Eight Teams, Eight Players – Previewing The Quarterfinal

LightningDragon · March 11, 2024


By: Cole Mantell (@lightningdragon)

One round down, three to go. Eight teams remain in contention for the Season 19 National Championship. From perennial contenders to expansion teams, there is a wide variety of storylines to watch this week during both the Quarterfinals and Semifinals. The Quarterfinals will be Monday and Tuesday, with the Semifinals following on Thursday. We’ll be previewing all eight teams in contention this week, highlighting the game and one player to watch from each roster. These guys aren’t the stars, but instead key contributors that will be players to watch. So, there are no Quarterbacks on this list, but keep an eye out for these eight players during the week’s action.

Monday 6:30 PM CST – #5 Michigan vs #4 Kentucky

This will be the second-ever meeting between the Wolverines and Wildcats. Michigan dominated the first matchup in Season 17, winning 40-16. Michigan defeated Oklahoma State 56-6 last week, while Kentucky beat LSU 38-35 in a thriller of the battle of the current and former Kentucky ADs. Both teams have recent playoff success, with Michigan under Aaron Ike making a few deep playoff runs, but falling short so far. Kentucky, meanwhile, has won two championships under two different ADs in Seasons 16 and 18. Their dynasty bid remains alive for now facing a tough matchup to start the week.

For Michigan, their defense has carried a lot of the load this season. DT Brayden Freeman transferred from Texas last season as a junior and led the team in TFLs with 16. He’ll need to do his best to contain Mateo Walker and company.

For Kentucky, their offense has been the biggest reason for their win streak, now at six games. They haven’t scored under 37 points since early February. While Malachi Cobb leads the team in receiving yards and touchdowns, freshman WR Lemandon Lloyd has been the key safety blanket for Walker, leading the team in receptions on the season.

Monday 8:30 PM CST – #11 Florida vs #3 Texas

Unlike the earlier Monday matchup, this is a series with much more history. This will be the 6th meeting between the Gators and Longhorns. Texas won the first four meetings in this series, dating back to Season 5. However, Florida got their first win in this series the last time these two teams met in Season 17, which also happened to be the first-ever postseason meeting between the teams as well. Unlike that game, however, we’ll be in Austin for this matchup. Texas also is the only remaining Big XII team in the playoffs. Florida upset Florida State 38-27 last week to get here. Texas, meanwhile, held off a strong Oregon team to win 51-39 and advance.

For Florida, their offense still goes through the passing game, even if AD Justyn Veneklasen isn’t in the Air Raid style this season. Instead, HB Bode Dale has been a revelation, rushing for 629 yards and 7 touchdowns this season on the ground, and adding another 276 receiving yards to boot. Florida has proved it knows how to both run and pass this season, and the game might come down to how effective Texas can bottle not only QB Beau Dale but especially HB Bode Dale.

For Texas, their defense has been near or at the top of almost every metric this season, leading the Longhorns to their sixth conference title, but first since Season 14. Justin Brown and Mustafa Colakovic might have been the headliners on defense this season, but senior DE Robert Green has been having a huge season too. Green is 2nd on the team with 16 TFLs, and his 37 tackles, 16 TFLs, and 10 sacks are all stats he hasn’t had since he was a freshman in Austin. Keep an eye on both Dale and Green come Monday night.

Tuesday 6:30 PM CST – #15 USC vs #10 Penn State

No doubt about it, USC taking down #2 seed Illinois is so far the biggest upset of both these playoffs and the season as a whole. Fresh off that win, USC heads north to play Penn State for the second time this season. Their matchup earlier this season, a 37-34 Penn State win, was the first time the two teams had met. As mentioned, USC upset Illinois 34-29 to advance. Fellow CFSL returnee this season Penn State beat Alabama 30-23 as well last week. While both teams were the lower seed in their first-round matchups, neither will take the other lightly, especially since they share a conference and have already played each other this season. Both Tuesday games happen to be conference matchups that had games earlier this season.

For USC, OLB Joe Mac was a key part of the upset last week against the Fighting Illini. The linebacker, previously playing for Bowling Green and Georgia, had only hit 10 tackles in a game three times previously before last week. It was the first time he had 10 or more tackles and 1 or more sacks in the same game as well. If he can stay hot, he’ll be a huge piece again for the Trojans against the Nittany Lions.

For Penn State, their win over Alabama was also predicated on good defense. While Kirby Sierra rightfully gets most of the attention, he isn’t the only playmaker on that defense. SS JM Cook Jr joined the expansion CFSL team as a sophomore by way of Eastern Michigan. Cook has already matched the 47 tackles and 3 interceptions they got last season. USC QB Kolton Powell has had issues with turnovers this season, so Powell vs Cook Jr will be a key matchup to watch all night.

Tuesday 8:30 PM CST – #9 Notre Dame vs #1 Miami

No matchup in the Quarterfinals has more history or rivalry than the Fighting Irish versus the Hurricanes. This will be the 7th meeting between the two teams. Miami leads the series 4-2 all-time, including a 51-24 win earlier this season in Miami. Miami remains the lone unbeaten team in the CFSL under new AD George Yost. They beat Georgia 55-22 to get to the second round last week. Notre Dame beat Cincinnati in their first-ever playoff appearance 30-20 last week to advance. Their defense has been the key story for the Fighting Irish all season. Both Brett Brazelton and TJ Gardner have over 25 TFLs and 10 sacks on the season entering this game.

However, the Notre Dame defense has been going through OLB Van Jackson all season. Jackson leads the team with 75 tackles, including 9 last week against the Bearcats. The senior is a veteran presence on a team full of veterans. He’s the key to a Notre Dame victory Tuesday.

For Miami, they are hoping to avoid Illinois’ fate last week in a big upset for a top seed. That might mean spreading the passing out besides the top two guys JaMarr Carr and Deuce Bolden. TE John Holcomb has had an interesting career, bouncing from Alabama to Toledo last season and now is a reliable senior for the Hurricanes offense. His 533 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns are both career highs, and he will be a huge safety blanket to counter the often aggressive Penn State defense on Tuesday.


Join the CFSL. Create your legacy.

Get Started