FCS First-Round Playoff
The Matchup – Furman (8-4, 6-2 Southern) at Austin Peay (9-3, 7-1 Ohio Valley)
Kickoff – 1 p.m. ET at Fortera Stadium in Clarksville, Tennessee
Coverage – ESPN3
Series – First meeting
Coaches – Furman: Clay Hendrix (22-13, three seasons); Austin Peay: Mark Hudspeth (9-3, first season; 104-62 overall)
3 Players to Watch – Furman: RB Devin Wynn (1,121 rushing yards, 16 total TDs), Spur Jordan Willis (78 tackles, 4½ tackles for loss), PK/P Grayson Atkins (11 of 12 FGs, 43.3-yard punt average); Austin Peay: QB JaVaughn Craig (3,114 yards of total offense, 30 total TDs), WR/PR DeAngelo Wilson (1,246 receiving yards, 12 TDs), NB Kordell Jackson (34 tackles, 7 INTs)
The Skinny – While Ohio Valley Conference co-champ Austin Peay is appearing in the FCS playoffs for the first time, Furman is making its 18th all-time appearance, including a national championship season in 1988. The run game could decide the outcome as Furman ranks fifth in the FCS in rushing yards per game (275.8) and Austin Peay is fifth in rushing yards per game allowed (86.5). Furman, the Southern Conference runner-up, has twice made a change at starting quarterback, but the Paladins returned last week to season-opening starter Darren Grainger (18 total TDs), whose best game was against FBS member Georgia State. Atkins is 5 of 6 on field goal attempts of at least 50 yards over the last two seasons. Austin Peay split on the road with two SoCon opponents during the regular season, beating Mercer and losing to ETSU (Furman beat both teams at home). Craig and Wilson form an explosive combo and senior RB/KR Kentel Williams has 4,576 all-purpose yards in his career. In the Governors’ 4-2-5 defensive alignment, Jackson has the second-most interceptions in the FCS and DT Josephus Smith has racked up 19½ tackles for loss and 7½ sacks.
Up Next – The winner will play at No. 4 seed Sacramento State (9-3) in the second round Dec. 7.
Prediction – Austin Peay has been underrated nationally all season. In an evenly matched game, here is a chance for the Governors to make a statement. Austin Peay, 24-23.