Published November 20, 2014
CAA Football is taking its show on the road this weekend. But, the four teams from the FCS' toughest conference are more than prepared for the challenge.
For the first time since 2007, the CAA doesn't have a seeded team, but that hasn't kept the conference from securing five spots in the second round of the playoffs.
Due to the tough schedule the CAA presents - at one point, a record nine teams were ranked in The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 - the four coaches hitting the road on Saturday are confident their teams are already battle- tested.
"We talk about that in this conference," Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said. "The competitive nature of this conference, it hardens and toughens you for the tournament."
Maine will visit Appalachian State; however, a flight to Boone, N.C., isn't going to faze a team that is more than comfortable making long trips. Based out of Orono, the Black Bears had to board flights for five of their six regular-season road games, going 4-0 against FCS competition in those games.
"Because of where we are located, we're used to those long flights and the travel," Maine safety Trevor Costen said. "It takes just two hours alone for us to get out of Maine."
While Maine's unique travel situation has prepared it for a trip to Appalachian State, all the CAA teams have felt the benefit of beating up on each other during the course of the regular season.
Just in case they forgot, New Hampshire got a dialed-up taste of CAA competition the final three weeks of the season, going 2-1 against Towson, Maine and James Madison - all teams that reached the playoffs.
"In all three of those weeks, we were playing against the top flight of competition in your conference," New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell said. "That helps you when you get to the playoffs. In preparations, you are seeing a lot different things on offense and defense.
"That's the great thing about out conference, from top to bottom, you're going to see every type of team and players. We then can use that to compare Montana State."
McDonnell plans to use that past experience to prepare for a trip to Montana State, a team that reminds him of the level of competition in the CAA.
While McDonnell can compare Montana State to a CAA team, and James Madison coach Mickey Matthews can find similarities about North Dakota State, the Dukes' second-round opponent, Old Dominion is struggling to find something comparable to Georgia Southern.
A three-year-old program, the Monarchs have never played against the triple option.
"It's going to be all about getting a feel for the things they do," defensive tackle and CAA Defensive Player of the Year Ronnie Cameron said. "We're going to lean on our scout team heavily to adjust to how they play."
Of course, a trip to Statesboro, Ga., is never easy. Especially when the Eagles start to get on a roll, like they did to the national semifinals last season.
And while Maine, Old Dominion, New Hampshire and James Madison will hit the road, Towson, the surprise CAA champion, will be playing at home, the reward for winning the FCS' toughest conference.
The following is a game-by-game breakdown for the eight FCS games this week:
No. 10 OLD DOMINION MONARCHS (10-2) at No. 3 GEORGIA SOUTHERN EAGLES (9-2)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Dec. 3, 1 p.m. ET
FACTS & STATS: Site: Allen E. Paulson Stadium (18,000) -- Statesboro, Ga. Surface: Natural Grass. Television: ESPN3.com, ESPN Game Plan. Announcers: Doug Bell and John Bunting. Home Record: Old Dominion 6-1; Georgia Southern 6-0. Away Record: Old Dominion 4-1; Georgia Southern 3-2. Series Record: First Meeting. Conference: Old Dominion - Colonial Athletic Association; Georgia Southern - Southern. Nicknames: Old Dominion Monarchs; Georgia Southern Eagles. Sports Network/Fathead.com Ranking: Old Dominion (10); Georgia Southern (3). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Old Dominion (NS); Georgia Southern (3). Head Coaches: Old Dominion - Bobby Wilder (3rd season, 27-7 at Old Dominion and Overall); Georgia Southern - Jeff Monken (2nd season, 19-7 at Georgia Southern and Overall). All-Time Record: Old Dominion (27-7); Georgia Southern (275-106-1). FCS Playoff Records: Old Dominion (1-0); Georgia Southern (6 National Championships - 1985-86, 89-90, 99-2000 - 41-11). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Old Dominion 0; Georgia Southern 17 (1985-90, 1993, 1995, 1997-2002, 2004-05, 2010).
GAME NOTES: Last week, Old Dominion roared to a 35-18 demolition of new rival Norfolk State in the first round, the first FCS playoff appearance for each program. However, Georgia Southern will be a much tougher, and more experienced, team than Norfolk State, and is looking to build on its national semifinal berth last season.
