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Predictions: I-AA playoffs

There are 6 other I-AA playoff games being played this weekend. Here's my fearless predictions for all these games this weekend:

Richmond at Hampton. Congratulations on Hampton with their 11-0 season, and congratulations on Richmond's 8-3 year. This is an intriguing first-round matchup. Hampton has plenty to prove, but I think the difference will be the inability of the Pirates to score on Richmond's defense. Give Tutt a big play or three, and I think the Spiders get through. Richmond 17, Hampton 6.

Southern Illinois at Eastern Illinois. The Panthers surprised most of I-AA nation by hosting a first-round game. I think the Salukis, first-round doormats in '03 and '04, reverse the trend this time, even on the road. SIU 38, EIU 3.

Nicholls St. at Furman. The surprise winner of the Southland takes on a grateful first-round host in Furman. Beating Furman at home seems like a tall order for a team who may just "be happy to be here", but the triple-option and a surprisingly tough defense may cause the Colonels to ground the Paladins better than some people think. Still, looks like a Furman win here. Furman 34, Nicholls St. 28.

Eastern Wasington at Northern Iowa. Too bad there's no TV crews in the dome to carry what promises to be a barn-burner. It's actually a shame, too, since this could be the best for the first-round games and features a couple teams that could make a surprising run at Chattanooga. The Eagles' Meyer and the Panthers' Sanders are two elite I-AA quarterbacks who are playing red-hot right now, and who both have willed their respective teams into the I-AA playoffs by the skin of their teeth. I'd love to take the Panthers at home here, but I sense something special from the Eagles right now after barely making the playoffs. The Eagles are playing better defense, and I think that carries them through. EWU 41, UNI 33.

Georgia Southern at Texas State. Sure the Bobcats got in the I-AA playoffs for the first time. Their reward? Just take out, oh, the premier I-AA playoff team EVER who is 1) angry about being stiffed for a home game, and 2) angry about letting New Hampshire beating them in the first round. As strong as Texas St. can be, a Georgia Southern win looks like too good a possibility. GSU 40, TSU 21.

Cal Poly at Montana. The 'Stangs got in (finally) this year, and are rewarded by playing the Griz in Washington-Grizzly stadium, one of the toughest places to play in I-AA. The playoffs are tough in even the best of circumstances, and a team that has struggled at times offensively playing one of the best teams in the Big Sky doesn't seem like a good matchup. Looks to be low-scoring, but it's hard to pick against the Griz at home. Montana 10, Cal Poly 3.


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