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(18) Samford (8-4) at (20) Jacksonville State (9-3)
The Sports Network
By Brandon Lawrence, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 30, 8 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium (24,000) -- Jacksonville, Alabama. Surface: ProGrass Artificial. Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers: Dave Weakley, Brian Kinchen, Steffi Sorensen. Home Record: Samford 4-1; Jacksonville State 4-2. Away Record: Samford 4-3; Jacksonville State 5-1. Series Record: Jacksonville State (22-21-2). Last Meeting: November 3, 2007, Jacksonville State, 24-12 at Samford). Series Streak: Jacksonville State has won the last eight meetings and nine of the past 10. Conference: Samford - Southern; Jacksonville State - Ohio Valley. Nicknames: Samford Bulldogs; Jacksonville State Gamecocks. Sports Network FCS Ranking: Samford (18); Jacksonville State (20). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Samford (NS); Jacksonville State (NS). Head Coaches: Samford - Pat Sullivan (seventh season, 39-38 at Samford; 13th season, 63-80-1 overall); Jacksonville State - Bill Clark (first season, 9-3 at Jacksonville State and overall). Playoff Records: Samford (2-2); Jacksonville State (0-3). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Samford 2 (1991-92); Jacksonville State 3 (2003-04, 2010). Current Playoff Streak: Samford has lost its last two playoff appearances; Jacksonville State has lost all three of its playoff games.
GAME NOTES: Talk about your nail-biting season finales.
After Furman defeated Wofford to remain afloat in the Southern Conference title race, the Bulldogs kicked off knowing a win would give them a fighting chance at a playoff spot. And the team's game against SoCon rival Elon came down to the wire.
With seven seconds remaining in the game, Samford quarterback Andy Summerlin hooked up with receiver Chris Cephus on a 12-yard scoring strike to give the Bulldogs a one-point lead. The ensuing two-point conversion failed, but time had just about run out on the Phoenix. With the win, Samford was given an at- large playoff bid as the second of two SoCon teams in the field.
The Bulldogs have dangerous playmakers both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. The most prominent of which is senior Fabian Truss, who is explosive and can slice through a defense in a matter of seconds. That's why he serves as the team's kick returner as well.
Linebacker Justin Shade and safety Jaquiski Tartt on the defensive side make the Bulldogs a dangerous team when it comes to putting pressure on an opposing quarterback. In an offense-driven league like the Southern Conference, the Bulldogs pride themselves on a bend-but-don't-break philosophy.
But in an even more offense-centric league - the Ohio Valley Conference - Jacksonville State thrived this season. The Gamecocks ended their 9-3 regular season only with losses to Murray State, Tennessee State and Eastern Illinois - two OVC playoff teams - and averaged 34.8 points per game, good for 23rd in the country.
Running back DaMarcus James ended the regular season hotter than almost any other ball carrier in the FCS. James has come out of near obscurity since the first few weeks of the season to rush for 19 touchdowns in the final eight weeks and become tied for second in the nation with 23 rushing scores.
James will keep Justin Shade busy on defense, while Summerlin will look to pick apart the Gamecocks defense that's allowing 24.6 points per game to opponents. Turnovers will be one team's downfall in this game, and Jacksonville State's plus-two turnover margin may not suit Summerlin very well.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jacksonville State 31, Samford 27.
11/26 14:50:39 ET