In its three years of existence, Old Dominion has never faced an offense like Georgia Southern's triple option. Engineered by quarterback Jaybo Shaw, the option has made life difficult for opponents (318.7 ypg), including the FBS' top-ranked run defense, Alabama. In its regular-season finale, Georgia Southern rushed for 302 yards against the Crimson Tide defense, which had allowed just 51.9 yards per game prior to the meeting.
Old Dominion freshman quarterback Taylor Heinicke had a monster day in the first round against Norfolk State, passing for five touchdowns and 269 yards. Since his redshirt was lifted in Week 5, Heinicke has passed for 2,039 yards (254.9 ypg), 20 touchdowns and, most impressively, just one interception.
The strength of both defenses, and the star power, lie in the defensive line. Georgia Southern's Brent Russell, a defensive tackle and the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year, has 11.5 tackles for loss despite facing constant double- teams all season. His counterpart, Ronnie Cameron, has 16 tackles for loss and helped the Monarchs limit opponents to just 115.9 yard per game - of course, they haven't faced the triple option yet.
Georgia Southern's Laron Scott (33.4 average) is a dangerous kick returner, often setting up great field position for the Eagles offense, and kicker Adrian Mora (the FCS record holder for consecutive extra points at 146) has an accurate leg. However, Old Dominion's special teams are just as impressive. The Monarchs have blocked 10 kicks (five field goals, five punts) and punter Jonathon Plisco (46.1 avg.) has the best average of any punter left in the playoffs.
Prediction: Georgia Southern 31, Old Dominion 23
No. 13 MAINE BLACK BEARS (8-3) at No. 9 APPALACHIAN STATE MOUNTAINEERS (8-3)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Dec. 3, 2 p.m. ET
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kidd Brewer Stadium (23,150) -- Boone, NC. Surface: FieldTurf. Television: ESPN3.comESPN Game Plan. Announcers: John Sadak, Rene Ingoglia and Angela Mallen. Home Record: Maine 4-1; Appalachian State 6-0. Away Record: Maine 4-2; Appalachian State 2-3. Series Record: Maine (1-0). Last Meeting: November 30, 2002 (Maine def. Appalachian State, 14-13 at Appalachian State). Conference: Maine - Colonial Athletic Association; Appalachian State - Southern. Nicknames: Maine Black Bears; Appalachian State Mountaineers. Sports Network/Fathead.com Ranking: Maine (13); Appalachian State (9). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Maine (NS); Appalachian State (NS). Head Coaches: Maine - Jack Cosgrove (19th Season, 104-110 at Maine and Overall); Appalachian State - Jerry Moore (23rd Season, 207-82 at Appalachian State, 234-130-2 Overall). All-Time Record: Maine (493-468-38); Appalachian State (556-308-28). Playoff Records: Maine (2-5); Appalachian State (24-15, 3 national championships, 2005-07). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Maine 5 (1987, 1989, 2001-02, 2008); Appalachian State 18 (1986-87, 89, 91-92, 94-95, 98-99, 2000-02, 05-10).
GAME NOTES: In 2002, Maine went down to Appalachian State and beat the Mountaineers, something few teams are able to do in Boone, N.C. While coach Jack Cosgrove was part of the 14-13 victory, the win provides little to the current student-athletes, many of which who were in middle school at the time.
However, the Black Bears are a solid road team and have experience flying from Orono. Of Maine's six road games, the team has flown to five and has posted a 4-0 record against FCS teams after boarding a flight. In addition to its expertise in traveling, Maine also could be considered an expert in fourth- quarter execution, winning five games it trailed in the fourth quarter.
On defense, the Black Bears have a pair of stalwarts at safety in Trevor Costen and Jerron McMillan. Perfect compliments to each other, Costen defuses the passing attack and led the CAA with six interceptions, while McMillan is a sure tackler with 83 stops.
Saturday, Costen and McMillan - along with the rest of Maine's defense - will be tested by Appalachian State wide receiver Brian Quick, widely regarded as the best professional prospect in the FCS. The top target in the Mountaineers' offense, Quick has hauled in 64 passes for 1,055 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Quick isn't the only superb athlete on Appalachian State's roster. Running back Travaris Cadet, quarterback Jamal Jackson and quarterback-turned- defensive back/kick returned DeAndre Presley are all dangerous weapons for coach Jerry Moore.
