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SoCon Playoff Primer

By Anthony Richards
SouthernPigskin.com
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Furman and Samford are prepared to start their FCS playoff runs this Saturday.

Furman (7-5, 6-2 SoCon) at South Carolina State (9-3, 7-1 MEAC) 1 p.m.  ESPN3

The Paladins look to continue their current roll as they visit the South Carolina State Bulldogs in the first round of the 2013 FCS Playoffs.  After starting the season 2-4, Furman won five of its last six games, and now carries that momentum into postseason play.  Furman is a complete team that comes up biggest when it matters most: in the red zone.  At season’s end, the Paladins led the Southern Conference in offensive and defensive red zone efficiency.  The defense has been a staple for Furman all season, anchored by senior defensive back Greg Worthy’s 117 tackles and junior defensive lineman Gary Wilkins’ 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss.  A main reason for the second half improvement was sophomore Reese Hannon securing the quarterback spot and helping grow the offense.  South Carolina State finished as co-champions of the MEAC, and has a stingy defense of its own, allowing an average of 14 points per game.  The Bulldogs have a ferocious front seven that accounted for a league-high 62 sacks, led by junior defensive end Andrew Carter, who has 11 on the season.  Senior Richard Cue starts at quarterback for South Carolina State. He is completing 54.5 percent of his passes for 1,740 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Prediction: Furman 23  South Carolina State 20

No. 16 Samford (8-4, 6-2 SoCon) at No. 21 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (9-3, 5-3 Ohio Valley) 8 p.m.  ESPN3

The game will be a matchup of two high-octane offensive attacks that have no trouble scoring in bunches.  Samford hits big plays in the air with senior quarterback Andy Summerlin and a trio of receivers creating the offensive magic.  Summerlin ranks sixth in the FCS with 3,559 passing yards and has thrown 25 touchdowns while completing 64.5 percent of his pass attempts.  Senior running back Fabian Truss adds a definite balance to the air-it-out mentality, and offers big-play potential in the backfield and the return game.  Jacksonville State takes a different approach to offensive productivity by staying committed to an efficient ground game.  At 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds, junior running back DaMarcus James is quite a load to tackle for opposing defenses.  He finished the regular season with 231 carries for 1,180 yards and 23 touchdowns, leading the Ohio Valley Conference in scoring.  With both teams possessing explosive offenses, the key to victory is which defense will come up with the big stop that ends up being the difference in the game.  Samford senior linebacker Justin Shade leads the league with 15.5 tackles for a loss, while Jacksonville State junior safety Pierre Warren has 11 pass-breakups and three interceptions on the year.

Prediction: No. 16 Samford 38  No. 21 Jacksonville State 34

Anthony Richards - Anthony was born and raised in Jacksonville, Fla. and currently attends the University of North Florida. He is a sports journalist, with a particular passion for college football in the south and the atmosphere that surrounds it. He enjoys the classic southern combination of Bar-B-Q and a large glass of sweet tea. You can reach Anthony at antnyrich@comcast.net.