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Defending national champion James Madison takes No. 1 seed in FCS playoffs

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Last week the playoff field for Division 2 and Division 3 was set, and we are still two weeks away from learning what four teams will compete in the fourth College Football Playoff. Today it was the FCS playoff field that was unveiled for the first time. Not surprisingly, defending national champion James Madison, the top-ranked team in FCS, took the top spot in the 24-team field.

At 11-0, it was expected the Dukes would be the number one overall seed. The Colonial Athletic Association champions are in the FCS playoffs for a fourth-straight season. The number two seed is a familiar name to those following FCS football. North Dakota State (10-1) took the second overall seed in the playoff field. The five-time national champs remains a force to reckon with once again and will hope to get a shot at playoff revenge against James Madison in this year’s championship game. It was James Madison that eliminated the Bison from the postseason last year with a 27-17 upset in the semifinals.

JMU went on to top Bo Pelini and Youngstown State in the championship game after the unseeded Penguins went on a miraculous run to the championship game. Youngstown State had taken out the No. 3 seed Jacksonville State (40-24) and No. 2 seed Eastern Washington (40-38) before falling against the No. 4 seeded Dukes. Youngstown State did not reach the postseason this year.

Jacksonville State takes the three-seed, followed by Central Arkansas, South Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Wofford and Southern Utah. Other automatic entrants through conference championship automatic qualifiers include Kennesaw State, Central Connecticut State, Lehigh, and San Diego. At-large teams making the field include Northern Arizona, Weber State, Monmouth, Elon, New Hampshire, Stony Brook, South Dakota, Northern Iowa, Western Illinois, Furman, Samford, and Nicholls State.

You can view the full bracket HERE.

College football’s other Division 1 Final Four is set

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The College Football Playoff field was set last Sunday, but the first and real Division 1 college football playoff has been going on for weeks before whittling down the field to its final four. On Saturday, other than the Army-Navy Game and the Heisman Trophy presentation, it was a day for the Football Championship Subdivision to shine, and boy did it.

Quarterfinal action was packed with tense moments and close games, providing a reminder of just how fun this level can be. At the end of the day, the semifinal match-ups were set in stone on the FCS playoff bracket; New Hampshire will host Illinois State in one semifinal, and North Dakota State will host Sam Houston State in the other.

New Hampshire’s defense gave up 566 yards to Chatanooga on Friday night, but a 61-yard touchdown pass from Sean Goldrich to R.J. Harris proved to be the difference in a 35-30 victory for the top seed in the tournament. Saturday was not short on the drama either. Three-time defending champion North Dakota State and Coastal Carolina traded scores all game long, but the Bison got the last word with a 45-yard touchdown run by John Crockett for a 39-32 lead following a two-point conversion. The defense did the rest in the game of the day.

Sam Houston State’s victory at Villanova was a back-and-forth event as well. Sam Houston State head coach K.C. Keeler was very familiar with Villanova, as the former head coach of Delaware. His quarterback, Jared Johnson passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns to send Sam Houston to the national semifinal against another familiar foe, North Dakota State. The two schools met in the national championship game in 2011 and 2012.

North Dakota State will host Sam Houston State on Friday, December 19 at 8:00 p.m. eastern on ESPN2. New Hampshire will host Illinois State on Saturday, December 20 at 2:00 p.m. eastern on EPSNU.

North Dakota State is looking to win its fourth straight FCS national championship, a feat that has not been accomplished at the FCS level since the split of Division 1.