Eastern Illinois has not enjoyed much postseason success since making its first visit to the FCS playoffs in 1982, but could begin rewriting its history Friday when it hosts Towson in the quarterfinals. The Panthers advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in 24 years with Saturday's 51-10 victory over Tennessee State. In addition to erasing the painful memory of last year's 58-10 first-round loss to South Dakota State, Eastern Illinois improved to 4-14 all-time in the FCS playoffs.
While the second-seeded Panthers are relative neophytes to the quarterfinals, the seventh-seeded Tigers claimed their first FCS playoff victory since joining Division I in 1987 with Saturday's 48-28 victory over Fordham. Not only did Towson secure a school-record 11th win as a result, but the victory also served as a highlight for a program that is 27-9 over the last three seasons after going 3-19 combined in 2009 and 2010. The winner will meet third-seeded Eastern Washington or Jacksonville State in the semifinals.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2. LINE: N/A
ABOUT TOWSON (11-2): Three-time All-CAA first-team selection Terrance West is the second-leading rusher in FCS and one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award. The junior running back has scored in 14 straight games, leads FCS with 33 rushing touchdowns and needs only 59 yards to become the 14th player in FCS history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. West also has 78 career touchdowns, 11 shy of the Division I record of 89 scored by Brian Westbrook of Villanova.
ABOUT EASTERN ILLINOIS (12-1): Jimmy Garoppolo, who is also a finalist for the Payton Award, has thrown for 4,729 yards and 51 touchdowns this season - leaving him 347 yards and five touchdowns shy of tying a pair of FCS records. Erik Lora is one of the Panthers' two 1,000-yard receivers and needs 26 more yards to become the Ohio Valley Conference's career leader in receiving yards. Taylor Duncan is 112 yards short of joining Shepard Little as the first pair of 1,000-yard running backs in school history.
1. Eastern Illinois, which leads FCS in scoring (48.9 points) and total offense (595.5 yards), will match its school-record 12-game winning streak with a victory Friday.
2. Towson has scored eight times on fourth down and converted 21 of its 29 fourth-down conversions overall.
3. This game is the only quarterfinal matchup between seeded teams.
PREDICTION: Eastern Illinois 55, Towson 31