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Dukes and Bearkats Fight for Championship Bid

Sam Houston State Meets James Madison in FCS Playoff Semifinal

The James Madison Dukes (7-0) take on the Sam Houston State Bearkats (8-0) in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs. The winner of the matchup advances to face either Delaware or South Dakota State in the championship.

Saturday’s semifinal kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. ET inside Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, TX. The contest will be aired nationally on ABC. The FCS odds have James Madison listed as a one-point favorite.

James Madison Dukes at am Houston State Bearkats NCAAF Pick
Grant Halverson/Getty Images/AFP

What to Know – James Madison Dukes

The James Madison Dukes, return to the semifinals for the second season in a row. The Dukes look to continue their recent success in the semifinals, having won their last three. James Madison last won the championship in 2016.

The Dukes tallied 468 total yards of offense to roll past North Dakota, 34-21, in the FCS quarterfinals Sunday. JMU forced a pair of interceptions and held the Fighting Hawks to 4-of-10 on third down. James Madison won the time of possession battle, dominating the clock, 36:52 to 21:38.

Senior quarterback Cole Johnson completed 14-of-17 passes for 251 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Both touchdowns were caught by freshman wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr. who put together a career day setting season highs hauling in seven passes for 143 yards and his first collegiate multi-score game. Senior running back Percy Agyei-Obese carried the ball 27 times for 128 yards and a pair of scores.

What to Know – Sam Houston State Bearkats

The Sam Houston State Bearkats are back in the semifinals for the first time since 2017. The Bearkats have failed to advance past the semifinals in their last three tries. SHSU has appeared in the playoffs 12 times with a playoff record of 19-11.

Facing a four-game losing streak to North Dakota State, the Bearkats punched in the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter and held on to defeat the defending national champions and improve to 15-0 in home playoff games. SHSU out-games the Bison 313-229, including 227 yards through the air. The Bearkats defense stepped up and contained NDSU to 139 yards on the ground, one week after NDSU churned out 422 yards rushing in the opening round.

Junior quarterback Eric Schmid finished with 227 yards and one touchdown on 25-of-37 passing. Schmid was also the Bearkats leading rusher, tallying 36 yards and one touchdown with his legs. Sophomore running back Noah Smith paced SHSU in receiving, hauling in ten passes for 103 yards and one touchdown.


Last week’s quarterfinals were played on Sunday, so both teams have one less day preparing for each other. James Madison hasn’t had to go on since the end of March, so the Dukes need to take advantage of every practice rep.

“We got to do a great job with practice, balancing keeping the guys fresh with getting the reps we need to get done to go down there and play our best game,” JMU head coach Curt Cignetti said.

Sam Houston State has yet to drop a home playoff game but has won both home playoff contests by a combined ten points. The Bearkats and Dukes should provide a national audience with a lot of scoring, both through the air and on the ground. Bet online on JMU to win this with a game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter, 31-28.

Pick: James Madison Dukes Point Spread -1 (-110)

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