Prediction: Appalachian State 27, Maine 21.
No. 15 CENTRAL ARKANSAS BEARS (9-3) at No. 5 MONTANA GRIZZLIES (9-2)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Dec. 3, 2:05 p.m. ET
FACTS & STATS: Site: Washington-Grizzly Stadium/John Hoyt Field (25,217) - Missoula, Mont. Surface: Sprinturf. Television: ESPN3.com, ESPN Game Plan. Announcers: Ryan Rose and Adam Archuleta. Home Record: Central Arkansas 5-0; Montana 6-0. Away Record: Central Arkansas 4-3; Montana 3-2. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: Central Arkansas - Southland; Montana - Big Sky. Nicknames: Central Arkansas Bears; Montana Grizzlies. Sports Network/Fathead.com Ranking: Central Arkansas (15); Montana (5). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Central Arkansas (NS); Montana (4). Head Coaches: Central Arkansas - Clint Conque (12th season, 89-50 at Central Arkansas and Overall); Montana - Robin Pflugrad (2nd season 16-6 at Montana and Overall). All-Time Record: Central Arkansas (528-362-42); Montana (543-462-23). FCS Playoff Records: Central Arkansas (1-0); Montana (2 national championships 1995, 2001, 30-18). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Central Arkansas 0; Montana 20 (1982, 1988-89, 1993-2009).
GAME NOTES: Last week, Central Arkansas made its FCS playoff debut and defeated Tennessee Tech, 34-14. This week, the Bears will visit Washington- Grizzly Stadium, a venue and team synonymous with success at the FCS level. Montana, which closed out the season with a 36-10 rout of rival Montana State, hasn't lost in front of its loud, loyal crowd this season.
The match-up to watch is Central Arkansas' passing attack against Montana's secondary. Bears quarterback Nathan Dick (273.6 ypg) has passed for multiple touchdowns in eight straight games and faces a secondary that has buckled down during the past month.
While Dick is a more prototypical pocket passer, Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson is more of a game manager. The sophomore often puts the ball in the hands of Peter Nguyen, Jordan Canada and Jabin Sambrano - all capable playmakers who have combined for 20 touchdowns.
At first glance, the Bears defense looks like a unit that has struggled this season, allowing 408 yards of offense per game. However, Central Arkansas has rebounded from a tough three-game stretch early in the season (132 points allowed against Louisiana Tech, Sam Houston State and Arkansas State). During the current eight-game winning streak, the defense has limited opponents to 22 points per contest.
Montana's defense has been even more impressive lately, limiting its past three opponents to just 27 points, which included potent offenses Weber State and Montana State. The Grizzlies have a solid linebacking corp and strong secondary, which has limited opponents to 321.5 yards per game.
This is Montana's 21st appearance in the FCS (Division I-AA) playoffs, and 18th in the last 19 seasons. The Griz have a 30-18 record in the playoffs and are 27-6 at home. To top it off, Montana boasts an impressive 17-1 home record in the playoffs in December.
Prediction: Montana 31, Central Arkansas 23.
No. 22 STONY BROOK SEAWOLVES (9-3) at No. 1 SAM HOUSTON STATE (11-0)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Dec. 3, 3 p.m. ET
FACTS & STATS: Site: Elliott T. Bowers Stadium (14,000) - Huntsville, TX. Surface: Natural Grass. Television: ESPN3.comESPN Game Plan. Announcers: Dan Gutowsky and Warrick Dunn. Home Record: Stony Brook 6-1; Sam Houston State 6-0. Away Record: Stony Brook 3-2; Sam Houston State 4-0. Neutral Record: Stony Brook 0-0; Sam Houston State 1-0. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: Stony Brook - Northeast; Sam Houston State - Southland. Nicknames: Stony Brook Seawolves; Sam Houston State Bearkats. Sports Network/Fathead.com Ranking: Stony Brook (22); Sam Houston State (1). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Stony Brook (NS); Sam Houston State (1). Head Coaches: Stony Brook - Chuck Priore (6th year, 37-30 at Stony Brook; 76-39 Overall); Sam Houston State - Willie Fritz (19th year, 17-5 at Sam Houston State, 153-57-1 Overall). All-Time Record: Stony Brook (142-142-2); Sam Houston State (457-443-34). FCS Playoff Records: Stony Brook (1-0); Sam Houston State (3-4). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Stony Brook 0; Sam Houston State 4 (1986, 1991, 2001, 2004).
