(5) Sam Houston State (9-3) at (2) Montana State (11-1)
The Sports Network
By Tim McDonnell, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Friday, Dec. 7, 8 p.m. ET
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bobcat Stadium (17,777) - Bozeman, Montana. Surface: FieldTurf. Television: ESPN2. Announcers: Tom Hart, John Congemi, Allison Williams. Home record: Sam Houston State 4-0; Montana State 6-1. Away record: Sam Houston State 4-3; Montana State 5-0. Neutral Record: Sam Houston State 1-0; Montana State 0-0. Conference: Sam Houston State - Southland; Montana State - Big Sky. Nicknames: Sam Houston State Bearkats; Montana State Bobcats. Series record: Sam Houston State (3-2). Last meeting: Dec. 10, 2011 (Sam Houston State, 49-13 at Sam Houston State). Series Streak: Sam Houston State has won the last two meetings. Sports Network FCS Ranking: Sam Houston State (5); Montana State (2). NCAA Playoff Seeding: Sam Houston State (NS); Montana State (3). Head Coaches: Sam Houston State - Willie Fritz (3rd season, 29-9 at Sam Houston; 19th season, 165-61-1 overall); Montana State - Rob Ash (6th season, 50-21 at Montana State; 33rd season, 226-120-5 overall). FCS playoff records: Sam Houston State 7-5; Montana State 6-5. Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Sam Houston State 5 (1986, 91, 2001, 04, 11); Montana State 6 (1984, 2002-03, 06, 10-11, National Champion in 1984). Current Playoff Streak: Sam Houston State has won three of its last four playoffs games; Montana State has lost three of its last five playoff games.
GAME NOTES: Revenge can either be good or bad depending on the situation. Montana State is hoping that it's a good thing because for the second straight season, the Bobcats meet Sam Houston State in the FCS quarterfinals.
The Bearkats took down MSU, 49-13, in Huntsville, Texas, last season, rushing for 428 yards on the way to the national title game. Plenty of Montana State players remember that contest and will be using it as motivation this week.
Montana State has the advantage of playing at home this time around and it could be a tough shorter week of travel and preparation for Sam Houston because the game is on Friday night. Plus, it's the first time since 1984 the Bobcats have hosted two playoffs games in the same season, so Bobcat Stadium should be rocking.
Both teams struggled offensively last week but made just enough plays to come away with victories. Sam Houston needed a team safety and three Miguel Antonio field goals to defeat Cal Poly, 18-16, and Montana State shut down Stony Brook's run game and utilized three Rory Perez field goals to win, 16-10.
Sam Houston ranks seventh in the FCS with 273 rushing yards per game this season. Timothy Flanders, Richard Sincere and Keshawn Hill split the carries, but each player brings something different to the table, making things even more difficult.
Montana State, on the other hand, ranks seventh in the FCS in rushing defense, allowing 98 yards per game. The key all season for the Bobcats defense has been consistency up front and depth. Jody Owens, Na'a Moeakiola, Caleb Schreibeis, Brad Daly and other players can impact a game individually or take it over as a unit.
Sam Houston only passes for 186 yards per game, so expect coach Willie Fritz to game plan for big plays with play action to receivers Trey Diller and Chance Nelson. Quarterback Brian Bell has the experience and ability to lead the offense and needs to make smart decisions, whether it be running or throwing the ball.
The Bearkats are even better against the run, allowing 88 yards per game (third in the FCS), so MSU will need players like Orenzo Davis, Tray Robinson and quarterback DeNarius McGhee to step up their play.
The last Southland Conference team to win a playoff game on the road versus a Big Sky Conference team was Sam Houston State in 2004. Big Sky schools are 21-3 all-time at home in the playoffs versus Southland foes and 6-1 all-time in the quarterfinals.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana State 28, Sam Houston State 25.
12/05 13:31:02 ET