What Did We See from the Top Seven in Week One?
One game, a season does not make, but it’s the first actual snapshot for the real team portfolio of this season. Winning is the final arbiter as far as the playoff committee goes, but close counts for something when it comes to playing an FBS school. Close, but no cigar says it best for the MVFC, as SDSU and Indiana State led late in the 4th QTR only to have the games slip away and UNI took a ranked Iowa State to triple overtime. I am going to give you what I think are the most pertinent stats as we start to see who these teams really are for 2019.
Jacksonville State: I said this about JSU in my preseason analysis, “I see two major obstacles JSU must overcome. They need to play better defense against the good teams. In the last six years they have given up over 30 points 19 times…..Next, JSU has to stop playing sloppy and undisciplined football. What do I mean? They rank in the bottom 25% of all FCS teams for the last three years in amount of penalty yards per game (almost 74).”
Our first glimpse of who JSU is? They lose to a pre-season bottom half team in a so-so league, S E LA 35-10 and commit 10 penalties for 83 yards. This seems to be their DNA. It’s hard to change species after all. If they go 2-2 in non-conference and then sweep in the Ohio Valley Conference (they only have one loss in the last 5 years in OVC), are you listening playoff committee, NO SEED!
What I said on Eastern Washington, “Here's my take on what Eastern must accomplish if they want to bring home the bacon. Yes, they improved on defense last year, but not in the playoffs. Against their four playoff opponents they gave up 454 yards per game (YPG) in total offense, 217 YPG in rushing and 26.8 points per game. That’s bad defense. Bad defense doesn’t win championships.”
How did they perform Saturday? Washington spanked them! I don’t care if they are a ranked FBS school, so where KSU and Iowa. We beat them in the trenches on both sides of the ball and on the score board. The Eagles were slapped around. Defensively they gave up 47 points, 570 Total Yards and 200 yards of rushing. Offensively they only generated 65 yards rushing, 274 TO and 14 points (only 7 in first 3 QTRS to WA’s 35). The game was over at half. The Eagles showed in the first game the same fatal flaw, they give up lots of points to good teams.
Still waiting to see Maine play a good offensive team. Sacred Heart (207 Sagarin ranking) is an average team from a weak league. Kudos to the Black Bears for not playing down to an opponent (won 42-12). Only blemish, they only got 80 yards rushing. Also, really, leaving your starting QB in almost the whole game and letting him run up his stats to 423 passing yards?
My take on U C Davis coming into the season was, “I see U C Davis as where Eastern Washington was before last year. They played bad defense. For them to be a serious Frisco threat they will need to find a new gear on that side of the ball.” Davis lost to a middling ranked FBS team in California (67 Sagarin rating, SDSU is 68th) 27-13. The game was more lop sided in the stats. U C Davis got up 10-0 in the first quarter, but it was all Bears after that. The Aggies gave up 233 yards rushing, 471 total yards and the 27 points (usually this much TO will put you in the 35-42 point range). The reason they didn’t was Cal lost the turnover battle 4-1. This is the only thing that kept this from being a blowout. This Davis team will not stop our run game at the Dome.
“My take, the Blue Bunnies won’t make the next step until they play better defense. The prognosticators are right in looking at who is going to replace Taryn, but whoever it is, the QB isn’t going to have to go out and carry the team by winning the game. They need a dual threat guy who manages the game and doesn’t lose games via bad decisions.” That was prophetic, if I say so myself. SDSU should have beat the Gophers! They whipped them in the trenches on both sides of the ball. But the new red-shirt freshman QB lost them the game thru a pick six and a late fumble that led to the U of M’s winning touchdown with 2 minutes left in the game. SDSU came out of week one as the best looking challenger to NDSU.
What did we learn about JMU in their week one loss to West Virginia? They ran the ball 48 times, but only got 3.6 Yards Per Carry (YPC). They only converted 5 of 14 on 3rd downs. In three 3rd and short situations they only converted one. In short, they didn’t show a power running game. They also gave up four sacks and three turnovers. These were issues that plagued them last year also.
The Duke’s defense played well against the run, but below average versus the pass. To lose to a decent FBS team 20-13 is a solid performance and leaves them a top FCS contender after week one.
I mentioned two sleepers for 2019 and they both took a nap in week one. Weber State knows how to recruit, develop and actually play good defense. They held FBS foe San Diego State to six points. Weber has a stud sophomore running back and a good young QB. They must have left them on the bus as they got shut out on offense.
Not to be out done, Illinois State, laid a turd on Saturday. They have probably the best FCS running back in James Robinson with a Big Ten size offensive line (two FBS transfers). How did they perform against Northern Illinois? Robinson had 13 carries for 16 yards. The team had 28 carries for 51 yards. NIU was ranked 85th in Sagarin coming into the season. Both NDSU and SDSU rank higher than this. Their QB, Brady Davis was 14 for 32 in passing with a pick six. On defense they stopped the run (NIU got 90 yards on 35 carries for 2.6 YPC, very good run defense), but were shredded by the pass (allowed 299 yards and a 67% completion rate). A key game for their season will be Northern Arizona just before they play the Herd.
Finally, I’ll end with some MVFC tidbits. I think there are four really bad teams defensively in the MVFC. Southern Illinois was blown out by SEMO 44-26, while giving up 529 yards of TO and 281 yards of rushing. No. Arizona blew out Mo. State 37-23. They let Case Cookus shred them for 351 yards passing. Oh, also they only gained 40 yards of rushing on offense. UGLY!! Western Illinois lost a lot off its roster and it showed in losing to North Alabama (ranked 209 in Sagarin) 26-17, while giving up 412 total yards. Western was 2-13 in converting 3rd downs and 1-3 on 4th downs. A bad loss if your thinking playoffs.
The last on this list is USD. They have left the MVFC as far as showing any defensive moxie. 31-17 isn’t a blowout but letting Montana grill you for 430 yards of passing and 510 total yards is pathetic. USD could only run the ball for 106 yards. Hard to play keep away from a high flying offense like the Grizzly’s with that low of rushing total. USD is going no where in the playoff circle. Up next for the Coyotes, Oklahoma. Maybe the Sooners will be the first team to reach a 1,000 total yards on offense?