GAME NOTES: Statistically, the top two scoring offenses in the nation will go head-to-head when Stony Brook travels more than 1,600 miles to visit Sam Houston State. However, the Seawolves have yet to face a defense as dominant as the Bearkats'.
Stony Brook running backs Miguel Maysonet (130 ypg) and Brock Jackolski (111 ypg) have both rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the second straight season and benefit from the rotation, which always leaves one well-rested back in the game. In last week's 31-28 first-round victory against Albany, the rotation continued as each back touted the ball 22 times.
Sam Houston State has its own explosive running back duo in Tim Flanders and Richard Sincere. Flanders, the Southland Conference Player of the Year, runs out of a more traditional offense formation, scoring 22 total touchdowns, while Sincere is an all-purpose player who operates the "Wild Bearkat" formation. Carrying the ball anywhere from eight to 10 times a game, Sincere averages 7.9 yards per carry and is responsible for 12 total touchdowns.
While the Seawolves' run - literally - to the playoffs has been impressive, Maysonet and Jackolski could struggle to pick up yards against Sam Houston State. Armed with the top-ranked rushing defense in the FCS (59 ypg), the Bearkats haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season.
It's not a good sign for Stony Brook that it scored only 31 points against Albany last week. Before the game, the Seawolves had scored at least 40 points in seven straight games. They might need to hit at least 40 points again if they plan to upset the top-seeded Bearkats.
Prediction: Sam Houston State 48, Stony Brook 24.
No. 11 NEW HAMPSHIRE WILDCATS (8-3) at No. 7 MONTANA STATE BOBCATS (9-2)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Dec. 3, 3:05 p.m. ET
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bobcat Stadium (17,200) - Bozeman, Mont. Surface: FieldTurf. Television: ESPN3.comESPN Game Plan. Announcers: Trey Bender and Jay Taylor. Home Record: New Hampshire 5-0; Montana State 5-1. Away Record: New Hampshire 2-3; Montana State 4-1. Neutral Record: 1-0; Montana State 0-0. Series Record: Montana State (1-0). Last Meeting: November 27, 1976 (Montana State def. Northern Iowa, 17-16 at Montana State). Conference: New Hampshire - Colonial Athletic Association; Montana State - Big Sky. Nicknames: New Hampshire Wildcats; Montana State Bobcats. Sports Network/Fathead.com Ranking: New Hampshire (11); Montana State (7). NCAA Playoff Seedings: New Hampshire (NS); Montana State (NS). Head Coaches: New Hampshire - Sean McDonnell (13th year 96-61 at New Hampshire and Overall); Montana State - Rob Ash (5th year 38-19 at Montana State; 32nd year 214-118-5 Overall). All-Time Record: New Hampshire (560-439-55); Montana State (442-448-33). Playoff Records: New Hampshire (6-9); Montana State (4-4). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: New Hampshire 9 (1991, 94, 2004-10); Montana State 5 (1984, 2002-03, 06, 2010).
GAME NOTES: New Hampshire is making its eighth consecutive playoff appearance, posting a 6-1 record in its first game of the postseason. Montana State is making its second consecutive appearance, and is looking to rebound from a loss to North Dakota State last season.
New Hampshire played a tough schedule the final three weeks of the regular season, posting a 2-1 mark against James Madison, Towson and Maine - all teams that made the playoffs. During that stretch, and as it has all season, New Hampshire's offense has been explosive.
Led by quarterback and CAA Offensive Player of the Year Kevin Decker, the Wildcats move the ball consistently (444.1 ypg) and average more than 30 points a game (33.6 ppg). However, the offensive explosion is almost a necessity, as the Wildcats' defense struggles, often turning games into shootouts.
If New Hampshire is looking for a shootout, Montana State is more than prepared to trade scoring drives. Statistically, the Bobcats are nearly identical to the Wildcats, ranking 10th in total offense (440.4 ypg) and 16th in scoring offense (34.2 ppg).
Quarterback DeNarius McGhee (236.7 ypg) and running back Cody Kirk (112.1 ypg) are an explosive duo, and led the Bobcats to a 30-plus point performance in all nine wins. However, in the two losses the Bobcats scored a combined 20 points, something they'll be looking to reverse after losing the season finale to Montana.
