FCS Playoffs: Kennesaw State at Jacksonville State

FCS Playoffs Second Round

The Matchup – Kennesaw State (11-1) at No. 3 seed Jacksonville State (10-1)

Kickoff – 2 p.m. ET at Burgess-Snow Field (24,000) in Jacksonville, Alabama

Coverage – ESPN3

Series – First meeting

Players to Watch – Kennesaw State: QB Chandler Burks (61 of 128, 1,061 yards, 8 TDs, 2 INTs; 215 carries, 984 yards, 16 TDs), RB Jake McKenzie (136 carries, 654 yards, 3 TDs), WR Justin Sumpter (26 receptions, 489 yards, 5 TDs), LB Bryson Armstrong (98 TT, 10 Sacks, 4 FR, 3 FF), S Taylor Henkle (48 TT, 3 INTs, 2 FR); Jacksonville State: QB Bryant Horn (99 of 183, 1,288 yards, 11 TDs, 9 INTs; 130 carries, 709 yards, 5 TDs), RB Roc Thomas (161 carries, 991 yards, 12 TDs; 16 receptions, 235 yards); DE Darius Jackson (51 TT, 19 TFL, 7 Sacks, 19 QBH), LB Jonathan Hagler (73 TT, 11 TFL, 9 PD), S Marlon Bridges (75 TT, 6 TFL, 3 INTs)

The Skinny – Jacksonville State coach John Grass has a 43-7 record (.860) in four seasons, but Brian Bohannon’s 25-9 mark (.735) with Kennesaw State’s third-year startup program is exceptional as well. The two teams, whose campuses are separated by 87 miles, are signed for the first college football game at SunTrust Park in Atlanta (Nov. 17, 2018), but they’re meeting a year early in the playoffs. The Big South champion Owls are on an 11-game winning streak, fueled by the No. 1 ground attack in the FCS (338.2 ypg) and a national-best turnover margin (plus-23). Burks, just 16 rushing yards shy of 1,000 yards, accounted for three TDs and Armstrong had a program-record 16 tackles in a 28-17, first-ever playoff win over Samford. Jacksonville State counters with one of the nation’s top defenses, ranking second overall (230.5 ypg) and against the run (63.1 ypg). Jackson is a two-time Ohio Valley Conference defensive player of the year. Thomas is the four-time conference champ’s No. 1 offensive option, yet Horn has had a strong second half of the season.

Up Next – The winner will play South Dakota or No. 6 seed Sam Houston State in the quarterfinals on Dec. 8 or 9.

Prediction – While Kennesaw State has terrific team speed, the Gamecocks will rely on noticeably bigger size to wear on the Owls. Jacksonville State, 28-17.