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Rasheed Shaheed

Weber State's Rashid Shaheed (22) catches a touchdown pass during a game against Nevada on Sept. 14.

BOZEMAN — Weber State and Sacramento State shared the Big Sky Conference championship this season, earning first-round playoff byes and home-field advantage for the second round of the FCS postseason.

Of the eight teams seeded in the playoffs, four are from the Big Sky — Weber State at No. 3 (and the league’s automatic bid), Sacramento State at No. 4, Montana State at No. 5 and Montana at No. 6. No other conference has more than two seeded teams.

It bodes well for the Big Sky to make a deep playoff run, though nothing is guaranteed at this time of year.

Weber State (9-3) will host Kennesaw State (11-2) on Saturday. The Owls, an at-large team from the Big South Conference, defeated Wofford 28-14 on the road in the first round in a battle of triple-option offenses.

Owls backup quarterback Jonathan Murphy rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns in the win.

Kennesaw State, in just its fifth season of football, has been one of the fastest-rising programs in the FCS — postseason or otherwise. The Owls are in the midst of their third consecutive playoff appearance, and they have been ranked in the top 25 for 33 consecutive weeks.

This is KSU’s third consecutive 10-plus-win season under coach Brian Bohannon. The Owls advanced to the playoff quarterfinals in both 2017 and 2018.

The game will be KSU’s second all-time matchup against a Big Sky Conference opponent. The Owls won 16-14 on the road at Montana State on Nov. 4, 2017.

It will be a matchup of distinct strengths: Kennesaw State leads the nation in rushing at 346.8 yards per game, while Weber State is No. 1 in the Big Sky and ninth nationally in rushing defense at 107.3 yards per game.

The Owls have rushed for 57 touchdowns while the Wildcats have allowed just eight rushing TDs.

Weber State, which has never played a team from the Big South, is making its fourth straight playoff appearance under coach Jay Hill. The Wildcats were stopped just short of the semifinals in each of the past two seasons.

There is potential for Weber State to host Montana in a quarterfinal game on Dec. 13 or 14 should both teams advance in the second round. The Grizzlies (9-3) host Southeastern Louisiana (8-4) on Saturday.

First timers

Sacramento State, the surprise of the Big Sky this season, won a share of its first conference title and is making its first trip to the postseason since moving up to the Division I level in 1994.

The Hornets (9-3) will host Austin Peay (10-3) on Saturday. The Governors, champions of the Ohio Valley Conference, blew out Furman 42-6 at home in the first round on Saturday for the school’s first FCS postseason victory.

Quarterback JaVaughn Craig threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Govs.

Both Sac State and Austin Peay are led by first-year head coaches, which adds to the intrigue of their success.

The Hornets’ Troy Taylor, formerly the offensive coordinator at Utah and Eastern Washington, was named the Big Sky Conference coach of the year last week. Similarly, the Governors’ Mark Hudspeth, previously an assistant at FBS Mississippi State, was named the Ohio Valley coach of the year.

Taylor and Hudspeth are both finalists for the Eddie Robinson Award, given annually to the top coach in the FCS.

Hornets quarterback Kevin Thomson, additionally, was named the Big Sky's offensive player of the year last week. Thomson has 3,442 yards of total offense and 35 total touchdowns entering the game against Austin Peay.

There is also potential for Sacramento State to host Montana State in a quarterfinal game next weekend, provided both teams advance this week. The Bobcats (9-3) host Albany (9-4) in a second-round game on Saturday.

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Email Greg Rachac at Greg.Rachac@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @gregrachac

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