-3 and with Isaiah Davis returning, gives SDSU a dynamic 1-2 running game with Pierre Strong. The winner heads to the State of Sacramento.

North of Iowa to East of Washington – 3 p.m .: Two teams who probably sighed upon seeing the support, knowing how tough a game awaits them. The Panthers have three wins against teams in the playoffs, including champion Big Sky Sacramento State. UNI are a tough team to read, with big wins over SDSU and Southern Illinois and a mind-boggling loss to Illinois State. The Panthers’ grand defense, led by Valley Defensive Player of the Year Jared Brinkman, will have a handful in an attempt to stop Eric Barriere, who is back for another run in the FCS playoffs. The Eagles will likely feel jaded, after a 9-2 season and a seedless FBS season. To top it off, the winner gets a date in Missoula next week with Montana on a Friday night.

South Illinois to South Dakota – 5:00 p.m .: A clash across the valley ends the first round. These two teams did not play in the regular season, which makes this game possible. The Salukis are a bewildering team, who were 6-1 out of the gates, but barely won games, including overtime wins over Western Illinois and South Dakota State. But they stumbled all the way to the finish line, including a resounding home loss to Youngstown State. The USD must also be smart, after the NDSU crushed them last weekend. Carson Camp is not in good health, but Bob Nielson is hoping for a better Travis Theis, who missed most of last week’s game with illness. The Dakota Dome hasn’t hosted a playoff game since 1986 and it will likely be lively there, with the USD volleyball team playing next door for a Summit League title. The winner gets a date in Fargo against NDSU next week.

Here are my predictions for the playoffs, have fun!

Dom Izzo's predictions for the 2021 FCS playoffs

Dom Izzo’s predictions for the 2021 FCS playoffs

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