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FCS Game of the Week preview: No. 19 Southern Utah at UC Davis

Can Patrick Tyler keep the Thunderbirds atop the Big Sky?

NCAA Football: Southern Utah at Oregon Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: Saturday, November 11, 2017, 7 p.m. ET

Location: Aggie Stadium, Davis, California

Where To Watch: Pluto TV

Betting Odds: Southern Utah -4, O/U 64.5

Odds via sportsbooks monitored by

The Southern Utah Thunderbirds are in pole position in the Big Sky. They are in a three-way tie for first place in the conference, but have a win over Weber State and host Northern Arizona next week in the season finale. A win this week over the UC Davis Aggies will keep them in that spot and likely guarantee them a spot in the postseason, but that’s easier said than done now that Dan Hawkins is on the job in Davis.

Hawkins has turned this program around in his first year. All of a sudden, the Aggies are playing exciting football and have scored at least 31 points in every FCS game this season save Weber State. UC Davis has an outside shot of the postseason itself, but must win this game in order to potentially sneak in and grab one of the final spots.

Reasons to Like Southern Utah

Patrick Tyler has been fantastic in conference play this season. Although he had his struggles in the season opener and against a good Northern Iowa defense, he has lit up Big Sky opponents. Tyler has been surgical against his conference rivals, completing at least 65 percent of his passes in every game and even had a lot of success against a very good Weber State defense. The one conference game the Thunderbirds lost was the one game in which he didn’t play.

Reasons Not to Like Southern Utah

The Thunderbirds defense has been very much bend but don’t break this season, and usually it’s only a matter of time before that backfires in a big way. We saw it happen earlier in the year when Sacramento State dropped 54 points on them and they were fortunate that Weber State QB Stefan Cantwell was injured in the first half when those schools met too.

This defense is allowing 5.7 yards per play and has had a tough time stopping opponents through the air. They are outside the top-100 in terms of passing defense and are allowing 7.2 yards per pass attempt on the season. That’s not good news when facing a Dan Hawkins team.

Reasons to Like UC Davis

Jake Maier has been fantastic this season. Maier is one of the country’s leading passers and has already topped 3,000 yards this season. It’s not like he is passing on every down either. He is averaging just 37.7 attempts per game and has just been incredibly efficient in Hawkins’ system. Maier is completing 70.8 percent of his passes and isn’t making a lot of mistakes with the ball.

Reasons Not to Like UC Davis

Much like Southern Utah, this team has not been good on the defensive side of the ball. The Aggies have given up a ton of points and have been very susceptible to teams with good passing attacks. Although technically, they are better in terms of total yards allowed through the air, they are allowing more yards per pass attempt this season.

Also, the Aggies are still in search of their first quality win. Although they did beat a San Diego team that should make the postseason, the Pioneer is notoriously weak and UC Davis came up short against Weber State, Eastern Washington, and Northern Arizona.


I think this is going to be a shootout that flies over the total. FCS games usually aren’t too high scoring, but both of these quarterbacks are great and both defenses are susceptible through the air.

Final Score: Southern Utah 41, UC Davis 38