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I-AA Playoff Predictions

I-AA Playoff Predictions
Without any further ado, here they are. Here in eastern Pennsylvania, if you are a I-AA football nut like me, you can catch the Delaware/William & Mary game on CN8 at noon, and then, assuming you haven't got enough, you can then check out New Hampshire against Montana at 3:00PM on ESPN2.

Delaware at William & Mary. Here in the east, this is the marquee matchup. Two teams who are both members of the A-10, who have faced each other earlier this year (Delaware coming out on top 31-28 at the Tub). Advancement in the playoffs; A-10 supremacy; and if all that weren't enough, a Lambert Cup also may be on the line (given to the best Eastern I-AA Football team).

So who to take? Both teams scored come-from-behind victories last week. The Tribe will be looking for revenge; Delaware, however, has been here before. W&M has Payton-award candidate Lang Campbell at the helm; Delaware has QB Sonny Riccio who led a gutty drive to take the lead on Lafayette last week late in the 4th quarter.

This game is awfully tough to call. I'm going to go with the Blue Hens. In an evenly-matched game, I think the Hens' experience will seal another very close game between these two rivals.
Delaware 30, William & Mary 28.

James Madison at Furman. Furman boasts a talented squad that has put it all together at the end of the year to sweep their way through the SoCon, and through the 1st round of the playoffs against Jacksonville St. James Madison withstood a tough challenge from Lehigh last week but showed a tenacious defense.

I think Furman encounters more problems against the Dukes than most people think. The Paladins' receiving threats are not tall, and won't match up well against the Duke's speedy pass defense. Running against the Dukes' "D" is problematic at best.

The key will how productive the Dukes' offense will be against the Paladins, and if they will turn over the ball. I see a hard-fought defensive battle, coming down to a big kick return or a big turnover. Furman will be the victim, and JMU will shock the Paladins. JMU 20, Furman 17.

New Hampshire at Montana. What next for the UNH Wildcats? It wasn't enough to beat the defending champions on the road the first week of the season with their 4th-string QB. It wasn't enough to embarass I-A Rutgers on the road the following week. No, they also had to break Georgia Southern's hearts by upending the supposedly-unbeatable Golden Eagles at home in the first round of the playoffs. That made the Wildcats 8-0 on the road this year.

Montana, on the other hand, thrashed the Southland's Northwestern St. at home. Coasting to a 10-2 record, they have been their usual tenacious selves at home. What will give, Montana's home record, or UNH's road record?

Lots has been made of the Wildcats' WR David Ball going out with an injury last week, and people say that will make the difference. I don't think so. UNH has thrived on being an underdog on the road all year, and clearly won't be intimidated in Washington-Grizzly stadium, complete with temporary lights and 50% chance of snow. The fact is that even without Ball the Wildcats are a better team than Montana, and they will prove it once again here. UNH 28, Montana 20.

Sam Houston St. at Eastern Washington. This one is clearly a battle of star QBs, in the SHS Bearkats' Dustin Long and the Eagles' QB Erik Meyer. It should be a showcase of offenses, so clearly the key to the game will be how the defenses can put up with the onslaught - and if either defense can get a key turnover.

As close as this matchup is on paper, with identical offenses and defenses, you have to give the nod again to the Big Sky team, playing in cold weather, against a Southland team. Until a Southland team proves to me they can win a big cold-weather game, I'm not a believer. The Eagles in the biggest margin of victory in the first round. EWU 45, SHS 24.

See how I did on Sunday! Yeah, I know I picked 3 A-10 teams in the final 4!


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