(8) Central Arkansas (9-2) at (6) Georgia Southern (8-3)
The Sports Network
By Tim McDonnell, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 1, 2 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Allen E. Paulson Stadium (18,000) -- Statesboro, Georgia. Surface: Natural Grass. Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers: Shawn Kenney, John Bunting, Tiffany Green. Home Record: Central Arkansas 6-0; Georgia Southern 5-1. Away Record: Central Arkansas 3-2; Georgia Southern 3-2. Series Record: Central Arkansas (1-0). Last Meeting: November 18, 2006 (Central Arkansas, 34-31 (OT) at Georgia Southern). Nicknames: Central Arkansas Bears; Georgia Southern Eagles. Conference: Central Arkansas - Southland; Georgia Southern - Southern. Sports Network Ranking: Central Arkansas (8); Georgia Southern (6). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Central Arkansas (NS); Georgia Southern (5). Head Coaches: Central Arkansas - Clint Conque (13th season, 98-53 at Central Arkansas and overall); Georgia Southern - Jeff Monken (3rd season, 29-11 at Georgia Southern and overall). FCS Playoff Records: Central Arkansas (1-1); Georgia Southern (6 National Championships - 1985-86, 89-90, 99-2000 - 43-12). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Central Arkansas 1 (2011); Georgia Southern 18 (1985-90, 1993, 1995, 1997-2002, 2004-05, 10-11). Current Playoff Streak: Central Arkansas has split its last two playoffs games; Georgia Southern has won five of its last seven playoffs games.
GAME NOTES: Georgia Southern, one of the FCS' most successful programs when it comes to the playoffs, will try to add to its impressive 32-3 home postseason record versus an underrated Central Arkansas squad. The Eagles have been flying high, reaching the national semifinals in the last two seasons.
Central Arkansas looks to play spoiler, even though the Bears shared the Southland Conference title and were the only FCS team this season to defeat Sam Houston State.
Quarterback Wynrick Smothers has had an outstanding season, throwing for 2,852 yards and 31 touchdowns. But it's his accuracy which relates to his success. Smothers ranks No. 10 in the FCS in passing efficiency with a 151.52 rating and he's completed 67 percent of his passes in 11 games.
UCA won't hurt opponents on the ground, averaging 132 yards per game, but through the air, the Bears are dangerous. Receivers Jesse Grandy and Dominique Croom lead the way, accounting for a combined 108 receptions, 1,391 yards and 15 touchdowns in 11 games. Grandy doubles as a dangerous playmaker on special teams as well, returning punts and kickoffs.
Having an extra week of preparation to prepare for GSU's No. 1-ranked rushing offense (392 yards per game) and tough triple option attack certainly will help. The Bears are going to need to force turnovers and put the Eagles in difficult down-and-distance situations. Easier said than done.
Georgia Southern quarterback Jerick McKinnon has 1,162 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 11 games and B-back Dominique Swope has rushed for 924 yards and 14 touchdowns in nine games. McKinnon averages 6.6 yards per carry and 105.6 yards per game, compared to Swope's 6.1 yards per carry and 102.1 yards per game.
UCA is tied for seventh in the FCS with over 7.6 tackles for loss per game. Linebacker Justin Heard (14 tackles for loss) and defensive end Jonathan Woodard (10.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks) will need to step up and penetrate into the GSU backfield.
This is the second all-time meeting between the schools, the first came in the 2006 regular-season finale. UCA defeated the Eagles, 34-31, in overtime at Paulson Stadium.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia Southern 42, Central Arkansas 34.
11/28 18:35:37 ET