Prediction: Montana State 41, New Hampshire 37
No. 6 LEHIGH MOUNTAIN HAWKS (10-1) at No. 8 TOWSON TIGERS (9-2)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Dec. 3, 3:30 p.m. ET
FACTS & STATS: Site: Minnegan Field at Johnny Unitas Stadium (11,198) -- Towson, MD. Surface: FieldTurf. Television: ESPN3.comESPN Game Plan. Announcers: Bob Picozzi and John Gregory. Home Record: Lehigh 5-1; Towson 5-1. Away Record: Lehigh 5-0; Towson 4-1. Series Record: Lehigh (10-1). Last Meeting: November 1, 2003 (Lehigh def. Towson, 35-3 at Lehigh). Series Streak: Lehigh has won 10 of the 11 meetings. Conference: Lehigh - Patriot League; Towson - Colonial Athletic Association. Nicknames: Lehigh Mountain Hawks; Towson Tigers. Sports Network/Fathead.com Ranking: Lehigh (6); Towson (8). NCAA Playoffs Seedings: Lehigh (NS); Towson (NS). Head Coaches: Lehigh - Andy Coen (6th Season, 40-28 at Lehigh and Overall); Towson - Rob Ambrose (4th Season, 12-21 at Towson, 15-28 Overall). All-Time Record: Lehigh (649-566-46); Towson (232-216-4). Playoff Records: Lehigh (5-8 and 8-10 overall); Towson (0-0). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Lehigh 8 (1979-80, 98-99, 2000-01, 2004, 2010); Towson 0.
GAME NOTES: Towson completed the FCS' most impressive turnaround this season, winning the CAA with a 9-2 record after winning just three games combined in Rob Ambrose's first two seasons. Saturday, the Tigers could continue the dream turnaround with a playoff victory in their FCS postseason debut.
While it is a battle of offensive-oriented teams, two contrasting philosophies will be on display. With quarterback Chris Lum leading the way, Lehigh has the fourth-ranked passing offense in the country (342.4 ypg). With two receivers ranked in the top 11 for receptions (Ryan Spadola and Jake Drwal) at his disposal, Lum has passed for 3,739 yards and 31 touchdowns.
For Towson, freshman running back Terrance West is the stalwart, leading the nation in rushing touchdowns with 27, including multi-touchdown efforts in all but one game he's played.
On defense, the Tigers have been a bend-but-don't-break unit, allowing 359.6 yards per game, while yielding 24.7 points per contest. Towson has put together a trio of three-game winning streaks, but haven't been able to extend it to four games. A win against Lehigh would give Towson its first four-game winning streak since 2006.
Lehigh lost to New Hampshire, 48-41, in Week 2, a game that could serve as a blueprint for the game with Towson. In that game, both teams traded scores, before New Hampshire prevailed in overtime.
On Saturday, both offenses will come ready to play. Which defense can make the last stop may be the difference.
Prediction: Towson 44, Lehigh 41
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Dec. 3, 4 p.m. ET
FACTS & STATS: Site: Fargodome (18,700) - Fargo, ND. Surface: AstroTurf. Television: ESPN3.comESPN Game Plan. Announcers: Jim Barber and Jay Walker. Home Record: James Madison 4-1; North Dakota State 5-1. Away Record: James Madison 4-3; North Dakota State 6-0. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: James Madison - Colonial Athletic Association; North Dakota State - Missouri Valley. Nicknames: James Madison Dukes; North Dakota State Bison. Sports Network/Fathead.com Ranking: James Madison (17); North Dakota State (4). NCAA Playoff Seedings: James Madison (NS); North Dakota State (2). Head Coaches: James Madison - Mickey Matthews (13th season, 96-60 at James Madison and Overall); North Dakota State - Craig Bohl (9th season 71-31 at North Dakota State and Overall). All-Time Record: James Madison (249-191-4); North Dakota State (623-364-34). FCS Playoff Records: James Madison (9-8, one National Championship 2004); North Dakota State (2-1). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: James Madison 9 (1987, 91, 94-95, 99, 2004, 2006-08); North Dakota State 1 (2010).
GAME NOTES: It took a last-second field goal into the wind, but James Madison defeated Eastern Kentucky in the first round of the playoffs, 20-17, last week. On Saturday, the Dukes won't have to defeat the elements, they'll just have to try and knock off the fourth-ranked team in the FCS.
