(9) Wofford (9-3) at (1) North Dakota State (11-1)
The Sports Network
By Tim McDonnell, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Dec. 8, 3 p.m. ET.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gate City Bank Field / Fargodome (18,600) -- Fargo, North Dakota. Surface: AstroTurf's GameDay Grass. Television: ESPN GamePlan and ESPN3.com. Announcers: Johnathan Yardley and Ben Leber. Home Record: Wofford 6-0; North Dakota State 6-1. Away Record: Wofford 3-3; North Dakota State 4-0. Neutral Record: Wofford 0-0; North Dakota State 1-0. Series Record: First meeting. Nicknames: Wofford Terriers; North Dakota State Bison. Conferences: Wofford - Southern; South Dakota State - Missouri Valley. Sports Network Ranking: Wofford (9); North Dakota State (1). NCAA FCS Playoffs Seedings: Wofford (NS); North Dakota State (1). Coaches: Wofford - Mike Ayers (25th year 171-114-1 at Wofford, 28th year 182-135-2 overall); North Dakota State - Craig Bohl (10th season, 86-32 at North Dakota State at overall). FCS playoff records: Wofford 5-5; North Dakota State 7-1. Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Wofford 5 (2003, 2007-08, 10-11); North Dakota State 2 (2010-11). Current Playoff Streak: Wofford has won two of its last five playoff games; North Dakota State has won its last five playoff games.
GAME NOTES: With just eight teams remaining in the FCS playoffs, it really doesn't matter what team one plays because to be the best it has to beat the best.
This week in particular, things get interesting as Wofford and its No. 2- ranked rushing offense (357 yards per game) heads to Fargo to play No. 1 seed North Dakota State and its top-ranked rushing defense, or you could say defense in general.
Wofford enters the game feeling better about its defense, after the Terriers held New Hampshire to 238 yards of offense, forced three turnovers, 10 tackles for loss and sacked the quarterback five times in a 23-7 win last week.
Offensively, Wofford is undoubtedly led by its senior fullback Eric Breitenstein. He plays a crucial role in the team's triple option offense and must be accounted for every time he's in the game. In 12 contests, the senior has rushed for 1,900 yards and 19 touchdowns, and leads the FCS with 158 rushing yards per game.
The Terriers will use James Lawson under center, who is technically the third- string quarterback. However, he's been managing the team well in six games this season. He's only completed 15 passes for 178 yards, but this week the team's rarely used passing game needs to strike for some big plays against the best defense in the FCS.
NDSU's defense leads the FCS in a cornucopia of statistics. However, the ones to keep an eye on this week include: scoring (11 points per game) total defense (197 yards per game), defensive third down efficiency (25 percent) and first downs allowed (11 per game) - especially versus a run-heavy opponent because keeping the clock moving and gaining first downs are vital.
The Bison have stepped up to almost every challenge this season and have held 11 of its last 13 opponents to under 250 yards of offense, dating back to the 2011 national championship. In 12 games this year, only two teams have crossed the 100-yard rushing mark.
Breitenstein crushed New Hampshire last week for 247 yards and three touchdowns, all of which came primarily in the middle of the field. Don't expect the same results versus NDSU. But you can expect veteran coach Mike Ayers to look to Donovan Johnson, Brad Nocek and Lawson to pick up some slack and keep the defense guessing with misdirection and motion.
Don't forget, the last time the Bison faced a triple option team from the Southern Conference, they beat Georgia Southern, 35-7, in the 2011 FCS semifinals.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Dakota State 25, Wofford 18.
12/05 14:28:55 ET