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The Sports Network
By Brandon Lawrence, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 7, 7 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Louis Bonnette Field at Cowboy Stadium (17,810) -- Lake Charles, Louisiana. Surface: Artificial, GeoMax2. Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers: Dave Weekley, Corey Chavous. Home Record: Jacksonville State 5-2; McNeese State 5-1. Away Record: Jacksonville State 5-1; McNeese State 5-1. Series Record: McNeese State (7-0). Last Meeting: October 19, 2002 (McNeese State, 28-20 at McNeese State). Series Streak: McNeese State has won all seven meetings, including a 4-0 mark at home. Conference: Jacksonville State - Ohio Valley; McNeese State - Southland. Nicknames: Jacksonville State Gamecocks; McNeese State Cowboys. Sports Network FCS Ranking: Jacksonville State (20); McNeese State (6). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Jacksonville State (NS); McNeese State (6). Head Coaches: Jacksonville State - Bill Clark (first season, 10-3 at Jacksonville State and overall); McNeese State - Matt Viator (eighth season, 62-26 at McNeese State and overall). Playoff Records: Jacksonville State (1-3); McNeese State (11-15). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Jacksonville State 3 (2003-04, 2010); McNeese State 15 (1991-95, 1997-98, 2000-03, 2005-07, 2009). Current Playoff Streak: Jacksonville State has lost three of its four playoff games; McNeese State has lost its last six playoff appearances.
GAME NOTES: This pair of 10-win teams should provide for a nice offensive explosion Saturday in Lake Charles, La., where the Cowboys are a dominant force.
The only loss McNeese State suffered at home this season was to Southland Conference champion Southeastern Louisiana, 41-7. But the Cowboys provided enough notable wins this season to not let that most recent loss to the Lions (Nov. 2) hurt their confidence.
McNeese State enters the playoffs ranked fourth in the nation and first in the Southland Conference in scoring (42.5 points per game). Although senior quarterback Cody Stroud is the focal point of this Cowboys offense, there are enough cogs in the machine to keep it running efficiently.
Running back Marcus Wiltz scored 11 rushing touchdowns this season, but the real playmaker is wide receiver Diontae Spencer. The tiny 5-foot-9, 161-pound senior is dynamite, which he proved in the regular-season finale against Lamar. Spencer caught a 50-yard scoring pass from Stroud in the third quarter of that game, then broke a 16-yard rushing score in the fourth. He also had three return touchdowns in a game against Stephen F. Austin.
Jacksonville State will have to limit the big-play potential of Spencer, but also will need a bit of playmaking from its star running back, DaMarcus James.
The junior tailback scored 19 touchdowns for the Gamecocks in the team's final eight regular-season contests, then added a pair of scores and 124 rushing yards last weekend against Southern Conference power Samford.
Jacksonville State is one of three Ohio Valley Conference schools remaining - the most of any conference left, tied with the CAA and Southland. Gamecocks quarterback Eli Jenkins gave the Samford defense fits in the first round, as the freshman compiled 115 yards through the air with a touchdown pass, and 115 rushing yards and a second score. As with Towson-Fordham and Eastern Washington-South Dakota State, expect this one to be an offensive showdown.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: McNeese State 38, Jacksonville State 29.
12/04 14:20:27 ET