FCS, Division II, Division III Preview
Three Texas teams are still alive in the sub-FBS college football playoffs.
Sure, the FBS college football season in Texas is over except for the bowl games, but there's plenty of action concerning Texas teams this weekend, as three teams fight in the sub-FBS playoffs.
Sam Houston State (9-3) at Montana State (11-1)
7 p.m. Friday, ESPN2
FCS National Quarterfinal
The name of the game in the playoffs is “survive and advance,” and that’s what Sam Houston State did last week against Cal Poly. The offense wasn’t great – in fact, they were outgained by more than 140 yards – but the defense made huge plays, forcing three turnovers and blocking a punt to help the Bearkats eke out an 18-16 win. Things will need to be much crisper if they’re going to come out of Bozeman with a win this weekend, because this is an exceptional Montana State team. Texas high school football fans probably remember Euless Trinity QB DeNarius McGhee, and he’s still his dynamic self, throwing for 2,726 yards and 22 touchdowns this year to earn offensive player of the year honors for the second time in his three seasons. In fact, he’s thrown a touchdown pass in every game he’s played in – 36 in all. But the Bobcats’ biggest asset is its defense, anchored by DE Caleb Schreibeis, an absolute monster on the outside, and LB Jody Owens, the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year and All-American. It’ll be a challenge for Tim Flanders and the run-based Bearkats, as the Bobcats boast the seventh-best rushing defense in the nation, allowing just 98.2 yards per game on the ground. But we’ve seen this SHSU attack get by great defenses before; can they do it again?
Mary Hardin-Baylor (13-0) at Mount Union (13-0)
1 p.m. Saturday
Division III National Semifinal
Call it LiDarral-Mania. The Cru QB LiDarral Bailey briefly set the Internet aflame last weekend with his bit of improvised brilliance on a touchdown throw during UMHB’s 32-20 win over Wesley College last week. You can see the video here. Everyone has started “LiDarral-ing” – recreating the maneuver – including our very own managing editor, Travis Stewart.
But the play, while brilliant, also overshadows what was a terrific overall effort from the Cru, coming back from a 17-12 halftime deficit to firm up defensively behind LB Javicz Jones, who racked up 10 tackles, a forced fumble, two pass break-ups and a blocked kick. Take that effort they had against Wesley, and triple it, because that’s what they’ll need against Mount Union. Are you familiar with Mount Union? You should be. They are, more or less, the top football dynasty in the nation. They’ve won 10 national championships (the most in DIII), played in but lost another five national championship games, and didn’t lose a regular season game from 1994 to 2005. That’s 110 games. They don’t mess around. The key is a lightning-quick offense led by QB Kevin Burke and an army of receivers, but the defense – led by Isaiah Scott – ain’t bad either. The good news for the Cru: they’ve never lost to Mount Union, beating them in the 2004 national semifinals. Can they find the magic again? Can LiDarrall-mania live on?
West Texas A&M (12-2) at Winston-Salem State (13-0)
5:30 p.m. Saturday
Division II National Semifinal
What has West Texas A&M done to get here? Oh, not much. Just beat the No. 20 (Chadron State), No. 4 (Ashland) and No. 1 (Colorado State-Pueblo) teams, in consecutive weeks, all on the road. Last week’s win over the Thunderwolves was perhaps the most impressive, holding CSU-Pueblo to a mere 32 yards on 33 attempts on the ground and getting another huge game from QB Dustin Vaughan, who threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns. This is already farther than WTA&M has ever gone; can they keep it rolling for a fourth consecutive week, this time against No. 2 Winston-Salem State? The Rams are unbeaten, largely because of their standout QB Kameron Smith, who ranks second in the nation in pass efficiency. The WSSU defense can be beat – this is a team that relies on a high-flying offense, not a sturdy defense – so the onus will be on the Buffaloes’ D to once again stand tall. In the end, though, if you believe in momentum, A&M has all of it. Can they parlay that into another big win, and a berth in the national championship game?
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.