Jacksonville State at (8) Maine
When: Saturday, December, 12:00 PM
Where: Alfond Stadium, Orono, ME
TV/Streaming: ESPN College Extra, ESPN3
Jacksonville State Gamecocks
Ohio Valley Conference
FCS Sagarin Rating: 12
How They Got Here: Jacksonville State fell behind 20-10 at the half, but rallied in the second half to defeat East Tennessee State 34-27. Shaq Davidson had two second half touchdown catches – and three for the game – to lead the Gamecock offense back to victory. The defense came up with two timely turnovers to extend, and then protect the lead. The Ohio Valley champs will travel north to Maine to take on the CAA champs this week.
Best Win: vs. East Tennessee State (34-27)
Worst Loss: vs. Southeast Missouri State (37-14)
Other key outcomes: vs. Kennesaw State (60-52 L 5 OT), vs. North Carolina A&T (20-17 L), Murray State (42-15 W)
Playoff Floor: The Gamecocks could fall victim to the tough Maine defense and the tough Maine weather and be sent back to Alabama with a loss this week.
Playoff Ceiling: Jacksonville State has the talent and the defense to beat not only Maine, but survive a game in Ogden against Weber State. However, they probably don’t have enough to get past Eastern Washington in a potential semifinal matchup.
Key Player This week: QB Zerrick Cooper has done nothing but improve week after week running the Gamecock offense. However, Cooper has shown a propensity to turn the ball over in tough spots this year having thrown 13 interceptions. The weather in Maine could be a factor this weekend. A bigger factor will be the Maine defense that averages two takeaways a game. If Cooper is careless with the football, he could put the Gamecocks in a hole they cannot dig out of. But, if Cooper can spread the ball around to his talented receiving corps, including Shaq Davidson and Josh Pearson, the Gamecocks could put a stranglehold on the Maine hopes.
Fantasy Bonus Baby This Week: WR Josh Pearson didn’t find the end zone last week against East Tennessee State, only the second time all year that he did not score. Pearson will not be held out of the end zone for a second straight week. He should be the focal point of the offense, and will go over 100 yards easily
Maine Black Bears
Colonial Athletic Association
FCS Sagarin Rating: 25
How They Got Here: Maine was picked to finish eighth in the CAA preseason poll. All they did was go out and go 7-1 in the conference to win the outright CAA title and the playoff automatic bid that comes along with it. The Black Bears also picked up a win over an FBS opponent with a 31-28 win over Western Kentucky. There were a couple of bad losses on the schedule to Yale and William & Mary, but overall the Black Bears played like one of the top teams in the FCS. They had to contend with a shoulder injury to their quarterback, Chris Ferguson, who missed two full games and hasn’t been 100% since. All of that turmoil and triumph ended up with the Black Bears as the number seven overall seed in the FCS playoffs.
Best Win: vs. FBS Western Kentucky (31-28)
Worst Loss: vs. William & Mary (27-20)
Other Key Outcomes: vs. Towson (35-28 W), vs. Elon (27-26 W), vs. Yale (35-14 L)
Playoff Floor: The Black Bears will get a tough challenge from a strong Jacksonville State team and could be defeated this week in the second round.
Playoff Ceiling: Maine has a good enough defense to beat Weber State, but I do not think they have the offense to solve the Weber State defense, so one win seems about all Maine will be able to get this year in the playoffs.
Key Player This Week: QB Chris Ferguson been dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out of two full games and has hampered him in other games when he did play. The bye week gave Ferguson an extra week to rest the shoulder and get as close to 100% as possible coming into the playoffs. As a sophomore, you would think Ferguson lacks experience and wont be ready for a big game. However, he started as a true freshman last year and has over 20 games under his belt. He is a tough kid, with a good head on his shoulders and will not be intimidated by the moment. Ferguson has only thrown 14 touchdowns this year but has also thrown eight interceptions. This game will come down to which quarterback makes fewer mistakes.
Fantasy Bonus Baby This Week : WR Earnest Edwards has been a factor in the run game, pass game and return game for the Black Bears this year. In the season finale against Elon, Edwards returned two kickoffs for touchdowns even though he had no impact in the pass game. In the four games prior he racked up 24 catches, 389 yards and five touchdowns. The Gamecocks will need to know where Edwards is at all times. He should still have a huge impact, and will have at least 50 yards, and score at least one touchdown. There will be one key return where he puts his offense in a position to score with a short field.
Jamie: This is probably the closest matchup of the second round. The quarterback who makes the fewer mistakes will be the one to lead his team to the win. And if it comes down to a 2 minute drill drive, Zerrick Cooper is a little better than Chris Ferguson. Jacksonville State 28, Maine 27
Kent: Maine was the CAA automatic bid winner this year and was the lone seeded team despite five other CAA teams making the field. So far, the CAA has gone just 1-4 and the one win was James Madison playing conference foe Delaware. The Black Bears will look to get its conference a win in this one. Jacksonville State narrowly got by East Tennessee State last week and a trip to the cold Northeast might not bode well for the Gamecocks. Look for a close game but Maine getting the victory. Maine 37, Jacksonville State 31
Chuck: Like Kent, I think the frigid temperatures at Orono, coupled with two adrenaline-filled wins by the Gamecocks, will help out the host Black Bears immensely. Maine 24, Jacksonville State 10
Jamie is a proud 2002 graduate of James Madison University. He’s witnessed the growth of the program from no one in the stands in 1998, to the hiring of Mickey Matthews, to the 2004 National Championship, to the 2008 team, to the struggles in the early 2010s, and finally the rebuild under Mike Houston. He also allegedly really enjoys Washington, DC-based Stanley Cup winners.
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