2019 CSJ FCS Playoff Semifinal Picks And Celebration Bowl

It’s the next-to-last weekend of FCS football action, and it’s going to be a jam-packed Saturday with three games to showcase the best of FCS football. The unofficial HBCU National Championship is on the line, while the FCS Playoff Final Four see who advances to Frisco.

Check out what CSJ thought of the FCS first round games here.

If you want to feel smart and see what games we’ve picked wrong in our original brackets, click here.

PC: Celebration Bowl Twitter

Saturday December 21st: 12:00 PM EST: Celebration Bowl, Alcorn State vs. North Carolina A&T, Atlanta, GA (ABC)

Chuck Burton: NCAT had their annual “oops” game but then outscored their opposition 101-17 over the next two games. Alcorn State will put up more of a fight than that, but the Aggies won’t “oops” this one. North Carolina A&T 45, Alcorn State 24

Kent Schmidt: North Carolina A&T has been in three of the four games in this bowl’s history. But the Aggies played Alcorn State, their opponent in this game, a season ago. Both teams know what to expect so this game could go down to the wire. The MEAC has proven to be the stronger conference thus far in winning three of the four meetings and will continue their dominance. NC A&T 27, Alcorn State 24

Jamie Williams: A common theme in the young history of the Celebration Bowl is North Carolina A&T winning it. If you arent a fan of that, close your eyes because the Aggies are going to get it done again. North Carolina A&T 24, Alcorn State 20

Ben Schlieger: The Aggies have one of the top five overall defenses in the FCS, one of the top five running backs in the FCS, and one of the top five kickers in percentage and possibly distance too in the FCS. Alcorn State can allege that NC A&T is a “paper tiger” all day long, but until that is proven on the field the Aggies are one of the best teams in the entire FCS, statistically. North Carolina A&T 34, Alcorn State 27

CSJ’s previews of the 2019 FCS Playoffs Semifinals (including links to live streams)

Saturday December 21st: 2:00 PM EST: Montana State at North Dakota State (ESPN2)

Quick Roundtable: What does Montana State need to do to win?

Chuck Burton: Nicholls and Illinois State have shown a blueprint on how to win – control the clock, move the yards in small chunks, and have confidence that your physicality will wear them down. The Fargodome isn’t the same intimidating force it was even a couple of years ago – don’t let it be an impediment.

Kent Schmidt: QB Tucker Rovig will be key to the attack to make the right passing reads when MSU needs to keep drives going and to also keep the Bison defense off-balanced.

Jamie Williams: Control the clock and avoid turnovers. The Bobcats need to continue to excel at the run game. Relative to the rest of the team, the Bison run D is the most vulnerable part of the team. On defense, the Bobcats have to get off the field on third down. They cant let Trey Lance continue to move the chains, especially in 3rd and 7+.

Ray Maloney: While Choate thinks the success of NDSU is not good for college football, perhaps instead of complaining, he should concentrate on making his team better. Football was not meant to be a game of participation trophies and Choate and the Bobcats need to go out and earn whatever success that comes their way.

What does North Dakota State need to do to win?

Chuck Burton: Just show up at home in the Fargodome? Kidding aside, they are going to have to win the physical battle with Montana State. They managed to hold their own against a physical team last week in Illinois State, but the Redbirds were down a few weapons. Montana State will be the same level of physicality but more dynamic offensively.

Kent Schmidt: The key for the Bison has been a bend but don’t break style where NDSU plays shutdown defenses when their opponents get into scoring ranges as can be seen in the points per game average. They’ll have to do it again this weekend.

Jamie Williams: Let QB Trey Lance throw the ball. The Bison were way too one dimensional last week. And within that one dimension, they were predictable. Run up the middle. Trey Lance extended a couple drives with his feet, otherwise the Redbirds may have gotten the ball back with enough time to lean on Robinson some more. On defense they have to stop the run. But they actually have to be aware of the Bobcats pass game. Rovig isnt going to set the world on fire, but he has been playing very good complimentary football.

Ray Maloney: NDSU has get back to the simple basics of football and remember what got them to the level of dominance, that MSU coach Jeff Choate bemoans: smash-mouth controlled football.

Fearless Predictions

Chuck Burton: The Bobcats are the combination of physical team with a very good offense that has had the fortune of playing most of their playoff games at home. They are built to end NDSU’s run to Frisco. Montana State 28, North Dakota State 24

Kent Schmidt: All the trends tend to go towards a Montana State upset but I don’t think we have seen the best play yet in the playoffs by the Bison. NDSU will unleash more unpredictable offense in this game and with the home crowd, they will win this game but it will be much closer than last year’s playoff win by the Bison. North Dakota State 30 Montana State 21

Jamie Williams: This game will be close all day long. Look for a physical, ball control game where the two lines beat each other up for 60 minutes. At the end of the day, the Bison will make just enough plays to get a fiddle in the band to play in Texas once again. North Dakota State 23, Montana State 20

Ray Maloney: The Bison spent the regular season punishing opponents seemingly at will. The playoffs have been another matter, but after a pair of sub-standard performances, the corrections have been addressed and the Bobcats might have poked the bear after comments by MSU coach Jeff Choate earlier this week. North Dakota State 38, Montana State 14

Saturday December 21st: 5:30 PM EST: Weber State at James Madison State (James Madison Version) (ESPNU)

Saturday December 21st: 4:30 PM MST: Weber State at James Madison State (Weber State Version) (ESPNU)

Read our in-depth roundtable breaking down the Weber State/Montana State matchup, featuring our columnists Jamie Williams and Ben Schleiger.

Fearless Predictions

Chuck Burton: Weber State’s defense is a great unit – probably better than JMU’s very, very strong defense – but it won’t be enough in what seems like will be a defensive battle. Travelling halfway across the country, James Madison is too tough. James Madison 23, Weber State 6

Kent Schmidt: Weber State gave everything that James Madison could handle when these two teams met two years ago in the quarterfinal round of that season’s playoffs. History will repeat itself with a Dukes close win that goes down to the wire. James Madison 31 Weber State 28

Jamie Williams: The Dukes have no weakness and have one goal in mind: Frisco. Weber State may put up a fight early, but look for JMU to put the clamps on defensively and pull away offensively in the second half. James Madison 31, Weber State 10

Ben Schleiger: JMU may have headline players or NFL bound talent, a fantastic stadium, and a rowdy fan base, but can the Dukes carry Curt Cignetti farther than Semi-Finals? At Elon he never made it past the first round so either he is doing something right at JMU or JMU is carrying Cignetti on their backs. Weber State 27, James Madison 24

Ray Maloney: The Dukes seem to have all the right answers as the postseason has continued. They slammed the door on Monmouth, a game I was certain would go the way of the Hawks. While I learned my lesson and figured a win over Northern Iowa was in the making, the JMU defense stepped up. Weber State, meanwhile, doesn’t figure to be enough of a threat to prevent the Dukes from advancing to Texas. James Madison 27, Weber State 17