FCS football playoffs begin Saturday

The NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs begin this weekend, with both Montana and Montana State playing at 2 p.m. Mountain Time.

Neither the Griz nor Bobcat game will be available on TV because the rights are owned by ESPN. In fact, the network won’t be airing any of the nine FCS playoff games on its channels. Instead, ESPN is broadcasting the games online, or they will be available by purchasing ESPN Gameplan.

On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Jon Tester wrote a letter to ESPN, urging the network to carry more FCS playoff games.

With this week’s schedule already set, there is little that can be done for Saturday, but should the Griz or Bobcats advance, perhaps Tester’s letter could sway the network to broadcast more FCS playoff games.


Montana State vs.
South Dakota State

The Jackrabbits finished fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference with an 8-4 record, averaging 31.2 points per game.

South Dakota uses a balanced offensive attack, running for 171 yards per game while throwing for another 270.

The Jackrabbits are allowing over 180 rushing yards per game, a good sign for the Bobcats, who have run the ball nearly twice as many times as they’ve thrown the ball this year (566 rushing attempts, 310 passing attempts).

The Bobcats rush for 248 yards per game and have scored 38 touchdowns on the ground, compared to just 20 passing touchdowns.

Running back Zach Zenner and receiver Jake Wieneke are South Dakota State’s main threats.

Zenner has rushed for 1,668 yards and 16 touchdowns on 282 attempts for a 5.8 yards per carry average, which includes a 94-yard touchdown run earlier this season.

Wieneke is also capable of the big play, with a 91-yard touchdown catch this season. He has 1,318 receiving yards on 66 catches with 15 touchdowns. The redshirt freshman averages 20 yards per catch.

The winner of Saturday’s game will face three-time defending national champions North Dakota State.


Montana vs. San Diego

The San Diego Toreros finished the season as the Pioneer Football League Champions with a 9-2 record.

This is the first meeting between the two schools since 1958, when San Diego won 24-13. The winner on Saturday moves on to face No. 4 Eastern Washington.

This is the Toreros’ first appearance in the FCS playoffs and it is only the second time by a Pioneer Football League member after the league received an automatic bid when the playoffs expanded to 24 teams in 2013.

San Diego wins with defense, allowing less than 360 yards of offense per game.

The Toreros have outscored opponents by an average score of 27-25.

What little offense San Diego does manage is mostly supplied by running back Jonah Hodges and quarterback Keith Williams.

Hodges has gained 108 yards per game for a total of 1,194 yards and six touchdowns.

Williams has thrown 21 touchdowns to go with just nine interceptions while gaining 2,093 yards.


Carroll vs. Southern Oregon

Meanwhile, Carroll College is in the second round of the NAIA playoffs. The Fighting Saints will play No. 8 Southern Oregon at home Saturday at noon. 

Carroll advanced from the first round with a 49-0 win over No. 14 Valley City State.


Thomas Watson may be reached at twatson@livent.net.