North Dakota State has been the best team in the country all season – ranked No. 1 from Day 1 – and has only gotten better in the playoffs, averaging a touchdown more than it did in the regular season while the defense has continued to put up its usual stingy numbers. That’s 46.0 points a game – the running game is churning out 347.0 yards per game – and just 11.7 points allowed in the playoffs.
The Bison boast the FCS’ winningest quarterback, a pair of 1,000-yard rushers and the nation’s top-ranked defense. There’s not a glaring weakness anywhere.
And if Towson doesn’t have a lead in the fourth quarter, forget it.
No one plays a better fourth quarter than North Dakota State. The Bison lead the nation in time of possession, and they hold the ball for an average of 9 minutes, 43 seconds of clock time in the fourth quarter. It stands to reason why only two teams have scored on them in the fourth quarter this season.
North Dakota State also has incentive and sentiment on its side. First, the Bison are trying to become just the second team to win three consecutive FCS championships. Second, they want to send their head coach – Craig Bohl is off to Wyoming at game’s end – out with another title.
It all adds up to the 24th consecutive victory for North Dakota State.
-- Jarrod Breeze, NCAA.com
Sure, Towson is the underdog in Saturday’s NCAA FCS national championship game in Frisco, Texas. But that doesn’t mean the 13-2 Tigers can’t win.
First of all, they’re used to being the underdogs. Many thought they would lose their first-round playoff game to Fordham. They didn’t. Same in the quarterfinals at Eastern Illinois and again in the semifinals at Eastern Washington, where the Tigers had to rally in the fourth quarter behind backup quarterback Connor Frazier.
The keys will be the offensive lines. Can Towson’s line – whose starters average 284 pounds -- create space for sensational running back Terrance West to run wild? And on the other side of the ball, will Towson’s defense be able to handle a North Dakota State offensive line whose starters pack an average weight of just under 300 pounds?
The health of Towson quarterback Peter Athens, who suffered a sprained shoulder in the semifinals, will only become an issue if his offensive line can’t keep the heat off of him or block well enough for West to keep the formidable NDSU defense honest. Otherwise, Athens’ return should give the Towson offense a boost.
The Tigers will have to play a mistake-free game, keep turnovers and penalties to a minimum, and also block out what is likely to be a large pro-NDSU crowd. But they have the talent, plus a gritty, determined edge to them, to pull off one more unlikely upset.
-- Joe Menzer, NCAA.com