Football Championship Subdivision preview

The Bobcats (10-1, 6-1) will host the Stony Brook Seawolves (SBU) (10-2, 5-1 Big South) at 5 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 1, at Bobcat Stadium for their second round Football Championship Subdivision playoff game.

SBU needed just 37 passing yards to beat the Villanova Wildcats (8-4, 6-2 CAA) in the first round of the FCS playoffs, and it’s a good thing that is all they needed as backup quarterback Lyle Negron completed just three of his six passes. The starting quarterback of SBU’s highest rated passing offense, senior Kyle Essington, should return this Saturday after sitting last weekend with a thigh contusion.

The Seawolves dominated the line of scrimmage, ran to a 20-10 win despite missing their quarterback and took nearly 13 minutes off the clock with their first drive of 21 plays spanning 98 yards. Saturday’s second round matchup may come down to who is more deserving of the Walter Payton Award which is given to the league’s best offensive player. McGhee has already locked up the Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP and SBU running back Miguel Maysonet has already won Offensive MVP of the Big South.

The Cats will have their paws full with Maysonet, who leads the league in rushing averaging 158 yards per game. Recently awarded First Team All-Big Sky honors for the second straight year and winner of the Big Sky Defensive MVP, MSU’s senior linebacker Jody Owens should record a ton of tackles.

Stony Brook’s other running back isn’t bad either. Marcus Coker managed to run for nearly 1,400 yards at Iowa in 2011 and had 107 yards on 29 carries against Villanova. Together they were responsible for 267 of the Seawolves’ 300 total yards on offense and ran 39 minutes off the clock.

MSU’s Caleb Schreibeis, who was also awarded First Team All-Big Sky honors and is a finalist for the Buchanan Award, given to the league’s best defensive player, may not score 16 tackles like he did against the Griz but should have a busy day if Ash’s game plan is similar to the one used in Missoula. Fellow First-Teamer senior defensive tackle Zach Minter will also get in on the action as defensive linemen and linebackers attempt to fill running gaps.

SBU is notorious for running just about anywhere at anytime. They have the power to run inside and the speed to run outside, and their offensive line creates massive lanes for their backs, but their wildcat offense shouldn’t be too much of a problem for Ash, who uses the offense on occasion and is certainly preparing for it this week. Expect Ash to let his seventh ranked run defense do its thing and keep cornerbacks in one-on-one coverage, allowing senior safety and First Team All-Big Sky award winner, Joel Fuller, to offer help downfield.

On offense, the Cats can expect to have success on the ground and through the air, but the Seawolves fly around the ball and lay hard hits on opponents, so it will be imperative that the offensive line protect McGhee and that he escapes trouble. McGhee may even consider sliding, as Villanova’s big, running quarterback, John Robertson, was slow to get up after a few hits by SBU defensemen.

SBU will be the toughest test for MSU this year despite their lone loss to Eastern Washington. If the Cats can hold onto the ball and stop SBU on first and second downs, forcing third and long, they will be successful. If they can’t stop the run, they won’t win the game.

The Cats have the edge on special teams and a slight edge in the passing game, but the biggest advantage they have is playing on their home field. The Seawolves fly all the way from New York to play in frosty 34-degree weather in front of a hostile crowd on Saturday night under the lights. SBU averages 5,826 in attendance per game, so the 20,000 or so fans at Bobcat Stadium should cause some early penalties for the SBU offense. Expect the Cats and Seawolves to fight back and forth the whole way and for special teams to make an impact.

Prediction: Cats win, 20-17

Other Predictions in the FCS playoffs:

Sam Houston defeats Cal Poly, 31-21
Appalachian State defeats Illinois State, 31-24
Eastern Washington defeats Wagner, 28-24
Old Dominion defeats Coastal Carolina, 31-21
Georgia Southern defeats Central Arkansas, 28-24
Wofford defeats New Hampshire, 28-21

Upset of the Tournament:

South Dakota State defeats North Dakota State, 24-21