FCS Playoffs: Weber State at James Madison

FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal

The Matchup – Weber State (11-2) vs. No. 1 seed James Madison (12-0)

Kickoff – 7 p.m. ET Friday at Bridgeforth Stadium (24,877) in Harrisonburg, Virginia

Coverage – ESPN2

Series – First meeting

Players to Watch – Weber State: QB Stefan Cantwell (204 of 322, 2,740 yards, 23 TDs, 6 INTs; 550 rushing yards, 7 TDs), TE Andrew Vollert (56 receptions, 726 yards, 5 TDs), WR Drew Batchelor (47 receptions, 546 yards, 8 TDs), LB LeGrand Toia (73 TT, 8 TFL, 5 sacks), CB Taron Johnson (43 TT, 3 INTs, 8 PBU), PK Trey Tuttle (19 of 22 FG, 49 of 50 PAT); James Madison: QB Bryan Schor (218 of 315, 2,512 yards, 23 TDs, 11 INTs; 265 rushing yards, 6 TDs), RB Trai Sharpe (142 carries, 692 yards, 4 TDs), WR Terrence Alls (43 receptions, 535 yards, 2 TDs), DE Andrew Ankrah (49 TT, 13 1/2 TFL, 7 1/2 sacks), LB Kyrie Hawkins (85 TT, 12 TFL, 7 sacks, 8 PBU), CB Jordan Brown (62 TT, 7 INTs, 4 PBU)

The Skinny – This first-ever matchup is expected to be ruled by defense. James Madison, the defending national champion, has allowed an FCS-low 8.8 points per game, and it’s only 5.2 over the last five games. The CAA Football champ’s stinginess is so outstanding that Weber State’s 16.5-point average almost seems pedestrian, yet it’s 10th-best in the nation. The starting QBs, Cantwell and Schor, are mobile, which helps offset aggressive pass rushes – Weber has 37 sacks and JMU 43. Both teams beat conference opponents in the second round: Cantwell piled up 404 yards of total offense with three total touchdowns in Weber’s 30-13 win at Southern Utah, while Schor was 26 of 35 for 255 yards and two touchdowns in JMU’s 26-7 win over Stony Brook. Although opponents have averaged only 2.5 yards per carry against JMU, the Wildcats from the Big Sky are going to have to run the ball enough to stay on the field. In a tight game, the pressure would fall on the reigning champs. They haven’t trailed in the fourth quarter this season, although they were tied late in a win against Richmond on Nov. 11. Both teams have difference-making special teams, including a combined six touchdowns on returns and 36 of 43 on field goals.

Up Next – The winner will play New Hampshire (9-4) or No. 5 seed South Dakota State (10-2) in the semifinals Dec. 15 or 16.

Prediction – With a lead, the physical Dukes usually win going away. They’re gunning for a 25th straight victory, which would take over for the second-longest streak in FCS history behind North Dakota State’s 33 between 2012 and ’14. James Madison, 27-13.