FCS Second-Round Playoff
The Matchup – Monmouth (11-2, 6-0 Big South) at No. 2 seed James Madison (11-1, 8-0 CAA)
Kickoff – 1 p.m. ET at Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, Virginia
Coverage – ESPN3
Series – First meeting
Coaches – Monmouth: Kevin Callahan (163-123, 27 seasons); James Madison: Curt Cignetti (11-1, first season; 78-27 overall)
3 Players to Watch – Monmouth: QB Kenji Bahar (3,511 passing yards, 33 total TDs), RB Pete Guerriero (1,888 rushing yards, 19 total TDs), LB Da’Quan Grimes (97 tackles, 12½ tackles for loss); James Madison: QB Ben DiNucci (2,978 yards of total offense, 26 total TDs), DE Ron’Dell Carter (22½ tackles for loss, 9½ sacks), LB Dimitri Holloway (97 tackles, 3 fumble recoveries)
The Skinny – James Madison is riding an 11-game winning streak and Monmouth has won nine in a row. The visiting Hawks are coming off a 44-27 first-round win over Holy Cross. Guerriero, the FCS rushing leader, has gone over 200 yards in three straight games and four of the last six, but JMU boasts the No. 1-ranked rushing defense in the FCS. Guiding an offense that has helped Monmouth to a plus-13 turnover margin, Bahar must be error-free while he distributes the ball to WRs Lonnie Moore IV and Terrance Greene Jr., who have nine touchdown receptions each. The Dukes, coming off a first-round bye, will try to use the run game to wear down the Hawks. RBs Percy Agyei-Obese (884 yards, 15 TDs) and Jawon Hamilton (682, 5) both had over 100 rushing yards against Rhode Island in the regular-season finale. Incredibly, all four starters on the Dukes’ defensive line have over 10 tackles for loss: Carter (22½), DE John Daka (20½), NG Adeeb Atariwa (10½) and DT Mike Greene (10). Bahar has to be careful against the JMU secondary, where S Adam Smith has picked off six passes this season and CB Rashad Robinson has 13 career interceptions. Both teams have reliable kickers: Monmouth’s Matt Mosquera is 15 of 19 on field goal attempts and JMU’s Ethan Ratke is 20 of 24 as well as 51 of 61 over his career.
Up Next – The winner will play either Northern Iowa (9-4) or No. 7 seed South Dakota State (8-4) in the quarterfinals Dec. 13 or 14.
Prediction – Monmouth’s offensive explosiveness has been exceptional this season, but the Dukes will impart their physical style on the Hawks. James Madison, 34-14.