In playoff mode just to make the playoffs, James Madison's impressive defense has continued to impress the past three weeks. Ranked in the Top 15 for rushing (97.4 ypg), total (297.2 ypg) and scoring defense (19.1 ppg), the Dukes have limited their past three opponents to 47 points.
North Dakota State's defense also is impressive and is the second-ranked scoring defense in the FCS (14.9 ppg) and ranked 23rd in the nation for total defense (321.7 ypg). Coulter Boyer is the leader of the Bison's dominant defensive line and has bagged seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
James Madison has struggled on offense this season, even when it hasn't been facing the second-ranked scoring defense. The Dukes run the ball often with Dae'Qaun Scott (103.4 ypg), which takes pressure off quarterback Justin Thorpe. The junior may have started half of the Dukes' games, but performed well in adverse conditions and led two fourth-quarter scoring drives last week.
North Dakota State's offense has a pair of consistent running backs in Sam Ojuri (71 ypg) and D.J. McNorton (68.1 ypg), and an efficient quarterback in Brock Jensen. The sophomore has passed for 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions, good for a Top 15 ranking in passing efficiency (151.4).
Prediction: North Dakota State 27, James Madison 14
No. 12 WOFFORD TERRIERS (8-3) at No. 2 NORTHERN IOWA PANTHERS (9-2)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Dec. 3, 5:05 p.m. ET
FACTS & STATS: Site: UNI-Dome (16,324) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Surface: MondoTurf. Television: ESPN3.comESPN Game Plan. Announcers: Shawn Kenney and Rob Harley. Home Record: Wofford 4-1; Northern Iowa 5-0. Away Record: Wofford 4-2; Northern Iowa 4-2. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: Wofford - Southern; Northern Iowa - Missouri Valley. Nicknames: Wofford Terriers; Northern Iowa Panthers. Sports Network/Fathead.com Ranking: Wofford (12); Northern Iowa (2). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Wofford (NS); Northern Iowa (5). Head Coaches: Wofford - Mike Ayers (24th year 162-110-1 at Wofford, 27th year 173-131-2 Overall); Northern Iowa - Mark Farley (11th year, 98-39 at Northern Iowa and Overall). All-Time Record: Wofford (481-475-36); Northern Iowa (619-382-47). Playoff Records: Wofford (4-4); Northern Iowa (18-15). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Wofford 4 (2003, 2007-08, 2010); Northern Iowa 15 (1985, 1987, 1990-96, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007-08, 2010).
GAME NOTES: Earlier in the season, Wofford had an opportunity win the Southern Conference and likely would have been seeded for the playoffs. However, losses to Georgia Southern and Furman have forced the Terriers to travel on its possible path to a national championship. That road starts in Cedar Falls, a place Northern Iowa hasn't lost this season.
The nation's leader in rushing yards (356.2 ypg), Wofford will rely heavily on the triple option against Northern Iowa's usually stout run defense (120.6 ypg). Fullback Eric Breitenstein (122.1 ypg) is the focal point of the offense; however, running back Donovan Johnson (81.6 ypg) and quarterback Mitch Allen (63.6 ypg) also rank in the FCS' Top 100 for rushing yards.
Northern Iowa's offense is a more balanced unit, but quarterback Tirrell Rennie (73.9 ypg) and running back David Johnson (66.4 ypg) are one of the best non-option running duos in the FCS. A smart senior quarterback, Rennie limits turnovers and has posted a 20-to-2 touchdown-to-turnover ratio, one of the main reasons for the Panthers' fifth-ranked turnover margin (plus-15).
On defense, Northern Iowa (16.2 ppg) is a group deep with talent, led by linebacker L.J. Fort and defensive tackle Ben Boothby. Fort led the Missouri Valley Football Conference in tackles (151), while Boothby was the leader in tackles for loss with 16.
For the Terriers, defense has been more of an after-thought to the top-ranked rushing offense in the nation. Allowing 28, 24, 31 and 27 points in its last four games, Wofford's defense will need to turn up the pressure against Northern Iowa, or hope the high-powered offense can reach the 40-plus points it had against Elon and Western Carolina.
Prediction: Northern Iowa 31, Wofford 27