The 2022 FCS championship semifinals are here, and four teams remain in the fight to lift this year's trophy. From the 24-team FCS playoff field, No. 1 South Dakota State, No. 4 Montana State, No. 3 North Dakota State and No. 7 UIW still have a chance at the title.
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Here is everything you need to know about our national semifinals:
Friday, Dec. 16 | No. 3 North Dakota State vs. No. 7 UIW | 7 p.m. on ESPN2
Defending national champion North Dakota State returns to the FCS semifinals, two wins away from its 10th title in 12 seasons. The Bison will face UIW in the semis, with the Cardinals on their longest postseason run ever.
North Dakota State is dealing with a plethora of injuries, most notably in their backfield to starting running back TaMerik Williams and starting fullback Hunter Luepke. However, the Bison continue to roll despite missing key contributors, winning two playoff games by an average of 20.5 points. North Dakota State continues to dominate the lines of scrimmage, with offensive tackle Cody Mauch and defensive end Spencer Waege standing out as two of the best in the FCS.
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On the other sideline, UIW enters the semifinals after two thrilling playoff games that came down to the final drive. The Cardinals have turned to quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. and his elite wide receivers Darion Chafin and Taylor Grimes for clutch moments. UIW's high-powered offense has led them to this point, with their defense making timely plays throughout the season. Linebacker Kelechi Anyalebechi often flies around the field and will need a big day in the semifinals if UIW wants to land the upset.
Here's more on how North Dakota State and UIW stack up:
|NORTH DAKOTA STATE||2022 STATS||Incarnate Word|
|35.3||Points per game||53.0|
|404.5||Yards per game||584.5|
|299.6||Yards allowed per game||368.1|
|269.1||Rush yards per game||211.8|
|139.5||Rush yards allowed per game||155.4|
|135.5||Pass yards per game||372.6|
|160.1||Pass yards allowed per game||212.7|
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Saturday, Dec. 17 | No. 1 South Dakota State vs. No. 4 Montana State | 4 p.m. on ESPN2
Top-seeded South Dakota State returns to the FCS semifinals for the third straight season and will face Montana State in a rematch of 2021's FCS semifinal game. The last time the two programs met, the Bobcats prevailed 31-17 in Bozeman. In 2022, the Jackrabbits will host the semifinal game as the higher seed.
South Dakota State has talent across the board entering the semifinal round. The Jackrabbits feature star running back Isaiah Davis and arguably the best tight end in FCS football Tucker Kraft on offense. Quarterback Mark Gronowski is coming off a quarterfinal performance where he scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns. Also in the quarterfinals, linebacker Adam Bock returned to play; he's one of the leaders on a top-five defense in the FCS.
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Meanwhile, Montana State has its eyes set on back-to-back FCS championship game appearances. The Bobcats are undefeated against the FCS this year, running through their opponents. Literally! Montana State averaged the most rushing yards of any non-triple-option offense in the FCS and has gained over 300 rushing yards in each of its two playoff games. Quarterbacks Tommy Mellott and Sean Chambers lead a two-QB system, and the return of star running back Isaiah Ifanse has only bolstered the offense. On defense, the Bobcats are strong too, holding opponents to a 34.68 percent third-down conversion rate.
Here's more on how South Dakota State and Montana State stack up:
|South DAKOTA STATE||2022 STATS||Montana State|
|32.2||Points per game||44.85|
|366.4||Yards per game||511.6|
|249.6||Yards allowed per game||351.2|
|165.8||Rush yards per game||334.0|
|70.6||Rush yards allowed per game||129.2|
|200.7||Pass yards per game||179.2|
|179.0||Pass yards allowed per game||222.0|