UIW is one of the final four FCS teams standing entering the semifinal round. Here's what sets the Cardinals apart and why they can lift the FCS championship trophy when it's all said and done.
3 reasons why UIW can win the FCS national championship
One of the biggest reasons UIW can go from the semifinals to atop the podium come season's end is Lindsey Scott Jr. Scott is a top-three Walter Payton Award finalist and arguably the top quarterback in the FCS. UIW's success runs through Scott, and he's having an all-time great season.
Having an elite quarterback has already worked out well for the Cardinals, with Scott leading two fourth-quarter game-winning drives to open the playoffs. With Scott under center, UIW is never out of a game. UIW has a quarterback that can make a magical play happen when everything else breaks down, an unteachable trait.
We've seen four players win the Walter Payton Award and an FCS title in the same year: Trey Lance (North Dakota State, 2019), Adrian Peterson (Georgia Southern, 1999), Dave Dickenson (Montana, 1995) and Michael Payton (Marshall, 1992). Scott has what it takes to become the next player on the list.
UIW has players that can win one-on-one matchups, a vital aspect to playoff football.
On offense, wide receivers Taylor Grimes and Darion Chafin consistently win against single coverage; both are touchdown threats at any time. Running back Marcus Cooper makes defenders miss one-on-one tackles in the hole on long runs.
On defense, linebacker Kelechi Anyalebechi is a sure tackler in space and defensive end Chris Whittaker has what it takes to win one-on-one blocks off the edge.
UIW players will face one-on-one situations in the semifinals against a talented North Dakota State team. North Dakota State has corners that will be up to the challenge of shutting down Grimes and Chafin. The Bison offense will surely force Anyalebechi to make one-on-one tackles with a run-heavy appraoch. If UIW's stars win their one-on-one matchups in the semis, the Cardinals can advance.
From there, UIW will have to do it all again to win the national championship.
UIW has the most explosive offense remaining in the FCS playoffs. The Cardinals can strike quickly, breaking free for a touchdown at any point. They can also drive the ball methodically downfield. No matter how UIW moves the ball, it often uses tempo to catch defenses off guard.
That tempo, plus versatile playcalling, makes UIW hard to prepare for. There's a reason the Cardinals lead the FCS in scoring. UIW's offensive scheme will be challenging for any team to stop throughout the remainder of the playoffs.