FCS First Round Playoffs: Upper Half of Bracket

The 2022 FCS playoffs begin on Saturday with eight first-round games.

The 24-team field will play at the school’s venues until the January 8 championship game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Following are capsule previews of round one games in the top half of the bracket anchored by the No. 1 in the state of South Dakota (all times ET):

Saint Francis (9-2, 7-0 Northeast) in Delaware (7-4, 4-4 CAA)

Kicking off – 2 p.m. at Delaware Stadium in Newark, Delaware (ESPN+)

Series – Delaware leads 1-0 (Delaware won 27-10 at home on Sept. 11, 2021)

Trainer – Saint Francis: Chris Villarrial (60-73, Season 12); Delaware: Ryan Carty (7-4, first season)

3 players in mind – Saint Francis: QB Cole Doyle (134 of 196, 1,849 yards, 21 TDs, 3 INTs; 310 rushing yards), WR Makai Jackson (80 receptions, 920 yards, 8 TDs; KOR TD), DE Donnell Brown (46 tackles, 13.5 TFL , 5.5 bags); Delaware: QB Nolan Henderson 266 of 418, 2,934 yards, 28 TDs, 8 INTs), LB Johnny Buchanan (120 tackles, 5.5 TFL), S Kedrick Whitehead (61 tackles, 3.5 TFL, INT, FF)

Remarkable – Saint Francis is on a nine-game winning streak before their second all-time playoff appearance, while UD is beginning its 18th appearance (and seventh-place finish in FCS history) after back-to-back losses. While leading the strongest offense in SFU’s FCS history, Doyle has 14 TD passes to zero interceptions in his last three games. However, UD’s strong pass defense ranks second among 130 FCS teams in passing yards allowed per game (134.1) and third in passing efficiency ratings (100.8). Twelve of the Blue Hens’ 20 turnovers have occurred in their four losses (eight in seven wins).

Next – The winner plays in the second round (3:00 p.m. ET on Dec. 3) in South Dakota State (10-1), seeded at No. 1.

prediction – Delaware 28, Saint Francis 17

Fordham (9-2, 5-1 Patriot) at New Hampshire (8-3, 7-1 CAA)

Kicking off – 2 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium in Durham, New Hampshire (ESPN+)

Series – New Hampshire leads 1-0 (UNH won 44-19 at home in the second round on December 6, 2014)

Coach – Fordham: Joe Conlin (23-25, fifth season); New Hampshire: Rick Santos (14-8, second season)

3 players in mind – Fordham: QB Tim DeMorat (301 of 458, 4,561 yards, 53 TDs), WR Fotis Kokosiouslis (89 receptions, 1,180 yards, 14 TDs), LB Ryan Greenhagen (103 tackles, 4.5 sacks); New Hampshire: QB Max Brosmer (2,564 passing yards, 22 TDs, 5 INTs), RB Dylan Laube (162.5 all-purpose yards per game, 15 TDs), DE Josiah Silver (42 tackles, 14 TFL, 8.5 sacks)

Remarkable – Conlin spent the 2004-10 seasons on the UNH coaching staff. UNH returns to the playoffs for the first time in a 14-year run in 2017 (it started with Santos assisting the 2004 team as quarterback). In addition to offensive exploits from DeMorat and Kokosiouslis, Fordham’s FCS-leading offense (611.5 yards per game) features a second 1,000-yard receiver (Dequece Carter, 1,194) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Trey Sneed, 1,002) . UNH is second in the CAA with 31 sacks but gave up a season-high 538 yards to Maine in a 42-41 overtime win last Saturday.

Next – The winner plays in the second round (12:00 p.m. ET on December 3) at Holy Cross (11-0) ranked 8th.

prediction – 38 Fordham, 35 New Hampshire

North Dakota (7-4, 5-3) at Weber State (9-2, 6-2 Big Sky)

Kicking off – 4 p.m. at Stewart Stadium in Ogden, Utah (ESPN+)

Series – Weber State leads 4-1 (last encounter: Weber State won 30-27 at home on Nov. 9, 2019)

Coaches – North Dakota: Bubba Schweigert (54-44, ninth season; 76-66 overall); Weaver State: Jay Hill (67-38, ninth season)

3 players in mind – North Dakota: QB Tommy Schuster (228 of 322, 2,546 yards, 17 TDs, 5 INTs), RB Tyler Hoosman (885 rushing yards, 12 TDs), LB Devon Krzanowski (54 tackles, 3 sacks); Weaver State: QB Bronson Barron (190 of 320, 2,337 yards, 19 TDs, 7 INTs), LB Winston Reid (94 tackles, 10 TFL, 4 FF), CB Maxwell Anderson (38 tackles, 5 INTs, 9 PBU)

Remarkable – Weber State is the highest-ranked team (No. 9, behind eight seeds) playing in the first round. The Wildcats’ fast attack (Dontae McMillan leads by 681 yards) usually goes hot, and AND has allowed the opponent 5.1 yards per carry. Abraham Williams has had 100-yard kickoff returns for a touchdown in four of his last seven games. The Fighting Hawks are fifth nationally behind the efficient Schuster (70.8 percent – fourth-best FCS) in average possession time (33 minutes, 47 seconds), but while they’ve done well to close third behind (45 .9%) the defense struggled to get off the field, allowing the opponent a 50.4 conversion percentage.

Next – The winner plays in the second round (3pm ET on Dec. 3) against Montana State (10-1), seeded at 4th seed.

prediction – State of Weber 29, North Dakota 21

Gardner-Webb (6-5, 5-0 Big South) in East Kentucky (7-4, 3-2 ASUN)

Kicking off – 5 p.m. at Roy Kidd Stadium in Richmond, Kentucky (ESPN+)

Series – First date

Trainer – Gardner Webb: Tre Lamb (12-14, third season); Eastern Kentucky: Walt Wells (16-13, third season)

3 players in mind – Gardner-Webb: QB Bailey Fisher (220 of 339, 2,755 yards, 18 TDs, 10 INTs; 8 TD rushes), DE Ty French (61 tackles, 11 sacks, 15 QBH), LB William Rainey (92 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 3 takeaways). ); Eastern Kentucky: QB Parker McKinney (278 of 402, 3,502 yards, 28 TDs, 7 INTs; 372 rushing yards, 8 TDs), RB Braedon Sloan (600 rushing yards, 7 TDs; 39 receptions, 495 yards, 3 TDs), LB Matthew Jackson ( 77 tackles, 4 PBU, 2 FR)

Remarkable – While Gardner-Webb is making his first playoff appearance compared to EKU’s 22nd (second best in history), the Runnin’ Bulldogs can be heartened by the Big South’s all-time 9-6 first-round record. Also, the Colonels haven’t won a game in their last seven games (last playoff win in 1993). When GW received FedEx Ground FCS National Team of the Week honors by beating North Carolina A&T for the conference title, Narii Gaither and Jayden Brown rushed for 200 yards and four touchdowns together. EKU made the playoffs by defeating Kennesaw State as McKinney rushed for a career-high 427 yards and equaled the program’s single-game record with five TD passes.

Next – The winner plays in the second round (2:00 p.m. ET on December 3) against William & Mary (10-1), who are seeded 5th.

prediction – Eastern Kentucky 31, Gardner-Webb 28