Eastern Washington set to fly again
Notes: Georgia Southern will unveil statue to legendary coach
Big Time for the Big South: The Big South was the only conference with two teams in action during the first round of the FCS tournament and both teams won. Stony Brook beat Villanova 20-10 and Coastal Carolina won 24-14 against Bethune-Cookman. The Big South had only one postseason win in its four previous playoff games prior to this past weekend – Stony Brook’s first round victory last season against Albany. Coastal Carolina lost in the first round in its two previous trips to the tournament, while the Seawolves were 1-1 in its only previous appearance last year.
Getting Defensive: Four of the nation’s top six teams in scoring defense are still alive in the championship. North Dakota State leads the nation at 11.82 points per game allowed, received the number one seed and will face South Dakota State, who enters the game fourth in the nation allowing 15.42 ppg, including only giving up 10 in its first round victory against Eastern Illinois. Stony Brook and Wagner, the nation’s fifth and sixth ranked teams in scoring defense both won first round games last weekend.
Appearing in the Show: Of the seven teams that have appeared all-time in the FCS Championship at least 15 times, only two made it into the field this year – Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. The Mountaineers are making their 20th appearance, while the Eagles are in for the 19th time. Montana (21), Eastern Kentucky (20), Northern Iowa (16), Delaware (15) and Furman (15) all failed to make this year’s tournament.
Eagles Flying High in November: In November and beyond, Eastern Washington is 11-0 since 2010 and 20-3 since 2007. Since 2010, EWU is 23-2 after the end of September, including an 11-0 mark two years ago, 6-1 last year and 6-1 this season. The lone losses were a 43-26 home loss in 2011 versus Portland State and a 30-27 road setback at Southern Utah on Oct. 27, 2012.
Defending Champs: The last two FCS champions are the top two seeds in the tournament. Last year’s champion, North Dakota State is the number one seed, while the 2010 Champion Eastern Washington is the number two seed. The Eagles will host Wagner on Saturday.
Three in a Row: Montana State is headed to the postseason for the third consecutive season. Prior to this string of appearances, the Bobcats had made the field just four times (1984, 2002, 2003 and 2006). The Bobcats won the national championship in 1984. Other than that appearance, Montana State has never made it past the quarterfinals.
Southern Movement: In the 34-year history of the championship, Southern Conference teams have been dominant. In fact, in a 25-year stretch from 1983-2007, Southern Conference teams made 15 appearances in the national championship game, highlighted by 10 titles. However, they have not had a team make the championship game since Appalachian State won three consecutive from 2005-07. Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Wofford are all playing in the round of 16 this weekend trying to advance to end that streak.
Road Sweet Road: Seven FCS teams were perfect on the road this year, and the Missouri Valley Football Conference has two of those seven. Only one team in MVFC history has won six road games in one season (Northern Iowa in 2007), and Illinois State (5-0) is looking to match that record this weekend when it takes on Appalachian State. Other schools that were undefeated on the road this season and still playing include Montana State, North Dakota State and Old Dominion.
Looking out for Number Two: All of the 16 remaining institutions have at least one FCStTournament victory in its history. However, Coastal Carolina, South Dakota State and Wagner all claimed their first tournament victory with a first round win. After receiving first round byes, Cal Poly, Central Arkansas, Old Dominion and Stony Brook are also looking for their second wins in school history this weekend.
Seed of Victory? Last year, all five seeded teams won their second round games, with every team advancing at least to the quarterfinals. In 2010, Montana State and William & Mary were both upset in the second round after receiving first round byes as the No. 3 and No. 2 seeds, respectively.
We Meet Again: The only rematch from the regular season this weekend is between North Dakota State and South Dakota State. In addition, this will be the 100th meeting between the two schools in a series that started in 1903. NDSU leads the overall series 54-40-5, but it is the first playoff meeting between the two schools. The Bison have won the last three including a 20-17 win at Gate City Bank Field on Nov. 10. NDSU is 32-13-3 overall at home in the series against SDSU.
Turning it Around: Wagner started the season 0-3 before winning its next eight games to capture the Northeast Conference crown and advance to the NCAA tournament. The Seahawks continued its run with last week’s victory against Colgate in the first round of the tournament. They lost the first three games by a combined score of 58-30, including giving up 38 in a loss to Monmouth. However, since that time they have not given up more than 30 points in a game. It will be a challenge this week as they face an Eastern Washington team that has scored more than 30 points seven times this season.
Wildcat Road Warriors: New Hampshire is in the NCAA playoffs for the ninth consecutive season, the longest current streak in FCS football. The streak began with a 27-23 first-round victory at Georgia Southern on Nov. 27, 2004, which marked the first postseason victory in UNH history. Saturday’s first matchup with Wofford marks the first meeting with a Southern Conference opponent since that watershed victory. Saturday’s game at Gibbs Stadium represents the 11th consecutive road playoff game UNH has had to endure.
Legend Unveiled: Georgia Southern enters the FCS playoffs for the 19th time in the 31 years since the program was restarted in 1982 by former head coach Erk Russell. The Eagles will unveil a statue of the legendary coach, who guided Georgia Southern to two national championships, before kickoff of Saturday's 2 p.m. contest against Central Arkansas.