Playoff Pigskin Preview Brief: SIU-New Hampshire

Well folks, we're about 20 minutes from beginning the logical way to determine a national champion in football.

That's right a playoff.

No, President-Elect Barack Obama didn't use his executive power to force the greedy FBS school presidents into a playoff. Instead, I'm talking about the FCS a.k.a. Division I-AA a.k.a. The Giant Slayers who start their 16-team playoffs today.

And of course, I'm LIVE! in Carobondale's McAndrew Stadium to cover the tilt between the SIU Salukis and the New Hampshire Wildcats. Both teams have alumni I hold near and dear to my heart. UNH proudly recognizes former Chicago Bears standout return specialist and cornerback Jerry Azumah, who starred as the Wildcats' feature running back.

Speaking of running backs, I'm sure a certain segment of the New York Giants' locker room has an eye on this game as running back Brandon Jacobs is a former Saluki star. And since he's injured, maybe he'll be able to park himself in front of a television (or Saluki All-Access) and check out his alma mater.

As for the game itself, it's a toss-up as both of these teams come highly ranked and winners of their respective conferences. UNH won their division in the Colonial Athletic Conference, while SIU won the inaugural Missouri Valley Football Conference title. It represents the team's first conference title since winning the Gateway in 2005.

The Wildcats possess a strong offensive unit that scored 36 points per game. They will be led by quarterback R.J. Toman who has scored 31 touchdowns (27 passing, 4 rushing). The Salukis' 3-4 defense will face a tough test.

As for SIU's offense, it has scored its fair share of points. The Salukis averaged 37.6 points in their home games.

So is it right to expect a shootout? Of course not. But everytime I call for one, it's a defensive struggle.

Prediction: 24-21 SIU in a nailbiter ... which really shouldn't surprise anyone associated or familiar with Saluki football.

Take care, and enjoy the game.