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Playoff preview: New Hampshire at Bethune-Cookman

Dec 2, 2010 - 3:05 PM Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -


DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 4, 1 p.m. ET

FACTS & STATS: Site: Larry Kelly Field at Municipal Stadium (10,000) -- Daytona Beach, Florida. Surface: FieldTurf. Television: None. Home Record: New Hampshire 4-1; Bethune-Cookman 6-0. Away Record: New Hampshire 2-3; Bethune- Cookman 4-0. Neutral Record: New Hampshire 1-0; Bethune-Cookman 0-1. Series Record: First Meeting. Conference: New Hampshire - Colonial Athletic Association; Bethune-Cookman - Mid-Eastern Athletic. Nicknames: New Hampshire Wildcats: Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. Sports Network/ Ranking: New Hampshire (11); Bethune-Cookman (13). Head Coaches: New Hampshire - Sean McDonnell (87-57 at New Hampshire and Overall); Bethune-Cookman - Brian Jenkins (10-1 at Bethune-Cookman and Overall). All-Time Record: New Hampshire (521-329-55); Bethune-Cookman (436-293-22). Playoff Records: New Hampshire (5-8); Bethune Cookman (0-2). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: New Hampshire 8 (1991, 94, 2004-09); Bethune-Cookman 2 (2002-03).

GAME NOTES: Under first-year head coach Brian Jenkins, Bethune-Cookman turned in one of the surprise performances of the regular season. The Wildcats reeled off 10 consecutive wins before a 38-27 loss to Florida A&M in the season finale. They were awarded with a share of the MEAC title, an automatic bid and a first-round bye.

New Hampshire (also the Wildcats) rebounded from a 2-3 start to close the season on a 5-1 run (all conference games), capturing an at-large bid and a bye in the process.

Bethune-Cookman has found success behind a no-huddle offense, guided expertly by quarterback Matt Johnson, who has show precision in the passing game (MEAC leading 155.6 QB rating) and explosion in the running game (MEAC quarterback- leading 63.6 rushing yards per game). He injured his non-throwing shoulder in the Florida A&M game on Nov. 20 and is considered a game-time decision against UNH. He has led Bethune-Cookman to the No. 2 scoring offense in the country (39.8 points per game).

New Hampshire counters with the nation's No. 6 scoring defense (16.1 points per game). Bolstered by safety Hugo Sousa and cornerback Dino Vasso, UNH leads the nation with 21 interceptions.

Bethune-Cookman is not far away, however, with 18 picks and it actually leads New Hampshire (No. 4) and the country in turnover margin. Bethune-Cookman is an astounding plus-2.64 in turnover margin per game, while New Hampshire is plus-1.18.

Of course. New Hampshire's offense is no slouch, either. Despite facing stifling CAA defenses on nearly a weekly basis, veteran quarterback R.J. Toman and wide receiver Terrance Fox lead a unit which averages 24.9 points per game.

On paper, this is one of the most hotly contested matchups in the playoff field, although it must be pointed out that Bethune-Cookman's staggering numbers were compiled against a weaker MEAC league. Saturday's test against a battle-tested CAA squad will prove if BCU's success is warranted, or if it merely the product of facing lesser competition.

Pick the Wildcats and you'll have a winner. We'll go with the UNH version.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: New Hampshire 32, Bethune-Cookman 28.