FCS National Championship:
Saturday, noon ET (ESPN2); Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
Free NCAAF Pick: Bison ATS
Best Line Offered: Pinnacle
The continuance of a dynasty is at stake for North Dakota State. The Bison have won six of the last seven FCS titles. Four of those victories came by double digits. On the flip side, Eastern Washington has nothing to lose. This is the Eagles’ first FCS title appearance since 2010 and they would shock the world with a victory.
How They Got Here
The Eagles ran the ball and then ran some more. They averaged nearly as many rushing yards per game as passing. They ran for 6.7 YPC and scored more than 30 points against every FCS opponent besides Weber State. Weber State provided an antidote against the Eagles by racing out to an early lead and thereby forcing the Eagles to stray from their run game. The Weber State tactic was hard to pursue, though, as the Eagles won every other FCS game.
North Dakota State went undefeated, winning every game but one by double digits. That exception was South Dakota State. The Bison got to rematch South Dakota State in the semifinals, though, and blew them out by three touchdowns.
Why Eastern Washington Can Win/Cover
Eastern Washington will lean on its rush attack. The Eagles are well-tested. For example, they ran for 237 yards on 5.5 YPC against Nicholls, although the Colonels’ run defense ranks 11th. The Eagles boast one of the FCS’ leading rushers in Sam McPherson. Their rushing offense is also dynamic because they enjoy depth at the running back position plus have a dual-threat quarterback in Eric Barriere. Eastern Washington can provide a new kind of test for North Dakota State.
Why North Dakota State Can Win/Cover
The Bison’s offense is prolific, particularly with quarterback Easton Stick. He is a threat with his legs, averaging 5.6 YPC. Stick, though, has a more robust skill-set than his counterpart Barriere. Stick is the FCS’ leading passer. He completes more than 60 percent of his passes even though he’s able to average nearly a first down per pass attempt. He has thrown 26 touchdowns to only five interceptions.
Common Opponent/Series History
The Bison are 2-1 against the Eagles. The two teams played last year in the regular season. NDSU won 40-13. Eastern Washington’s prolific rushing attack did not have anyone who reached even 50 yards rushing. As a result, the Eagles couldn’t get anything going on offense – as was the case when the Eagles couldn’t run against Weber State this season, scored only six points, and lost.
NDSU’s offense is more developed than EWU’s. NDSU’s rush attack is just as dynamic. The Bison have a dual threat quarterback of their own. Plus, they have four different running backs who average more than 5.5 YPC on at least 80 carries. Bruce Anderson leads the bunch with 924 rushing yards on 7.5 YPC. The Bison can also pass really well. The point is that NDSU has so many weapons on offense with which to race out to an early lead or open up a larger lead. When a deficit opens up, it’s all over for the Eagles. When Weber State opened a 14-0 lead against them, the Eagles were forced to rely on their passing game and that’s their weakness on offense. The Bison can also open up a huge lead because of their defense. They rank fifth in total defense. EWU won’t be able to keep up with North Dakota State.
It’s hard to even compare these two teams because NDSU plays in a stronger conference. Eastern Washington is 1-5 in its last six games against Missouri Valley opponents. Conversely, NDSU is 3-1 against Big Sky opponents in the playoffs. Covering two touchdowns on the college football odds board isn’t a big deal for the Bison and the matchup favors them, so take them in your NCAAF picks.