There were two main questions heading into last week's FCS playoff action: Would the powerhouse programs begin looking the part now that they had to, and would the high-ranking upstarts meet the moment?
To the former question, the answer was a resounding yes. North Dakota State, the preeminent FCS program for the past decade, entered the playoffs having only occasionally flashed fifth gear in the regular season, but began this year's run with a dominant, 23-point win over Montana. Top-seeded South Dakota State, which had looked the part more than NDSU this season, continued to do so with a blowout of Delaware.
The answers to the latter question were mixed but eventually affirmative. No. 5 seed William & Mary reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009 with a blowout of Gardner-Webb, and No. 8 Holy Cross kept New Hampshire at arm's length in a 16-point win. But No. 6 Samford and No. 7 Incarnate Word both needed full time to get past Southeastern Louisiana and Furman, respectively, and unbeaten No. 2 seed Sacramento State, the projected favorite per SP+ (which doesn't take playoff history into account), fell behind Richmond by two touchdowns in rainy conditions before rallying to win by 7.
The top eight seeds indeed advanced, which could make for a dynamite set of evenly matched quarterfinals.
Here is what SP+ projects for the four matchups, three of which take place Friday evening.
• No. 3 North Dakota State 37.1, No. 6 Samford 31.5 (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
• No. 4 Montana State 34.0, No. 5 William & Mary 30.2 (Friday, 10:15 p.m., ESPN2)
• No. 2 Sacramento State 39.0, No. 7 Incarnate Word 31.5 (Friday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN+)
• No. 1 South Dakota State 40.6, No. 8 Holy Cross 30.9 (Saturday, noon, ESPN)
Here's what to pay closest attention to this week.