FCS First Round: North Carolina A&T-Richmond
FCS Playoffs First Round
The Matchup – North Carolina A&T (9-2) at Richmond (8-3)
Kickoff – 2 p.m. ET Saturday at Robins Stadium (8,700) in Richmond, Virginia
Coverage – ESPN3
Series – First meeting
Players to Watch – North Carolina A&T: RB Tarik Cohen (1,518 rushing yards, 339 receiving yards, 19 total TDs), DE Marquis Ragland (44 tackles, 9 TFL), LB Jeremy Taylor (75 tackles, 4 INTs, 8 PBU); Richmond: WR Brian Brown (67 receptions, 1,179 yards, 9 TDs), DT Winston Craig (47 tackles, 7.5 sacks), LB Omar Howard (77 tackles, 8 TFL)
The Skinny – While MEAC teams have lost 18 straight FCS playoff games, North Carolina A&T's one win in four previous appearances was a huge one – it beat No. 1 Tennessee State in 1999. The Aggies seek to recover from last week's 42-21 loss at rival North Carolina Central, which ended their bid to win the MEAC championship and return to the Celebration Bowl. Cohen has 5,549 career rushing yards, the conference record and more than any active player in the FCS. Backup quarterback Oluwafemi Bamiro, who pulled out a four-overtime win at FBS member Kent State in September, has started the last two games because Lamar Raynard has a chest injury. The Aggies have 37 sacks, and 10 different players have at least a pair (DE Angelo Keyes' six are the high). Richmond has faced adversity from 12 season-ending injuries, the latest suffered by No. 1 quarterback Kyle Lauletta (torn ACL). If backup David Broadus remains out for a third straight game, untested Jake Clise or Reid Chenault will step in for Lauletta. And if the play calling is scaled back, redshirt freshman running back Deontez Thompson (five 100-yard performances in last six games) will get a big workload. The Spiders defense is ranked third in the FCS in passing yards allowed (156.5 ypg), although the focus will be on stopping Cohen. The Spiders, one of six teams in this year's field to have won an FCS title (2008), opened the season by beating Virginia.
Up Next – The winner plays at No. 7 seed North Dakota (9-2) in the second round Dec. 3.
Prediction – With Richmond reeling from the loss of Lauletta, this wouldn't be a big upset if North Carolina A&T ended the MEAC's playoff losing streak. The host Spiders will have to win with defense. Richmond 21-17.