Here's everything you need to know in advance of Richmond football's FCS semifinal game this weekend:
Give me the lowdown. What’s happening?
After knocking off No. 2 Illinois State in the FCS quarterfinals, Richmond (10-3, 6-2 CAA) will face No. 3 North Dakota State (11-2, 7-1 MVC) in the FCS semifinals. This game is undoubtedly the most important game the Spiders have played since winning the 2008 FCS National Championship.
Okay, I’m still behind. How did the Spiders get here?
A quick season recap: After falling at Maryland, a member of the Big 10, in its season opener, Richmond won seven straight games. The Spiders' most impressive win during that streak came on Oct. 24, when they knocked off then-No. 2 James Madison on the road in front of a sold-out crowd and with ESPN’s College GameDay in attendance. Back-to-back road losses against New Hampshire and Villanova threatened Richmond’s playoff chances, but a home win over rival William & Mary on the final day of the regular season secured a conference championship and a playoff berth. Receiving the seventh seed in the 24-team tournament, Richmond earned a first-round bye before beating William & Mary in Robins Stadium for the second time in three weeks. The Spiders upset Illinois State on the road the following week.
How good is North Dakota State?
The NDSU Bison are great for most teams’ standards, but this could be considered a down year for them. The Bison, who are four-time defending national champions, are 69-5 since joining the Missouri Valley Conference in 2011, and have won 18 straight playoff games and five straight games against FBS opponents. Two of their five losses, however, came this season, at the hands of a good-but-not-great Montana team and a South Dakota team that finished 5-6. The Spiders know they can beat elite teams–they showed that again with their win at Illinois State–and they will need a similar performance to upset the Bison.
When and where is the game, and how can I watch?
The game is scheduled to be played in Fargo, North Dakota, at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 18, and will be aired on ESPN2. NDSU will host the game, because they are the higher seed. The Bison play in the FargoDome, which holds 18,700 people and is known for its loud environment. To prepare for noise, the Spiders have practiced in the Robins Center, where the men’s and women’s basketball teams play, with recorded crowd noise, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The makings of this matchup seem eerily similar to when quarterback Eric Ward led the Spiders on a game-winning drive to win at Northern Iowa, who also plays in a dome stadium, in the FCS semifinals in 2008.
What happens to the winner and loser of the game?
The winner of the game will face the winner of No. 1-seed Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State for the national championship in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 9. The loser’s season will be over.
Contact editor-in-chief Jack Nicholson at email@example.com