Fox News - Fair & Balanced

Sports


Playoff preview: Western Illinois at Coastal Carolina

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -

FCS FIRST ROUND: (21) WESTERN ILLINOIS AT COASTAL CAROLINA

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27

Facts and Figures - Site: Brooks Stadium (9,112) in Conway, S.C.; Records: Western Illinois, 7-4; Coastal Carolina, 6-5; Television: None; Series record: First meeting; Last meeting: None; Conferences: Western Illinois, Missouri Valley Football Conference; Coastal Carolina, Big South; Coaches: Western Illinois, Mark Hendrickson (12-14, first full season at Western Illinois); Coastal Carolina, David Bennett (56-34 in eighth season at Coastal Carolina, 119-51 overall, 15th season). The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS ranking: Western Illinois, 21; Coastal Carolina, unranked.

What to know: Western Illinois defeated Northern Iowa (also a playoff team), 30-14, last Saturday to get to a playoff-eligible 7-4. The Leathernecks made the playoffs as an at-large selection. The win moved the Leathernecks to 6-0 at home this season, but Saturday's opening-round game will take place nearly 1,000 miles in Conway, S.C.. The Leathernecks were just 1-4 on the road during the regular season.

This is the Western Illinois' ninth all-time playoff appearance and its first since 2003. During their last two appearances (2002 and 2003), the Leathernecks won the opening round before losing in the quarterfinals. They are 5-8 all-time in the postseason.

Coastal Carolina began the 2010 campaign with three consecutive losses, but ended it with four consecutive wins. The signature win came on Nov. 13, when the Chanticleers trounced then-No. 11 Liberty, 45-31. The Chants received the Big South's first-ever automatic bid after winning the tie-breaker, which came down to points allowed in conference, over Liberty and Stony Brook.

This is the second playoff appearance for the Chants. They last appeared in 2006 as an at-large bid, and lost to defending champion Appalachian State, 45-28, in the first round.

The biggest name in this matchup is Western Illinois quarterback Matt Barr. The Walter Payton Award (sponsored by Fathead.com) candidate has thrown the most touchdown passes (26) among MVFC quarterbacks and leads an offense which ranks No. 6 in the FCS in scoring (35.6 points per game).

Barr deserves the attention, but Coastal Carolina has an unheralded, yet talented quarterback of its own in Zach MacDowall, and he may be the most locked-in player in the nation. In his last three games, MacDowall is 58-of-81 passing (71.6 percent) for 884 yards and 10 touchdowns against just one interception. He also has rushed for a touchdown in six straight games.

These teams have never faced each other and are separated by miles and miles of terrain. They are unfamiliar with one another, which is a nightmare for either coach. One thing is for certain: The Chanticleers are clicking at the right time.

The winner will face top-seeded Appalachian State.

Prediction: Coastal Carolina, 42-37

11/23 17:06:51 ET