FCS Playoffs First Round
The Matchup – Samford (8-3) at Kennesaw State (10-1)
Kickoff – 2 p.m. ET Saturday at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Georgia
Coverage – ESPN3
Series – Samford leads 1-0 (Samford won 28-23 at home on Aug. 31)
Players to Watch – Samford: Devlin Hodges (308 of 462, 3,587 yards, 30 TDs, 10 INTs), WR Kelvin McKnight (79 receptions, 1,130 yards, 12 TDs), DE Ahmad Gooden (98 TT, 15.5 TFL, 11 QBH), LB Shaheed Salmon (91 TT, 13.5 TFL, 4 Sacks); Kennesaw State: QB Chandler Burks (912 rushing yards, 15 TDs; 1,007 passing yards, 6 TDs), RB Darnell Holland (53 carries, 550 yards, 6 TDs), LB Bryson Armstrong (82 TT, 10 Sacks, 4 FR, 3 FF), PK Justin Thompson (14 of 17 FG)
The Skinny – Inclement weather interrupted these teams’ season opener before Samford prevailed 28-23. Hodges, the two-time Southern Conference offensive player of the year, has accounted for 10,596 yards of total offense in less than three seasons. McKnight caught two of Hodges’ four TD passes in the season-opening win. Punter Austin Barnard’s 45.3-yard average ranks No. 2 in the FCS. Kennesaw’s third-year program enters its first playoff game on a 10-game winning streak since the Samford loss and has jumped on many opponents early. The Big South champ’s 32 takeaways and plus-23 turnover margin lead the FCS, and the Owls have scored 117 points off turnovers. With Burks, Holland and Jake McKenzie featured in the triple-option offense, they also rank No. 1 nationally in rushing yards per game (339).
Up Next – The winner plays at No. 3 seed Jacksonville State (10-1) in the second round Dec. 2.
Prediction – The Owls have plenty of breakaway speed, but they’ll want to grind out drives and keep Samford’s offense on the sideline. Kennesaw State, 28-23.