While there were discussions that maybe multiple teams would make it into the FCS playoffs, only one got their name called and it was the team that won the automatic bid. Numerous streaks look to be snapped if the Panthers can get the victory, including the conference’s 18 game losing streak in the playoffs (Western KY 2000), the Panthers own 10 game losing streak, (1989). And with that on out there lets begin with the preview:
Eastern Illinois is an up tempo team that loves to throw the ball, mostly to wide receiver Erik Lora who broke the FCS single season receptions record last weekend, giving him 124 on the season. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has posted very good numbers this season with throwing for 3,602 yards, completing 61% of his passes while posting 31TD against 14 interceptions. The Panthers will need to establish a balanced attack though and have with the emergence of running back Jake Walker who has rushed for 1,000 yards on the season.
Defensively only once really has this team played a complete game, and it turned out to be the game that put them into the playoffs. The defense has only held the opposing offense to under 20 twice (EKU and Austin Peay). The offense likes to score (39pts per contest) but the defense has allowed 34 per contest. In a game that points might be at a premium I expect the defense to be the winner/loser of the game.
Meet the Jackrabbits:
First off all they were one of the last teams into the playoffs, the 19th ranked Jackrabbits were the runner-up in the Missouri Valley. This season South Dakota State has gone 5-0 on their field, outscoring opponents 132 to 61, along with that they have set a new average attendance with over 13,000 fans.
The offense is led by sophomore quarterback Austin Sumner who has had a decent season for the Jackrabbits, throwing for over 2,100 yards 14touchdowns against 13 interceptions but only completes 57% of his passes. Sumner spreads the ball around evenly, as 4 of his receivers have more than 25 receptions and 6 have 2 touchdowns are more. On the ground they are led by sophomore Zach Zenner who has rushed for 1700 yards and scored 10 times.
The defense is the name of the game for the Jackrabbits, as they are the eighth best in total yards surrender with 297 per contest. Eastern Illinois averages 480 per contest. The defense as a whole has given up just 21 touchdowns on the year and holds teams to just 34% on 3rd down.