Furman (8-5) at (1) North Dakota State (11-0)
The Sports Network
By Brandon Lawrence, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 7, 3:30 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gate City Bank Filed at the Fargodome (18,700) -- Fargo, North Dakota. Surface: AstroTurf's GameDay Grass. Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers: Shawn Kenney, John Bunting. Home Record: Furman 4-1; North Dakota State 6-0. Away Record: Furman 4-4; North Dakota State 5-0. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: Furman - Southern; North Dakota State - Missouri Valley. Nicknames: Furman Paladins; North Dakota State Bison. Sports Network FCS Ranking: Furman (NR); North Dakota State (1). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Furman (NS); North Dakota State (1). Head Coaches: Furman - Bruce Fowler (third season, 17-18 at Furman and overall); North Dakota State - Craig Bohl (11th season, 100-32 at North Dakota State and overall). Playoff Records: Furman (18-14); North Dakota State (10-1). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Furman 15 (1982-83, 1985-86, 1988-90, 1996, 1999-2002, 2004-06 - FCS Champions in 1988); North Dakota State 3 (2010-12 - FCS Champions in 2011 and 2012). Current Playoff Streak: Furman has won four of its last seven playoff games; North Dakota State has won its last eight playoff games.
GAME NOTES: The Bison cruised right through the regular season, and many wondered if there was, or even still is, a chance for any team to stop this squad from a third straight national title.
The possibility is always there in the postseason, although looking at the bracket, it seems a potential North Dakota State-Montana quarterfinals matchup might provide the biggest scare for the Bison on their way to at least the semifinals. But that's getting ahead of ourselves.
North Dakota State will host the Southern Conference champion Furman this weekend. The Paladins took down South Carolina State of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference last weekend, 30-20, behind Jairus Hollman's heroics. The sophomore cornerback returned a punt 90 yards for a score in the first quarter, then notched an interception return for a touchdown later in the third.
Furman, a team that finished 7-5 overall in the regular season, didn't overwhelm any of its opponents this year, and is a team that averages 23.9 points per game - good for 74th in the country. But the Paladins have won five in a row, and three of those five wins were road games. Fargo is never an easy place to play, but at least Furman won't be culture-shocked.
The Bison are still without linebacker Grant Olson, although the nation's best scoring defense (11.5 points per game) didn't take too much of a hit from Olson's absence, especially in the team's 42-0 blanking of South Dakota in the regular-season finale.
Quarterback Brock Jensen became the FCS' all-time leader in career wins with 44, and he'll look to improve on that total the rest of the way through the postseason. The senior finished the year with 2,070 passing yards, 26 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. His numbers weren't eye-popping, but the guy knows how to win.
With key wins this season against tough Missouri Valley opposition, it's hard to imagine the Bison being upset in this one. But, hey, crazier things have happened (just ask Nick Saban).
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Dakota State 35, Furman 20.
12/05 05:37:50 ET