(19) Tennessee State (9-3) at Butler (9-3)
The Sports Network
By Brandon Lawrence, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 30, 1 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Butler Bowl (5,647) -- Indianapolis, Indiana. Surface: Field Turf. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Tennessee State 3-2; Butler 5-1. Away Record: Tennessee State 4-1; Butler 4-2. Neutral Record: Tennessee State 2-0; Butler 0-0. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: Tennessee State - Ohio Valley; Butler - Pioneer League. Nicknames: Tennessee State Tigers; Butler Bulldogs. Sports Network FCS Ranking: Tennessee State (19); Butler (NR). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Tennessee State (NS); Butler (NS). Head Coaches: Tennessee State - Rod Reed, fourth season, 25-20 at Tennessee State and overall; Butler - Jeff Voris, eighth season, 50-39 at Butler, 13th overall, 65-74). Playoff Records: Tennessee State (2-5); Butler (0-0). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Tennessee State 5 (1981-82, 1986, 1998-99, 1981-82 appearances were later voided by NCAA); Butler 0. Current Playoff Streak: Tennessee State has lost its last three; Butler is making its first playoff appearance.
GAME NOTES: Not only does Butler become the first Pioneer Football League team to make the postseason with the league's first automatic bid, but the Bulldogs were handed possibly the surprise of the Sunday selection announcement - a home playoff game.
Butler won the league's automatic bid after San Diego declared itself ineligible due to concerns of potential violations in the way the university awards need-based financial aid to its players. Over growing concerns that the program was going against league rules, the Toreros withdrew from the playoff race.
That's not to say Butler wasn't deserving, however. The Bulldogs won the automatic qualifier in a ranking tiebreaker with Marist, and enjoyed a successful season in PFL play, going 7-1 in the league. The Bulldogs are also 5-1 at home in 2013.
Butler quarterback Matt Lancaster, last season's PFL offensive player of the year, has thrown for 2,639 yards this season with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions. He has added 12 touchdowns rushing on 117 season carries. He and running back Trae Heeter have made a dangerous combo this season, combining for 25 rushing touchdowns.
But Tennessee State is a team completely different than any PFL squad Butler has faced this season, although an Ohio Valley Conference squad hasn't won a playoff game since 2000.
The Tigers pride themselves on stingy defense and blanket coverage of downfield receivers. That's pretty evident in the team's scoring defense, as the Tigers rank sixth nationally in allowing just 16.8 points per game to opponents. That's impressive, considering the OVC competition Tennessee State has faced.
In a Nov. 16 contest against Murray State - the Tigers' final regular season game - Tennessee State held the Racers without a third-down or fourth-down conversion, and to just 24 rushing yards all game.
The Tigers defense is a nightmare for opponents. Tennessee State has held nine opponents to under 20 points this season, which means Lancaster will have his hands full trying to make plays. There's nothing for Butler to lose, and everything to gain in the PFL's first playoff appearance in history.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee State 30, Butler 17.
11/26 12:51:35 ET