Despite its upset win over Northern Arizona last week, no one is giving San Diego much of a chance to get to the FCS quarterfinals. That’s because the Toreros are facing the biggest name brand of the division in North Dakota State.
The Bison are one of the teams to beat again and are out for revenge after seeing their five-year streak of national championships come to an end last season. The Bison tore their way through their schedule once again this year, ripping Eastern Washington in non-conference play and handling most of their Missouri Valley kin with relative ease. Their one loss was on the road against South Dakota State, a team that has plagued them in recent years.
FCS Second Round Betting Odds
San Diego +29
North Dakota State -29
The Bison have had to deal with some major health issues all season as 13 players have suffered year-ending injuries. While the team has dealt with not having defensive end Greg Menard and offensive lineman Dillon Radunz all season, other more recent injuries have caused trouble in recent weeks.
Nowhere has North Dakota State’s depth been more tested than at the running back position. Demaris Purifoy was expected to be the primary backup to Lance Dunn, but he was lost in the first game. Then, Dunn went down with a season-ending hip injury against Western Illinois and it became next man up once again.
Now, it’s Bruce Anderson’s turn to lead the way for the run game, but he has not been the dynamic runner that either Dunn or Purifoy were. Purifoy showed great speed in his first game and Dunn was averaging 7.9 yards per carry this season. Since becoming the starter, Anderson has averaged just 3.4 yards per rush and the Bison’s run game has been stifled. Ty Brooks and Seth Wilson have been used as change-of-pace backs and both have had more success in terms of average, but neither one has supplanted Anderson. Keep an eye on this.
Matchup to Watch
The Bison have been one of the best defensive teams in the country over the past decade. This year has been no different and the defense is once again leading the way despite suffering some major injuries on that side of the ball as well.
San Diego is going to have a tough time breaking down this unit in spite of the gaudy numbers put up by its offense. The Toreros had the good fortune of being a very good team in a very bad conference. The Pioneer League was pretty bad and San Diego sputtered when the team went outside of conference, putting up just 7 points against UC Davis and 17 points on Princeton before last week’s explosion against Northern Arizona.
Quarterback Anthony Lawrence does not make mistakes with the ball. He has thrown only two interceptions all season and was able to move the chains against Northern Arizona’s defense all game. However, the defenses of North Dakota State and Northern Arizona are oceans apart. Whereas the Lumberjacks struggled to stop the pass all season, the Bison secondary has shut down opposing quarterbacks for most of the year.
Don’t be fooled by the massive line because North Dakota State is vulnerable this season. The Bison have been unable to run the ball well over the last few weeks and the team’s fate has been in the hands of Easton Stick. He is a competent quarterback for sure, but the big plays he hit against South Dakota are not indicative of his usual performances. He is more of a game manager and sometimes that even backfires as he threw seven interceptions in a three-game span just a month ago.
San Diego’s run defense has been good in 2017. And although it’s come against bad competition, I have faith that the Toreros can stop the run well enough to force Stick to throw. At the end of the day, North Dakota State is going to do enough to get the win, but this line is far too big and is based on reputation more than anything else.
Pick: San Diego +29