The four lowest-seeded teams are on the road in the FCS quarterfinals, entering hostile environments in search of a playoff win. Here's what each team will need to prove to advance to the next round.
No. 5 William & Mary
What they have to prove: That they can stop the run
William & Mary allows 4.3 yards per carry and 144 rushing yards per game this season. In William & Mary's lone loss to Elon, the Tribe allowed 240 yards rushing and four touchdowns. In every other one-possession game the Tribe have played in, opposing rushing attacks averaged 5.3, 5.5 and 5.7 yards per carry. Even in their blowout playoff win last week, the Tribe allowed 200 yards rushing.
Those numbers won't cut it if William & Mary wants to defeat Montana State and the top non-triple-option rushing attack in the FCS. If the Tribe are to advance, they'll have to prove they can stop the run.
No. 6 Samford
What they have to prove: That it can win with two quarterbacks
The health of Michael Hiers is one of the biggest question marks entering the quarterfinals. Backup quarterback Quincy Crittendon came into each of the last two games to score the game-winning touchdowns. However, the quarterfinals may be a different story.
Crittendon could be the starter from the first snap after Samford coach Chris Hatcher was uncertain if another week would be enough for Hiers to be healthy enough to play. If Crittendon ends up starting this week, North Dakota State will have almost a full game's worth of film on the backup quarterback to prepare. Crittendon won't be as surprising to the Bison defenses if he plays this week.
From the Samford perspective, the Bulldogs have to manage Hiers' injury while also making sure both quarterbacks and the team as a whole are ready, regardless of who plays quarterback this week.
Samford will have to prove that no matter who's under center, its offense can continue its roll as one of the best in the FCS.
No. 7 UIW
What they have to prove: That they can win a shootout
UIW averages 51.9 points per game, the most in the FCS. Only two of its opponents all season have come close to matching its scoring average. Nevada and Southeastern Louisiana each scored 41 points on the Cardinals, the most of any team this year. The Nevada game (a win) wasn't a shootout in a classic sense, as UIW grabbed a 38-17 third-quarter lead in that game. In UIW's one true back-and-forth shootout game, the Cardinals lost to Southeastern Louisiana.
UIW could face another shootout against Sacramento State in the quarterfinals, especially since the Hornets average 41.2 points per game. If the point total is high in this quarterfinal matchup, UIW will have to prove it has what it takes to win.
No. 8 Holy Cross
What the Crusaders have to prove: That they belong
Holy Cross is undefeated and won its opening playoff game to make the quarterfinals. However, the Crusaders have to prove they belong among the FCS elite with every game.
While I have believed since the preseason that Holy Cross was capable of getting to this point, many others look at Holy Cross' regular season opponents and its playing in the Patriot League as a weakness. That showed with the Crusaders receiving the eighth seed despite finishing undefeated with a FBS win (Buffalo).
In the quarterfinals, Holy Cross will get the chance to prove the doubters wrong and that it belongs among the elite FCS programs against the top overall seed. The Crusaders have a chance to show that they have been building a powerhouse over the last few years.