FCS First Round: San Diego-Cal Poly
FCS Playoffs First Round
The Matchup – San Diego (9-1) at Cal Poly (7-4)
Kickoff – 7 p.m. ET Saturday at Alex G. Spanos Stadium in San Luis Obispo, California
Coverage – ESPN3
Series – Cal Poly leads 5-0
Players to Watch – San Diego: QB Anthony Lawrence (197 of 286, 2,515 yards, 22 TDs, 5 INTs); RB/KR Jonah Hodges (1,603 yards from scrimmage, 17 TDs), Jon Peterson (19 TFL, 11.5 sacks, 13 QB hurries); Cal Poly: QB Dano Graves (2,129 yards of total offense, 26 total TDs), FB Joe Protheroe (1,212 yards, 11 TDs), ILB Chris Santini (93 tackles, 10.5 TFL)
The Skinny – It's never easy for teams to make their way to San Luis Obispo, but the Toreros know the way. These two teams have met four times in the last five years and played each other on Sept. 10, with Cal Poly winning 38-16. USD, making its second FCS playoff appearance in the last three seasons under coach Dale Lindsey, has won eight straight games since falling to Cal Poly. The non-scholarship Pioneer Football League program is surrendering the FCS lows with 12.1 points and 249.6 yards per game, and lead in average time of possession (35 minutes, 13 seconds). CB/PR Jamal Agnew is second among active FCS players with 58 career passes defended, including 11 interceptions. Hodges averaged over 158 rushing yards over the final three regular-season games and the Toreros offense does a terrific job of protecting Lawrence, whose favorite target is tight end Ross Dwelley (59 receptions, 9 TDs). No matter the opponent, Cal Poly's triple option offense always gets plenty of rushing yards, and the Mustangs have a slight lead in the FCS in rushing yards per game (360.6) as they try to be No. 1 in that statistic for a fourth straight year. Graves, who accounted for three TDs in the win over San Diego, makes the offense go as the Big Sky's second-team quarterback, and Protheroe and Kori Garcia have combined for over 2,000 rushing yards. The defense gives up points – 32.6 per game – but the Mustangs have won three times when allowing more than 40 points.
Up Next – The winner plays at No. 1 seed North Dakota State (10-1) in the second round Dec. 3.
Prediction – Although San Diego has broken into the national rankings, none of the first three PFL automatic qualifiers have won in the playoffs. Cal Poly 42-31.