Last Updated: 2019-01-01
Our final college football article of the season will be out College System Play of the Week and we’ll take a look at the FCS Championship game between the Eastern Washington Eagles and North Dakota State. The Bison are favored by 14 and the total on the game is 61.
Few people have any idea how good North Dakota State actually is, but if you look at Jeff Sagarin’s power ratings, he has the Bison ranked No. 18 in the country, slightly ahead of the likes of Washington State and Central Florida, while EWU is ranked No. 70, right on par with teams like Florida State and Tennessee.
The Bison have a solid quarterback in Easton Stick, who took over as the team’s signal caller after Carson Wentz suffered a broken wrist in 2015 Stick, who was then a freshman, has been the team’s QB ever since. Along with running back Bruce Anderson, the Bison have a couple of legitimate NFL prospects. They’re solid on both lines and don’t have any glaring weaknesses, which is to be expected when you’re 14-0.
The Eagles do have a pair of losses this season, one to Washington State in a game where they moved the ball well, but were -4 in turnovers in a 35-point loss and an inexplicable 14-6 setback at Weber State, which created a three-way tie for the Big Sky Conference title.
Few people expected EWU to be here after quarterback Gage Gubrud was injured for the season, but Eric Barriere stepped in and went 8-1 as a starter, throwing 24 touchdowns against seven interceptions and rushed for over 600 yards and seven more scores. The Eagles have also had quite a few other season-ending injuries, but the younger players have risen to the occasion.
The Eagles ranked No. 2 in total offense and No. 3 in scoring offense this season, while finishing No. 20 in scoring defense, while the Bison were No. 10 in total offense and No. 5 in scoring offense, while finishing No. 5 in total defense and No. 2 in scoring defense, which basically lets us know what was pretty evident in that the teams are comparable on offense, while ND State is much better defensively.
Bison coach Chris Klieman is coaching his final game before moving to Kansas State and the team’s 21 seniors will want to send him out with a win, while Eastern’s 24 seniors will look to make amends for regular season losses to the Bison in 2016 and 2017.
While not technically a bowl game, it is for all purposes the equivalent of one, and double-digit bowl dogs who lost the last time the two teams met have posted a 24-12-1 ATS record, while double-digit dogs in January who lost the last meeting have gone 9-6 ATS, so you can make a slight case for the Eagles based on the trends.
The teams played two common opponents during the season, Cal Poly and Montana State, with EWU outscoring the two by an average of 52-17 and ND St. outscoring them 50.5-6.5.
Barriere isn’t as good of a passer as Gubrud, although he tied an FCS playoff record last game with seven TD passes, but he is a better runner, which should help against a defense that can bring the pressure and while the Bison are the better team, EWU won’t go down quietly, so will take the underdog in this one.
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