FCS First Round Playoff Matchup: Kennesaw State (Big South) at Wofford (Southern)
Where: Gibbs Stadium, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Saturday, November 30th, 4:00 PM
TV/Streaming: ESPN3 (subscription req’d)
Kennesaw State Owls (10-2), Head Coach: Brian Bohannon
Big South Conference
The 2019 season for the Owls hasn’t really been that far off their more recent M/O after coming into the FCS in 2015. Last year, they rolled their conference schedule smashing everyone by multiple scores and almost beating an FBS program in the process. This year started off in the same way – they rolled through their out of conference schedule, almost beating an FBS team (Kent State, who needed overtime to win), and it looked like the conference schedule would follow the same narrative. Then two thirds of the way through the season, Monmouth came down to Georgia and laid a beatdown on the Owls in a game that ended 45-21, but really wasn’t that close. KSU then followed up that loss with a narrow win over a much improved Campbell team, and two others in conference blow outs. With two Division 2 wins, an FBS loss not counted against them, and the Monmouth loss, KSU was giving the selection committee a record of 8-1 with no impressive wins and a pretty bad loss compared to some other bubble teams. But the Owls were one of the last four in and will be looking to prove their worth. They bring an offense that averages over 40 points per game and a defense holding opponents to under 18. They’ll be facing off against another team in Wofford that has a chip on their shoulder and runs the triple option.
Key Player: QB Tommy Bryant will be instrumental in how effective the Owls will be against the Terrier defense. He is the teams second leading rusher, and a triple option is only as good as their offensive general on the field. Apart from the less than stellar Monmouth game Bryant has shown that he has the composure to pick the perfect play calls at the right times. And when you’re averaging almost 6 yards a carry as a quarterback, albeit in the triple option, you must be doing something right.
Wofford Terriers (8-3), Head Coach: Josh Conklin
Spartanburg, South Carolina
Wofford started off the season with one of the most shocking results of the early going, getting run off the field by their city rival out of the MEAC, South Carolina State. As it turned out, the Bulldogs were much better than most anticipated and almost ended up in the playoffs. Wofford then followed that up with a close loss to Samford 21-14, which had a lot of people wondering if maybe overestimated the talent and schemes being implemented at Wofford.
Then the Terriers ran off 5 straight wins with only one close call vs. Chattanooga. Sandwiching in a loss against a scrappy little known FBS school by the name of Clemson, Wofford then continued with their winning ways in FCS play, finishing off the season with three convincing wins, including against in state rival and playoff bound Furman. That makes eight straight FCS and seven straight conference wins for the Terriers, which in a conference as balanced from top to bottom as the SoCon is no easy feat. Wofford will be bringing in their tough triple option offense to this first round match, along with a stingy defense and perhaps a chip on their shoulders after a 13-10 loss to these very Owls in the second round of last year’s playoffs.
Key Player: Signal caller once again is paramount in the triple option offense and as QB Joe Newman goes, so go the Terriers. He is not only the teams leading passer but their leading rusher as well. He averaged 7.5 yards per carry while also having a good enough arm to keep teams honest. If he has a standout performance, the Owls could be in for a long day.
Fearless Prediction: Speaking of fearless, I predict this game will have a total run time of 2 and a half hours because there won’t be a lot of passes in the air. In all seriousness though, the committee did well to match these two teams up and with it also being a rematch from last years playoffs, there will be some familiarity between the squads even outside of running the same offense. I’ll take Wofford to get revenge here not only being on a hot streak but having played the much tougher schedule this year. Wofford 27, Kennesaw State 21
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Preston attended James Madison University where he majored in Vocal Performance. As a member of the Drumline and Marching Royal Dukes for 4 years, he’s seen a lot of JMU football up close and personal and having grown up attending HBCU games, he has extensive knowledge of the history and pageantry that comes with attending a game in the MEAC and SWAC. When not talking college football or being musical, Preston is a fan of the game the world calls football, golf, and curling. (Curling? Curling!)