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FCS Game of the Week Preview: No. 2 Eastern Washington at No. 17 Weber State

Eastern Washington looks to stay atop the Big Sky

Eastern Washington v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Game Time: Saturday, October 13, 2018, 6 p.m. ET

Location: Stewart Stadium, Ogden, Utah

How To Watch: ESPN Plus

Betting Odds: Eastern Washington -8, O/U 59


Eastern Washington is looking to win its sixth Big Sky Conference title this decade. The Eagles had an uncharacteristically down year in Aaron Best’s first season in 2017, but they appear to be back on course. Their offense has looked very sharp in their five wins, and the defense has done a pretty good job too.

To stay undefeated in FCS play, the Eagles will have to knock off last year’s Big Sky co-champion this week, the Weber State Wildcats. Weber State was upset at home by Northern Arizona last week, and the team knows a loss here would eliminate them from repeating as champions and put a serious dent in their playoff hopes.

Reasons to Like Eastern Washington

This offense experienced a lot of change in 2017. Head coach Beau Baldwin left to be the new offensive coordinator at Cal at the end of the 2016 campaign, and record-setting wide receiver Cooper Kupp went to the NFL.

Those losses seemed to derail the team’s momentum, but the Eagles look like themselves again this season. They are one of three teams in the country averaging over eight yards per play, and when you factor in the strength of their opponents they probably have the second-best offense in the country.

What’s really interesting about the Eagles this year is that they are using the pass to set up the run. Over the last three seasons, Gage Gubrud led a modified air raid offense and threw for a ton of yards. However, this year Gubrud has taken a little bit of a back seat to a running game that is averaging eight yards per carry.

Reasons Not to Like Eastern Washington

Gubrud’s status for this game is up in the air. He injured his foot in the fourth quarter of their win over Montana State, and he is listed as questionable to play in this game. If he can’t go, Eric Barriere will lead the offense, and he had a good debut last week. He is more of a dual-threat option than Gubrud and combined for 331 yards in a rout of Southern Utah last week.

While the defense has improved, it still isn’t great. They are in the bottom half of teams in the country in terms of yards allowed per game, and they are giving up 411.5 yards per game. However, their 5.1 yards per play average shows that is more of a result of opponents running a lot of plays against this unit.

Reasons to Like Weber State

The Wildcats have very good special teams. Kicker Trey Tuttle is perfect inside of 40 yards this season, and he has a long of 52 on the year. Kicker isn’t a position you can normally rely on in the FCS, so having a kicker like Tuttle gives Weber State an advantage that most teams don’t have. Punter Doug Lloyd is one of the better ones at this level too, while kickoff returner Rashid Shaheed has great speed and already has a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Weber State has been great at forcing turnovers too. The Wildcats’ defense has forced 18 turnovers through five games this season, and their average is the highest in the FCS. They have forced 11 fumbles on the year, and that has helped them out greatly.

Reasons Not to Like Weber State

The Wildcats really miss quarterback Stefan Cantwell and tight end Andrew Vollert. This is one of the worst offenses in the country. Weber State is eighth-worst in the nation in terms of total offense, racking up a scant 243.8 yards per game. Kaden Jenks really struggled as a passer, completing just 36.4 percent of his passes, so the Wildcats turned over the keys of the offense to JUCO transfer Jake Constantine. He has been somewhat better, but the offense has had a real hard time moving the ball.

Prediction

This might be a rout. Indications are that Barriere will get the nod for Eastern Washington, and if he plays like he did last week, Weber State will be in a lot of trouble. The Wildcats need to slow this game down and make it low-scoring with their offensive woes. I don’t think they’ll be able to do that.

Final Score: Eastern Washington 40, Weber State 20

In other FCS action this week, I believe there are going to be a lot of points when Western Carolina and Chattanooga meet in SoCon action and I think South Dakota State will smash Youngstown State.