Game Time: Saturday, September 22, 2018, 2 p.m. ET
Location: Fargodome, Fargo, North Dakota
How To Watch: ESPN Plus
Betting Odds: North Dakota State -24, O/U 41.5
The Delaware Blue Hens hired Danny Rocco away from Richmond for games like this. Rocco is only in his second season as the head coach at Delaware, but he has already turned the program around after the disastrous Dave Brock era. He nearly got Delaware back to the postseason with a 7-4 finish last season, and the Blue Hens are looking to end an eight-year drought by getting to the postseason in 2018.
Delaware is fully aware of the task at hand this week against the North Dakota State Bison. North Dakota State is a team that needs no introduction. The Bison have won six of the last seven FCS national championships, and they are the favorite to win the title this year too.
Reasons to Like North Dakota State
North Dakota State has the best ground game in the country. The Bison are averaging an incredible 8.3 yards per carry so far this season and have a potential Walter Payton Award winner in Bruce Anderson. Anderson hasn’t had to do much in blowout wins over Cal Poly and North Alabama to start the season, yet he is averaging 11 yards per carry and has already found the end zone three times.
The Bison might have the best defense in the country too. North Dakota State has given up just 10 points through its first two games of the season, and the defense is allowing just 3.3 yards per play. Defensive end Greg Menard has looked great after suffering a season-ending knee injury in practice last year, and this front seven is incredibly tough to run on.
Reasons Not to Like North Dakota Sate
Their uniforms? The fact they play in a dome? Honestly, this team is a well-oiled machine at this point. Easton Stick answered the bell when he needed to throughout the postseason last year, moving the ball through the air when the Bison ran into problems on the ground. He is not going to wing it all over the field and kill you with his arm, but he is a great fit for what NDSU likes to do.
Reasons to Like Delaware
There aren’t many defenses better than the Blue Hens at this level. Delaware has the ninth best defense in the FCS coming into this one, allowing just 226.7 yards per game. They have smothered opponents’ ground games and passing attacks with a starting lineup filled with seniors, and they know they can stop the best. The Blue Hens’ allowed less than five yards per play against James Madison last year, and the Bison won’t find it easy to move the ball.
The offense has improved too. Delaware juggled quarterbacks last year as neither J.P. Caruso or Joe Walker inspired a lot of confidence with their play, and the lack of a passing game submarined their chances. The Blue Hens have been better moving the ball this year though with Pat Kehoe playing well through the first three games.
Reasons Not to Like Delaware
Even though things have gotten better on the offensive end, it still isn’t where it needs to be to consistently compete with the best teams in the FCS. Delaware is averaging just 5.7 yards per play through the first three games of the season, and the running backs are going to have a hard time getting much traction against NDSU’s front seven.
This will be a low-scoring defensive slugfest similar to what we saw when Delaware played James Madison last year. The Bison have a real homefield advantage and a better offense though, and that will lead to another win for North Dakota State.
Final Score: North Dakota State 24, Delaware 10
In other FCS action this week, I like The Citadel to cover the spread against Mercer as the triple option tears up the Bears. I also think Samford and Chattanooga will air it out and push the final score well over the 55.5-point total.