Eastern Washington’s offense is playing at a historic rate, scoring 54.0 points per game. North Dakota State’s defense is also playing at a historic rate, allowing 7.2 PPG.
Can the Eagles keep it up? Can the Bison keep it up?
The toughest tests are still to come, beginning this weekend.
EWU is lighting up the scoreboard, scoring in the 60s three times this season and surpassing 70 points last week in a 71-21 win against Idaho. Doubters (if any remain at this point) will question the level of defense the Eagles have faced.
EWU has played the No. 116 FCS scoring defense (WIU), No. 117 (SUU), No. 11 (Montana), No. 73 (Northern Colorado), No. 112 (Idaho), the No. 115 FBS scoring defense (UNLV), and D2 Central Washington (who is giving up 24.8 PPG).
So, sure, there’s more context to EWU scoring 54 points a game in that it’s faced one good defense so far. But there’s also more context to those scoring defenses, since playing EWU is going to result in your points allowed per game average to shoot up.
The same can be said for NDSU’s defense.
Allowing 7.2 PPG is absurd, no matter who you’re playing. The Bison have faced the No. 108 FCS scoring offense (UAlbany), No. 112 (Valpo), No. 87 (Towson), No. 65 (UND), No. 49 (UNI), and No. 91 (Illinois State).
So not exactly elite offenses. But again, context. Some of these teams plummeted in the scoring offense rankings after playing NDSU.
It is safe to say NDSU’s defense hasn’t been tested by one of the better FCS offenses, though. That will change this weekend at the Fargodome
Missouri State is averaging 33.5 PPG, which ranks No. 21 in the FCS. Its passing offense is No. 20 (281.5 yards per game) and its rushing attack is No. 47 (155.7 YPG). The Bears put up 41 points on Illinois State, who NDSU just beat 20-0, earlier this month to win 41-20.
NDSU also still has upcoming games against SDSU (No. 3 scoring offense) and USD (No. 35 scoring offense).
This Bison defense is looking like one of the best units the program has had. The second half of the season will be a better gauge.
There have been a lot of incredible EWU offenses in the last decade. None have put up numbers quite like this, led by Eric Barriere’s 3,067 yards passing, 28 TDs, and five interceptions through seven games. EWU is averaging a ridiculous 457.3 passing YPG, but the ground game has been a nice complement, averaging 170.9 YPG. Dennis Merritt has 11 rushing TDs.
EWU passed its first true test of the season in early October, scoring 34 points on Montana, who now has the No. 11 scoring defense. But the Griz also have the 104th passing defense, allowing 267.2 YPG.
This week’s opponent, Weber State, has a pretty good scoring defense, ranking No. 24 (19.5 PPG). It’s led by a terrific passing defense, though, ranking No. 3 (151.5 YPG). Weber will be the best secondary EWU has seen.
After its Homecoming game versus the Wildcats, then a bye, EWU gets another home game against Montana State before going on the road to UC Davis. MSU has the No. 3 scoring defense (and No. 8 passing defense), and UC Davis owns the No. 14 scoring defense (No. 83 passing defense).
Just like NDSU’s defense can prove it is historically good down the stretch against better offenses, EWU’s offense can prove how unstoppable it is against top defenses.
Sam’s coverage of the FCS began in 2012 as the sports editor and eventual editor-in-chief of NDSU’s The Spectrum. After graduating in 2015, he spent three years in the newspaper and magazine industry while starting his work for HERO Sports in the fall of 2016 as a freelancer. In May 2018, he joined the website full time as the Senior FCS Analyst.