FCS poll vote
BROOKINGS, SD - SEPTEMBER 30: Isaiah Davis #22 of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits breaks through the line against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks in Brookings, SD. (Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)

FCS Playoffs: Second-Round Predictions

It's playoff time once again, folks.

Last week I went 7-1, with apologies once again to Chattanooga — who I just didn't see A) Getting into the playoffs at all and B) Beating a damned good Austin Peay team. But here are the Mocs, still playing this weekend with a matchup against a Furman team it fell to only by three points a few weeks ago. It's an incredible run by this Tennesee program and it may not end this week: But we'll save that pick for below.

Not surprisingly, the level of competition this weekend is way better than last week — when we clearly had some mismatches.

Here's the slate:

Youngstown State (8-4) at No. 8 seed Villanova (9-2)
TIME: Noon (ESPN+)
THE PICK: Villanova has played extremely well down the stretch and is at home, but aside from its loss to FBS foe UCF earlier in the year, it hasn't faced the kind of competition Youngstown State has. That's the biggest debate here. On paper, it looks like 'Nova all the way, but there's no way this is a game where we have one clearly superior team. I think this is a coinflip affair in Philly — Villanova by 2 points.

Richmond (9-3) at No. 5 seed UAlbany (9-3)
TIME: Noon (ESPN+)
THE PICK: Richmond hasn't lost since late September, but its losses to Hampton and Morgan State were absolute head-scratchers. The Spiders certainly fixed the issues but in their 7-game win streak, the slate hasn't been as tough as say — a MVFC or Big Sky-type team. Also, schedule rotation had Richmond not playing the three other CAA teams that are still alive in 2023 — Delaware, Villanova and this weekend's opponent, Albany. While both these teams are 9-3, Albany is clearly the more solid team coming in with a 6-game winning streak of its own. We'll go with Albany by 14 points.

Chattanooga (8-4) at No. 7 Seed Furman (9-2)
TIME: 1 p.m. (ESPN+)
THE PICK: Rematch time, baby. Well, I've chosen Chattanooga to be excluded two times already — and I'm going to have to go with that again. While they're clearly the story of the FCS postseason so far, being one of the final teams to get into the playoffs and then eliminating a strong in-state foe in Austin Peay, 'Nooga will fall to Furman for a second time this year. Furman's not perfect, but the SoCon champions are certainly one of the top eight teams in the bracket — as the seedings point out. Furman by 10 this time (after winning by 3 the last time these two teams met).

Mercer (9-3) at No. 1 seed South Dakota State (11-0)
TIME: 2 p.m. (ESPN+)
THE PICK: Mercer has been one of the top stories of 2023, but let's face it: South Dakota State would beat more FBS teams than it would lose to, and it would knock off a bunch of Power Five teams, too. The Jackrabbits are loaded and this one will get out of hand. SDSU by 28.

Sacramento State (8-4) at No. 3 Seed South Dakota (9-2)
TIME: 2 p.m. (ESPN+)
THE PICK: Sacramento State — aside from its win over North Dakota last week — has been a tad unpredictable in recent weeks. The losses to Montana and Montana State are certainly understandable, but a double-digit loss to UC Davis and not so impressive wins over Cal Poly and Northern Colorado make you wonder. But at the same time, this was the only FCS team to beat a P5 team this year (Stanford). On the flip side, South Dakota has wins over four playoff teams from the MVFC, and its only losses are to a P5 (Missouri), and to the undefeated No. 1 FCS team (SDSU). Expect a double digit South Dakota win. Let's go with by 14 points at least.

North Dakota State (9-3) at No. 6 Seed Montana State (8-3)
TIME: 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
THE PICK: As much as people have wanted to jump all over North Dakota State this year, the Bison have played well since a head-scratching blowout loss to North Dakota on Oct. 14. The lone loss was to South Dakota State for the Dakota Marker (understandable), while all of the games have been impressive (angry?) wins. Montana State on the other hand looked human in The Brawl, falling by 30 in Missoula. Then again, the Bobcats are really the only team this year to give SDSU fits. Welcome to your game of the week, folks. The big pick: NDSU by 3.

Delaware (9-3) at No. 2 Seed Montana (10-1)
TIME: 9 p.m. (ESPN+)
THE PICK: Delaware's had a great year, but Montana's beaten three teams that are still alive and playing this weekend (all from the Big Sky). This should be a relatively easy tuneup for the Griz at home and should set things up nicely for a SoCon team to come out west next week for the quarterfinals ('Nooga or Furman). Griz by 17 at home.

Southern Illinois (8-4) at No. 4 seed Idaho (8-3)
TIME: 10 p.m. (ESPN2 & ESPN+)
THE PICK: Southern Illinois is one of those programs that generally takes care of the opponents it should beat, and falls to the teams you'd think they'd likely fall to (albeit sometimes the Salukis give those favored opponents absolute fits — right SDSU?). With its FBS win early in the year (over Northern Illinois) and its' two 7-point losses to Top 3 seeds SDSU and South Dakota, you know this SIU team can play some ball. The problem is, so can Idaho. Welcome to your second best playoff game of the weekend, behind only NDSU and SDSU. Idaho wins by 7.