The Tale of Two Cities
Or keeping the classics genre, we could go with Jekyll & Hyde; both would work in describing how YSU football performs and which team to expect on any given Saturday in the Pelini reign. This isn’t a knock on Bo, given his record; he should still be at the FBS level. Last year they opened with a loss to Butler. You know the one that doesn’t have scholarships. The type of programs you schedule to pound on, to get your team in the right mojo. I have no words to describe the lack of character it takes a team with the Penguins talent to absolutely blow a game like this. It would be like NDSU losing to Moorhead State.
They get blown out by a good West Virginia team (FBS) next, then beat Valpo (a team in Butlers range) 42-7. They close September losing to a mid-level MVFC team last year, Western IL in a shootout 45-38. Two years removed from a national championship run, they go into October 1-3 and had yet to play the Bison, Jacks, UNI and IL St.. They beat USD and SIU (combined last year 6-16) and get rolled by the Jacks 36-7 and Ind. State 43-17. At 3-5 their playoff hopes are gone and rumors are ripe if Pelini will get fired before the SU game.
What happens, YSU comes to Fargo and gives the Herd its closest game of the year. We score 10 fourth quarter points to break a 7-7 tie. The next week, they rip playoff bound UNI 31-10 and lose the final game of the season in a barn burner versus IL St. 35-28 to close November.
This year is the same, only it falls on more definable lines. They have played well against the average and bad teams on their schedule and have played one of the three ranked teams tough. They are the poster boys for when equal stats aren’t equal. YSU plays good defense (17th in FCS Total Defense at 323.5 YPG, 44th in run defense at 139.5 YPG and 27th in scoring defense at 22.8 PPG). Offensively they look balanced and efficient (414.8 yards TO, 207.9 YPG rushing, 206.9 YPG passing and 36.1 PPG scoring). These stats put them in the top third of all FCS offenses. So what’s the problem?
Against the average and poor foes they shine. Blowouts versus Samford (45-22) and Duquesne (34-14), which are average Sagarin rated teams (183 & 185). They did what they should versus the poor teams, Pummeling Howard 54-28, Robert Morris 45-10 and winless MVFC Western IL 59-14 last Saturday. If you looked at these five games stats, you would be penciling them into a shot at Frisco. The defense held these teams to 288.6 YPG TD, 124 YPG rushing and 17.7 PPG in scoring. The offense rolled to the output of 474.4 YPG TO, 286.6 YPG rushing and 47.4 PPG scoring. All these stats for offense and defense would be top 20 in the FCS.
I belabor these stats because they prove a valuable point. If YSU was in the OVC, Southland or So. Con., they would win 2-3 more games per year, have great stats and be a seeded playoff team regularly. They aren’t however; they are in the toughest FCS conference in the country and play teams that decimate inflated stats.
YSU is 0-3 against top 25 FCS Sagarin ranked teams. They opened MVFC play with a hard fought game versus UNI on the road and lost 21-14. Next they took the Jacks to the limit, blowing a 21-9 mid third quarter lead with a costly (and stupid) pick six. They only trailed 31-28 with under two minutes left. They went to SIU the following week and got blown out by the Salukis 35-10.
Watch how these good blended stats go in the toilet against this better competition. This dominant defense becomes very average, giving up 382.3 YPG TD, 166 YPG rushing and a porous 31.3 PPG. Offensively, the Penguins do a species change to pussycats. 315.7 YPG TO, 76.7 YPG rushing and 17.7 PPG are very pedestrian.
The Herd has played six top 25 rated teams when we faced them. As I have stated over and over, our stats don’t significantly dip against top rated teams. Why? Because we are that good compared to our opponents and we don’t pad our stats by running up scores on our lesser brethren in the football universe (no 90-6 beat downs). Also our schedule is usually harder than most teams we play. Here are our stats that matter. Against the best the FCS has to offer we stifle thru Code Green down to 297 YPG TD, 118 YPG rushing and 13 PPG scoring defense.
On offense we roll to the tune of 440 YPG TO, 288.5 YPG rushing and 36.3 PPG. This was amassed versus UND, Delaware, U C Davis, IL. St., UNI and SDSU. Six quality teams, not three. We are 6-0 and YSU in their three games versus top 25 are 0-3. We have faced three of the toughest run defenses in the country (combined they were giving up just a 100 yards of rushing each), the Rams have blown holes for our backs to average 324 YPG!! WOW!! That’s run game dominance at a new level.
We have played two common opponents, UNI and SDSU. YSU has held these two to 378.5 YPG TD, 154.5 YPG rushing and 29.5 PPG. Code Green has limited these foes to 334.5 YPG TD, 163 YPG rushing and 15 PPG. Offensively YSU was slowed significantly to 353 YPG TO, 100 YPG rushing and 21 PPG. The Herd rambled for 443 YPG TO, 339.5 YPG rushing and 34.5 PPG. Stats wise, YSU doesn’t come close to matching the Herd, but games aren’t won on paper.
What to expect this weekend? Early Vegas odds had NDSU an 18 point favorite and Sagarin a 17-21 point win with a 90% win factor. The Eigen Spread is 19.5 with an 89% win percentage for the Herd. These stats in the betting world revolve around hard data, the Bison need to show up and play. They need to start fast and establish the dominant run game.
The last two weeks the Green & Gold have committed 19 penalties for 175 yards. That can’t continue or the streak will end. That is sloppy, undisciplined football. My gut says they clean things up and play a clean game. That should bring win 30. Enjoy this ride; it is history in the making.