2018 FCS National Championship Game Breakdown

2018 FCS National Championship
#1 North Dakota State vs. #3 Eastern Washington
North Dakota State was in a fight in the semifinals up to halftime, leading only 14-7. But the groundwork for what was to happen to their opponent, South Dakota State, in the second half had already been started. The Bison defense was punishing and relentless, knocking around quarterback Taryn Christion. And the Jackrabbits’ defense was getting a lot of the same from a rugged NDSU offensive line. Come the third quarter, quarterback Easton Stick and running back Bruce Anderson were running through gigantic holes. Backs Seth Wilson and Adam Cofield joined in the fun, for 86 and 77 yards respectively on the ground also. Stick was also supremely efficient through the air, hitting eight different receivers, going 12/15 for 169 yards and a score. The main damage was done on the ground though. In total, the Bison stampeded to a 608 yards offensive outburst for the game. The defense gave up a couple of scoring passes in the third quarter, but the tide was already completely shifted and each score was almost immediately answered.
Eastern Washington jumped on Maine right after they got off the bus, taking a dominating 21-0 first quarter advantage over their road weary counterparts. At the time, no one knew, but quarterback Eric Barriere was in for a record day. At the end, he threw seven touchdown passes and he even scored a safety for the Black Bears after a bad snap at the beginning of the third quarter. 21/30 and 352 yards later, Barriere is leading the Eagles into the National Championship game. The main beneficiary of Barriere’s dominance? How about Nsimba Webster? Nine receptions for 188 yards and four of those touchdown passes. Tight end Jayce Gilder also had two touchdown on three catches for 50 yards. The defense did give up 479 yards, but their offense was so efficient, the Eagles only possessed the ball a bit over 25 minutes. The big stat was turnovers. The Eagles picked off two passes and recovered both of Maine’s fumbles.
This is the match up I predicted after the brackets were announced. It’s a shame one of these teams has to lose, as both seem to be peaking at the right time. For the Eagles, this peak has really come into its own since losing to Weber State. That was the game where they also lost starting quarterback Gage Gubrud for the year and Barriere took over the controls. The Bison have been peaking since, well, the middle of 2017.
Both offenses are clicking and both defenses have been opportunistic. The Bison are more physical, especially in the trenches. For EWU, it’s going to feel like the Weber State game again, only amplified. In turn, the Eagles seem to have more team speed than the Bison. Can they get to the edges and make the Bison chase them? For NDSU, it will be a lot like facing South Dakota State again, only amplified. Both seem very well prepared just from games they already played against similar styles.
Aaron Best is one of the nation’s newest coaching phenoms. His fiery, excitable demeanor is fun to watch. He looks like he gets everything out of every player he puts on the field. His counterpart, Chris Klieman, is headed for greener pastures at Kansas State after this game. About two million dollars greener, from reports. But don’t think for a second he’s not concentrating on the task at hand. He’s not going to come all this way to let perfection and his seven national title as an assistant or head coach slip away easy.
Looking ahead to 2019, these will probably be the two teams starting the season off on top of the rankings. Considering the Bison will have to replace Stick and the Eagles will have Barriere entrenched at quarterback, the Eagles might even be the team to beat. But that’s 2019. 2018 is the year of the Bison.
Prediction: North Dakota State 41, Eastern Washington 31