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Playoff preview: South Carolina State at Georgia Southern

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -

FCS FIRST ROUND: (12) SOUTH CAROLINA STATE AT (20) GEORGIA SOUTHERN

Kickoff: 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27

Facts and Figures - Site: Allen E. Paulson Stadium (18,000) in Statesboro, Ga. Records: South Carolina State, 9-2; Georgia Southern, 7-4. Television: None. Series record: Georgia Southern leads, 6-0. Last meeting: 1996 - Georgia Southern won, 28-14. Conferences: South Carolina State, MEAC; Georgia Southern, SoCon. Coaches: South Carolina State, Buddy Pough (76-28 in ninth season at South Carolina State); Georgia Southern, Jeff Monken (7-4 in first year at Georgia Southern). The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS ranking: South Carolina State, 12; Georgia Southern, 20.

What to know: South Carolina State is making its third consecutive playoff appearance and first as an at-large selection. The Bulldogs have failed to advance past the opening round in each of the past two seasons. In fact, no MEAC team has advanced past the opening round of the playoffs since 1999.

This year, an Oct. 16 loss to Bethune-Cookman (also a playoff team) cost the Bulldogs the MEAC title, but they responded to the loss, ripping off five straight wins to close the regular season.

Georgia Southern sports a three-game winning streak of its own, including a 21-14 overtime victory over then-No. 1 Appalachian State on Nov. 6.

Georgia Southern also is the most highly decorated programs in FCS playoff history. The Eagles rank first all-time with 38 FCS playoff wins and six national titles. They are making their 17th playoff appearance and first since 2005.

Although they hail from different conferences, both South Carolina State and Georgia Southern have gotten to this point in similar fashion, namely by playing strong defense and employing a multi-pronged rushing attack.

Generally, the South Carolina State offense is considered explosive, but quarterback Malcolm Long has been pedestrian this year, throwing just eight touchdowns against nine interceptions. Fortunately, head coach Buddy Pough has been able to rely on the running back committee of Chris Merrill, Chris Massey and Asheton Jordan. The three backs have combined for 19 touchdowns this season.

If Pough has shifted towards the run, Georgia Southern head coach Jeff Monken has leaned on it heavily. Out of the triple option, the Eagles rank No. 5 in the FCS in rushing (249.7 yards per game). The Eagles rarely pass, and really, they haven't needed to do it a lot. Quarterback Jaybo Shaw has 13 rushing touchdowns, and six different Eagles have at least three rushing scores.

As a countermeasure, both teams sport the No 1 rushing defense in their respective conferences.

So who has the edge?

The Bulldogs have had success running the ball, but realistically they are a better team when the offense is balanced. The Eagles, on the other hand, don't want to be balanced, they just want to run the enemy into the ground. What's the adage? Do what you do best. That's exactly what the Eagles are doing at the moment.

The winner will face the No. 2 seed, William & Mary, on Dec. 4.

Prediction: Georgia Southern, 17-13

11/26 11:57:17 ET