The 2022 FCS Playoffs begin this weekend and feature some intriguing encounters.

Who advances to the second round to take on the seeds? Let’s predict some outcomes.

predictions Recording:
Record 2022: 77-36
Record 2019-2021: 244-115

First round

Idaho at University of Southeast Louisiana

Southeastern hasn’t fared well in the playoffs against teams from stronger conferences, losing 73-28 at Montana in 2019 and 59-20 at James Madison last season. These teams were also seeded and traveling for the Lions.

But Idaho exhibits the same problems: a balanced offense plus a physical front seven that Southeastern isn’t used to during the regular season. Idaho has some guys as linebackers (Fa’Avae Fa’Avae and Paul Moala) and is also ranked No. 16 in FCS for passing defense (186.6 YPG). You will defend a southeastern offensive that scores 33.8 PPG.

First-year head coach Jason Eck knows what it takes to win in the playoffs, where the game is taken to the next level on the field and small things make a bigger difference in victory and defeat. The Vandals will be able to pick up their points while stopping on defense when they need them the most late in the game.

Prediction: Idaho 35-31

SEMO in Montana

SEMO QB Paxton DeLaurent (2,155 yards, 17 TDs, 4 INT.) has been in a walking boat the last two games, leading SEMO to rely even more on standout RB Geno Hess (1,446 yards, 19 TDs). Montana may also have to start without its QB as Lucas Johnson went down again with a leg injury in Montana State last week.

The Griz run defense didn’t look good against Montana State last week, so Hess could be in for a big day. But Montana is also at home, in front of a large late-night crowd and in the cold. Also, SEMO’s OL is not at the level of MSUs. The Montana defense should have a better day, and the offense should be able to do enough to pull off a win with or without Johnson. The Griz have the physical advantage here to control the line of scrimmage and the game.

Prediction: Montana 24-14

Gardner-Webb at Eastern Kentucky

EKU received the automatic bid from ASUN-WAC, but would have had a good case for a general bid as well. The Colonels have a narrow FBS loss at EMU, an FBS win at Bowling Green, and a win over the OVC champion/ranked SEMO. Gardner-Webb won the Big South title.

EKU will be too talented and explosive on offense. Gardner-Webb allowed 40 and 35 points against two of the better offenses in the Big South (Bryant and Campbell). EKU QB Parker McKinney has thrown for 3,502 yards, 28 TDs and seven interceptions while rushing for 382 yards and eight scores.

Forecast: East Kentucky 35-21

North Dakota at State of Weaver

Weber is a scary unseeded team that was about to bow out in the first round. Weber only allowed 285 yards at NAU but was strong overall on defense. The Wildcats are No. 6 in goal defense (18.3 PPG) and No. 11 in pass defense (177.5 YPG). Cornerbacks Maxwell Anderson and Eddie Heckard are about as good a combination as FCS can get.

They have the talent back there to slow down an offensive run by Tommy Schuster (2,546 yards, 17 TDs, 5 INT.) averaging 232.2 passing yards per game. Weber also has a strong and physical front seven to contain Tyler Hoosman (885 yards rushing, 12 TDs).

Prediction: Weber 31-28

Fordham at New Hampshire

Expect some points in this one. Fordham has scored big on everyone from FBS Ohio to conference foe and seeded Holy Cross to three CAA opponents Monmouth, UAlbany and Stony Brook. Fordham is No. 2 behind UIW on the FCS scoring offense at 50.2 points per game. Tim DeMorat was elite, throwing for more than 4,500 yards with 53 TDs to eight interceptions.

UNH, a CAA member, hasn’t played too well on defense this year, allowing 26.5 PPG, including 40 and 41 in two of his last three games. UNH took overtime to beat Maine without a rank 42-21.

But Fordham is very accessible on defense and allows 34.7 PPG. Dylan Laube can really hurt a team several years from now, and he leads FCS with 179.2 all-purpose yards per game. UNH will be tougher than most of Fordham’s opponents this season, but I don’t think the Wildcats can keep up with this Fordham offense.

Prediction: Fordham 42-38

Saint Francis at Delaware

This is not a CAA about NEC, give me.

SFU went 9-2 with two close losses to FBS Akron (overtime) and ranked Richmond (by 10 points). Delaware slipped into the group and lost three of its last four games, including unranked at 20 at Elon and at seven at Villanova.

The SFU can collect points, achieving five times 40+ and three times 50+ this year.

However, Delaware has one of the better defenses in FCS at rank 4 (16.2 points allowed per game). Johnny Buchanan is having a special season – 121 tackles, 5.5 TFLs and a sack.

Forecast: Delaware 24-17

Davidson at Richmond

In his last two playoff appearances, Davidson lost 49-14 to Jacksonville State in the spring and 48-21 to Kennesaw last fall. This year’s option attack leads FCS in rushing yards per game (350.5). But Richmond prides itself on strong defense that allows for 20.3 PPG and 120.2 rushing yards per game, which is 24th best in FCS. Tristan Wheeler is a veteran stud at LB and has 97 tackles and nine TFLs in 2022.

Richmond was to be too much for Davidson without a scholarship. Unique offense might hold it for 1.5 quarters, but the Spiders will adjust on defense and be too athletic on the rim offense to make this a tight game.

Forecast: Richmond 35-17

Elon at Furman

This seems to be the best matchup of the day. SoCon fans think the CAA is overrated. CAA fans think the SoCon is overrated. This game is a great benchmark as Furman is the second best SoCon team and Elon is the #2 or #3 CAA team.

Elon is hard to beat when he’s on the rhythm. The Phoenix also had flare-ups from fighting. A two-game midseason losing streak was called off to end the regular season with a three-game winning streak, including a 27-7 win over Delaware. This is a very balanced roster (27.5 PPG on offense versus 20.5 allowed points per game on defense). Fast Attack averages 159.2 YPG and Passing averages 231.5 YPG. RB Jalen Hampton is down for over 1,000 yards, but it’s QB Matthew McKay’s play (2,471 yards, 21 TDs, 4 INTs) that makes this offense work. When turned on, this team can roll.

Furman almost quietly had a fantastic year, finishing the regular season 9-2 and the only loss coming in a game by a point against seeded Samford. The Paladins had great back-to-back ranked wins at Chattanooga and Mercer before betting 63 points on Wofford last weekend. Furman was great on defense and allowed under 20 PPG. Tyler Huff’s numbers won’t jump off the page with 1,888 yards, 13 TDs and six INTs. But he handles it well and uses guns like TE Ryan Miller. RB Dominic Roberto (963 yards, 10 TDs) needs to get on the ground to bolster defense so the passing offense can do their best.

It looks like an even matchup. Furman being at home gives him a slight advantage. All three of Elon’s losses (including a 42-21 to FBS Vanderbilt) are on the road.

Prediction: Furman 28-27