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2018 FCS Semifinals Preview: No. 7 Maine Black Bears at No. 3 Eastern Washington Eagles

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Maine is out to make some more history

Maine v Massachusetts Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Game Time: Saturday, December 15, 2018, 2 p.m. ET

Location: Roos Field, Cheney, Washington

How To Watch: ESPN2

Betting Odds: Eastern Washington -13, O/U 54.5

Eastern Washington is looking to win its second FCS national championship. The Eagles were the last team to win it all before North Dakota State’s reign of terror began in 2011, but they have yet to make it back to the title game despite being one of the best teams at this level this decade.

Meanwhile, the Maine Black Bears are out to continue their dream season. Maine made it to the FCS semifinals for the first time ever with a win over Weber State last week, and the Black Bears would love to make it all the way to Frisco. Only the Eagles stand in their way.

Reasons to Like Eastern Washington

Even though the Eagles lost star quarterback Gage Gubrud for the season in October, Eric Barriere has proven himself to be a more than capable replacement. Barriere isn’t as pure of a passer as Gubrud, and he is averaging less yards per game through the air than the former starter, but he is a far greater running threat. Since assuming the role, Barriere is averaging 6.6 yards per run on the ground, and that has given the Eagles another way to beat teams.

This is a much better ground game than we have seen in years past too. Aaron Best has not relied on the passing game as much as former coach Beau Baldwin did, and Sam McPherson finished with over 1,300 yards this season. As a team, the Eagles averaged over 260 yards per game on the ground,

Reasons Not to Like Eastern Washington

This defense isn’t as good as the numbers say they are. The Eagles dodged most of the top offenses in the Big Sky this season, and the defense gave up some big plays to UC Davis last week. The Aggies rolled up 469 total yards of offense, controlled possession, and nearly pulled off the upset as a result.

Reasons to Like Maine

The Black Bears have one of the best defenses in the country. Maine stopped some pretty good offenses in the CAA this season, and the Black Bears rode their defense to upset victories over both James Madison and Weber State. They have allowed just 6.2 yards per pass this season, and Eastern Washington shouldn’t be able to hit many big plays on them.

Reasons Not to Like Maine

Chris Ferguson has been a decent quarterback, but he is not the type of player that will put the team on his shoulders and win a game. Ferguson is averaging less than 200 yards per game through the air this season, and he is not a running threat either. Eastern Washington is likely going to roll players into the box to make Ferguson beat them with his arm.

Prediction

This is going to be closer than the experts think, but not by much. Eastern Washington is the better team, yet there is a path for Maine to pull off the upset. If they can run the ball and keep the Eagles’ offense off the field, they can shorten the game and get the win. I think they will have some success with the game plan, but it won’t be enough to knock off Eastern Washington.

Final Score: Eastern Washington 30, Maine 21